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Odd Man Out

I REMEMBER WHEN WORD SPREAD that the (pre-groovy) East Village was brandishing an art scene. If memory serves, an influential tag line in one of the now-defunct neighborhood weeklies described this scene as consisting of “art that wakes up and smells the audience.” Living in the East Village in the early ’80s, as I happened to be doing, it was easy to see the beleaguered area as a kind of pocket of hard truth in Manhattan’s gridlocked reality. So it was inviting to believe that the bohemians, druggies, and artist types who called the Village home were people too rough-hewn and economically challenged to suffer the intellectual pretenses that seemed to have hypnotized contemporary art into a state of numbed, polished cleverness. Of course, “East Village Art” ended up being just another inflationary term that overrepresented a hodgepodge of recklessly sincere artists, but that’s the future

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