Left: Schedule for films and performances organized by Carol Goodden and Gordon Matta-Clark, June-July 1971. Right: Cover of 112 Greene Street: The Early Years (1970–1974), 2012.

Last year, independent curator and writer Jessamyn Fiore organized the exhibition “112 Greene Street: The Early Years (1970–1974)” at David Zwirner Gallery, which brought together many of the key works shown in the landmark noncommercial venue. A new book copublished this month by Zwirner and Radius Books shares the title of that exhibition and features extensive interviews with many of the participating artists. On Thursday, July 26, Fiore will discuss her research at 192 Books.

AFTER RUNNING THISISNOTASHOP, a small alternative art space in Ireland, I found myself yearning for a few historic examples of similar independent exhibition venues for inspiration, and that’s when I began investigating 112 Greene Street. I was already quite familiar with one of its founders, Gordon Matta-Clark; my mother, Jane Crawford, is his widow, and I basically grew up with his estate. But I was surprised to discover a scarcity of published articles about the history of the venue. There is one lovely book by Robyn Brentano, which she compiled between 1978 and 1980, when the organization left Greene Street and became White Columns. Unfortunately today that text is out of print. I ended up writing my master’s thesis at the National College of Art and Design in Dublin on 112 Greene Street, and in doing so I discovered a treasure trove of fascinating stories from interviews with the original artists, which made me I realize how important these primary resources are. It only made sense to have this book take the form of an oral history.

Today 112 Greene Street exists mainly as legend, since so much of the art that was shown there was ephemeral or destroyed. There are some incredible documentary images, but the bulk of the information about the space really comes from the recollections of the vibrant artistic community who worked, lived, ate, and partied there. They used the building as their own creative laboratory, as a site to experiment with multidisciplinary forms of practice. It’s really their stories that capture the essence of that moment. It was important for me to make a primary resource of those narratives for future curators and researchers to take from and use for their own projects. But this book is really just scratching the surface. It would be exciting to see it inspire more exploration about not only 112 Greene Street but other spaces like it, particularly in connection to those that exist now, since they play an essential role in supporting artists and deserve recognition.

The amount and diversity of work that happened at 112 Greene Street in such a short time is truly humbling, and that’s one reason I wanted to include the time line in the book. In the four years I focus on—its earliest years—you can see that hundreds of artists passed through the space. So many of the great stories in the book about these artists are centered around Jeffrey Lew. He was like the ringleader of a circus there, making it a place where really interesting things could happen. For instance, he did not care about having a pristine space; he left it rough so you could dig holes in the basement and carve holes in the walls. George Trakas did a piece in 1970 where he actually had a sculpture come up through the floor from the basement to the first floor. Though Jeffery was irked at first, he grew to love that work, and many said that piece was a key moment in the venue’s history.

Another important point is that 112 Greene Street was just one in a constellation of alternative venues. Nearby, at Chatham Square, Tina Girouard, Mary Heilmann, and Richard Landry were renting a building where they hosted large dinner parties with music and dance performance. Simultaneously, Carol Goodden, Matta-Clark, and Girouard were organizing the restaurant Food. The latter became a gathering place for the community while also giving employment to those who needed it and providing a venue for food performance. When it came to artmaking and exhibitions, they would help each other out and critique each other’s work. It becomes clear in the book how essential that networking and peer review was to some of the artists in strengthening their practice and helping them pursue successful careers.

Another aspect that stood out to me during my research was the important role that women played at 112 Greene Street, in not only producing so many shows there but also contributing greatly to the running of the space. Rachel Wood was Jeffery’s wife and she was involved in the day-to-day operations, as was the artist Suzanne Harris, who also lived in the building with her husband, Paul. I think her work is some of the most exciting from that era, but sadly it has been largely ignored by art history. I tried to push Girouard’s and Harris’s art to the forefront in the show at David Zwirner, and I hope that through this book art historians will become more interested in their output. One of my most sincere wishes is that these two artists get a second look. They are both among the great, but unfortunately often forgotten, artists of that generation.

— As told to Lauren O’Neill-Butler