Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in NYC, 1952—1965

Bring along the smelling salts because you will faint with pleasure almost the minute you enter this exhibit at the Grey Gallery (NYU’s teaching museum).

Go now since it is only open until April 1st!

Not only is the art a delight for the eyes but the entire concept of artists grabbing their fate with both hands is an inspiration. The esteemed curator, Melissa Rachleff, follows fourteen galleries in the East Village as well as in Olde FiDi telling the tale of each and providing examples of paintings, sculpture, prints, graphics and videos, none of which you have ever seen before. You’ll run across artists famous and obscure but all celebrated the visual and some highlighted the political.

The scale of the works is necessarily smaller than what you’d normally see in museums.

These were starving artists who needed every nickel for living a life in NYC as well as to support art-making. Not all were interested in making objects, either. Was this the birth of performance art with a few lights, a little plastic sheeting and a few bodies following odd instructions?

Wolf Kahn, “Frank O'Hara”

Louise Nevelson (top), Jean Follett (bottom)

Sam Goodman (poster for Doom exhibit)

Donald Judd

If only there were more images of the original gallery interiors. What you can glean is that these were not necessarily white-walled orderly well-lit boxes for fully resolved pieces of art. They were vibrant shelters for the viewing of expression, whatever that meant.

Grey Art Gallery, 100 Washington Square East, open at various hours Tuesday--Friday

Elizabeth Frenchman, Resource Librarian, Davis Brody Bond