Tom Warren: The 1980's art scene in New York: Portrait Studio / Visual Journal

Nov 26, 2021 - Jan 16, 2022
  • Tom Warren: The 1980s Art Scene in New York

    Portrait Studio / Visual Journal
  • Tom Warren captured New York’s art scene through his lens during a legendary era when life was a blur and the process of creating art and being young and free was insepara­ble. In New York of the ’80s art was happening on the streets and in the clubs and Warren — ubiquitous and always equipped with his camera — was invited to every enviable event, where he was not only documenting phenomenal moments, but also capturing the essence of the time. Today, he offers us a glimpse into this glorious, art-filled world.

  • “Tom Warren, the omnipresent photographer with a Hasselblad F1000, arrived in New York City in March of 1979 when CBGB's, the Mudd Club, Xenon, Palladium, and Danceteria were in full swing and after graduating from Kent State University's School of Journalism with a Bachelor of Science degree in Photo-Illustration. It was the year Leonard Abrams founded the East Village Eye, a local paper focusing on politics, art, and gentrification that wouldeventually publish Tom's photographs and was the first to publish the word 'hip-hop'. […] Every night, Tom recalled, ‘was another party, another art opening, another gallery opening.’ And Tom thrived on this eclectic energy of his new home and city and placed himself front and center as observer, participant, and documentarian to this vibrant, yet rapidly changing cityscape  filled with the quixotic and visionary.” – Gregory de la Haba, Tom Warren, Behind the Camera – In Front of the Scene, in: Tom Warren, The 1980s Art Scene in New York – Portrait Studio / Visual Journal, Berlin 2021, 15.


    Click here to read more about Tom Warren.

  • Fashion Moda South Bronx

    1983 January
  • “[I]n 1981 Mr. Warren was again invited by Alan W. Moore to do a show at ABC No Rio. ABC No Rio, in­terestingly enough, was granted the use of an empty building at 156 Rivington Street by the city as part of the compromise to the eviction incurred by some of its members collaborating in The Real Estate Show at 123 Delancey Street. This act by the city firmly cemented ABC No Rio’s presence on the Lower East Side for decades to come. It makes for a fascinating anecdote: A burnt-out neon sign in the front window at 156 Rivington had once read “Abogado Con Notario” (Lawyer with Notary Public), but the only letters that remained when the art­ists moved in were “Ab C No rio.” This new community arts center was billed as “a place where you could do things that wouldn’t even cross your mind to do in a gallery.” And it is where Tom, inspired by American photographer, Mike Disfarmer, German portrait photographer, August Sander, French flaneur and documentary photographer, Eugene Atget, Lower East Side mainstay Arthur Fellig (aka Weegee), and the German conceptual artists and photography duo, Bernd and Hilla Becher, conceptualized the Portrait Studio as a performance show and with his Cambo 4x5 Studio View Camera began taking photos of the Lower East Side neighbors and many of the artists who lived nearby or whom he met along the way.” – Gregory de la Haba, Tom Warren: Behind the Camera – In Front of the Scene, in: Tom Warren: The 1980s Art Scene in New York – Portrait Studio / Visual Journal, Berlin 2021, 17.

  • Semaphore Gallery and the Brooklyn Army Terminal

    1983 March / September
  • “And Tom Warren's sitters? A look around his Headshot World suggests that these individuals have brought their moods with them. Here's Richard Hambleton, dark-glassed, withdrawn, as was his wont, and Dan  Asher, looking dour, as was also sometimes his wont, Mike Bidlo, likewise dark-glassed, a finger to his lips, a beaming MarilynMinter and the much-photographed Taylor Mead with a wry Here We Go Again look. Likewise, Robin Winters and Stephen Lack, both deeply serious, a grinning Mark Kostabi and the pixielike Judy Rifka.” – Anthony Haden-Guest, Faces in our crowd, in: Tom Warren: The 1980s Art Scene in New York – Portrait Studio / Visual Journal, Berlin 2021, 11-12.


    Click here to learn more about Judy Rifka.

  • Bidlo – Mike Bidlo’s Warhol Factory Recreation at PS1, LIC, NY

    1984 April
  • “Meanwhile, by 1980, I had joined the downtown New York underground by frequenting clubs, where I met other artists who were all part of a community beginning to take matters into their own hands and show work outside of the SoHo art center. I saw writing on the walls by someone tagged as ‘Samo.’ I was invited by friend Diego Cortez, to show in New York - New Wave, 1981, with one hundred other artists of my sensibility. During the installation, Diego came and said, ‘Someone wants to meet you.’ He took me to a young black artist and said, ‘This is Samo.’ Basquiat said to me, ‘You do anatomy? I do anatomy too.’ This began a long friendship that changed my life!

    Meanwhile, in 1981, back at work one day, in walked Keith Haring, who I knew from the club scene, and he said, ‘I work for this guy, Tony Shafrazi, and he’s starting a gallery, and I think you should be in it.....’ I said, ‘Yes!’ At the same time, I was introduced through Chia, Cucci, Clemente to the Italian dealer, Emilio Mazzoli, who invited me to show in Modena, Italy, the month after Basquiat. All of this happened at once! My head was spinning and hasn’t stopped.” - Brett de Palma “The Sign Forward”, introduction for the online exhibition “New York’s Art Scene in the 80s – Through the eyes of contemporaries”, 1 Sept. – 30 Nov. 2020 PULPO GALLERY.


    Visit our online exhibition here.

  • “Ilona Granet, the Colab artist, duly painted PORTRAIT STUDIO onto a window embedded on an ABC No Rio interior wall, behind which Warren set up his camera and the studio lighting. Flyers were handed out around the neighborhood, announcing his portrait project and that he would be charging a dollar a shot. A line formed when the show opened and was soon moving rapidly as Warren shot Polaroids, keeping the negatives, and giving the subject the positive. ‘So, it was an immediate inter-reaction where people saw what they were getting,’ he says. This went on for a month, he adds. ‘I was just floored. I went Wow! This is amazing! And it just went from there.’

    Where it went was into a full coverage of the culture of New York's Lower East Side, then at its most hyperactive. Further productive events which followed included the recreation by Mike Bidlo, the appropriation artist, of the Andy Warhol Silver Factory in an aluminum-sheeted attic at MoMA PS1 on a Sunday afternoon, with David Wojnarowicz and Keiko Bonk, founder of the Hawaii Green movement, as members of a faux Velvet Underground. ‘Mike invited me to perform at his performance with my Portrait Studio,’ Warren says. ‘I got a lot of my best pictures there.’” -  Anthony Haden-Guest, Faces in our crowd, in: Tom Warren: The 1980s Art Scene in New York – Portrait Studio / Visual Journal, Berlin 2021, 10-11.

  • In conjunction with the exhibition an extensive catalog of Tom Warren’s work is published.


    please click here to learn more.