Working it #geometricart #phoneme #eve #eden #alpha #apple #mythology #remix #vintagesign (at Illinois)
8/21/17 total eclipse viewing at Bucky Fuller’s house #Transmission #received #eclipse2017 #astrology #geodesicdome #buckminsterfuller #cardondale #siu (at Bucky Fuller Dome Home)
› Sat, 29 Jul 2017
#bangagong I bet the vibrations of Pati Peleritto’s gong are still ringing in the dome a day later #goodvibes #gongs #geodesicdome #soundbath #cosmic #spacemusic (at Fuller Dome)
› Fri, 28 Jul 2017
Bucky Fuller geodesic dome cosmic journey sound bath vibes #goodvibes #fullerdome #geodesicdome #geometry #buckminsterfuller #handpan #gongs #singingbowls #siue #illinois #architecture #sacredspace #soundbath #vibes (at Fuller Dome)
› Tue, 25 Jul 2017
Return of the Fun Gallery
From Thursday, June 28th to Tuesday, July 3rd 2017, the legendary Fun Gallery returned to New York city in the form of a pop-up for the Urban Art Fair held at Spring Studios in Tribeca.
The gallery’s return was spontaneous, unscripted, and raw just like the Hip Hop and Punk Rock movements that had found common ground there in the 1980′s.
Jean Michel Basquiat created this ad for Patti Astor for his Fun Gallery Show
Patti Astor at her Fun Gallery show at the Urban Art Fair NYC 2017
The Fun Gallery was opened by Patti Astor and her business partner Bill Stelling in New York’s East Village in 1981. It was one of the first art galleries to open in the East Village and was the first gallery to give solo shows to graffiti artists. The Fun Gallery was the launching pad for an artistic movement that has since taken over global culture, featuring solo shows from Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Dondi White, Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, Jane Dickson, Lee Quiñones, ERO, Kenny Scharf, Zephyr, Arch Connelly, Steven Kramer, and Kiely Jenkins. It was only open from 1981 to 1985 but the gallery’s influence will outlive all of those fortunate enough to be a part of this once-in-a-generation cultural happening.
Patti in front of the Fun Gallery in 1982 for Futura 2000’s show
Patti Astor was an underground film star before starting the Fun Gallery with Bill and although the artistic movement that Fun Gallery helped launch has been largely coopted for commercialization by main-stream culture around the world;
Patti herself remains a maverick and an outlier, a true rebel, unwilling to compromise her counter-culture spirit, even at the expense of her own personal and financial health. Artist, actor, musician and cultural-connector extraordinaire, Fab 5 Freddy, once declared, Patti is “down by law” and that certification of authenticity shows no signs of expiring.
Patti had asked me to exhibit some of my artwork in her Fun Gallery relaunch at the Urban Art Fair. She brought me into the exhibition as her contemporary contribution to her historic roster of artists from the 80′s. Patti had successfully co-curated a show of my work in Los Angles in the Fall of 2016, but this would be the first time I exhibited with her in New York. Patti requested that I bring a sculpture to add to her mix, so I made an 8-foot-tall totem specifically for this show. My sculpture was inspired by an iconic film cell of Patti from her underground film star days, when she played the role of “Vickie” in Eric Mitchell’s avant-garde film, “Underground USA.”
I built the totem at my home studio in Illinois out of a vintage metal sign that I salvaged off of a building that had once advertised to travelers on old Route 66. I loaded the completed “Vickie Totem” into my Buick Roadmaster Wagon and headed for New York.
Benjamin Lowder working on the “Vickie Totem” back in Illinois
During my drive out I needed to stop in Pennsylvania and take a two hour nap in the back of the wagon along side the sculpture. As I drifted off, fatigued from the road, I laid there beside the totem and it felt like a person, too sharp to spoon with but it offered comfort somehow. Upon reaching New York and within mere blocks of popping out of the Holland Tunnel into the Manhattan sun, I got a text message from artist Kool Koor saying “I see you,” which nicely summed-up why I had made the trip. I wanted to be “seen” by people who I admired and respected. I certainly respect and admire Kool Koor and to his credit he was able to somehow recognize my car from his vantage point atop the roof of Spring Studios. I love living in rural Illinois, its fertile and picturesque, but I lack culture and community there and connecting with people like Koor and Patti through artwork nourishes my spirit and keeps me working.
When I arrived at the fair I found a group of French event organizers out in front of the venue. I approached them and told them I was an artist showing work in Patti’s Fun Gallery. I was concerned that I hadn’t arrived as early as I had hoped to help Patti install the show, but when they asked me where Patti was, I knew I was right on time. It turns out that Patti had a long flight delay in traveling to New York and was running a bit late herself.
Kool Koor came down from the Spring Studios roof top and as we unloaded the “Vickie Totem” to install in Patti’s gallery space, the French event organizers were out front taking pictures of the Roadmaster saying, “dis is jus someting you do not see in France.”
Unloading the “Roadmaster” at the Urban Art Fair for Patti Astor’s show
I got a text from Patti letting me know she was on her way so Koor and I took the time to head back up to the roof top of Spring Studios. The space Patti was given for her Fun Gallery show was on the ground floor and as we made our way upstairs we passed through teams of European curators installing the most sought after contemporary “street art.” There were works by Banksy, Mr. Brainwash, Kaws, Shepard Fairey, Alec Monopoly, JonOne, Speedy Graphito… and although these works are very marketable internationally, they didn’t reflect my personal idea of the works that would grace the walls of a New York Urban Art Fair. As I saw this work being installed upstairs I began to feel very fortunate to be showing with Patti downstairs. We moved along up towards the roof and my appreciation for the work being curated was bolstered by seeing some of the other galleries in the fair installing pieces by Logan Hicks, Crash, Swoon, Remed, Augustine Kofie, Revolt, Quick, and Kool Koor. I had hoped to see pieces by Rammellzee, Dondi White, A-One, Toxic, Seen, Doze Green, Maya Hayuk, Gaia, Futura, Fred Braithwaite, and David Ellis, but I guess their works may be harder to come by, or I know that at least in a couple of cases, these artists are in the dealers personal collections.
David Bloch’s booth at the Urban Art Fair with one of favorite artists, Remed (L)
It was terrific to see Crash painting a huge mural indoors for the fair, but the mix of ambient anxiety from the dealers mingled with the spray paint and air-conditioning had me eager to reach the roof for some relatively fresh air. After exhibiting twice during Art Basel Miami, I must admit that art fairs make me sick. I mean to say, I get actually ill at art fairs. I guess I’m a wuss, but I’m very sensitive to indoor air quality and I think loads of petroleum based art work and plastic packing materials in a closed environment can trigger a migraine headache for me. I’m sure this is why, among other reasons, I resist using petroleum based paint as my artistic medium. I know this about myself and I knew that I needed to get up to the roof.
The view of Tribeca was really beautiful from the rooftop; to the West you could see the Hudson River shimmering between the buildings, to the North the rest of Manhattan rolled out before you, and to the South a brilliant new skyscraper by architecture firm Herzog and de Meuron towered above Tribeca like a Jenga game being played by giants. From this view, Koor was able to point out the last studio he had in the U. S. before becoming international, he also pointed out, Fun Gallery artist, Jane Dickson and “Wild Style” Director, Charlie Ahern’s place. Much to my delight, Koor then pointed to Rammellzee’s infamous art studio that he called the “Battlestation” which was only a block away. Kool Koor, Toxic and A-One were all in a graffiti writing crew with Rammellzee called TMK, or Tag Master Killers.
Koor, Toxic and A-One were also know as the Mitchell Crew which is a reference to the Mitchell projects in the South Bronx. Rammellzee came from Far Rockaway Queens and added to the Mitchell Crew in the formation of TMK. Jean Michel Basquiat had a lot of admiration for the Rammellzee and the Mitchell Crew and he used them as subject matter of several of his paintings.
Paige Powell in her apartment in front of Basquiat’s triptych “Mitchell Crew”
Paige Powell has said that Basquiat’s painting of the Mitchell Crew really pissed off Rammellzee who saw this as an attempt by Basquiat to appropriate some of the crew’s authenticity into his work. Basquiat had approached the world of graffiti art and hip hop as an outsider and he sought friendship, acceptance and validation from Rammellzee, Toxic, Kool Koor, and A-One. Basquiat brought Ramm and Toxic out to Hollywood in 1983 to introduce the West coast to this cultural movement emerging from the South Bronx. That trip wold inspire Basquiat’s painting titled “Hollywood Africans” that features portraits of Toxic, Rammellzee and himself.
TMK’s work, in my opinion, transcends all other graffiti crews in that it is the visual representation of a philosophical system that works in the ancient tradition of elevating the symbol system of language arts into glyphs that carry the energy and intention of their creator to shape reality. The artist’s idea is made manifest in the letter forms and can then go out into the world and change reality, there by gaining “name fame” for the writer.
Rammellzee articulated his concept of the letter’s power by saying, “The government uses the language to control us, but if we own the letter, we are the masters of our own destiny.”
Rammellzee was also the MC for the Rock Steady Crew and he was in Charlie Ahearn’s movie “Wild Style.” Charlie would also point out Rammellzee’s “Battlestation” to me on a later trip with him to the Spring Studios roof top. Up on the roof, Charlie shared a great story of a time when;
Rammellzee was lecturing him about the extra dimensional implications of human behavior when he said to Charlie in a menacing tone, “Ahearn! You know this means the end of you and the rest of the human race!” For Charlie the most interesting aspect of Rammellzee’s declaration was that Rammellzee didn’t include himself as part of the human race.
Charlie saw this as a very telling insight into Rammellzee’s world view and may have explained some of the alienation he felt in this world. Rammellzee’s work in music and fine art was in line with the role of a shaman and I have a deep affinity for him. I’ve been consistently and serendipitously returned to his legacy with each of my forays into the art world. All of this gave me a strong sense of place for the location of this art fair and it felt like we were at the right spot in that moment.
Rammellzee photographed in the “Battlestation” by Charlie Ahearn
The Urban Art Fair was founded in France by Yannick Boesso and this was the first time it was happening in the United States. The Urban Art Fair held it’s successful second installment in France in the Spring of 2017, and now Yannick was coming across the Atlantic to New York, the birth place of the artistic bonanza he was promoting. Hip Hop culture is huge in France and it is the second largest market for hip hop and graffiti art outside of the U. S. It is the ubiquitous Fred (Fab 5 Freddy) Brathwaite who is partly responsible for introducing the French to Hip Hop with the 1982 tour he help create, “New York City Rap.” The tour was France’s introduction to Hip Hop and it included DJ Afrika Bambaataa, Grand Mixer D.St and the Infinity rappers, The Rock Steady Crew, Futura 2000, Dondi, Phase Two, Fab 5 Freddy, Rammellzee, and the McDonald’s double Dutch jump rope team. With this rich cultural connection between France and N.Y.C. Yannick endeavored to meet the challenge of the New York art scene with a great deal of momentum, enthusiasm, and a genuine love for the culture.
Yannick had said “…it was my dream to have the Fun Gallery return,” and his dream was becoming a reality when Patti Astor showed up at Spring Studios with two suit cases full of her personal artifacts, photos and memorabilia from her Fun Gallery days.
When Patti arrived to install the Fun Gallery exhibit I had just driven across the country and I was operating on only 2 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours, but the excitement surrounding the task at hand gave me the energy to get started. Patti announced her vision for the show, which was to work around the walls of the room, counter clock wise, installing artifacts chronologically that related to her journey from an underground film star through her Fun Gallery days. Each artist who had a solo show at the original Fun Gallery would have a section of wall space that would include vintage photos of them at the gallery along with vintage press and promotional materials associated with their show. Each of these artist who had solo shows at Fun Gallery also redesigned the Fun Gallery logo in their style and created an original post card or poster to promote their show. Patti had examples of those artist created promo materials with her in the two suit cases she had just rolled in.
Patti Astor and Benjamin Lowder installing the Fun Gallery show
As the artifacts began coming out of Patti’s suitcases they were laid out and organized onto folding tables around the room. This array of polaroids, flyers, magazine clippings, and personal snapshots offered an amazing first hand glimpse into that period of time in New York between 1975 and 1985 when the city was a lawless playground, up for grabs to anyone with the courage and talent to make it theirs. Iconic figures of the New York “New-wave-no-wave-hiphop-punk-rock-graffiti-art-scene” from Basquiat and Debbie Harry to Rene Ricard, Glenn O’brien, Fab 5 Freddy, and so on could be seen as kids in Patti’s photos, playing dress-up in thrift store clothes from previous decades, and pursuing their interests without license or permission from any academy or establishment institution. They were indulging their passions with reckless abandon and creating a new and complete culture the likes of which hadn’t been seen in America since the Jazz age.
Keith Haring checking out Jean Michel Basquiat’s show at Fun Gallery
Photos of Patti shot by Steven Krammer in his art studio
Artifacts from artist Dondi White’s show at the Fun Gallery in 1983
Patti’s artifacts and memorabilia viewed anthropologically would be considered primary source materials within an academic setting, and after the show was up many of those who were most excited by the exhibition were youngish looking college professors. These fair goers were teaching University classes at Parsons, Columbia, and NYU on this very cultural movement. I witnessed quite a few of these academics at Patti’s exhibit, swooning and starry-eyed to see the subjects of their text books living, breathing and on display before them. You could easily see that this was the closest to the subject matter of their texts that they had ever been and it made them giddy. The vintage photographs shot by Patti’s long time friend Anita Rosenberg were a particular hit, because of their candid behind-the-scenes style. The coming days were spent with star-struck art-nerds getting pictures with Patti and having her sign their books. My friend Patti was a star here, and I felt a happiness and pride for her that is usually reserved for family.
Photos of Patti Astor from her role in the film “Underground USA”
At times this level of familial affection and kinship was necessary to see me through the aggravating moments of setting up this show. Patti’s approach to her cultural artifacts is very casual, and that sometimes upset and tweaked my preservationist tendencies. It was her idea to place these items into clear plastic sheets and either staple or tape them to the wall. Patti and Julianna Savino, an amazonian bombshell of a nurse from New Jersey, had gone to a local Staples store and bought some large clear plastic sheets, a printer/scanner combo, 11×17 photo paper, and rolls of clear packing tape. Stacey Romano came with her daughter Lauren and several rolls of tinfoil to create Patti’s tribute to Andy Worhal’s tinfoil covered “Factory.” French filmmaker Cedric Godin was also there as a dedicated soldier from the beginning to the end and he rounded out the team of volunteers that would help bring Patti’s vision to life. I had packed as many tools, hanging devices, and extension cords from my home studio as I could fit in the Roadmaster and it was time to put them to use.
Fred Brathwaite’s piece for the show originally exhibited at Fun Gallery in 1984
As we were arranging Patti’s artifacts, two pieces of original artwork from Fun Gallery artists showed up from private collections . One was a fabulous painting by Fred (Fab 5 Freddy) Brathwaite that had actually been exhibited at Fun Gallery and still retained it’s original exhibition tag from 1984. The other piece was also from 1984 by Futura 2000, who has since dropped the 2000 from his name and just goes by Futura these days. This early painting from Futura drew quite a bit of attention from European art dealers during the show, whose interest in artwork is informed by how well the work has been selling at auction in Europe, and early Futura works have been selling well.
A 1984 painting by Futura exhibited as part of the Fun Gallery show
Patti had also brought with her an important original piece by Zephyr and an original Kieth Haring poster from his exhibit at Fun Gallery in 1983. Both of these pieces were from Patti’s sister Jenny’s collection. Jenny was instrumental in the creation of Fun Gallery West in San Francisco that curated shows by Futura and Zephyr. Kool Koor was also going to go uptown and retrieve an early piece of his work from his days painting at Fashion Moda in the South Bronx. Historically, The Fun Gallery can be understood as a kind of bridge or middle ground between Fashion Moda in the Bronx and the infamous Mudd Club in Tribeca, so having Fashion Moda represented in the exhibit through Koor was part of Patti’s plan.
A piece by Kool Koor from 1983 exhibited at Fashion Moda
As Patti’s artifacts made it to the walls along with the original pieces of artwork it was becoming apparent that judging by the size of the enormous room Patti was given we needed more artwork. It is unclear if this was part of an advance plan or not, but Patti was able to get on the phone with old friends, Jane Dickson and Fab 5 Freddy to request some more work for the exhibition. This spontaneous and unscripted installation of the show complete with staples, tape, and tinfoil was confusing to my expectations of how this exhibit would come together. I was fascinated by this organic process while being a bit anxious where it was headed. VIPs, press and early-bird collectors were scheduled to come to the fair that night and I could see Yannick becoming concerned about the amount of open wall space that remained in the gallery. To Yannick’s credit he remained very cool and he sought only to make sure that Patti was happy and had everything that she needed, saying to Patti, “… people who come to the fair preview will enjoy seeing you hang the work.” Since I had a vehicle at the fair it was up to me to travel the city picking up the original pieces that would fill out the exhibition.
A piece painted live at Fashion Moda in ‘84 by Kool Koor & Bear 167
First I would head to Harlem and meet Koor at his mother’s place. He had a great 4′ x 4′ spray paint piece on board from ‘83 that he had planned to hang in Patti’s show and he also had a 52″ x 90″ canvas that he had painted live at Fashion Moda in 1984 with the very early graffiti writer Bear 167 that he proposed we add to the mix. We grabbed both pieces and stopped off for lunch at an excellent soul food restaurant called Manna. At Manna the food is served buffet style and you pay by the ounce for what you put in your container. At this point in my New York experience I was feeling very road weary and hollow from constantly being on the move and setting-up the show. I was really just snacking throughout the day and not sitting down to eat meals. I was also actually sleeping in the back of the Roadmaster in a free parking spot that I coincidentally found in front of Rammellzee’s old “Battlestation.” Encountering bin after bin of amazing food that was prepared exactly the way my Grandmother and Great Grandmother in Illinois used to cook, was a truly soul nourishing experience.
With a belly full of some of the best food I’d eaten in a while, Koor and I were walking back to the car past street vendors selling afrocentric fashion, incense, and essential oils. Children, old folks, and families crowded the sidewalks and there was a very good vibe uptown that made me want to stay. We walked past a shady outdoor basketball court and I said, “I wish we had time to play,” Koor persuaded me that we actually should play a little to help our lunch settle. We played a little ball and in true demigod fashion Koor had to guard his achilles heel due to a recent injury. Although Koor is over 50 years old, his mother playfully scolded him a bit when she found out he’d been playing ball on that heel. Kool later told me that he credited his mother’s diligence for keeping him on a path that would lead to his current beautiful life as an internationally renowned artist.
After picking up Koor’s pieces we headed to Fab 5 Freddy’s to grab another work from him. Fred has probably done more to articulate the essence of Hip Hop culture than anyone else ever has or ever will. It is Fred’s vision of the culture’s importance that has shaped and unified the artistic expressions of graffiti, DJing, breakdancing and MCing into the cohesive cultural movement know collectively as hip hop. I would have loved to spend more time chatting with Fred. I have an endless curiosity about him and the role he has played in changing global culture through hip hop and it seemed like he was a little curious about who I was. I may have posed an odd figure as a midwesterner in a wood-paneled station wagon picking up his artwork with Koor in Harlem.
He asked, “…so you drove this out here from Illinois?” I replied “Yeah, Patti’s got my country-ass in an “URBAN” art fair.” To which Fred replied,
“HEY! It’s America baby! You can get down.”
Benjamin Lowder, Fred Brathwaite and Patti Astor
Wether he intended it or not, I personally chose to take this general statement about America as Fred’s blessing of my participation. I’m aware that some of Fred’s peers think that he takes too much credit for the formation of hip hop culture, but cultural movements need ambassadors who are chief communicators and Fred has filled that need incredibly well. In some ways, Fred’s unique ability to articulate and connect the different aspects of hip hop culture and communicate it to people from outside the culture has defined his role in the public’s perception and has overshadowed the considerable creative contribution he has made personally through his art and music. I think as time passes, Fred will be rightfully understood and appreciated more as an artist and less as a promoter of hip hop culture.
Fred Brathwaite’s pieces in the Fun Gallery show at the Urban Art Fair NYC
My next stop for an art pickup was at the home of original Fun Gallery artist, Jane Dickson and Wild Style director Charlie Ahrean to collect a 4′ x 4′ painting of Jane’s for the show. Jane’s portrait of Fred recently got added to the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum and her partner Charlie directed the landmark feature film on hip hop, “Wild Style.” Charlie released “Wild Style” in 1983 and it stared Fred and Patti acting as characters in a story that approximately mirrored their actual lives. This trip through the boroughs of New York collecting art work for Patti’s show was beginning to feel, for me, like a hip hop history tour. It made me feel somewhat inside of a culture that I have mostly witnessed from the outside, watching, listening, and consuming from the midwest.
Jane Dickson’s portrait of Fred Brathwaite for the National Portrait Gallery
My personal awareness of this culture occurred in 1984, that year I discovered the movie “Wild Style” and I also tuned into a radio station being broadcast from St. Louis (Magic 108 FM) that would play New York hip hop, after midnight, in a program they called the “Mix-master Jam.” Like many Americans in the early 80′s I had a “boom box” with dual cassette decks and I enjoyed making mix tapes that I recorded from the radio. I was primarily making tapes of soul and motown hits from the 60′s that I’d listen to during the day on a walkman while I did the farm work of cutting weeds out of soybean fields. This was a job that existed before the eventual widespread use of herbicides and “Round-up-Ready seeds” so this type of work is no longer done because the weeds don’t exist. Kids would be hired to walk through the fields row by row and cut weeds with a sharp hook. This was boring, tedious work and listening to mix-tapes on the walkman helped out tremendously.
In the evening I would move my boom box antenna around on my bedroom window looking for radio stations to record. I would make a dot with a marker on the window where I got the best radio reception and label the dot with the name of the station. I can vividly remember the Summer of 1984 when I found the spot on the window that brought hip hop to my country ears. The first track I heard was Roxanne Shante’s, "Roxanne’s Revenge.“ I recall that the other rapping I’d been aware of at this time was Blondie’s “Rapture” so I thought for a minute that this was a uniquely female style of music, but then of course I heard T LA Rock, KRS-One, Whodini, Kurtis Blow, and I was hooked. I think that I had heard “The Message” by Grand Master Flash before this on the old TV show, “Night Flight,” but this seemed different somehow. This new hip hop I tuned-in was more raw, with less production value. That made it seem like I was listening in on an underground transmission, direct from some exotic urban reality that was very foreign to me. Since I couldn’t stay up all night at 10 years old, I’d set the tape deck to record at midnight and go to bed. The next day I couldn’t wait to get up and listen to what new music my tape caught coming from New York via St Louis. I’d use my dual decks to eliminate the commercials and tracks that I wasn’t into and I’d be left with some exciting new music to listen to while I walked the bean fields cutting weeds for farmer, Tom Crouch.
The model of radio I used to record mix tapes in the 80′s off of Magic 108
Traveling around New York connecting with the people responsible for popularizing this culture that had captured my imagination over three decades earlier, I still had an outsider viewpoint, witnessing, and appreciating, but still not a part of this city. Jane and Charlie’s place was within walking distance from the art fair so I hung Koor and Fred’s pieces in Patti’s gallery space and I headed over on foot to meet Jane. She met me on the street in front of her building. I could see the painting was large, around 4′ x 4′ but it wasn’t until Jane turned it around that I could see it was a portrait of Patti based a photograph from 80′s. I immediately knew that this piece was going tie the whole exhibit together and any concern that I may have been having about how the show was going to come together evaporated upon seeing Jane’s portrait.
Jane Dickson’s portrait of Patti Astor at Fun Gallery, Urban Art Fair NYC
Jane gets a very interesting and unique effect for her portraits partly because she does them on vinyl. After speaking with her, I learned that she is pulling from the same roll of vinyl that she had been working on when she was exhibiting at Fun Gallery in the 80′s and with time the texture of the vinyl has changed and become rougher. This time-enhanced texture to her medium, created a uniquely personal quality to her portrait of Patti. This struck me as a nice bit of material continuity in her work that connected the past and present, and communicated the passage of time, which is challenging to do in a static portrait. This “passage of time” aspect of her portrait communicated through the material she paints on is appealing to me because that is what I am trying to do as well through the use of reclaimed and salvaged materials. Sometimes I lament the challenges of creating with such a difficult medium but seeing Jane’s work renewed my commitment and highlighted the rewards of creating artwork in this way.
I walked Jane’s portrait of Patti back to Spring Studios and got it hung with the rest of the work in time for the fair goers to enjoy it. The show felt cohesive and intelligible to me now. The tape, staples, tinfoil, and general haphazard manner of the installation now all seemed purposeful and enduring to me. This installation was authentic, unpretentious, and consistent with the spirit of the original Fun Gallery that Patti opened because, as she says it, "I was tired of all the artists hanging around and partying in my apartment.” Patti is a genuine trail blazer, a pioneer, and it is a common cliche to say that pioneers get arrows in their backs and in Patti’s case that is certainly true. It was the sophisticated and professional galleries with business plans that followed the trail Patti blazed into the East Village and despite the arrows in her back, Patti is a survivor who has compromised none of her punk rock attitude. She is frantic, energetic, volatile, hilarious, astute, and compassionate but most of all she is authentic and she has an uncanny ability to recognize authenticity in the world around her. Her ability to recognize the “real” in creative expression is not limited to the past or to graffiti art or hip hop. At her current home in Hermosa Beach California it is the dying breed of surf board shapers that has caught her discerning eye and when she chooses music solely for herself it is an online broadcast from Texas of “red-dirt” country music. Patti has said that “…with art, it’s not really about what street you are from and it doesn’t even have to be a street, maybe its a dirt road.”
Patti Astor’s Fun Gallery show at the Urban Art Fair, NYC 2017
Now that the show was installed and I didn’t need to rush around anymore, I was able to really take in the room. In this more reflective moment, it really touched me that many of Patti’s Fun Gallery artists did not live to see the impact that their artwork has had on the world. Realizing this made me feel a bit emotional, and I realized how emotional it must be for Patti to be surrounded by their faces, trapped in photographs from the 1980′s, never aging and not able to be there to share the ride with her. I wondered for a moment, what my part was in this? Why was I here? How did I fit in? I’d been included in previous group shows in Miami with graffiti artists because my artwork is partly about abstracting the letter forms of the vintage metal signs I find. I looked to the totem I’d created for the show, standing there among all of this art history, and in that moment it felt like a grounding rod, stabilizing the energy in the room. I also understood that this had been my personal role for the exhibition. I brought a grounding, stabilizing energy to things. When stuff got frantic and threatened to spin out, I was there like the totem, grounding things. Patti told me that the totem I brought “made the show” and while I doubted this, the compliment was meaningful to me and I’ll never forget it.
Patti Astor and the “Vickie Totem” for Fun Gallery, Urban Art Fair
“Wild Style” director, Charlie Ahearn and Patti Astor at Patti’s book reading
Patti’s book reading in the Fun Gallery room at the Urban Art Fair
Patti Astor, Yannick Boesso Jane Dickson and Charlie Ahearn with camera
The next evening of the fair Patti read from her book that she wrote and self published, “Fun Gallery…the True Story.” It made me so proud for Patti to see her surrounded by fans and old friends like Martha Cooper and Charlie Ahearn who were smiling while she told her story. As she read and employed some of the acting chops that had made her the “queen of the downtown screen” I felt a tangible feeling of warmth and love for Patti from those in attendance that cut through the usual superficial appreciation for her as the woman who curated the most expensive American artist, Jean Michel Basquiat. In all of the art-world striving and jockeying by some of Patti’s peers who are feverishly fighting for their piece of the Basquiat and Haring legacy, it is forgotten that these guys were Patti’s friends, and they are gone. She doesn’t miss the money she could have made by squirreling away the art of Basquiat, Haring, or Dondi. Patti misses her friends, who she loved. She cherishes the experiences they had together when New York was a gorgeously desolate blank canvas waiting for their expression. Patti was as much an artist’s muse as she was a gallery owner or actress. She didn’t just curate shows at the Fun Gallery, she was intimately enmeshed in the lives of her artists. She facilitated their greatness and together they changed the world forever.
Fred Brathwaite, Kiely Jenkins, Patti Astor and Futura
The “Vickie Totem” for Fun Gallery & the Urban Art Fair NYC found a sweet spot at home #keepingitrural #home #reclaimed #Totem #vintagesign #geometricart #tetrahedron #fungallery #urbanartfair #urbanart #countryartist #saarinen #pattiastor #remix (at Illinois)
Charlie Ahearn & Patti Astor chatting before her book reading #fungallery #urbanartfair #wildstyle #icons #totem #reclaimed #vintagesign #urbanart #charlieahearn #pattiastor #benjaminlowder #nyc (at Urban Art Fair)
› Tue, 04 Jul 2017
The “Vickie” Totem shown with the iconic image from Eric Mitchell’s film “Underground USA” ⭐️ing Patti Astor as “Vickie” #totem #reclaimed #vintagesign #twotone #binary #fungallery #koolkoor #jeanmichelbasquiat #historic #urbanart #nyc #urbanartfair #fungallery #pattiastor #undergroundusa (at Urban Art Fair)
“Vickie” Totem for Fun Gallery at the Urban Art Fair. #fungallery #fashionmoda #urbanartfair #koolkoor #pattiastor #keithharing #jeanmichelbasquiat #nyc #artshow #historic #totem (at Urban Art Fair)
› Fri, 30 Jun 2017
#fungallery #urbanartfair #dondi #pattiastor #futura #koolkoor #jmb #kiethharing #zephyr #wildstyle (at Urban Art Fair)