Six Degrees

Overview

Organized by Eungie Joo, Keith Haring Director and Curator of Education and Public Programs, New Museum

In the New Museum’s Museum as Hub project, artists use the real estate of the Museum as organizing principle, departure point, vista, and classroom to imagine the changing relevance of the Museum and its environs. Expanding the concept of exhibition, “Six Degrees” refers to the angle of the Bowery off New York City’s grid and begins with Night School, a monthly seminar series organized by Anton Vidokle that features artists, writers, and curators in conversation with the public over the course of the year. Works by Dave McKenzie, My Barbarian (Jade Gordon, Malik Gaines, and Alexandro Segade), Lisa Sigal, and Ginger Brooks Takahashi continue to occupy and engage the neighborhood by employing nearby buildings as canvas, local artists as collaborators, and museum territory as meeting place, recital hall, and laboratory.

Related projects:
Bowery Artist Tribute is a dynamic art history of the area featuring an interactive online map that illustrates the rich artistic legacy of the neighborhood through locations of artists’ studios and biographical information on artists who lived and worked in the area, as well as examples of artworks created on the Bowery. Central to the Bowery Artist Tribute is an ongoing effort to record oral histories of artists who have lived and worked along the Bowery and its outskirts and includes interviews with Carol LeWitt; poets Hettie Jones and Bob Holman; art historian Kellie Jones; and artists Vito Acconci, Lynda Benglis, David Diao, Inka Essenhigh, Charles Hinman, James Rosenquist, and Billy Sullivan. Committed to the idea of capturing the spirit of the Bowery as a locus of valuable cultural production, the project will grow over time to include more interviews, an updated timeline, art spaces and institutions, and information on over one hundred artists who have been living and working in the neighborhood over the past fifty years. Through onsite and online resources, publications, and public programming, the Bowery Artist Tribute is a vibrant connecting point for our visitors and neighbors to tap into the history of the neighborhood, its creative residents, and its contributions to contemporary culture.

Along with each of the Museum as Hub partner organizations, the New Museum participated in the introductory installation of the Museum as Hub space from December 1, 2007 to February 27, 2008. Martha Rosler’s, The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974-5) introduces the Museum’s approach to “neighborhood” and contextualizes artists’ significant engagement with the area. The work offers a poetic, humorous, even elegaic interrogation of the concept of the Bowery as urban blight. Refusing the style of documentary or journalistic portraiture often used to personify poverty through the degraded human subject, Rosler concentrates instead on the evidence of an absence: empty liquor bottles and assorted detritus that suggest alcohol infused vagrancy and mark the passage of time. Juxtaposing these images with lists of synonyms for drunkenness or drunks and the words “dead soldiers, dead marines,” the work amplifies the void of representation while alluding to the unknowable path traversed by the so-called “Bowery bum.”