A.I.R. Gallery: Chapter 1

The First Year

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)

The First Year

"The whole of that first year," Loretta Dunkelman remembers, "there was a kind of cohesiveness and caring. There was a kind of support from within. Everyone wanted everyone's show to be a success. I was always thinking about the gallery. We wanted the gallery to come on showing really strong work and, caring about this, we wanted each show to be a real success." Also, aside from the quality of the shows, "there was from the beginning a general feeling about A.I.R.," Blythe Bohnen explains. "Everyone sees it as an entity, an identity apart from the members' work." Which is why the women spend time and energy working on A.I.R.'s projects that relate to women's art past and present.

-From ‘Artists in Residence’: The First Five Years by Corinne Robins, Womanart, Winter 1977–78

A.I.R. Gallery Members at 97 Wooster Street (1972-08) by David AttieThe Feminist Institute

In this 1972 photograph taken by David Attie, six founding members of A.I.R. Gallery are pictured in front of the gallery’s first space at 97 Wooster Street. 

Pictured from left to right, the members standing are Loretta Dunkelman, Dotty Attie, Howardena Pindell, and Anne Healy. The seated members are Nancy Kitchel and Judith Bernstein.

When the group was brainstorming possible names for the gallery, Pindell suggested the name Eyre Gallery after the protagonist of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre. This became Artists in Residence Gallery (A.I.R.), in reference to the signs hung on the floors of the predominantly industrial buildings where the artists resided. The name also relates to the idea of women artists making themselves known as permanent residents of the male-dominated art world.

Photograph of Howardena Pindell during renovation at 97 Wooster Street (1972)The Feminist Institute

After visiting fifty-five storefronts, the founding members of A.I.R. decided to rent a 70-foot-long space at 97 Wooster Street, in downtown Manhattan, as their first gallery. With the plaster peeling and the floors warped, the artists renovated the space themselves, using their carpentry and electrical wiring skills to ready the gallery for its first exhibition. On September 16, 1972, it officially opened to the public with its first exhibition, a group show featuring the work of all of the collective’s members.

Gallery announcement and exhibition schedule poster for opening of A.I.R. Gallery (1972-09/1972-10) by A.I.R. GalleryThe Feminist Institute

September 16, 1972 marked the historic opening of A.I.R. Gallery at 97 Wooster Street. In this announcement poster for the inaugural season’s programs, a photograph of each artist's work accompanies the dates of their exhibition. The artists featured in this poster include:

Dotty Attie

Homage to Gorky's Mother, drawing, 11" x 14", 1971. (December 9 - 27)

Rachel bas-Cohain

Grand Vortices, Study #1. (February 24 - March 14)

Judith Bernstein

Hardware Series, charcoal on paper, 108" x 141". (April 28 - May 16)

Blythe Bohnen

48 Brushstrokes, acrylic on canvas, 6' x 8', 1971. (November 18 - December 6)

Maude Boltz

Untitled, rope and string, 1972. (March 17 - April 4)

Agnes Denes

Dialectic triangulation: a visual philosophy, series #3, 1971. (October 28 - November 15)

Daria Dorosh

Untitled, watercolor, 14" x 19", 1971. (April 7 - 25)

Loretta Dunkelman

Sky Series: Summer of '71, acrylic on canvas, 96" x 123", 1972. (February 24 - March 14)

Mary Grigoriadis

Untitled, oil on canvas, 66" x 66", 1970-71. (December 9 - 27)

Harmony Hammond

Untitled, cloth and acrylic, 78" x 30", 1972. (January 13 - 31)

Anne Healy

Big Balls, fabric and nylon rope, 1970. (October 7 - 25)

Laurace James

Iron Year, loft installation — ceiling 9 1/2', 1970. (February 3 - 21)

Louise Kramer

Untitled, latex-air, 1972. (October 7 - 25)

Rosemary Mayer

de Medici, rayon acetates, cord, string, lace, netting, 12' x 7', 1971. (April 28 - May 16)

Patsy Norvell

Untitled, pleated vellum, 28" x 36", 1972. (February 3 - 21)

Howardena Pindell

(January 13 - 31)

Nancy Spero

Codex Artaud I (detail), painting-collage, 1971. (March 17 - April 4)

Susan Williams

Environment — 10 Pieces, vinyl sculpture, 9' x 5'. 1972. (October 28 - November 15)

Barbara Zucker

(November 18 - December 6)

These twenty women artists would be featured in two group exhibitions and ten two-person shows, each for three-week blocks, over the course of a year. The year would begin and end with a ten-member group show.

Postcard for Mary Grigoriadis and Dotty Attie exhibition (1972-12) by Mary Grigoriadis, A.I.R. Gallery, and Dotty AttieThe Feminist Institute

This three-part, fold-out postcard announced a joint exhibition by founding A.I.R. members Dotty Attie (b. 1938) and Mary Grigoriadis (b. 1942). 

On its front, the postcard features two mirrored images of A.I.R.'s original location on 97 Wooster Street in SoHo. 

When opened, the interior reveals an abstract painting by Mary Grigoriadis, on the left, and four drawings by Dotty Attie, on the right, which mimics the spatial dynamics of a gallery. 

Letter to Lucy Lippard (1972-11) by A.I.R. GalleryThe Feminist Institute

Lucy Lippard, a curator, writer, and an ardent early supporter of A.I.R. started the collection of slides of women artists’ work that would become known as the Women’s Art Registry.

On November 13, 1972, they wrote a letter to Lippard about their surprise in discovering that the Women's Art Registry was given to another cooperative art space located at 55 Mercer Street. 

Given its central role in A.I.R.’s founding, they had expected it to be housed at their gallery at 97 Wooster Street. 

Invitation to A.I.R. Member Group Show (1973-12) by A.I.R. GalleryThe Feminist Institute

To close its 1973 season, A.I.R. Gallery held a group show of work by the full A.I.R. membership at 97 Wooster Street. 

This invitation features the handwritten signatures of the nineteen A.I.R. artist-members: Loretta Dunkelman, Rachel bas-Cohain, Maude Boltz, Agnes Denes, Pat Lasch, Howardena Pindell, Judith Bernstein, Anne Healy, Daria Dorosh, Nancy Spero, Mary Grigoriadis, Louise Kramer, Sari Dienes, Patsy Norvell, Barbara Zucker, Laurace James, Dotty Attie, Rosemary Mayer, and Blythe Bohnen. 

The exhibition featured a range of different media, including performances, conceptual art, sculpture, painting, drawing, and printmaking. 

Credits: Story

Chapter 1: 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 1):
Nicole Kaack
Her essay and full bio are available here.

Lucy R. Lippard
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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