In the 1970s and 80s the number of young artists hoping for careers in New York far exceeded the opportunities available through the city’s commercial galleries. This in no way deterred the truly committed who redirected much of their creativity to DIY outlets and events that catered primarily to friends and other artists. Gallery 98’s inventory includes many interesting items by now famous artists from this early moment in their careers.
In the early 80s much art activity took place in DIY art spaces like ABC No Rio founded in a dilapidated building by the artist group COLAB in 1980. Kiki Smith regularly exhibited at No Rio and created this limited edition print to help raise money for the printing of COLAB’s 1985 book ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery. Noteworthy for its creative use of typography, this silkscreen on cloth is a variation of the poster she created for “ABC No Rio, Island of Negative Utopia,” an exhibition about the gallery held at the Kitchen in 1984.
Many artists found inspiration and purpose by participating in exhibitions addressing the political issues of the day. The partial meltdown of a reactor at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant led to the formation of the group Artists Against Nuclear Madness. Mike Bidlo created this ceramic depiction of a damaged nuclear plant for a weeklong exhibition and conference at the Parsons School of Design in 1982. Bidlo later achieved recognition with his exhibition “Picasso’s Women” at the Leo Castelli Gallery in 1988.
The artist Colette made a name for herself in the 1970s through performances in unusual locations like the store window at the boutique Fiorucci. She documented many of these performances with photocollages that have been “Coletticized” with the addition of paint and other materials. More of Colette’s early art and her use of personas like “Justine” can be seen in Gallery 98’s exhibition “Colette: On the Streets and in the Clubs, 1972 – 1985.”
Among the DIY initiatives organized by the artist group COLAB in the early 1980s was a series of “A More Stores” where artists sold inexpensive multiples (mostly to each other) during the holiday gift-giving season. Tom Otterness’ “Zodiac Love” series was first marketed in a related holiday mail-order catalogue organized by COLAB and Printed Matter. The full series of 12 sculptures can be seen in Gallery 98’s online exhibition “Tom Otterness, Zodiac Love Plaster Sculptures, 1982-87.“ Only Libra and Sagittarius are currently available.
Although Keith Haring quickly achieved commercial gallery success he never abandoned the populist approach to art that drove his early creativity. Part of that impulse involved connecting his art to partying with his peers at clubs like Club 57, Paradise Garage, and the Palladium. The shorts doubled as both an invitation and a clothing item. Haring proved himself to be a master at reaching audiences outside the traditional gallery system. Gallery 98 explored that aspect of his art in the online exhibition “Keith Haring Ephemera.”