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Category: 70s

The Downtown Decade: NYC 1975-1985


Curator Lauren Miller has put together an interesting show of art, photographs and club ephemera from 1975 through 1985 – what is now looked back as “The Downtown Decade”. I’m sure you know that downtown of the seventies/eighties was far from the upscale shopping paradise it has now become. New York was broke and downtown had no police presence to really speak of. This translated into low rents and left the residents free to create and to amuse themselves as they wished.

This “poverty” (both real and municipal) led to an artist creative class that stretched across multiple practices and brought oblique influences into new ideas that would end up creating new art forms. A few years later – the “Reagan Eighties” would start and the money would pour into downtown. Helping put an end to a decade of unprecedented creativity in lower Manhattan.

Rare at Glen Horowitz Bookseller
17 West 54th Street
New York, NY 10019

Exhibition Dates: Thursday, September 10–Saturday, October 10, 2015


“Notes to myself on beginning a painting” by Richard Diebenkorn

1. Attempt what is not certain. Certainty may or may not come later. It may then be a valuable delusion.

2. The pretty, initial position which falls short of completeness is not to be valued – except as a stimulus for further moves.

3. DO search.

4. Use and respond to the initial fresh qualities but consider them absolutely expendable.

5. Don’t “discover” a subject – of any kind.

6. Somehow don’t be bored but if you must, use it in action. Use its destructive potential.

7. Mistakes can’t be erased but they move you from your present position.

8. Keep thinking about Pollyanna.

9. Tolerate chaos.

10. Be careful only in a perverse way.

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Enzo Mari’s Autoprogettazione

Enzo Mari’s Autoprogettazione project of 1974 is a brilliant approach to home built and moderate design home furnishing. Of the many ideas around the Autoprogettazione is that you make your own furniture, save money, use your hands and build with a minimal approach to tools. In a word, extreme self sufficiency. with a high design approach. It has echoes of Arte Povera as well as american mid-century aesthetic in the approach.

The furniture based on the designs of the Autoprogettazione are constructed from standardized pine, all of the same width and thickness, and built making a very stable and long lasting piece of furniture. This approach also maximizes the material use while minimizes material waste. This is something that Mari has always approached in a very serious way – even with his least serious designs.

As I learned more about the Autoprogettazione the more I found myself thinking about furniture as a system (as well as sculpture as a system). I then spent a bit of time designing furniture that would be built as a modular system of using the same dimensional lumber that would be made with simple tools and primarily 90 degree cuts to the wood. I should also note, that as of this writing, I have yet to build one of my own designs of said furniture.

While I try to think that I know quite a bit, I don’t know everything, the place I was first alerted to the “Autoprogettazione” is via Greg Allen ( and his version of the EFFE table. I was actually looking for Ikea hacks (his table is that as well) and suddenly I found myself down the rabbit hole as it were.

More and more I find these ideas from the late sixties and early seventies to be far more contemporary and forward thinking than much of what seems to pass for the contemporary design of today. That is not to say that I find todays modern design bad per se, I do however find much of todays designs more towards just being interesting consumer products. Mari’s Autoprogettazione work to me is powerful and subversive, while understanding the personal nature of daily design.

Enzo Mari, Autopregettazione?, 1974 (PDF)
Greg Allen’s EFFE MarixIkea table


Pearl Paint Closes Iconic NYC location

Julian Schnabel: Years ago, I was down there with my cousin’s wife Corky. She was wild — she wore makeup on her legs, and she had a streak in her hair like Yvonne De Carlo in The Munsters. She liked to paint. I had overalls on with just a T-shirt and looked like whatever. It was 1973 probably. I was making these Projected Drawing Test paintings that were obviously very different than Brice Marden or Ellsworth Kelly’s or anything else people were thinking about in 1973 or ’74. I’ve never shown those paintings. I had one at the Whitney Museum when I was a student — perhaps they’ll end up somewhere to be seen at some time.

We were trying to buy a bunch of supplies with my cousin Jesse’s credit card. They looked at the credit card, and then they looked at us and thought maybe we stole the card, so they called Jesse up. He was a doctor who became the head of trauma at St. Vincent’s. They said, “There’s somebody here with this credit card and we want to know if it belongs to you.” He said, “Well, does the woman have dyed blonde hair and fake eyelashes and look like she stepped out of the backstage of some kind of silent movie, and is she with some guy who has wild hair and is kind of dressed like a bum?”

“Yeah, that’s them.”

“Yeah, that’s my cousin and my wife. It’s okay, they can charge it on my card.”

From Vulture:

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Jean Giraud in Appreciation

When I started getting interested in art I was primarily concerned with the idea of telling stories with highly impactful images – in essence the reason I initially got started making images was because I wanted to make comic books. Two artists were the most responsible for my initial desire to draw; Jack Kirby and Jean Giraud, whom I only knew at the time as “Moebius”.

While Jack Kirby’s drawing and ideas are the archetype of the silver age of American comics, Moebius introduced me to a very different approach to comic images. Kirby’s work – aggressive and dynamic, filled with motion and energy became the perfect foil for me when I first encountered Moebius work. His lines were spare and sinewy, perfectly drawn – seemingly without effort. The approach was cool and controlled. The images were spare and at the same time could probably not hold another element in the frame if they even needed to. In essence they were perfect. This initial introduction to his work was through his epic storyline The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius.

I was too young to know it, but at the time what I was reacting to was that these images were to me outside of the realm of comics, but at the same time firmly inside it (if not at the top of it). It was these pointers to the outside that kept me going back to Moebius. It was an everything quality – high tech gondolas to low tech monuments – a combination of the past working in harmony with the future. In the age where the movie “Blade Runner” showed a dystopian view of the past and the future, this showed us the opposite.

Later I would learn more about Moebius, (his westerns and other stories) but at that point it was almost too late. I was hooked.