The power structure of the Reagan years — repressive, phobic, money-loving, indifferent to the mounting horrors of AIDS — offered artists and activists something to beat their fists against, and whatever might have inspired these renewed reflections, their rebellions now seem very much worth revisiting.
—Ginia Bellafante, “Lessons on Rebelling, From the 1980s,” New York Times, 12/04/2016
One place to see the activist art of the 1980s is Gallery 98, where online exhibitions have highlighted the agitprop work of artists’ groups like COLAB and Guerrilla Girls. A quick scroll through Gallery 98’s inventory reacquaints us with historic exhibitions like the “Real Estate Show,” “Artists against Nuclear Madness,” and “Internationalist Art”; coalitions like Art against Apartheid; and in-your-face pieces by Jane Dickson, Mike Glier, Jenny Holzer, Alan W. Moore, and many others.
Of special note is our current exhibition, “Andrew Castrucci and Bullet Space: An Art Squat in the 1980s and ’90s.” We have previously described the street poster project and artists’ book Your House Is Mine (1988/1992), assembled at Bullet Space by Castrucci and collaborators. The exhibition also features posters from A&P, the Alphabet City gallery that Castrucci and his brother Paul operated before Bullet Space. There, exhibitions often showcased raw anger directed at President Reagan and other powerful villains. Looking back now, one finds dramatic irony in Castrucci’s targeting of Donald Trump, then known merely as a greedy show-off real estate tycoon. Castrucci’s portraits of Trump were the signature image of A&P’s exhibition “Fresh Fruit for Rotten Vegetables,” appearing on a poster and a postcard announcement as well as in the gallery’s storefront window.