Ludlow Street, Mon Amour
One Night of Alternative Culture on the Lower East Side
by erin rosita
|Alleged, the best (and only) art gallery on the Lower East Side.|
The Lower East Side of Manhattan is not a fashionable destination. Populated primarily by dive bars, nodding junkies, and boarded-up storefronts, the thought of anything even remotely related to trendiness, fancy clothes, or art happening down here would be pretty hard to believe. In fact, the only reason anyone from another neighborhood would even set foot on the LES in 1994 would be if they were looking for illicit substances, of which there are plenty.
Yet a beacon of culture shines. On Ludlow Street just below Houston, nestled between two vacant storefronts and a few doors down from a locals-only kind of bar called Max Fish and a dinky sandwich shop called Pink Pony, lies a small hub of underground culture. Last week on a chilly Thursday night, denizens of both the fashion and art worlds came out in force to brave the hinterlands of the LES. Alleged Gallery, a little-known art space recently opened by some guy named Aaron Rose, and TG-170, a cool fashion boutique for girls, came together as one for a cultural event that left the Puerto Rican neighbors scratching their heads. In the grand historical scheme of the history of art, this will constitute no more than a ripple. But at least we had fun.
Alleged is a modest space that seems more like a living room than a business. In fact, from the looks of it, most days the clientele comprises exclusively cretins, criminals, and dirty skateboarders. Last week, however, the walls of the space were covered almost floor to ceiling with artworks, transforming the space into a massive, colorful, and visually stimulating collage. The various artists included in the exhibition are almost completely unknown, but most offerings show much promise. Take the simple drawings by a young artist named Tom Sachs. In his works, the Japanese cartoon character Hello Kitty is rendered in Sharpie marker on small scraps of paper stamped with the statement, “Made in Switzerland.” Another young artist, Phil Frost, has wheat-pasted one side of the gallery with photocopied drawings and found objects. On top of this he has hung canvases of various sizes depicting creepy cartoon faces and graphic renderings of hearts, all executed in correction fluid. Mike Mills, an emerging graphic designer who creates album cover art for many local downtown bands (as well as graphics for X-Girl and TG-170 next door) shows a series of 1960s-inspired posters in neon colors. West Coast-based artist and skater Mark Gonzales displays a series of ink drawings on different-colored typing paper. Some feature characters and others are just text.
|These may just look like ads, but they are really art. Awesome TG-170 posters by Mike Mills.|
One work in particular shows a ghostlike figure with the simple inscription, “I’ve got a mind like you wouldn’t believe.” This one carries the outrageous price tag of $25. At the time of this writing, the piece is still available. Other art of note includes wall paintings by tattoo artist and punk singer Daniel Higgs, photographs by Tobin Yelland and Joshua Wildman, canvases by Ed Templeton, and a series of silly drawings by a 20-year-old screenwriter named Harmony Korine, whose Larry Clark-directed script, Kids, is currently shooting in the neighborhood. In fact, as we wandered outside and into the boutique next door, many of the cast members of the film seemed to be hanging around. After a sip from a tall bottle of malt liquor in a brown bag, I carefully positioned myself out on the sidewalk in front of the shopwindows of TG-170, where a fashion show was about to start. Owner Terri Gillis, a true pioneer, has been open for business in this space for a few years now. However, except for the patronage of a few “in the know” ladies, the place has gone virtually unnoticed by the fashion world. The shop features collections by young and mostly local designers, many of whom create their lines specifically for the boutique. Tonight it seems like that might change. The runway for this evening’s show is actually in the front picture windows of the small store.
The designer showing her wares is a young downtowner named Wendy Mullin. Her fashion line, Built by Wendy, began with a collection of custom guitar straps and has now grown to be a full-fledged indie fashion house. Because of her ties to music, her line has reportedly become quite the hit with the so-called underground scene. And it looks to be true—there among the throngs for the evening’s festivities were Melissa Auf der Maur of Hole, indie musician Chan Marshall (who recently began performing under the name Cat Power), and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. As the fashion show started and Black Sabbath blared from stereo speakers installed in the shop’s entrance, the windows lit up and the crowd grew until the small street was almost completely blocked to traffic. The downtown art scene mixed in with the Spanish locals, all trying to get a glimpse of the spectacle. The fashions were a perfect mixture of girly and indie-rock cool.
As the last model left the window, the sound of police radios could be heard as the crowd was urged to disperse by New York’s Finest. Everybody filtered back into Alleged or Max Fish, where a party ensued that lasted into the early hours of the morning. Some who were lucky enough to attend this magic evening will undoubtedly mark it as quite a memorable downtown event. The rest of the world, squares that they are, might never hear of it at all, nor of the artists exhibited in the gallery or the clothing on display. In this writer’s opinion, it is most certainly their loss. Whether or not the seedy Lower East Side will ever catch on as a trendy destination is open for debate. My guess is probably not. In fact, I hope not. Seeing Ludlow Street overrun with normal people looking for a “hip kick” would turn my stomach faster than a bad bag of dope. But last weekend, if only for one night, the Lower East Side was most certainly the place to be in New York.
|Mike Mills and Phil Frost at work.|
|Screenwriter and artist Harmony Korine.|
|One of our favorite pieces by Harmony Korine, courtesy of Alleged.|