The 'Pictures' artists were deeply involved with music, from Robert Longo and Richard Prince's band Menthol Wars to the seminal series of No Wave concerts organized by Michael Zwack at Artists Space in 1978.
No Wave is primarily associated with a diverse group of performers and composers ranging from the almost primal aggression of Lydia Lunch and confrontational performativity of James Chances Contortions to the classically trained musicians such as Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham who’s respective bands Theoretical Girls and The Gynecologists were a critical part of the scene. With their harshly atonal and dissonant music, deliberately angular, bilious, or nonexistent lyrics and rigorously unconventional performance techniques, No-Wave acts often found alternative art institutions such as artists Space, The Kitchen, and White Columns, or even commercial art galleries, to be more accommodating venues than punk-oriented nightclubs.
Unsurprisingly, numerous visual artists based in the downtown and East Village areas actively participated in this scene, most significantly Jean-Michel Basquat (in the group Gray), Barbara Ess, Robert Longo ( Menthol Wars), Richard Prince ( Menthol Wars).
Even Lower Manhattan
Longo created his iconic Men in the Cities drawings at this time (1980) and one can visualize the contorted men and women he depicts either in the audience or on the stage as part of the No-Wave scene.
Prince’s innovation of using appropriative techniques in photography occurred concurrently with this moment in music, similarly divesting that medium of its soul by depersonalizing the photographic process. This overlap is interestingly evident in his 1984 portraits of appropriated photographs of other members of the downtown scene including filmmaker Amos Poe, David Byrne and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads, artist Dike Blair, and Kate Pierson of the B-52s among others.
Robert Longo’s Menthol Wars performed punk experimental music in NYC rock clubs in the late 1970s. They perform “Even Lower Manhattan”, the third track on the Cleveland Confidential compilation LP released in 1982 by Terminal Records.
Together with the haunting slide presentation by Robert Longo that has accompanied performances of the piece since 1979, Rhys Chatham's Guitar Trio is the cornerstone of this overlap between art and music in the late 1970s.
Attracted to punk rock’s disregard for virtuosity, artists waiting for their big break in galleries began taking up musical instruments in the 1970s. “So many artists played in bands,” said Robert Longo, “It was amazing to hear music that sounded how your art looked.”
Menthol Wars also part of a series of three staplebound paperback books by Richard Prince. The artist’s first books each published during 1980 by Printed Matter. War Pictures was the first in February, Menthol Pictures came out in June, and Menthol Wars appeared in October.
The books are very much a part of Princes early appropriation and reuse of advertising photographs to explore the distinction, or lack thereof, between ones actual self and the commercial ideal of the self. The text of all three books is similar but not identical, with the last one, made to accompany a window installation at Printed Matter, the longest and the only one to have pagination and a table of contents.
Tier 3 was a no wave art nightclub that was located in downtown Tribeca in Manhattan at the juncture of West Broadway and White Street. In the late 1970s, it became a major fixture in the city's underground music and counterculture scene, along with the Mudd Club. TR3 lasted only until December 1980, but it was a vital and influential venue in which the new music cross-bred with the experimental art and film scenes of Downtown.
"Everybody working in the underground Lower Manhattan music scene was coming out of some sort of art school"
Mike Hudson of Terminal Records / Pagans: "Even Lower Manhattan" - This was another one of my brother Brian's ( Hudson, of the Pagans) New York bands, notable for this one great track and for the fact that their singer was Robert Longo who is now a famous movie director and painter it goes to show how things worked out beautifully.