Peter Moore: 1968
PAULA COOPER | OCTOBER 6 – OCTOBER 27, 2018
Coinciding with MoMA’s Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done and Paula Cooper Gallery’s 50 Years: An Anniversary exhibition, Peter Moore: 1968 is just that: a collection of photographs taken in a single remarkable year by the ubiquitous Moore (1932 – 1993) of Judson artists such as Yvonne Rainer and Steve Paxton as well as a number of their downtown bohemian peers ranging from Philip Glass to Charlotte Moorman and others. Anyone familiar with this period today carries images in their head by way of Peter Moore whose presence has made him the singularly present yet invisible (to us, not them) house photographer of downtown New York in the 1960s and ’70s. Arranged in chronological order, one event per month, these photographs are presented as twelve clusters of gelatin silver prints accompanied by memorabilia such as posters, flyers, programs and postcards as well as a few extra images spread across the north facing wall and labeled “Intermedia.”
All over the gallery we see friendly glances, smiles and even poses by musician-artist-dancer hybrids such as an elegant Dick Higgins smoking a pipe, Charlotte Moorman and Nam June Paik or Tricia Brown that are complemented by once-in-a-lifetime action shots such as Walter De Maria and Robert Rauschenberg performing Simone Forti's Platforms and Accompaniment to Young's 2 Sounds. From the expressions of concentration and elation we see in the photos, Moore’s presence seems welcomed in every case except one where we see a tough looking garage owner with a cigarette dangling from his lips, sitting behind a desk scowling at Moore (and the viewer) while the mischievous looking performance artist Ken Dewey in a hard hat, also stares at us, looking delighted.
Gerd Stern, the Marshall McLuhan protégé, performer, and co-founder of the media collective USCO (Us Company) stands in front of an electric mandala, framed by the shape of a human figure in the foreground. In the show’s only two color photographs, we see the filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek in the labyrinthine environment of his Stony Point Movie-Drome theater, surrounded by images. In another photo, Steve Reich plays keyboard on a furry rug in what looks like his home, while elsewhere Terry Riley, Max Neuhaus and Philip Glass also push the boundaries of music, each in their own way. In one image, we see audio innovator Max Neuhaus as he transforms an industrial New Jersey environment into an ambient aural soundscape with his piece Listen in which the performer simply listens to what is around him on a walk. In another Neuhaus tinkers with an electronic installation at Carnegie Recital Hall. La Monte Young—also fiddling with equipment—treats the Barbizon Plaza Theatre on Central Park South like his private workspace, preoccupied and dwarfed by a giant Marian Zazeela projection.
Next we see Philip Glass and Reich face each other within a rectangular configuration at Jonas Mekas’s Film-makers’ Cinemateque at 80 Wooster Street on May 19, 1968, doing In Again and Out Again, a composition they created together two months earlier. Another shot features Glass playing a piano with a tape recorder on top. Also at the Cinemateque was Hermann Nitsch’s “The Orgies Mysteries Theater” with an accompanying flyer that seems to sport the familiar font seen in the Fluxus newsletters of upstairs neighbor George Maciunas’ IBM Selectric typewriter. A long text explains why sado-masochism” helps one “comprehend color.” In a series of three photos: we see Nitsch with a cow carcass, a woman lying under a slab of meat on the ground, and a shot amidst the chaotic aftermath from one of his meat pieces on March 16.
That same day, March 16, at the Caffé Cino on Cornelia Street, Diane Di Prima, on the bill in a piece called Zipcode, presented her long program Monologues which she once described as “a dead form of art.” She is wearing a sequined shiny garment while lying on the bench looking at Moore. Her knee and bell-bottomed lower leg are in sharp focus while the rest of her, including her face and very long hair, is not.
There is one image where we are reminded of the violent political turmoil taking place worldwide in 1968 —the Destruction In Art Symposium—originally organized by the German artist Gustav Metzger as an international event glorifying destruction, first held in London in 1966. Moore photographed a preview of the New York manifestation held March twenty-second of ’68 featuring, in the foreground, Happenings aficionado Al Hansen in a fuzzy coat, Lil Picard and many others including an organizer, Jon Hendricks, who issued a statement when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April fourth, calling for “a time for ceasing of all destruction” and postponing everything until April nineteenth.
Finally, we see several images of Yvonne Rainer and company performing her celebrated The Mind Is a Muscle. Four shots from April 11, at the East Village’s Anderson Theater depict “Film,” “Horses,” “Mat,” and “Stairs.” We also see “Stairs” again on July 25, performing for Moore’s camera, in several enlargements of contact sheets the photographer shot every few seconds with a stationary mechanically triggered camera, taking in the collaboration. Dancers climb up, jump down, sit, stand and even move the stairs around. A program next to it lists the April musical lineup including a conversation between Lucinda Childs and another person, Frank Sinatra, Jefferson Airplane and Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther.
And then we have Carolee Schneemann, covered in paper shards and goop, as she extends a broom missing a handle, Steve Paxton is seen moving through St. Peter’s Episcopal Church while in another image, Deborah Hay performs among wooden slats. A memorable series captures the older Thomas Hart Benton restoring his room-sized panorama “America Today” at The New School, alternately surrounded by paints, smoking a cigar, holding his glasses and working, seven years before his death. Only here does the question of age and mortality enter since it is precisely what is so far away from these young faces, captured so fortunately for us 50 years later by Peter Moore in 1968.
MARK BLOCH is a writer, public speaker and pan-media artist from Ohio living in Manhattan since 1982. His archive of Mail/Network/Communication Art is part of the Downtown Collection at the Fales Library of New York University.