By the mid-1960s, New York’s art establishment — its major museums and galleries — had ceased to reflect the city’s diversity and had largely ignored the decade’s social, political, and cultural ferment. In response, marginalized artists created an oppositional network of organizations, exhibit spaces, and cooperative galleries that both paralleled and challenged the status quo. This alternative art movement flourished for more than two decades, repositioning New York at the center of international contemporary art. Alternative Art New York brings together a diverse group of artists and critics to explore the origins and evolution of this diffuse and vibrant cultural scene from a variety of perspectives: political, philosophical, organizational, economic, and aesthetic.
Locating the movement within both the art world and its larger social and political context, these authors decipher the shifting configurations of cultural power in this period and the complex relationship between the mainstream and the marginal. With a unique, annotated chronology of the alternative art scene from 1965 to 1985, and illustrated with 150 images of key works, installations, and exhibits; reproductions of posters, communiques, and other ephemera; and photographs of protests and meetings, this volume is an important work of contemporary art history and a valuable sourcebook that suggests the basis for the return of an artist-driven cultural economy.
“Creating change in any large institutional setting is difficult at best, especially when resistance is as deeply structured and ingrained as the neglect of art by women and people of color.” (page 205)
In 1970, activist groups joined together to protest the Whitney’s Sculpture Annual, even going so far as to create a fake press release stating the Annual would be composed of 50% female artists in order to introduce this dialogue of equality into the news.
These efforts continued throughout the ’70s, until Marcia Tucker was fired from her position at the Whitney, which jumpstarted her opening the New Museum.
There are many ways to make an impact, and to encourage the changes one wishes to make in a system, but most often the path needs to be made from scratch. In creating a completely new space through which to present the works previously ignored, Tucker was able to pave a new road for underrepresented artists in the female and colored communities.
“The feminist art movement in New York was based on the belief that total gender parity in museums’ economy of exhibitions, coupled with a feminized aesthetic criterion, could be archived via an oppositional women’s practice. Its founders contended this would revolutionize the existing “masculine” hegemonic museum structure.” (page 133-134)