Co-organized by NYU’s Grey Art Gallery and Fales Library, The Downtown Show will be the first definitive survey of the art and culture produced in downtown New York during the volatile 10-year period from 1974 to 1984. Emerging in the aftermath of the Summer of Love and coming to a close with the re-election of Ronald Reagan, the downtown scene attracted artists, musicians, performers, filmmakers, writers, and others who could afford the then-low rents of Lower East Side tenements and SoHo lofts. Influenced by the Beats and the New York School painters as well as by hippies, Marxists, and anarchists, downtown artists shared similar attitudes toward the production and possibilities of art. The Downtown Show features approximately 200 paintings, sculptures, drawings, graffiti, videos, and photographs as well as over 100 items from Fales Library, New York University’s rare book and manuscript collection, which is the largest repository of materials-
including books, photographs, videos, printed journals, and ephemera-relating to the downtown New York scene.
Like Dada and Pop, downtown art pushed the limits of artistic categories: visual artists were also writers, writers developed performance pieces, performers incorporated videos into their work, and everyone was in a band. Instead of rejecting traditional forms, Downtown artists and writers worked to undermine from within the conventional structures of artistic media and the culture that had grown up around them.
The Downtown Show will highlight the various artistic scenes that coexisted downtown and situate them within larger social and historical contexts. Curated by Carlo McCormick, the exhibition will explore minimalist and techno music, postmodern dance, experimental film and video, and performance art presented through documents, photographs, video footage, and film, creating a vibrant picture of a radically new, subversive, and postmodern approach to art and life.