NY gallery keeps punk alive in old CBGB space

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Punk rock fans who mourned the closure of New York’s legendary club CBGB can catch a glimpse of nostalgia on Thursday when the art gallery taking over the space preserves some of its history.

Patrons of the music venue CBGB are seen outside the club in New York City October 14, 2006. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

The Morrison Hotel Gallery moving into the space will also display photo exhibits of rock, jazz and classical artists.

CBGB was born in 1973 in Manhattan’s rough-and-tumble Bowery district and became the launching pad for influential acts such as the Ramones, Television and Patti Smith plus the more commercially successful Talking Heads and Blondie.

With gentrification, the club closed in October 2006 after a rent dispute, and founder Hilly Kristal, who had talked of reopening the club elsewhere, died in 2007.

But the famed graffiti covering CBGB’s bathrooms will be preserved, and playbills from the club’s 10th anniversary shows in 1983 will also be on display. The playbills -- announcing some of the acts that make the club famous -- were discovered behind a wall.

The gallery, named after the 1970 album by The Doors, is opening its second New York venue in the CBGB space with an exhibition of photographs and mixed media pieces featuring rock icons including The Clash, the Sex Pistols and the Rolling Stones from artist Steve Joester.

“I have a lot of kind of vague memories of coming here,” Joester said. “It’s exciting, it generates so much interest just being in this space. The Clash and the Pistols are a very CBGB thing.”

Joester, one of 55 photographers associated with the gallery, works with digitized images of live concerts and band portrait sessions and creates collages with cloth, wood, nail polish, oil sticks and gold leaf paint to recreate the live feeling of a rock performance.

His work includes images of The Clash taken during the London Notting Hill Carnival riot in 1976.

There are also pictures of Andy Warhol taken with Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford in a club bathroom, after the pop artist unexpectedly turned up at a Judas Priest concert.

Joester’s exhibition will be followed in April by work from rock photographer Bob Gruen, including a recreation of the bedroom of a punk-obsessed teenager in the 1970s.

“With the photographers we work with, it seems just right for this place,” said Peter Blachley, co-owner of the gallery.

Kristal founded the club in 1973, calling it CBGB & OMFUG, for “Country, Bluegrass, Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers.” Despite the name the club became a breeding ground for punk and new wave music and was played by The Jam, The Cramps and Nico, among others.

Editing by Daniel Trotta and Patricia Reaney