"112 Greene Street: The Early Years (1970-1974)"
"112 Greene Street: A Nexus of Ideas in the Early '70s"
112 Greene Street helped catalyze SoHo in the 1970s. The artist-run gallery occupied a building owned by Jeffrey Lew, with Gordon Matta-Clark as resident imp and impresario; artists and dancers working there comprised a friendship circle that was also a post-Minimal Who's Who. Like that of any legend, the history of this wild incubator--where site-specific, collaborative artmaking bloomed--poses curatorial problems now. Whose memories get sanctioned? How can re-created objects, archived ephemera, and grainy video in commercial white cubes capture what participants loved: no-holds-barred play?
Two shows, separately conceived, told parallel versions of the story. Both were inside jobs. "112 Greene Street: A Nexus of Ideas in the Early '70s," at Salomon, was curated by Ned Smyth, who joined the party in 1971 when Keith Sonnier and Dickie Landry picked him up hitchhiking. "112 Greene Street: The Early Years (1970-1974)," at Zwirner, was organized by Jessamyn Fiore, whose mother, Jane Crawford, was married to Matta-Clark. Together, the exhibitions showcased nineteen artists, without overlap. Fiore's project was framed as a Matta-Clark exhibition "with" works by Tina Girouard, Jene Highstein, Larry Miller, Richard Nonas, Alan Saret, Richard Serra, and Rachel Wood. This somewhat awkward foregrounding of a single--albeit brilliant--denizen of 112 shifted in Smyth's show, which presented one or two pieces each by Alice Aycock, Joan Jonas, Dennis Oppenheim, Smyth himself, and others.
Fiore's show was more expansive, and perhaps truer to the spirit of the place. It was also, perforce, more elusive. Girouard's four-panel canopy of flowered fabrics, Air Space Stage, 1972, and matching floor-work, Lie-No, 1973, consisting of four lengths of flowered linoleum, begged to be activated by live bodies, though it wasn't clear how. Saret's Four Piece Folding Glade, 1970, a quartet of tall wire bundles, seemed inconsequential propped in a corner, though the industrial-garden motif rhymed with rough-hewn components in Nonas's serial array Blocks of Wood (Light to Dark, Dark to Light), 1970, as well as with Matta-Clark's pulsatile "Energy Tree" drawings, 1970-74. It wasn't that Fiore's installation should have pushed these connections; the missing link was not formal relationship but an experiential urgency that has dissipated like perfume. …