Stefan Eins. Gary Gilmore drawing of Nicole Baker, 1980. Photocopy appropriation, 17 x 11" (43.2 x 27.9 cm). Courtesy of the artist.
I went to Colab meetings, you know, from the early days. The summer of the Times Square Show I was already involved with Fashion Moda, so my focus was on Fashion Moda, but I did go to Colab meetings. Many shows at Fashion Moda included Colab members.
There was also my space before Fashion Moda on 3 Mercer Street. I chose that location, because I wanted to be close to Canal Street. I wanted to sell my work, my multiples, to an audience on a mass-market level. I invited other people to make work for the 3 Mercer Store. I made my own work there, and then I provided others the opportunity to use the storefront. Tom Otterness had his first show there; Sherrie Levine had a show there; and many more.
When I started Fashion Moda in the Bronx, I already knew Joe Lewis from the 3 Mercer project. Joe had a studio up there [in the Bronx] at that time. I wanted him to be involved because I didn't want to be the only European in this predominantly African-American and Hispanic neighborhood. I thought it was important for both of us to work together and to be a curatorial team. Early on there was another person working with us, Hector Ortega, who was Hispanic. I wanted different ethnic and racial elements—Joe Lewis's mom is Canadian and a painter, his stepmother is German, and his dad was an African-American singer and lyricist. He also had formal art school training in upstate New York at Hamilton College studying painting and printmaking. Joe is now dean at UC Irvine in California.
The racial diversity at Fashion Moda was a result of my concept, which was and still is that creativity is a basic human trait. And so forget anything else. Where there is humanity, there is creativity. So I don't even have to consider race [when understanding or promoting] creativity. I called Fashion Moda the museum of science, art, invention, technology, and fantasy to include all the different aspects of human creativity. Creativity always has to do with possibilities realized or attempted. Of course I found hip-hop, and hip-hop found Fashion Moda, in the Bronx.
Everything we did at Fashion Moda translated into the Times Square Show; for example, the idea of independence from certain structures in the art world. I think the whole approach really made a difference in the art world since galleries realized it's not only them making decisions and that there are other ways to proceed.
As TSS was being set up, I knew that Tom Otterness and John Ahearn were working on the exhibition and that it was open to artists to participate. There was a moment at Fashion Moda prior to the exhibition where this kid suggested to John Ahearn to do a show in Times Square.
I did a piece at the TSS but I was actually in Austria for most of the time, attending my high school reunion. I put my piece up, and then I left the country. When I came back, I realized how much of a success it [TSS] had been. In my TSS piece, I used an image from Norman Mailer, The Executioner's Song, a book about criminal Gary Gilmore. I just liked the image. The piece wasn't necessarily related to other work I was doing at the time. What interested me was that an artist was a criminal and the idea that being a criminal doesn't mean you can't do interesting art. Anybody could do whatever they wanted to do for TSS, there was an independence of production and also in the mode of presentation.
I put my piece up the day before I left. I wanted it to be very visible. So I put it on the second floor very visible, and it said FASHION MODA on it. When I returned I was surprised and thrilled at the impact the show had. The Village Voice cover was a major moment. Of course the magazines came later. Lucy Lippard wrote something in Artforum. Jeffrey Deitch wrote something in Art in America.
The currents and ideas implemented at Fashion Moda that carried over into the TSS changed the whole art world. Thirty years ago, Fashion Moda communicated in four major world languages on our posters and press releases: Chinese, Russian, English, and Spanish. It foresaw the global development in the art world and that whole interconnectedness on the global level that is so much more now than it was then.
Also, in terms of Modernism, you really had to be a participant in an accepted movement. If you were not a Cubist, a Surrealist, a Pop artist—even a Conceptual artist or part of other movements—then you weren't really regarded as important. We did away with that. Also: Subway Graffiti, Street Art (David Finn, Justen Ladda, Gail Rothchild, David Wells, and others at Fashion Moda). I don't mean to exclude anyone, these are just the names that come to mind right now. There are others I probably don't name here who are important to early Street Art. Fashion Moda's activities from that time are all documented in the Fales Library at New York University.
I am quoting here from Cesar Levinson's book Graffiti Street Art Revolution, 2008, "Fashion Moda mixed artists and styles of work in a way that is familiar today but at the time was considered cutting edge." A mixing of styles was also part of the Times Square Show; and also at the Fashion Moda show at the New Museum in 1980–81.
What fashion meant to me was to be cutting edge, and I wanted to correlate with the fashion industry. I did not work on the Fashion Lounge at the Times Square Show, but the ideas were connected I suppose. After the TSS, Fashion Moda produced the line of T-shirts for our Stores at documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany, in 1982. I asked Keith Haring to design a T-shirt for the documenta stores, his first ever. Other T-shirts were by Joseph Beuys, John Fekner, Jenny Holzer, Picasso, Judy Rifka, myself. Christy Rupp made a rat T-shirt. So did the graffiti artists A-1 and Crash—all in all, it was a beautiful creative mix, almost twenty different designs. The MODE FASHION MODA logo T-shirt included Russian and Chinese. Mode means "fashion" in German.
Just recently I was reading an article in the New York Observer about galleries that do their exhibition scheduling quite differently from how galleries usually organize; not just in one location but in different locations. The article mentioned the TSS as an early role model. I just installed a Fashion Moda exhibition in Peekskill in Westchester, NY. It coincided with the show about the documenta 7 stores at the Neuberger Museum in Purchase, Westchester, New York in the spring of 2012.
The TSS changed the way art was installed and presented. It used to be that if you didn't show in a gallery, you didn't show. That is not so any longer. I think it opened up options and that correlates to the idea that you don't have to belong to a movement to be accepted.
As told to Shawna Cooper, May 23, 2012
Stefan Eins (b. Prague, Czech Republic; raised in Vienna and Gresten, Austria)
Stefan Eins studied theology at the University of Vienna and attended the Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna from 1964 to 1967, when he relocated to New York City. In 1978, he founded Fashion Moda as a cultural concept in New York City's South Bronx, exhibiting the work of artists like Charlie Ahearn, John Ahearn, Jules Allen, Jane Dickson, Ilona Granet, Keith Haring, Candace Hill-Montgomery, Jenny Holzer, Becky Howald, Justen Ladda, Christof Kohlhöfer, Joe Lewis, Judy Rifka, Christy Rupp, Rigoberto Torres, David Wells, and others. Fashion Moda—in its South Bronx location—was in operation until 1993. Additional information is available at: http://www.oneunoeins.com/.