Survey: Group Center

Posted August 05, 2010 by Anonymous
Part 1.
Year Founded: 
1c. Organization's annual budget.: 
$0 - $50,000
1b. Primary activity[ies] of the organization.: 
Artist Group / Collective
Part 2.
2a. Mission Statement: 
Group Center was formed without finances but with a larger idealistic vision of a better connection with the community. Its Mission was described in a flyer distributed around to raise both the social and artist consciousness: “For the purpose of forming a community of the arts, of individuals and groups, of poets, actors, dancers, painters, musicians, photographers, sculptors, film-makers, and all those vitally interested in the creative expression of man.” The flyer continued with a Credo: “We believe that the artistic community has reached a new stage of development. In a mobile society, it is no longer sufficient for the creative individual to remain in isolation. We feel the hunger of a society lost in its own vacuum and rise with an open active commitment to forward a new spirit for mankind.” I wrote at that time that, “Creation is not the commodity of a status seeking class. Creation is the vital energy of society. We believe that the ‘our system’ is an enormous dinosaur extinguishing at a fantastic rate which opposes truth and freedom and that it has squeezed out of man the essential vitality which made him part of the human race.” For that reason, “Group Center” consciously and intentionally chose to become a counter-culture, underground group trying to find ways to change and impact that harsh closed-in system. Portion reprinted from “Capture-Film and Video History of the Lower East Side,” Clayton Patterson, Editor, Seven Stories Press, New York, NY, 2005
2c. Exhibition / Programming / Publishing History.: 
“The Group has made itself known in original ways. They picketed a Monday night opening at the Museum of Modern Art...passing out handbills protesting the taste-making policies of the museum. Last March they paid a stealthy 3 a.m. visit to the most powerful up-town galleries and museums; equipped with a masonite stencil and a can of spray paint, and disguised as workmen, they branded the sidewalks with a circle about two feet in diameter containing the word ‘centerfuge’.” Centerfuge was the term used for many of the activities of “Group Center.” David Bourdon, “The Village Voice,” January 11, 1965 “Group Center” organized a Festival-of-the-Art in collaboration with LENA (Lower East Side Neighborhood Association). When I was approached by LENA about working with them, I proposed that there be a full festival of the arts in order to highlight the young artists that were beginning to live on the east side. This festival, for the first time, did just that. One newspaper referred to the festival as the “Lower East Side Artists Having a Coming Out.” A two week marathon of art shows, poetry readings, underground films and jazz concerts was organized and held at and around the Church of St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwery. This festival proved “Group Center” to be a catalyst in the artistic movement in the area. Sally Hammond in the “New York Post” reported “Bouwery Priest Brings Pulpit to Sculptor.” This was the first time the press and the public became aware that something new and meaningful was happening among the creative people in the Lower East Side, sometimes called by the press as the “New Bohemia” as referred to in the seminal book by John Gruen by the same name. As a result of the successful festival, Michael Allen, Minister of the St. Mark’s-in-the-Bouwery Church, appointed “Group Center” as the official organizer of the artistic programs at St. Mark’s. In October 1963, around the churchyard and in the church, “Aldo selected the largest sculpture and drawing show ever independently organized in New York City,” wrote Elsa in an article for “Arts Canada Magazine”, in October 1967. Interest in the show grew as time neared its opening. “Forty living U.S. sculptors were brought together with work ranging from forty-foot-high pieces to small indoor works and drawings,” stated Elsa in “Arts Canada.” This show was unique because it brought together well known artists such as Peter Agostini, Phillip Pavia, Marc De Suvero, Richard Stankiewicz giving less known and obscure local artists the opportunity of exhibiting gaining exposure. The sculpture show lasted well over a month. The artist Ad Reinhardt, showing support for “Group Center,” gave a lecture at the church on the topic, “The Next Revolution in Art.” I designed the flyer for this event. Jazz performances were planned by Freddie Redd, known for his original musical work in the play, “The Connection” at the Living Theatre. Among the jazz artists who played outdoors among the sculptures was Booker Irving, saxophonists from the Mingus Group. Elsa Tambellini concluded in the same “Arts Canada” article, “It was another way of bypassing the establishment.” During this time, I rented a large space located in a former Synagogue at 106 Forsythe Street near Broome Street. This space was primarily rented for the activities of “Group Center.” “Group Center” presented Jazz Concerts among the artists were Freddie Redd on piano and avant-garde musician Archie Shepp. Well attended fund-raisers, to help support the work of “Group Center” were also held in this space in the form of parties where drinks were sold mixed with cheap liquor that was home-brewed by our supplier. Among the most memorable activities of “Group Center” was the event which brought Julian Beck and Judith Malina from the legendary Living Theatre to hold an open discussion on March 10, 1962. The topic of the evening was “Revolution as an Alternative.” Admission to the program was only 50 cents. I designed the flyer with the title of the event with a photo taken by Don Snyder of my large hydrocal concave sculpture with one East 2nd Street Puerto-Rican child sitting inside it. These flyers were hung by Elsa and me at 2:00 a.m. in long rows on Lower East Side buildings and pasted with double coats of wallpaper glue. This was done for a stronger adhesion so that the announcement would not be vandalizes. The next day, the posters had been either defaced or scratched out. Some landlords threatened to sue us. The word “Revolution”, that later-on became the rallying cry of the 60’s, was at this time a fearful and disturbing word for many people. I had a bulk of 35 mm slides which were ready to be discarded. One day, around 1963, I took them and instinctively I use needles and other tools to scratch the emulsion. I scratched spirals and other round forms sometimes piercing holes through them. With a small gathering, I projected these slides onto the façade of the building across the street from a tenement rooftop on 6th Street and Avenue D using a Kodak Carousel Projector. This marked the beginning of my involvement with multi-media. In December 1964 and January 1965 with “Group Center,” I organized another large art exhibit, Quantum 1 and Quantum 2 which ran simultaneously at the Noah Goldowsky and at the A.M. Sachs Galleries. Quantum 2 presented American and European artists. I exhibited the “Echo,” a spatial black painting 14 by 7 feet. I represented “Group Center” with Hahne and Morea. “Group Zero”, from Germany with Piene, Mack and Uecker, a group I had not yet met but borrowed their work, Peter Agostini, Louise Bourgeois, Ad Reinhardt and Charles Mingus Jr. (the son of the musician) and many others young and unknown artists were also exhibited. We became friends with Irene Rice Perreira and borrowed her painting with layered corrugated glass from the Metropolitan Museum for this show. The “New York Herald Tribune” in a review of the show on January 16, 1963, said, “Aldo Tambellini, leader of the ‘Center’, shows enormous canvases where the circle becomes a sun-a source of energy.” I had poetry, in the show, written in spiral and circular forms on silver discs suspended and turning, hung from the ceiling by strings. “The Herald Tribune” continued in the review of the Quantum 2 Show, “Lights blink on and off, discs rotate, canvasses with moving panels alter their shapes and color…the meeting of technological concepts with those of art.” Concurrently with the Quantum Show, I presented my first “Electromedia” performance, “BLACK,” at the International House, Columbia University, New York. David Bourdon in the Village Voice described “BLACK” as a “Hypnotic Bounce”. He goes on to talk about the performance, “‘BLACK’ was an overlapping series of evenly pitched performances by a painter, a dancer and two poets. Handsome poet Norman Pritchard chanted nonsense words in sequences in groovy repetitions a like stuck record, bouncing hypnotically at the same time….Ishmael Reed’s oratorically delivered poetry was more traditional in form and marked by raw powerful imagery. Lovely Carla Blank performed two dances. In the first, she writhed, choked, and coughed as though she had a sore T-Zone, then rose slowly on tiptoes to emit a big scream; she also hurled one of the two folding chairs into the auditorium. Returning in white tights she improvised a dance before a sequence of slides projected against the back of the stage by Tambellini.” During the performance, as the creator of “BLACK,” I interacted with over 40, 21/4 by 21/4, hand-painted glass projected slides which I called “lumagrams.” Don Ross from the “New York Herald Tribune” later, on June 13, 1965 describes the “lumagrams”: “Some of the lumigrams are reminiscent of slides of diseased tissue…..Tambellini said he is interested in evolving an art form from the revelation of the microscope. He is also interested in the revelation of the telescope in the cosmos, and some of the lumigrams are reminiscent of sidereal space. Others have a kind of fetal, placenta look…..I work from intuition, he (Tambellini) says, and not from intellectualization.” As a result of this performance, Elaine Summer, who was in the audience, invited me to repeat the performance at the Bridge Theatre at St. Mark’s Place where she was special program director. I accepted and begun my relationship with the Bridge Theatre. “BLACK” became a work in progress which continued to grow with each performance through the dynamic exchange of the participants involved. It expanded to include jazz musicians Cecil McBee; Herby Lewis and Bill Dixon and in many performance, avant-garde amplified cellist, Galo Scott, black poets, dancers “lumagrams,” films and video, inflatable screen, gas masks and a huge variety of other experimental sounds such as evenly pitched siren, the sound of air and light equipment. Ultimately “BLACK” included video tapes playing on 4 TV monitors. “BLACK” progressed to “BLACK 2” to “BLACK ZERO”. Don Ross, a journalist, attended a performance of my “Electromedia.” On June 13, 1965, he wrote a leading article in the “New York Harold Tribune”, “Rebellion in Art Form-Tambellini’s ‘Black 2’.” He writes, “Aldo Tambellini has survived, thanks to his toughness, his belief in himself and his vision of life… Tambellini is an artist and a rebel….he’s not only a rebel but a leader of rebels. Last Monday as producer and director, he put on a hour-and-twenty minute show called “Black 2” at the Bridge Theatre, 4 St. Mark’s Place…..the performance brought into an organic form...the fusion of abstract and social commitment. Among those associated with Tambellini in this enterprise are Lorraine Boyd, a dancer (a student of Katherine Dunham and Martha Graham) Cecil McBee (formally with Dianah Washington), who thumbs a bass, Calvin, C. Hernton (editor of the poetry magazine ‘Umbra’), a poet who reads his own poems of racial conflict with a flashlight. Tambellini has made what he calls lumagrams…he projects 200 of them during the performance, sometimes while Ms. Boyd, dressed in black tights, is dancing in a way that seems to represent the plight of the Negro and while Mr. McBee is thumping and bowing his bass beautifully.” Visiting my studio, Don Ross continues, “Tambellini dressed in a black shirt, black pants…the largest of his paintings (14x7 feet) in the loft studio is a double image of a black circle within a larger white circle in a vast black space. Black fascinated him. Recently, the double image, or, as he calls it, the echo, has been reoccurring in his work. ‘This two in one thing appeals to me,’ he said, ‘it seems to be happening in my work. I have no explanation why this is.’….He is an easy mark for ridicule for those who don’t know him. Those who do respect him. They may not know what he is doing and they might even doubt that he does, but they will know that he will not swerve from his path. In a time of opportunism, they find something splendid in this principled obstinancy.” “BLACK ZERO” was performed in 1965 at the Bridge Theatre and as part of the New Cinema Festival I taking place at the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque at the Astor Pl. Playhouse on 434 Lafayette Street. The Cinemathque was devoting an entire month to survey new experiments which expanded the dimension of cinema. It was a festival which demonstrated new techniques as hand-held projectors, balloon screens, multiple exposures, moving slides, kinetic sculpture, and the merger of live performers and screen action. This performance of “BLACK ZERO” had Bill Dixon on trumpet and Alan Silva on bass and Calvin Hernton’s poetry. I spoke of “BLACK ZERO,” “At present Black Zero keeps on changing and growing with each presentation as the Black balloon which appears through the performance agonizingly grows, expands and disappears. In ‘BLACK ZERO’ you’ll be inside a Black womb of the Space Era. And in that womb, the Black poet, Calvin Hernton, will speak of ‘The Monster Deamon’, of ‘Jitterbugging In The Street’ under the beat of the burley stick during the Harlem Riots. The plastic gas masked figure floats like an astronaut under expanding Black planet. Birth starts with a cry in the midst of the simultaneous motion of the stars. The television monitors pulsate in their insane cosmic dance. One day the light and energy of the sun will become ice cold and the enormous sun disc will become Black.” I made a dedication for the performance of “BLACK ZERO” at the Film-Makers Cinematheque, “’BLACK ZERO’ began and grew in New York but it will grow out there somewhere outside of New York; for America rejects that which naturally grows. ‘BLACK ZERO’ is the cry from the oppressed creative man. There is an injustice done to man which is not forgivable. This is my dedication of this performance of ‘BLACK ZERO’.” Michael Smith wrote in the Village Voice, Theatre Journal in 1965, “ Aldo Tambellini’s ‘BLACK ZERO’ consists of abstract visual and auditory stimuli-it is theatre of the senses. The eyes can’t cope with the data and the sense of space goes vague, meanwhile wild sounds have deadened the sense of time, it made me high.” David Bourdon, the Assistant Art Editor of Life Magazine wrote, “Zeroing in on a primal image (interstellar or inner cellular) Tambellini leads us on a dazzling voyage from the first moment of glimmering darkness to a blinding and explosive finale.” When “The New York Times” on a much later date was beginning to acknowledge the multimedia that became a phenomenon in the late 60’s, in the article of September 1967, “For the TV Generation, Multimedia Techniques Bombard and Overload the Senses,” Reporter Grace Glueck quoted me defining the multimedia after a performance of “BLACK ZERO”: “With multimedia you create an effect that is not based on previous experience. You saturate the audience with images. It happens now-it has a live quality. It’s a total experience in itself.” Paul Mandell, staff reporter for the newspaper, “The Gazette,” recorded the full impact of the work of “BLACK ZERO” on the audience at the University of Western Ontario, Canada in his article entitled “It was a gas Inter-media Warped, Twisted impact”: “Galactic intensity, the direct result of inter-media by Aldo Tambellini and Company, has superimposed itself on the warped and twisted minds of a Western audience and left them more warped and twisted than they were before.…..This is the entertainment that Orwell and Huxley have been speculating about in the past few years. It was ‘1984’ and ‘Brave New World’ all wrapped in one.” Jeremy Heymsfeld from “The New York World-Telegram” reviewed “BLACK ZERO” and stated: “The series of experiences presented last night was designed to propel the audience into what the Center calls ‘the new reality,’ the psychological re-orientation of man in the space age ’BLACK ZERO’ is a vehicle for expressing these changes as well as the violent social revolution now sweeping the world…..There are enough blank stares in the audience for ‘BLACK ZERO’ to rate an avant-garde label.” Ann Brodsky, Editor of “Arts Canada,” wrote, “For me ‘BLACK ZERO’ is a negation or affirmation, constantly in conflict--the ugly brutality of the words, their stark reminder, the sheer fear of the balloon moving and its superhuman respiration. The irritation of the tape and live sounds, the terrifying potency of the balloons-white and black. And counterposed, the wonder of the rhythmic harmony of galaxy, wombs, cellular growth, wheeling guns, sperm and spiral nebulae. Aldo Tambellini varies the total experience each time ‘BLACK ZERO’ is performed. There is always improvisation at the core of it. The transforming images change, the sound changes. In other words, the whole work is in a state of constant process. And this process imitates Aldo’s serious purpose.” In the “20 Cents MAGAZINE”, published in Canada, Ann Brodzky and Greg Curnoe held a public conversation about Mixed Media from New York City. Both had seen my ‘BLACK ZERO” and Warhol’s “Exploding Plastic Inevitable” in the space of less than a week and discuss the two works. Curnoe states, “Both the Tambellinis and Warhol had distinct New York Styles. However it was obvious that “The Exploding Plastic Inevitable” had taken a lot of very effective devices from the Tambellinis and other filmmakers and packaged them for mass consumption (this is how their styles differ….Madison Avenue versus The Village). With Warhol you are drawn in and then excluded; with Tambellini you are engaged in a dialogue.” Ann Brodzky concluded, “Yes. But I cannot agree that Tambellini’s work is representative on any ‘style.’ Aldo Tambellini as an artist---sculptor, painter, film-maker---is an outrider and his work is prophetic.” A three part program called “OUTFALL” was presented by the Bridge Theatre in conjunction with ”Group Center” under the auspices of the New York City Department of Parks at the Fountain in Washington Square, being dry because of a draught, on September 25, 1965. Part one of this program, its opening, was my “BLACK ROUND,” a kinetic ritual for dancer, gas masks, large screen projections and sound was witnessed by 2000 people. This program was conceived by me and Judy Dunn, dancer from the Judson Church Dance Theatre and formally with the Merce Cunningham Company. Other performers included Meredith Monk, Kenneth King, Phoebe Neville, Al Kurchin and the core of “Group Center,” Ron Hahne, Ben Morea and Elsa Tambellini. I projected hand painted slides over my hand-painted film onto a huge screen in the middle of the fountain. “Thirty of us wearing gas masks, carrying flash lights and an assortment of sculptural objects pierced through the enormous crowd of people which had formed a solid mass of bodies around the rim of the pool,” Elsa recalls in her September 1967 article for “Arts Canada”. She said, “That night the city became our theatre and the endless variation of people who gathered in the park our audience.” John Lindsay, Mayor-elect, personally sent a telegram of congratulations after seeing the performance. He wrote: “Programs such as yours effectively aid the cultural growth of New York City. Without experimentation in the field of performing arts the theatre will only stagnate and die. My warmest regards and best wishes for success.” Above section reprinted from “Capture-Film and Video History of the Lower East Side,” Clayton Patterson, Editor, Seven Stories Press, New York, NY, 2005 Strongly believing that, as stated in the flyer for Group Center, “Creation is not the commodity of a status seeking class. Creation is the vital energy of society. We believe that the ‘our system’ is an enormous dinosaur extinguishing at a fantastic rate which opposes truth and freedom and that it has squeezed out of man the essential vitality which made him part of the human race.” We, as artist activists, wanted to by-pass the formal structure of the museums, art galleries and the powerful “art establishment”; therefore, we organized what would now be considered the First Independent Loft Show. In 1963, we opened up a four artists’ lofts, the artists’ living and working spaces, mine being on 414 West Broadway. The area had been made up of large manufacturing buildings which some artists were using as living and working spaces. This very area later became known as SOHO where ironically the most powerful commercial galleries relocated form up-town Manhattan. My loft was located on the 4th floor of 414 West Broadway near Spring Street. For the show, I had organized a series of my paintings along the wall, the largest being 4 ft by 16 ft and a very large sculpture. The area was next to an old Italian neighborhood (Martin Scorsese was born there and, at that time, his mother was still living in the neighborhood). Aldo Tambellini was known by the people of the neighborhood and personally related to several of them. He informed my neighbors of the art shows and distributed flyers inviting them to come. The community actually came, a group of typical working-class Italian men rang the door bell and came upstairs to see the show. They looked around, stayed a while and said to me “we don’t fully understand the meaning of your work; it’s modern art and, to us, it looks like something related to outer space.” They went outside of the door; talked among themselves and returned inside one of them holding, cupped in his hands, a stack of paper bills which they offered me saying, “We are aware you are doing something good for the neighborhood and want you to take this money because we appreciate it.” Likewise, The Gourmet Society of New York, provided a group tour to visit the lofts. It was advertised as a day in “Bohemia.”
Part 3.
3a. Names and email addresses of Founders, Board Members, Directors or other key individuals:: 
Aldo Tambellini
Additional Names and email addresses of Founders, Board Members, Directors or other key individuals: 
Elsa Tambellini Jackie Cassen (Other member)
Additional Names and email addresses of Founders, Board Members, Directors or other key individuals: 
Ben Morea
Additional Names and email addresses of Founders, Board Members, Directors or other key individuals: 
Ron Hahne
3b. Could any of these individuals assist in providing an oral history of your organization?: 
Part 4.
4a. Is organization currently active?: 
4b. Year activity suspended if no longer active.: 
Part 5.
5a. Type of organization at its founding.: 
Collective / Unincorporated Association
5b. Type of organization currently, or at the termination of activities.: 
Collective / Unincorporated Association
Part 6.
6a. Does the organization have an archive?: 
6b. Are there any short or long-term threats to the organization?: 
Changes in your physical space that will result in endangerment to your archival materials
6c. Other threats to the organization:: 
Are there other threats to your organization? Please describe below.
Part 7.
7a. How important is to the organization to preserve the organization’s historical material. From 1 – Very Important to 5 – Not Important.: 
1. Very Important
7b. Has planning for the preservation and documentation of archive begun?: 
7c. Does the organization know how and where to seek expertise and assistance?: 
7d. Does the organization have specific concerns regarding starting an archive working with its historic materials?: 
Technical Support / Expertise
Part 8.
8a. Is the organization's archives in the collection of another institution or promised to one?: 
8a. Location: 
IF YES to 8: University (Name)
8b. Archival materials are also located at:: 
Where are these locations?: 
Where are these locations? [I.E. Home / Office of Private Individual(s) (i.e. Former Board, Staff, Funders, etc)]
Part 9.
9. Does the organization maintain archives for any other organization.: 
The Black Gate The Gate Theatre aka Tambellini’s Gate Communicationsphere Aldo Tambellini’s personal archive
Part 10a.
10a. Is the archive accessible to scholars, curators or researchers?: 
Part 10b.
10b. Are there conditions of access for scholars, curators or researchers?: 
Part 11.
The following questions address the historical materials (type, quantity and storage) of the organization. 11a. Paper Files and Documents: 
Artist Files
Exhibition or Production Files
Other Paper Files
11b. Artwork and Documentation: 
Audiotapes [Any Format]
Other Artwork
11c. Press and Promotional Materials: 
Announcements, Mailing Cards, etc.
Newspaper / Magazine / Media Clippings
Posters / Flyers
Other Press or Promotional Materials:
11d. Printed Publications: 
Artists' Publications
Programs of Events
Other Printed Publications
Part 12.
12. What years does the materials cover?: 
Part 13.
13a. How is the material stored?: 
Other Boxes
File Cabinets
13b. Are some or all of these storage units “archival”?: 
Part 14.
14a. Estimated Number of Boxes or Milk-Crate Sized Storage Units: 
1 - 10
14b. Estimated Number of Archive Drawers: 
1 - 10
14c. Estimated Number of Archive Notebooks: 
14d. Estimated the total Linear Feet. ["Linear Feet" is standard measure of the quantity of archival materials on the basis of shelf space occupied or the length of drawers in vertical files or the thickness of horizontally filed materials. For example, a: 
1 - 10
Part 15.
15. Is the historical materials - or archives - inventoried or catalogued in any way, either formally or otherwise?: 
Part 16.
16b. Paper-based:: 
Not Applicable
16c. Electronic Based:: 
Not Applicable
Part 16 / Electronic Files & Archival Management
16f. Does the organization have a back-up program, or back-up schedule, for its electronic records and perform monitoring of its removable media (i.e. floppies, ZIP disks, CD-ROMs, DVDs, portable hard drives, etc.)?: 
16g. Who is responsible for working with the archival material?: 
Other - Please describe below.
Please describe: 
anna salamone consoli with no compensation volunteer
Part 17.
17. How are new materials processed?: 
Manual System (Card File, File Folders)
Part 18.
18. What, if any, conservation methods are in place for both physical materials and electronic data?: 
Controlled Access
Fireproof Building / Fireproof Room
Part 19.
19. What type of climate-controls are present in the area[s] in which the archives are stored?: 
Standard office heating / air conditioning / humidity controls running 24 hours / 7 days
Part 20.
20a. What are the goals for the historical materials for the next year?: 
continue archiving
20b. What are the biggest challenges to reaching these short-term goals?: 
staffing to do all of the organizing
20c. What goals are in place for the historical materials for the next three to five years?: 
find a place where to deposit the archive
20d. What are the biggest challenges to reaching these long term goals?: 
time to complete the archive
20e. Are there any additional goals for the organizations historic materials?: 
write a monograph about Group Center to let peole know the role it played in the avant-garde movemnt
Part 21.
21. Estimated cost to achieve these archival goals for the next year.: 
$2,001 - $3,000
Part 22.
22. Estimated cost to achieve these archival goals for the next five years.: 
$7,001 - $10,000
Part 24.
24. What archival issues could / should visual arts organizations address collectively in the next three to five years? Ranked from 1 (highest priority) to 5 (lowest priority).24a. Shared standards / protocols for digitization: 
Promote professional standards / protocols for digitization
Part 25.
25a. Is the organization a member of, or in contact with, any organizations concerned with archival issues?: 
Part 26.
26. Additional information, comments, observations, and questions.: 
Group Center played a major role in the 60’s in the art movement of New York. The Center created several events which are very noteworthy including the first ever loft show. History has to revisit those groups which have been intentionally or inadvertantly left out of the official history of a period and recognize and documetn their importance and contributions. We cannot rely on the "Official" history to tell the whole story..there is another story yet to be told!
Anna Salamone Consoli
Who executed this survey.: 
Anna Salamone Consoli
Is this survey complete and all appropriate questions answered?: