At Howl! Happening, Love for Art and Humanity | chelseanow.com

At Howl! Happening, Love for Art and Humanity

 Victor Bockris and Marcia Resnick signed copies at the Nov. 2015 release party for “Punks, Poets & Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys, 1977–1982.”  Photo by John E. Espinosa.

Victor Bockris and Marcia Resnick signed copies at the Nov. 2015 release party for “Punks, Poets & Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys, 1977–1982.” Photo by John E. Espinosa.

BY PUMA PERL | Years back, a good gallery opening provided enough food and drink to carry you over for days. You saw friends, checked out the art, and strolled over to the next place (if you were desperate, you might even carry a doggie bag). These days, you’re lucky to find a stale cracker lying around — and many of the galleries, regardless of quality, demonstrate a disconnect with their surroundings.

Not the case with Howl! Happening: An Arturo Vega Project — the love child of the late Arturo Vega (1947-2013) and Howl Arts, Inc. board members Jane Friedman, BG Hacker and Bob Perl (no relation to this reporter).

“Arturo Vega was our good friend,” said Jane Friedman, who serves as executor of his estate. “He was an amazing artist and supporter of arts and artists in every way possible. Part of his legacy is to counter the cynicism of the art world and champion artistic endeavors. The gallery is a first step toward the creation of an East Village Museum that showcases the unique imagination and talent in our community. We have two major archives and also house the Tom Murrin Alien Comic archive.”

Clayton Patterson will host the Acker Awards on Mar. 18, at Howl! Happening. Photo by David Godlis.

Clayton Patterson will host the Acker Awards on Mar. 17 at Howl! Happening. Photo by David Godlis.

In addition, the Howl! Happening gallery (6 E. First St., btw. Bowery & Second Ave.) offers poetry readings, film screenings, panel discussions and concrete support — in the form of workshops geared toward obtaining health care and affordable housing, both of which are provided by the Actors Fund.

“Arturo Vega, American Treasure,” the gallery’s first show, opened on Mar. 29, 2015. Subsequent events, which change monthly, included installations by Downtown icons Lydia Lunch and Clayton Patterson. “Secrets of the Great Pyramid,” the Sept. event, paid tribute to the great ’80s nightspot and included signature performances from that era. “Insults,” which will display a series of Vega’s paintings imprinted with text fragments, will open on Mar. 5.

One of the unique aspects of Howl! Happening is the merging of the old school with younger community members, musicians and artists who are learning firsthand about their roots, while contributing their own work and energy. It is rare to find such a natural sense of inclusion.

The PUNK Magazine 40th Anniversary Exhibition, which opened on Jan. 14 and closed on Jan. 30, illustrated the sense of belonging one feels at these events.

Cartoonist and PUNK co-creator John Holmstrom, at the 40th Anniversary Exhibition’s opening event. Photo by Shell Sheddy.

Cartoonist and PUNK co-creator John Holmstrom, at the 40th Anniversary Exhibition’s opening event. Photo by Shell Sheddy.

Cartoonist and PUNK founding editor John Holmstrom and collaborators displayed both early art and new work by contributors. Copies of the first PUNK issue, featuring an illustration of Lou Reed on the cover, were available for sale. In a corner of the room, artist Ken Weiner drew his “ugly portraits” (he was one of many magazine contributors in attendance). Also in the crowd were Martin Rev, Tish and Snooky, Lenny Kaye and Anthony Haden-Guest, to name a few, and, naturally, Holmstrom, greeting dozens of friends and signing books and zines.

Making my way through the packed room, I encountered Emily Armstrong and Pat Ivers, who are known for their GoNightclubbing Archive of 1975-80. Their Nov. 2015 show, “Alone At Last,” featured an interactive peep show and closed with one of Friedman and Hacker’s famous holiday parties. “Howl! Happening is our artistic playhouse,” said Ivers. “It reminds me of sharing ideas with my friends at CBGB — now, we actually see the outcomes. Our crowd never stopped creating.”

Photographer David Godlis, another PUNK contributor, agreed. “It’s like sitting at the end of the bar again; everyone is here.” Alison Aguiar, whose older sister brought her to shows in the late ’70s, was standing nearby. As a young adult, she worked for CBGB and Manic Panic. “In the post-CB years,” she said, “Jane and BG have been the glue that connects us, brings us together, and provides places we can go. They embrace us all.”

“Gallery Director Ted Riederer is the facilitator and Jane Friedman is the visionary” is how artist/activist Clayton Patterson put it. “What I admire most about the vision is the people they show — everyone is very connected to the underground and the avant-garde. Some of them were the ones who made things happen, but they were too far ahead of the curve.” In keeping with that vision, Howl! is committed to emerging artists and their supporters.

Sex Pistols cover and original art, displayed at the PUNK 40th Anniversary Exhibition. Photo by David Godlis.

Sex Pistols cover and original art, displayed at the PUNK 40th Anniversary Exhibition. Photo by David Godlis.

Riederer, at 46, is a generation or two younger than many of the folks with whom he works. He is an artist and a member of The Antagonists, a group committed to mentoring others and to carrying on the work of Arturo Vega. “All of my hard work and dedication is a tribute to Arturo’s spirit,” Riederer told me. “He generously supported neighborhood artists and musicians of all ages and abilities. I’m really lucky to be part of that legacy.”

Antagonist co-founder Ethan Minsker, who screened his film “Self Medicated” at the gallery last June, agreed. “Howl! Happening is the real deal,” he said. “Their track record not only demonstrates the historical importance of documenting the arts that put the Downtown scene into the forefront, but they keep an eye on the present and future of that same community.”

Photographer Marcia Resnick, who also attended the PUNK Anniversary event, has been documenting the Downtown arts and music scene since the 1970s. In Nov. 2015, she signed books with a beatific smile throughout her wildly successful release party for her book, “Punks, Poets & Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys, 1977–1982.”

Writer Victor Bockris, who contributed most of the text, was by her side. Like the PUNK exhibit, it brought people from far and wide, including photographer John E. Espinosa, one of many who have reluctantly left New York due to the difficulties of surviving as an artist.

“Marcia is my best friend and heroine,” he wrote. “Even after having to move back to Texas after 22 years, there was no way I would miss her party. When something is true and real it manifests a jolt of electromagnetic energy. Marcia’s photographs burst out from a sincere love of the scene and its players, and from herself, as a partner in crime.”

An upcoming show, opening Feb. 4 and running through Mar. 2, will display her work and is sure to turn into another great party. “I love that Howl! Happening provides a magnetic attraction for those who frequented places like CBGB’s, Max’s and the Mudd Club in the ’70s and ’80s, and also for younger people who admire punk culture,” said Resnick. “Like those Downtown venues of the past, people now have a place where they can share their artistic creations, ideas, and mutual admiration. It was a perfect place for my book launch, and I’m hoping that my photo show attracts an equally enthusiastic audience!”

No matter whom I speak with about Howl!, certain keywords come up: Community. Spirit. Creation. Legacy. Support. Energy. There is a joyousness and celebration of the artistic endeavor that is palpable, created by the love of both art and humanity. Who needs stale crackers, anyway? 

Marcia Resnick’s 1981 photo of David Byrne will be part of her gallery show, which opens Feb. 4 at Howl! Happening. Photo by Marcia Resnick.

Marcia Resnick’s 1981 photo of David Byrne will be part of her gallery show, which opens Feb. 4 at Howl! Happening. Photo by Marcia Resnick.

Upcoming events include Marcia Resnick’s “Punks, Poets & Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys, 1977–1982” (Feb. 4, 6 p.m.), an Actors Fund Affordable Housing Workshop (Feb. 16, 2 p.m.), Arturo Vega’s “Insults” (Mar. 5, 6 p.m.), and The Acker Awards (Mar. 17, 6 p.m.), in which Clayton Patterson and friends pay tribute to members of the avant-garde arts community.

Howl! Happening: An Arturo Vega Project is located at 6 E. First St. (btw. Bowery & Second Ave.) Gallery Hours: Wed.–Sun., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Visit happening.howlarts.org or call 917-475-1294.