After the Grants—It Didn't Happen Anymore


My wife alerted to me a review [subscription required] by The New Yorker's art critic Peter Schjeldahl of a retrospective show of environmental artists who had collaborated at 112 Greene Street during the early 1970s. The review has more than a little feel of recherche du temps perdu, in this case, for the youth of the reviewer. However, this bit of the review caught my attention:

A rising generation of environmental artists beggared the finances and physical spaces of even adventurous galleries, which were nearly all still small and uptown. Not for the first time, an avant-garde took form as an eddy in a mainstream unready for it. Launched in 1970 by [artist Jeffrey] Lew, in collaboration with [artist Gordon] Matta-Clark and the brilliant eccentric Alan Saret, who displayed crumples of wire on the floor, 112 led a nationwide wave of do-it-yourself "alternative spaces." The glory days were brief. Artists who weren't cherry-picked by dealers settled into government- and foundation-funded cocoons. Lew lamented, "Something special happened during the first three years, and after we got the grants it didn't happen anymore."

It is always thus. The dead hand of government dependency does this to just about everything it touches.