Times Square Show. Signboard by Alan Moore. Photo © 1980 Becky Howland.
In 1976, I took over Dick Miller and Teri Slotkin's apartment. Dick and Teri were subletting from Robin Winters. Robin was one of the artists who started Colab, convening groups of artists to talk about common problems before it was called "Colab." I went to some of those very early meetings, and kept on going, until about 1985.
ABC No Rio grew out of the Real Estate Show in 1980. We were given a space to use by the City of New York. We presented this fact to Colab, and asked them for some money to do shows there. From then on the space was linked to Colab. Some Colab meetings took place at ABC. Pretty quickly ABC applied to and received funds directly from the granting agencies NYSCA (New York State Council on the Arts) and the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts). The experiences there were very important for me. The relation between ABC and Colab was particularly strong during the first couple of years, around 1980 to 81. It became strong again in 1985 or so, well after I had left, when Jack Waters and Peter Cramer ran the place. Colab was also run by different people. (It eventually dissolved I think in 1989.) This period of Colab's work has never been written about.
I showed films at the Times Square Show: "Party Noise," my soap opera about artists' lives, and maybe something else, like some Potato Wolf shows I produced. I also made and hid a sculpture called "The No." I put it behind a wall. It was in solidarity with all the work that was rejected from the show and surreptitiously disposed of. It was basically a found box, a ballot box from the Santa Lucia Society around the corner from my apartment on Houston Street. This old wooden box contained small marbles, balls, really, in white and black marble, each carved with a crude eye. "The No" was a reflection on the decision processes at work in an "open show."
But mostly I did publicity for the show. I was on the organizing committee. I helped out with TV promotion, helping Mitch Corber shoot a video on-site, acting in one of the commercials that were put on broadcast TV, and doing other things I cannot recall at the moment. I am pretty sure there was a TSS promotional show on the Potato Wolf artists' TV series. I made a spray-paint stencil poster of an elephant; a flyer folded over and handed out on the street corner; and a tri-corner sign for the street out front. Jean-Michel Basquiat came along while I was making the sign and knocked out one of the panels in white spray paint; I put the red wash over that. I tagged a rebus about the show in white paintstick around the neighborhood. I also made an item for the Souvenir Shop, found photographs of 1920s movie actors stamped with the motto "I played at the Times Square Show." Most of these were stolen before they were completed, along with my rubber boa constrictor. Not sure what I planned to do with that....
I think ABC No Rio influenced the TSS, not the other way around. That is, the existence of Fashion Moda and ABC No Rio gave direction, impulse, and shape to the TSS. Otherwise, it wouldn't have happened, or certainly it would not have been the sensation that it was. Fashion Moda and ABC had some social direction, some impetus that people were concerned about. In the case of ABC, it was clearly a political space. TSS made Colab "hot" for a few months, and ABC became a place where people wanted to do shows and be in shows. We had a lot of good people wanting to do stuff there.
The legacy of the TSS was to popularize the idea of artist-organized exhibitions among communities of artists. (See Julie Ault, ed., "Show and Tell" for evidence; Group Material responded to the TSS specifically.) A whole bunch of these big artist-run shows kicked off all over New York for several years after. They continue to this day, mainly as "art wal" and "open studio" kinds of events, not to mention the rise in artists organizing more or less politically over the past ten years. Because of the extensive art magazine coverage, there was also a national and global effect, again, popularizing the idea of artist-organized exhibitions. In New York, TSS kicked off a small feeding frenzy among art dealers. So many artists in the second cadre of Colab (that is, the group who made the TSS) peeled off into the gallery system, and ceased working with the group. Ex-Colab member Diego Cortez curated New York/New Wave at P.S. 1 in 1981, a show that included many TSS veterans. This show cemented the art-fashion-music nexus of the time, accelerated the commoditization of the art, and broadcast it internationally.
As told to Shawna Cooper, June 18, 2012
Alan W. Moore (b. 1951, Chicago, IL)
Alan W. Moore is an art historian, artist, and activist. In 1980, he helped to found ABC No Rio, a collectively run center for art and activism at 156 Rivington Street, New York City. He was also closely involved in Colab, and ran the MWF Video Club artists' distribution project from 1986-2000. Moore earned a PhD in art history from the City University of New York. He is the author of Art Gangs: Protest & Counterculture in New York City (2011) and co-editor of ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery (1985). He currently runs the House Magic Bureau of Foreign Correspondence project on squat culture.