Colab Takes a Piece, History Takes It Back: Collectivity and New York Alternative Spaces

By Little, David E. | Art Journal, Spring 2007 | Go to article overview

Colab Takes a Piece, History Takes It Back: Collectivity and New York Alternative Spaces


Little, David E., Art Journal


May 1977 proved to be an active month for the New York art world and its growing alternatives. The Guggenheim Museum mounted a retrospective of the color-field painter Kenneth Noland; a short drive upstate, Storm King presented monumental abstract sculptures by Alexander Liberman; and the Museum of Modern Art featured a retrospective of Robert Rauschenberg's work. As for the Whitney Museum of American Art, contemporary reviews are reminders that not much has changed with its much-contested Biennial of new art work, which was panned by The Village Voice, The Nation, and, of course, Hilton Kramer in the New York Times, whose review headline, "This Whitney Biennial Is as Boring as Ever," said it all.1 At the same time, Art in America reported that the New Museum, a non-collecting space started by Marcia Tucker some five months earlier, was "to date, simply an office in search of exhibition space and benefactors."2 A month later in the same magazine, the critic Phil Patton's article on alternative spaces reported an altogether different story about the growth of artistic venues beyond New York's major museum collections and commercial galleries. This was a mixed blessing, however. Describing an active group of federally funded and "service-oriented spaces" for artists, he concluded that they were already integrated into the art market only eight years after emerging as independent, artist-run spaces.3 Sounding much like purist community activists and right-wing political critics of a decade later and even today, he wondered what public was being served by this federal support other than the marketplace and young artists seeking careers in the commercial gallery system.4

A rather mundane piece of paper from this period tells us that May was also one beginning of a New York artists' group, Collaborative Projects, Inc., better known as Colab. Scribbled across the top of this document is the date, May 22, 1977, with a simple and no-name subject heading, "an association." Below this are three rows: alphabetically ordered names of artists who attended an organizational meeting, followed by their addresses and telephone numbers. By the middle of the page, several names are handwritten and out of order, disrupting the document's visual uniformity. Some are penned in childlike upper-case letters, while others are written in rapid and messy cursive. This unremarkable list is one of the earliest known records of an informal gathering of painters, sculptors, filmmakers, writers, musicians, photographers, performers, critics, and other experimental artists. Eighteen months later, this loosely knit group would incorporate as a nonprofit artists' organization under the official name of Collaborative Projects, Inc., and would seek funding directly from government arts agencies to support the group's collaborative work across media.5

Today little is known of the collective's initial activities as a multimedia organization in the late 1970s. Rather, Colab has a well-established foothold in histories of the early 1980s as a group that helped launch graffiti art and incubate the work of featured members creating in the traditional media of painting and sculpture, such as John Ahearn, Jane Dickson, Rebecca Howland, Jenny Holzer, James Nares, Tom Otterness, Kiki Smith, and Robin Winters, among others. Colab is also recognized in most art surveys for its sponsorship of unjuried exhibitions such as The Real Estate Show and The Times Square Show, the latter held in an abandoned massage parlor in the summer of 1980 and hailed by The VillageVoice as "the first radical art show of the 1980s."6 In short, Colab is best known for establishing ad hoc, temporary shows for the display of art and, in the most cliched narrative of the art industry, for providing exhibition opportunities to launch the careers of those branded as "emerging artists," with special attention to the success stories.

The archival list, however, leads back to a time of flux, anonymity, and possibility, from 1977 until roughly 1979, that interrupts the flow of the seamless narratives that collapse group activities into the singularity of authors, objects, and exhibitions, a time when Colab experimented with the unwieldy and indeed radical model of a self-governing artists' group with a commitment to collaboration in the production of art. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Colab Takes a Piece, History Takes It Back: Collectivity and New York Alternative Spaces
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.