Peter Downsbrough, Bill Beckley, Matthew Higgs, Lynda Morris, and the original white columns of 112 Greene Street
Tags: 112 Greene Street, Alvar Aalto, Anna Manubens, Artforum, Avalanche, Ballet Russes, Beastie Boys, Black Eyed Peas, Frank Sidebottom, Gordon Matta Clark, James Brown, Jeffrey Lew, Lisa Le Feuvre, Lynda Morris, Marcel Breuer, Matthew Higgs, Michael Riesman, Peter Downsbrough, Phillip Glass, Ping Pong Dialogues: Bill Beckley, Run DMC, Sonic Youth, Steve Loeb, Steve Reich, Trisha Brown, When Marcel Met Motley, White Columns, Yvonne Rainer
The final two days of Peter Downsbrough’s show were taken up with filming Aurea Romero’s rehearsals as part of the larger AND HERE + A PLACE TO BE project curated by Anna Manubens. Visitors were encouraged to enter the main space and witness the filming process standing alongside Peter Downsbrough and Curator/Choreographer Anna Manubens.
As use of the relatively new term “curating” reaches a saturation point (we are all curators now), the forward thinking people are seeking inspiration for new methodologies and philosophies; curator/choreographer on the Peter Downsbrough show Anna Manubens appears to be ahead of the curve as “choreography” and the verb “to choreograph” seem to be increasingly creeping into the trade language of the visual arts.
The twentieth century is littered with examples of crossover between the disciplines from the Ballet Russes and Constructivist and Dada theatre onwards and along the way there have been interesting innovations not only in the art forms themselves but also in the use of architecture and design, for example Marcel Breuer’s designs for the London Theatre Studio featured in the CHELSEA space exhibition When Marcel Met Motley. The London Theatre Studio was the first theatre to have a lighting booth in front of the stage so that the lighting/projection technicians could respond more fluidly to the performers’ actions and Marcel Breuer also incorporated stackable chairs in the form of the lightweight Isokon Stool and Alvar Aalto’s “611″ Chair. The use of these chairs meant that the Theatre could double its rehearsal space and also the chairs could be placed in new configurations allowing the action to come beyond the prosceneum arch and into the space of the audience.
Flexible arts spaces, studios becoming exhibiting spaces and galleries becoming performance spaces is an interesting and complex history and one of the most remarkable examples of an ‘alternative’ space was 112 Workshop at 112 Greene Street, New York City, founded in 1970 by Jeffrey Lew and Gordon Matta-Clark. The story of 112 Greene Street is documented in a remarkable book edited by Robyn Brentano with Mark Savitt which was shown at CHELSEA space in the 2005 exhibition Avalanche curated by Lisa Le Feuvre. Artists, dancers, performers and musicians including Peter Downsbrough, Gordon Matta-Clark, Yvonne Rainer, Trisha Brown, Phillip Glass, and Steve Reich all made exhibitions and performances there whilst Phillip Glass’s musical director Michael Riesman and producer Steve Loeb had a recording studio called Big Apple Recording which was later taken over as Greene Street Recording, where recording artists included James Brown, Sonic Youth, Run DMC, Black Eyed Peas, and the Beastie Boys.
By coincidence Downsbrough’s work is featured on the same page as Bill Beckley, the subject of our 2008 show Ping-Pong Dialogues curated by the brilliant Jo Melvin.
‘Rooster, Lying’ consisted of three platforms suspended between columns; the lower platform contained a pillow and bedding, and the upper two platforms made up the floor and roof of a bird coop with chicken wire sides. The coop contained a live rooster and visitors were encouraged to lay on the bed where they could experience the noises of the bird above their heads but could no longer see it.
112 Workshop moved to Spring Street in 1979 and was renamed White Columns. In 1991 it relocated to Christopher Street and in 1998 reached its current location at 320 West 13th Street where it remains an important alternative space. The current Director is the British artist, curator, writer, and publisher, Matthew Higgs, who in 2007 named CHELSEA space’s show with the late Frank Sidebottom as Number 3 in his top ten shows of the year in Artforum describing the show as Donald Smith’s “curatorial pièce de résistance” !
In summer 2012 CHELSEA space will be taking White Columns’ forthcoming exhibition celebrating the important writer and curator Lynda Morris, the founder of East International who curated ‘Picasso Peace and Freedom’ at Tate Liverpool in 2010. Its a great privilege to be working with Lynda Morris who has been an important lodestone for CHELSEA space and to be receiving an exhibition from Matthew Higgs and White Columns furthers CHELSEA space’s connection to ideas about ‘alternative’ spaces exemplified by 112 Greene Street.
NEXT SHOW AT CHELSEA space: Lloyd Johnson: The Modern Outfitter opening January 24th