What happens when artists organize their own exhibitions? This is one of the key questions posed by Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952–1965, a major exhibition that examines the New York art scene during the fertile years between the apex of Abstract Expressionism and the rise of Pop Art and Minimalism. This is the first show ever to survey this vital period from the vantage point of its artist-run galleries—crucibles of experimentation and innovation that radically changed the art world. Organized by Grey Art Gallery at New York University and curated by Melissa Rachleff, clinical associate professor at NYU Steinhardt, the exhibition includes work by artists ranging from such well known figures as Mark di Suvero, Jim Dine, Red Grooms, Allan Kaprow, Alex Katz, Yayoi Kusama, Claes Oldenburg, and Yoko Ono to artists who deserve to be better known, such as Ed Clark, Emilio Cruz, Lois Dodd, Rosalyn Drexler, Sally Hazelet Drummond, Jean Follett, Lester Johnson, Boris Lurie, Jan Müller, and Aldo Tambellini.
“Now we have an exhibition about exhibitions. “Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965,” at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery, offers a piquant and all-important chronicle of the years before the art world became its current investment-crazed self. Curated by Melissa Rachleff, the show is an energetic and even exuberant mix of 200 works by nearly as many artists who belonged to some 14 galleries, all but one of which were located downtown.”
“The exhibition, with more than 200 works of art and art-related memorabilia, is crammed into the gallery’s modest upstairs space and veritable short corridor downstairs. Nevertheless, the militantly grungy collages, heartfelt assemblages, optimistically brushy abstractions, and fliers for gatherings featuring jazz, poetry and grainy film screenings combine to give the visitor a real feeling for the ethos and the era.”
“That era’s cultural geometry has been badly in need of study, and now it’s getting some in a labor-of-love exhibition called “Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965,” at the Grey Art Gallery at New York University. With nearly 230 objects, it’s big and has its share of stars. But it’s not a masterpiece display. It’s something almost better: a view of typical — rather than outstanding — art, of familiar artists looking unfamiliar, and of strangers you’re glad to meet. It looks the way history looks before the various MoMAs get their sanitizing hands on it: funky, diverse, down to earth, with things to teach us now.”