FINE ARTS

Artists in Residence: Downtown New York in the 1970s

Letter16 Pr Jul. 2023. 96p. ed. by Brett Sokol. ISBN 9781953995032. $44.95. PHOTOG
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A slim volume offering a rare full-color, 35mm glimpse of the ’70s downtown art scene from someone who was there. Stephen Aiken moved to New York’s SoHo in 1973 as a newcomer to the city, fresh out of art school. There he photographed the live/work spaces that artists had carved out of neglected 19th-century cast-iron loft buildings and the mean streets of the East Village, the Bowery, and Little Italy, showing the urban decay of this tough time in the city’s history. But it was also an era when vibrant new art movements flourished. Here are shots of poetry readings by John Giorno, Patti Smith, William Burroughs, and Allen Ginsberg at St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, as well as images of artists Joseph Beuys, Hannah Wilke, and Saul Ostrow, and musicians Leonard Cohen and John Cale. The book includes extended captions by Aiken that offer personal observations about the scenes he photographed. A foreword by artist/critic Walter Robinson and an introduction by journalist Brett Sokol provide biographical information and historical context.
VERDICT Recommended for its immediacy, this personal reminiscence tells readers what 1970s New York was like.
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