1974: Meet Joseph Beuys
Invitation, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts
by Marc H. Miller and Jonah Wolf
As the historical contours of the “Downtown Era” come into focus, Gallery 98 thought it would be fun to present an online exhibition of posters and announcements as our own personal survey of this influential period.
The Downtown Era began in the 1970s, when aspiring artists of the baby-boomer generation arrived in New York. Over the next two decades, they would radically change the art world, opening it up to new forms of media, new modes of exhibiting art, and new social perspectives.
This “Top 40” includes two forerunners: Andy Warhol, who challenged art’s separation from mass culture, and Joseph Beuys, whose 1974 visit to New York introduced the idea of “social sculpture” that could effect political change. Curator Jeffrey Deitch perceptively grouped Warhol and Beuys with some of their earliest downtown followers in the 1975 exhibition “Lives,” subtitled “Artists Who Deal With Peoples’ Lives (Including Their Own) As The Subject And/Or The Medium Of Their Work.”
Multiple trends characterized the Downtown Era. The focus on lived experience naturally brought attention to overlooked social issues, and the particular concerns of women, people of color, and the queer-identified. Many young artists, weaned on rock music and TV, now saw themselves as entertainers or public commentators, appropriating the forms of mass media: movies, records, videos, comic books, magazines.
New modes of presentation and distribution accommodated the new wave of artistic production. Low rents gave artists the freedom to open “alternative spaces” outside the uptown gallery infrastructure. A.I.R., in SoHo, was founded by a cooperative of women artists to support their under-represented peers. Alanna Heiss converted P.S. 1, a Queens school building, into a space for large-scale installations and non-commercial exhibitions. Stefan Eins started Fashion Moda in the South Bronx as a way to bring together disparate communities. The artists’ group COLAB put on themed pop-up exhibitions like the “Real Estate Show” and “The Times Square Show.” Some artists took directly to the streets, with posters, billboards, graffiti, and (in the case of Red Spot) outdoor slide projections.
As ephemeral formats jockeyed with the more permanent media of painting and sculpture, these posters and announcements came to form a unique record of the era. But they are more than just documentation. Now that communication has shifted to digital channels, it has become easier to recognize these carefully designed paper objects as art works in their own right.
Invitation, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts
Invitation for exhibition of women artists curated by Lucy Lippard
Flyer for 3 Mercer St. Store exhibition curated by Stefan Eins
Invitation for exhibition by conceptual art pioneer at John Gibson Gallery
Invitation for Fine Arts Building exhibition curated by Jeffrey Deitch
Poster for the exhibition “Rooms”
Invitation to exhibition at Washington Project for the Arts
Invitation to exhibition at P.S. 1
Poster for performance at Fiorucci
Posters for exhibition at 5 Bleecker St.
Invitation to closing party at Fashion Moda
Flyer for exhibition, with drawing by Becky Howland
Poster by Jane Dickson and Charlie Ahearn
Invitation to group exhibition at Fashion Moda
Poster for performance series at the Kitchen
Xerox flyer for “Artists for Survival”
Poster for “Bazaar Conceptions” carnival at the New School
News and Calendar; silkscreen street poster by Arleen Schloss
Invitation to exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery
Invitation to exhibition at Metro Pictures
Invitation to exhibition at Fun Gallery
Invitation to performance at Just Above Midtown/Downtown
Poster for performance at New City Court Park
Screen-printed poster by Kiki Smith
Poster for exhibition at Fun Gallery
Announcement for ART/new york video
Poster for group exhibition at Palladium
Presented by Tessa Hughes-Freeland & Ela Troyano
Poster for group exhibition at A&P Gallery
Announcement for public installation at Cadman Plaza
Poster for group exhibition at Fashion Moda, Longwood Arts Gallery, and Bronx River Gallery
Invitation to video premiere at Private Eyes, 1987
Invitation to first posthumous exhibition
Flyer for outdoor series of “artist-made slide shows”
Invitation to exhibition at Vrej Baghoomian
Flyer for party and art performance at the New Waterfront Museum
Poster for exhibition at Tony Shafrazi Gallery
Invitation to group exhibition
Announcement for Public Art Fund billboard project
Poster for graffiti exhibition at Klarfeld Perry Gallery