Based in Brooklyn’s out-of-the-way Red Hook, the Still House Group brings a fresh new perspective on what a collective creative effort should look like.
The Still House Group, founded by Isaac Brest and Alex Perweiler, is inspired by the ideals of a young creative demographic bound by expectations of subordination to preexisting models. Still House is hell-bent on escaping the traditional gallery set-up, gearing itself, regardless of the seemingly insurmountable challenges, toward the goal of creative sustainability. Method beyond madness; it seems to be working. After ending an impressive year with the exhibition Riffraff at Art Basel Miami this past December, the Red Hook, Brooklyn-based collective is now preparing for a solo show from one of its members, continuing to make strides toward a more self-sufficient—more communal—creative community.
Fred Paginton You held your first show as the Still House Group in 2008, emerging as a creative environment which allows artists free rein to experiment; what was it like once you began life as an exhibiting collective?
Isaac Brest The group has never been a collective in the sense that we work together on collaborative pieces. However, our process is such that during the conceptual, production, and exhibition phases, our work shares an underlying commonality that bonds it together. At times these similarities are obvious, and at other times they can be hardly noticeable, but palpable nevertheless. It’s undoubtedly been for the better, yet certain works or bodies of work call for individual exhibition, free of the associations brought on by the group. This has led us to program solo shows for all our artists, in order to examine the benefits and drawbacks of releasing the contextual implications of the Still House collective model.
FP Tell me about about the origins of the Still House Group.
ABC No Rio as we knew it is no more—but its legacy lives on. Here Fred Paginton sits down with the legendary institution’s Steven Englander to reflect on the role of the activist art space and its next steps.
For over thirty years New York’s ABC No Rio garnered a widespread reputation as being a refuge for socially engaged and politically activated artists. During its lifespan, and in the midst of a rapidly changing landscape, ABC No Rio served as a constant support for radical projects, providing an alternative perspective to that of the traditional gallery scene and established order therein. First and foremost, 156 Rivington Street, located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, has always been a melting-pot where art and activism intersect. Founded in 1980, when the landscape of the area (pre-gentrification) was dominated by Latino, Hispanic, and Jewish enclaves that co-existed (but did not always mix), ABC No Rio required of its visitors the commitment of involvement, participation, and ultimately collaboration. Through its various offerings of cultural education—poetry readings, print sessions, the extensive No Rio zine library, and the infamously popular Saturday Punk matinees—the space quickly became not just a gathering place, but a local institution. The question of sustainability within a city of rising rents, mounting numbers in population, and rapid revitalization has been a point of concern throughout. Yet, against all odds, ABC No Rio has managed to roll with the punches—even shelling a few out themselves—to protect and maintain this bastion of creativity. I recently came across an archived BOMB gem—a 1982 conversation with the then relatively new ABC No Rio. Inspired, I sat down with Steven Englander, who spoke on behalf of the entire ABC No Rio Visual Arts Collective, to reflect back on their beginnings and contemplate next steps. Since this conversation, ABC No Rio—faced with insurmountable financial challenges and a need for renovation—has been forced to close its doors. Yet, despite this harbinger of the veritable end of an era, the legacy of this venerable cornerstone of New York City history continues to live on.