Monday, April 12, 2010

The Storefront: 1982 - Part 2

The Storefront became the name of the space in South of Market Area (SOMA) when no clever name was more readily available that identified the space’s purpose. It has since been described as a take off of The Store developed by Claus Oldenburg but his store had an economic purpose – a place to sell his work. No real sales were to be made or imagined at the Storefront (one exception where this did happen is explained later).

When it was established that the building was slated for a tear down by the city, negotiations with the landlord began and he in turn negotiated a time of approximately a year stay with the planning department before it was to happen. Funding scarcity was on my side it seemed. The adjacent lot was to be given a makeover as a park and my storefront was included in the makeover. I personally did not care about the politics for or against the plan. I just wanted to know how long I had to turn lemons into lemonade.

With a possible year’s occupancy, I decided I could call this a “living art project,” hold a show a month in the Storefront window and rotate a series of performances through the space. The idea of a window exhibition space was something I’d often toyed with when walking by Macy’s Christmas window displays. Now was the opportunity, so regardless of the less than ideal circumstances I wanted to give the concept a try. I could always move if it got to be too much.

It was no secret there were homeless in the city and some had gravitated to empty lots or covered doorways of unoccupied buildings. I have a master's degree in social work so I wasn't afraid of the down and out. Heck in the opinion of some family members, I was on the down and out. People were just homeless not heartless. Soon after I moved in I had a discussion with one man who was sleeping in my doorway which made me uncomfortable when I wanted to go in and out the door. He asked if I was there alone and when I evaded the question he was assured me I would be safe. I told him I didn't have a problem with him using the empty lot nearby but not the doorway. He was apologetic and offered to keep an eye out for me with a promise to spread the word that no one should sleep in the doorway. It never happened after that. If there was food left over from an opening, I would leave it at the lot.

The opening event was a performance held in December of 1982 with my friend Anna Banana who had been planning a visit to San Francisco. I painted and spruced up the place. It had a great open space with old brick walls giving it an ambiance that was urban loft goes storefront. Anna and I presented a live radio broadcast in the window space. Friends attended and word got around. This was different.

Next, an artistamp show in January with several artists participating who were in the forefront of this new art form. This was a forerunner of several artistamp shows to come but an important one in that it pulled together artists from around the globe working in the medium at the time. Today a show like this would have a larger magnitude.

In February, I installed the Daily Mail, a showing of the mail art that arrived daily at my mailbox shown in the window gallery. February also included a Valentine’s H’art Attack. The Storefront was the staging area for 50 balloons destined for release in downtown San Francisco. People of San Francisco are a tolerant breed and this “happening” created a ripple of amusement as pedestrians and motor traffic stopped to watch the balloons rise up into the sky.

Bill Gaglione and Rockola performed in March with a window installation titled Day Glos. Also Buster Cleveland hammed it up with a dayglo cross posing as a priest. Also in March Georgina of JES Archives held a Dare to Wear fashion show – models posed in the window. Both were  popular openings. Foot traffic on the way to and from Rough Trade Records, in the next block, stopped by to ask what the space was about. Many were looking for club gigs and heard sometime was happening at the space.

April brought Gaglione’s First Rubber Stamp Store opening. Rubberstampmadness and Stampgraphics wrote about his store. Sales happened. He made the official rubberstamp from my design, and Roc helped with making and hanging the official sign in the window.  Darlene Domel states, from her unpublished essay FROM GAGLIONE TO DADALAND TO PICASSO AND BEYOND, An odd-essay of art:

...Gaglione became proprietor of “The World’s First Rubber Stamp Store”. It was both a conceptual event and a business venture. It was located in the “Storefront” in the SOMA area, a unique performance and art space owned and operated by fellow mail artist Ginny Lloyd whose conceptual ideas complemented his own. San Francisco in the 80s was a center for performance art and Ms. Lloyd’s store was right in the middle of the action.

To celebrate the opening day of the conceptual rubber stamp store he gave away 500 rubber stamps. From that point, on the last Friday of every month over the next year the “store” was open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. It became a retail store, a meeting place and a performance space for many of Gaglione’s rebellious art friends. In the environment that Lloyd created Gaglione and his fellow artists gathered to create hand carved stamps, publications, found stamps and other artistic detritus.

Eva Lake performed as a medium in an installation and Dan Max followed with another performance using window shades and shadows. Busy month.  With each performance or show there was an opening party and many attendees flocked to the sidewalk, creating a buzz in the art scene much like dance clubs would intentionally create later at their doors.

I showed my React/Reagieren project arriving back from Jurgen Olbrich in Germany in time for the May opening. The space also served as the rehearsal space for the Retrogrades, the Fluxus band - I played keyboards. We were getting ready for a performance at LaMamelle.  Also that month the A Movie Star Mail Art Show showed at the Storefront from the James Dean Archive. Huge show and I personally loved the theme.

As word circulated more artists arrived visiting from out of town with ideas for events and exhibits. Monty Cantsin aka Istvan Kantor hosts his Neoist Blood Campaign during June. Curious late night opening party. Istvan stayed at the Storefront for a week and I later participated in his Neoist Campaign during the Apartment Festival while in NYC.

July. I Blast Off to do a residency at the Space Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico leaving a space age installation in the window. No live performances that month - only remotely.

Christy Rupp installed a Polytox Park in the lot next door during August and Bill Gaglione left his Rubber Stamp Footprints at the front door. Buster Cleveland created a Think Japanese show of 30 paintings in the window and wall space. Japanese kimono dress was seen on almost everyone at the opening.

September was Irwin Irwin. A very dramatic performance drawing a huge crowd of young people, most of whom I’d never met. But one of the locals didn’t like Irwin's burnt Bible in the installation I guess for I returned after shopping one day to a broken window. Jack came by looking shaved and cleaned up to let me know he was moving on to go back to his home state. He told me he had painted at one time in his life and he enjoyed being around all the unusual art. He said it helped him understand who he was and how the unusual can be appreciated. He also told me he knew who broke the window - the man had been arrested trying to break another one down the street and was in jail.

I had to pull out the lemonade maker - again!

The landlord and a friend boarded up the widow. It just so happened that the next artist was a painter friend from Los Angeles. So Jerry Wellmon painted the boards as a mural and there we have it – another show on the window during October. We took them down for Sandra Binion’s performance of body self painting – if you can imagine it – she painted herself!

Last shows were in November: a Traveling Suitcase show and Fotoaktion, a 12 hour event.
It was a sad day leaving The Storefront but by the time I was to pack up and moved it’d been a productive year. It all ended with the writing of The Storefront book and getting it printed.

A few copies remain of the book The Storefront – A Living Art Project. It includes stories and a diary of activities with lots and lots of photos. Check my Web site’s Inventory Reduction Sale for the current price and list. As numbers dwindle the price rises.

No comments: