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The art and music of New York’s lower East Side in the ’80s

The art and music of New York's lower East Side in the '80s Every metropolis has its heydey, when the arts and music converge and creative forces go into overdrive. For Paris it was the 1920s. The ’70s and ’80s were huge for New York, whose Lower East Side area – in spite of (or thanks to) the adverse economic conditions the city was facing at that time – transformed into an arts and music incubator that gave rise to several pop-cultural phenomena including punk, hip hop, disco, graffiti and the edgy No Wave scene.

Artists freely mingled with musicians, which often lead to various ad hoc collaborations and plenty of hobnobbery and the customary debauchery. The Prague-based American filmmaker and photographer Robert Carrithers witnessed one of the most fruitful creative periods in the history of art and music, and is here to tell the story. “It was like one big creative laboratory where we all encouraged each other to develop our talents and have fun doing it,” says Robert who would do his bar shift dressed up as a priest. “Many people who were able to experiment in the ‘80s New York clubs Club 57, Mudd Club, Danceteria etc. And then they went out into the world and actually changed world culture. I lived around the corner from Club 57 on 10th street between 2nd and 1st Avenue. It was very close. It was like my club house for creativity around the corner and it certainly was nice and easy to walk home after one debauched night followed by another… I am happy that I was there in New York at that special time and place. It is something that will never leave me and it will always be a part of me.”

His photographs of Jean Michel Basquiat, Keith Harring, Ann Magnuson, Paul Nolan Smith or Gudrun Gut will be projected on Wednesday 10 August at the Prague Fotograf gallery.

Published August 10, 2011.