Among the treasures that Gallery 98 discovered sorting through the boxes of books from the late art critic Edit deAk’s library was this signed offset print portfolio promoting Greer Lankton’s first exhibition at Civilian Warfare Gallery in May 1983.
One of the early East Village galleries, Civilian Warfare was founded by Dean Savard and Alan Barrows in Savard’s grungy, live-in storefront painting studio in 1982. Initially a hang-out space with works on the walls by artist friends, Civilian Warfare enjoyed a few years of commercial success after New York Times critic Grace Glueck saw David Wojnarowicz’s work there, and included the gallery in a highly publicized article about the new East Village art scene. It would all fall apart quickly — a victim of a recession, drugs, AIDS, and a fickle art world.
Greer Lankton (1958-96) was a conspicuous talent in the transgressive art scene that gravitated to Civilian Warfare. Early on, as an art student at Pratt, Lankton had undergone sex-change surgery. According to Barrows, writing with East Village historian Claudia Eve Beauchesne, “Greer lived in a fantasy world inhabited by the dolls that she made…All of them were simultaneously gorgeous and grotesque, challenging society’s narrow conception of beauty. Greer genuinely loved freaks and outsiders. To her, self-destruction was the height of glamour.”
Lankton’s 1983 show sold out, as did all her later shows at Civilian Warfare. Greer Lankton, a striking beauty, was a frequent subject for photographer Nan Goldin, and appears on the original poster promoting Goldin’s book, “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency” (1986). Greer Lankton died of a drug overdose in 1996.