PRINT May 2009


OUTSIDE, EAST SECOND STREET between Avenues B and C in 1983 was Manhattan’s biggest open-air drug supermarket. It was always deathly quiet except for the continual cries of vendors hawking competing brands of heroin: “3-5-7, 3-5-7” and “Toilet, Toilet.” From the steps of Kenkeleba, looking across at the shooting galleries, you saw unreflecting windows and bricked-up facades, like doorless entrances to Hades. How did the junkies get inside? There was almost no traffic. Behind the two columns flanking Kenkeleba’s doorway unexpectedly was a former Polish wedding palace in elegant decay owned by a black bohemian couple, Corrine Jennings and Joe Overstreet.

The gallery, invisible from the street, had five rooms—one, a cavern—plus a corridor, and dared you to use the whole of it. It was perfect for an impossibly ambitious Mlle Bourgeoise Noire event, thirty artists, half white, half black, with

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