A.I.R. Gallery: Chapter 2

A Collective and its Challenges

By The Feminist Institute

in collaboration with A.I.R. Gallery

Introduction

A.I.R. Gallery (Artists in Residence, Inc.) is a feminist, artist-run non-profit arts organization for women and non-binary artists located in Brooklyn, NY. Founded in 1972, A.I.R. continues to build upon its history, bridging art and activism by providing a space for artists across a spectrum of intersectional identities and cultural perspectives. The organization advocates for a multiplicity of voices in the arts while facilitating intergenerational dialogue and continuing investigations of feminism. (Read more)

A Collective and its Challenges

“We are trying something new, so there is no chart to follow. Any 20 people trying to run a gallery democratically where there are no leaders and everyone is equal is bound to run into some problems. We have to listen to twenty opinions and take a vote on every decision.”

-- Harmony Hammond in "An Interview with Members of A.I.R." by Cindy Nemser, Arts Magazine December 1972–January 1973.

Bypassing the Gallery System (1973-02) by Marcia TuckerThe Feminist Institute

In February 1973, Marcia Tucker, an American art critic, historian, and later the founder of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, reviewed A.I.R.'s opening in Ms. Magazine. 

Tucker described A.I.R. as having been established in response to the political problems of the male-dominated art scene, where 96 percent of leading New York City art galleries showcased the work of male artists exclusively.

When A.I.R. first opened, it was also common for art galleries to take a 30 to 60 percent commission on sales of artwork, something the artist-run A.I.R. circumvented from the beginning. 

Bypassing the Gallery System (1973-02) by Marcia TuckerThe Feminist Institute

Tucker elaborated on the obstacles the artists faced when building the space, such as communication difficulties between the artists, and how the group overcame them.

She emphasized that A.I.R.’s success could be attributed to the fact that each co-founding artist had been chosen purely on the basis of their work’s merit. 

Bypassing the Gallery System (1973-02) by Marcia TuckerThe Feminist Institute

The article includes snippets of interviews that took place at the opening with A.I.R. artist members Barbara Zucker, Howardena Pindell, Harmony Hammond, Nancy Spero, and with members of the public, as well as with A.I.R.’s gallery coordinator. 

Within its first year of opening, A.I.R. had already begun to receive attention from the press for being New York’s first all-women’s gallery. The images below feature reviews that were written about A.I.R. Gallery’s first season, which ran from 1972 to 1973, and about its 1973–74 group show.

The Swedish Connection (New York Magazine) (1973-02) by Barbara RoseThe Feminist Institute

Barbara Rose, a critic, and historian, wrote for New York Magazine that A.I.R. was aesthetically pleasing and beautifully put-together, noting that it offered its art for prices lower than those at commercial art galleries. 

In an Arts Magazine review from February 1973, an unidentified critic reviewed the exhibition Open A.I.R., which featured forty artworks, twenty of which were by artists invited to show by the twenty founding members, revealing an effort on the part of A.I.R. to build and extend their space to a growing community of women artists.

Lastly, Laurie Anderson, in an unknown publication, wrote favorably about the 1973–74 ten-woman group show, acknowledging that although the artists were part of a group, their artworks each possessed highly distinguishable individual character. The gallery, Anderson added, provided a solution to the male-dominated art scene.

Founding Members of A.I.R. Gallery (1974) by David AttieThe Feminist Institute

This photograph, taken by David Attie in 1974, depicts the members of A.I.R. Gallery, in Daria Dorosh's loft at 370 Broadway. 

Pictured in the bottom row, from left to right, are Howardena Pindell, Daria Dorosh, Maude Boltz, and Rosemary Mayer

In the second row: Mary Grigoriadis, Agnes Denes, Louise Kramer, and Loretta Dunkelman.

In the third row: Barbara Zucker (slightly behind), Patsy Norvell, Sari Dienes, Judith Bernstein, and Dotty Attie (on the ladder); and in the fourth row: Laurace James, Nancy Spero, Pat Lasch, and Anne Healy.

As a self-governed body, the group would meet whenever decisions needed to be made, and these were made by a two-thirds vote, a practice that continues to this day.

Review of A.I.R. Group Show (1974-01) by Lawrence AllowayThe Feminist Institute

Lawrence Alloway, an art critic and curator, reviewed the A.I.R. end-of-year group show in The Nation on January 12, 1974. 

His review described the co-op exhibition as unified, highlighting how no one work overpowered another. 

The artists mentioned include Mary Grigoriadis, Rosemary Mayer, Nancy Spero, Dotty Attie, Rachel bas-Cohain, Loretta Dunkelman, and Anne Healy.

Sylvia Sleigh Resignation Letter (1978-02-19) by Sylvia SleighThe Feminist Institute

Sylvia Sleigh (1916–2010) was a painter and feminist art pioneer who joined A.I.R. in 1974. She resigned from A.I.R. after a conflict with several members over a request the collective made for Sleigh’s husband, Lawrence Alloway, to write a text for the gallery’s fifth-anniversary exhibition. 

To this day, the collective maintains the practice of receiving formal resignation letters like Sleigh’s, which allow the group to prepare for departures both financially and in terms of labor.

“Current American Female Artist Exhibition” (1978-04)The Feminist Institute

In the late 1970s, A.I.R. Gallery made efforts to reach an international audience and generate collaborative exchanges with women artists from around the world.

The article “Current American Female Artist Exhibition,” written by Lucy Lippard and translated into Japanese, introduced Japanese audiences to the then-newly opened women’s cooperative art gallery.

After A.I.R.’s first international show in Paris, Combative Acts Profiles and Voices, in 1976, the gallery held its second international show, An Exhibition of Women Artists from Japan, coordinated by A.I.R. member Kazuko Miyamoto, from June 3 to July 1, 1978. 

This exhibition featured seven Japanese women artists: Toshiko Horuichi, Kimiyo Mishima, Masa Komoto, Yuko Nimura, Etsuko Tada, Momoko Yamada, and Mariyo Yagi.

These artists had each mastered traditional Japanese techniques and integrated contemporary Western art forms into their practices. The painting featured in the article, a group portrait of A.I.R. members by Sylvia Sleigh, is today housed at the Whitney Museum. 

Review of Artists from Israel at A.I.R. (1980-01) by Lucy LippardThe Feminist Institute

In an effort to further A.I.R.’s international feminist network, the gallery spotlighted six young female Israeli artists, each of whom had been largely excluded for their local contemporary art world, in its 1979 show Artists from Israel

The exhibition touched on stereotypes of women, the relationship between women and earth, and the female body. 

The exhibition was reviewed by Lucy Lippard in Art in America in January 1980, Grace Glueck in the New York Times on September 21, 1979, and Kay Larson in the Village Voice.

Catalog of Sweden Comes to New York Exhibition (1981-09) by A.I.R. GalleryThe Feminist Institute

Sweden Comes to New York was a group show featuring the Swedish women artists: Grete Billgren, Barbro Bäckström, Kristina Elander, Marie-Louise De Geer-Bergenstråhle, Ann-Charlotte Johannesson, and Lenke Rothman.


It represented an effort by A.I.R. to further expand its feminist network through the growing tradition of exchange shows. The exhibition was held from September 8 through 26, 1981, and was coordinated by A.I.R. founding members Rachel bas-Cohain and Daria Dorosh.

It was accompanied by a screening of Marie-Louise De Geer-Bergenstråhle’s Swedish film and a discussion with Beate Sydhoff on Swedish women artists. The next exhibition of Swedish artists at the gallery, A.I.R. Expedition Sweden, curated by Daria Dorosh, would take place in 2010.

Photograph Outside of 63 Crosby Street (1981) by Mary Beth EdelsonThe Feminist Institute

With the arrival of the new decade, some members left A.I.R. and new members quickly replaced them. In this 1981 photograph, taken by Mary Beth Edelson, the members of A.I.R. Gallery posed on the doorstep of the gallery then located at 63 Crosby St. 

On the left, holding an umbrella, is Daria Dorosh. Pictured from left to right standing are Lenore Goldberg, Dotty Attie, Nancy Spero, Patsy Norvell, Sari Dienes, and Anne Healy; seated are Mary Beth Edelson, Kazuko Miyamoto, Clover Vail, Donna Byars, and Sandra Eisenstein. 

Invitation to CHOICE: Inaugural Exhibit of the A.I.R. Gallery Affiliate Members (1982-02) by A.I.R. GalleryThe Feminist Institute

After relocating to a new space at 63 Crosby Street, A.I.R. had the space to include artworks created by women artists from outside New York.

 To facilitate this, the gallery launched its first Affiliate Membership Program, or what is known today as the National Membership Program, allowing artists not located in NYC to become members of the gallery.

In 1982, A.I.R. held its first national member show, CHOICE: Inaugural Exhibit of the A.I.R. Gallery Affiliate Members. The show was an opportunity for the gallery to incorporate more regionally diverse perspectives.

It featured affiliate members Gerda Meyer Bernstein, Erin Goodwin, Nicole Jolicoeur, Nancy Storrow, and Barbara Strasen.

“Media for Artists” (1982) by Alida WalshThe Feminist Institute

Since its inception, A.I.R. Gallery has been defined by its collaborative mode of hosting diverse public programs and events, in order to form an inclusive and supportive community. 

In 1982, A.I.R. sponsored an intensive six-session media workshop called "Media for Artists" at 63 Crosby Street. The goal of this course was to provide artists with the skills and theories needed to expand their abilities to make art that incorporated motion, time, sound, light, electronics, and performance. 

To this day, A.I.R. continues to be a space for conversations and dialogues regarding contemporary art and continues to host workshops needed by artists to sustain creative practices. 

Photograph of A.I.R. Members (1995) by David PlakkeThe Feminist Institute

David Plakke took this annual A.I.R. group photograph of twenty members of A.I.R. at the 40 Wooster Street gallery location in 1995. 

From left to right standing are Louise McCagg, Barbara Grinnell, Michi Itami, Tenesh Webber, Carol Ross, Elke Solomon, Carolyn Martin, Nancy Storrow, Daria Dorosh, and Nancy Azara.

Seated are Sylvia Netzer, Barbara Roux, Regina Granne, Janise Yntema, Sharon Brant, Lenore Goldberg, and Madeline Weinrib. The women sitting closest to the camera are Jessie Nebraska-Gifford on the left and Ann Pachner on the right. 

Annual A.I.R. Member portraits depict a tradition of careful documentation and an understanding of being part of history in the making.

Photograph of FROM THE ARCHIVES: A COMPOSITE PORTRAIT Exhibition (1997-01) by Daria Dorosh and Bob GervaisThe Feminist Institute

From January 2 through 18, 1997, A.I.R. Gallery held a group show curated by Alissa Schoenfeld, Dena Muller, and Eunhee Yang called FROM THE ARCHIVES: A COMPOSITE PORTRAIT - A.I.R. and the Women's Art Movement

Artist, educator, activist, and co-founder of A.I.R. Daria Dorosh and Bob Gervais photographed this installation image of the exhibition at 40 Wooster Street. The exhibition could not have been realized without Phyllis Barr, who, in the early 1990s, helped begin the process of archiving A.I.R. ’s exhibitions, programs, administration, and members since 1972.

A Composite Portrait sketched the history of the gallery from a variety of angles, looking at the artists who maintained the organization; at the remarkable exhibitions that encompassed art practices in a variety of styles, media, and visions; and at the multiple programs and events around the issue of feminism and art-making by women artists that the gallery held.

Credits: Story

Chapter 2: Full Text + Extended Exhibition Credits


Co-organizers: 
Taylor Bluestine
Roxana Fabius


Editorial Development: 
YiWen Wang
Nicole Kaack
Isha Tripathi
Erica Fedukovitch
Ada Jiang


Copy Editor: 
Andrew Scheinman

Commissioned Writers (Chapter 2):
Nancy Princenthal
Her essay and full bio are available here.

Roxana Fabius
Her essay and full bio are available here.

YiWen Wang
Her essay and full bio are available here.

Special thanks to Fales Library at NYU Special Collections Center and NYU Special Collections Curator for the Arts and Humanities Nicholas Martin, Marie Williams Chant and Caroline Bracken at The Feminist Institute, Christian Camacho-Light, Daria Dorosh, Joan Snitzer, Susan Bee, and all the members of the A.I.R. community who helped make this project and the last 50 years possible.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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