|Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978-1983|
by Redaktie in Theatre, Art & Expo , 04 March 2018
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New York’s East Village of the 1970s and 1980s continues to thrive in the public’s imagination around the world. Located in the basement of a Polish Church at 57 St. Marks Place, Club 57 (1978–1983) began as a no-budget venue for music and film exhibitions, and quickly took pride of place in a constellation of countercultural venues in downtown New York fueled by low rents, the Reagan presidency, and the desire to experiment with new modes of art, performance, fashion, music, and exhibition.
A center of creative activity in the East Village with artists such as Keith Haring, Ann Magnuson, Klaus Nomi, Tseng Kwong Chi, John Sex, Fab 5 Freddy, John “Lypsinka” Eppperson, and Lisa Baumgardner, Club 57 is said to have influenced virtually every club that came in its wake.
“Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983” at New York’s Museum of Modern Art is the first major exhibition examining the scene-changing, interdisciplinary life of downtown New York’s seminal alternative space in full.
The exhibition taps into the legacy of Club 57’s founding curatorial staff - film programmers Susan Hannaford and Tom Scully, exhibition organizer Keith Haring, and performance curator Ann Magnuson - to examine how the convergence of film, video, performance, art, and curatorship in the club environment of New York in the 1970s and 1980s became a model for a new spirit of interdisciplinary endeavor.
Responding to the broad range of programming at Club 57, the exhibition presents their accomplishments across a range of disciplines - from film, video, performance, and theater to photography, painting, drawing, printmaking, collage, zines, fashion design, and curating. Building on extensive research and oral history, the exhibition features many works that have not been exhibited publicly since the 1980s.
The exhibition “Club 57” is accompanied by three film series: “You Are Now One Of Us: Film at Club 57,” co-organized with guest curator and defining Club 57 artist John “Lypsinka” Epperson (February 2018); “New York Film and Video: No Wave-Transgressive” (April 2018), and “This Is Now: Film and Video After Punk 1978–1985,” presented in spring 2018 in partnership with LUX and British Film Institute.
Club 57’s director Stanley Strychacki had already recorded his experiences in his autobiographical “Life As Art: The Club 57 Story,” published in 2012. The works by the more renowned artists, such as Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Strychacki describes in his book are more fully explicated in art history books and museum and gallery catalogues.
But here, these and less celebrated works are interwoven with the circumstances of the club - how it came to be, how the participants interacted, and how the things that happened were able to happen.
The last of these holds the biggest key. How was it that what appeared to be a punk rock club, filled with visually outrageous, verbally incitive and overtly sexually experimental young people, was allowed to operate for five years in the basement of a church! And how did the members come up with night after night of performances, art shows, film festivals, group activities and extensively casted productions - a new program nearly every night, and all this without any government-sponsored funding.
To expand on Strychacki’s personal view the Museum of Modern Art has published on the occassion of this exhibition the hardcover book “Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983,” edited by Ron Magliozzi and Sophie Cavoulacos.
This book features rarely seen artwork, film stills, photographs, posters, flyers, and zines to create a uniquely detailed portrait of unbridled creativity before the dawn of the digital age and makes this scene-changing venue also open for people who are not able to visit the exhibition (176 pages, ISBN 9781633450301).
The exhibition can be visited until April 1, 2018.
The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53 Street, New York, NY 10019, www.moma.org
Photography: © MoMA , all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and MoMA, New York.
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