The NO!artists at the March Gallery were the first and only ones to work exclusively in the direction of social engagement, contestation art, in a new artistic sense. Mostly the exhibitions were thematic; works were made by the artists especially for the theme exhibitions.
The NO! art manifestations were: 'Adieu Amerique' 1960, 'Les Lions' 1960, 'Vulgar Show' 1961, 'Doom Show' 1961 (Atomic Crisis), Atomic Crisis Demonstration Art 1961 (Masks, Painted Car, Floats), 'Doom Show Film' by Ray Wisniewski 1961, 'Doom Show', Milan, Schwarz Gallery and Rome, La Salita Gallery, 'NO-posters' Boris Lurie 1963, 'Multiplications' 1962, 'NO-show' 1963, 'NO' Boris Lurie 1963, 'One Thousand Boat Show' Kusama 1963, Erro Show 1964, 'Subway Posters' Herb Brown 1964, 'American Death Show' Sam Goodman and Dorothy Gillespie, 'NO Sculptures Show' Sam Goodman, Boris Lurie and Stanley Fisher 1965.
Boris Lurie, Sam Goodman, Stanley Fisher, John Fischer, Isser Aronovici, Augustus Goertz, Michelle Stuart, Ted Joans, Bob Logan, Jerome Rothenberg, Jean-Jacques Lebel, Erro, Herb Brown, Esther Gilman, Gloria Graves, Allan Kaprow, Yaoi Kusama, Richard Tyler, Allan D'Arcangelo, Rocco Armento, Ray Wisniewski and others participated in manifestations.
Since 1963, the group exhibited in the rooms made available to it at the Gertrude Stein Gallery, where the group had full control over the choice and time of the exhibitions and where no works of other tendencies were exhibited. The core of the group consisted of Sam Goodman, Stanley Fisher and Boris Lurie, who mostly arranged the exhibition manifestations.
NO!art was initially a rebellion against the obfuscation of the Abstract Expressionists, even before the popularization by the art market of the so-called Pop art. The future Pop artists were heavily influenced by NO!art, however they knew how to 'purify' their work, produce 'permanent' works, and add a 'camp' sense (slightly cynical-humorous-homosexual). While Pop celebrated the American industrial environment, the NO!artists inevitably criticized it. Their critique was also strongly directed against aestheticization, obfuscation and decoration of the Abstract tendencies. The same relationship exists between the accepted tendencies and NO!art as between café music and social rock music. The NO!artists' statement affected the underground press and the aesthetics of the agitated politicized youth.
After the complete monopolization of the New York 'Avant Guarde' by the Pop interest group, all means of information were denied to NO!artists. Galleries and museums were effectively blocked, as well as the tightly controlled press, such as, among others, a curator (W. S.) of the Museum of Modern Art, who refused to exhibit NO!artists, despite the fact that they had been chosen for an exhibition, other works were selected and then returned, even exhibitions that were around the theme of NO!art, such as about the pin-up, were organized without the participation of the original artists ('American girlie Show', for example, where even the Pop art dealer I.K. protested). It was generally conditioned that no names of NO!artists appear on exhibition lists; although the use of the pin-up as a symbol had been practiced by Lurie since 1955, excrement sculpts, etc. were freely used by later Pop artists and popularized by the market. The art dealer Gertrude Stein was also eventually forced to give up promoting NO!art, as effectively all information and trade channels were closed. However, some pop interests, Mr. Kraushaar in between, tried to control NO!art aesthetically in order to incorporate it into pop as a sattelite. The effective information and commercial censorship reached its goal despite the extraordinary popularity of the NO!art manifestations, nevertheless some thousands attended the 'Doom Show' in New York, and nearly ten thousand this manifestation in Rome.
Symbolically, NO!art was born from the American pin-up girl, symbol of the repressed and commercialized erotic pursuit. Lurie brought the pin-up into art in the fifties, even before the 'Adieu Amerique' exhibition. The 'Doom Show' was the first fully politicized exhibition-manifestation during the Krushchev - Kennedy confrontation over Cuba. The Death-sculptures and the 'American Death Show', the first informational art by Sam Goodman and Dorothy Gillespie, were other highlights. The NO-sculptures (Shit-show) was the first systemic art exhibition whose theme was excrement, a Goodman-Lurie collaboration at the end of the Kennedy period and the beginning of Vietnam. The work continues, with individual works and participation in group exhibitions (Aspects du Racisme, Paris 1972, Art and Politics, Karlsruhe, 1972).
The aesthetic roots of NO!art come from popular street art, from graffiti, from industrial waste, with spontaneity, strong, j but not always open expressionism, from multiplication of ways of seeing and feeling, from art action and revision and the process of the work itself out. The content is always underlined, and any technique that serves the expression is welcome. The disperation and disappointment of the fifties and sixties was given free expression, without concealment, and political social content expressed. However, this is not a propaganda art of illustration: the spectator is confronted and provoked; political and personal confrontation thus occurs within the framework of art (not anti-art!). If Dada is an 'aristocratic rebellion', as Salvador Dali called it at the opening reception at the Museum of Modern Art (while protest demonstrations against the museum and the exhibition took place outside), NO!art, on the other hand, is the rebellion of the underprivileged lumpenproletariat artists.
THE AESTHETIC-PHYSICAL INNOVATIONS OF NO!art:
CONCEPTUAL: No writing, 'critics chair', 'menu with blood sausage', headlines like 'Liberty or Death', etc.
DEFORMATION: in plastic, 'Kelvinator Bull', etc.
EXTRUSION PROCESS: NO sculptures, Shit sculptures.
FABRICATION: torn pin-ups fabricated as cardboard, cardboard
SURGICAL OPERATION: faces, bodies, as skin surgery, Stanley Fisher
DEAD ANIMALS: chicken heads cast in plastic, 'Death Sculptures
ACTIVE ABRASIVE MATERIAL: Pinup 'Abgezogen' in lead paint.
STAMPS: NO-stamps, also NO-stencils
WRITING IN SAND: NO-sculptures written in sand, then cast in aluminum
POLITICAL POSTERS AS ART: Projects 'Stop testing', 'Doom'; 'NO-posters'.
CHANGED PHOTOS: Journalistic, historical photos with changed titles
'A. Hitler: Assemblage 1945', concentration camp corpses
OVERFILLING PROCESS: 'art action' combined or simple techniques, overloaded, painted over again, etc., until resolution by overfilling takes place, until the 'answer' by 'art action' appears.
COLLECTIVATION AND DEPERSONALIZATION: another artist, not the author 'finishes' the work; or components of a work are selected by another artist
SYSTEMATIC SERIES EXHIBITIONS: NO-sculptures show, Shit show, NO-posters
INFORMATIONAL EXHIBITION: 'American Death Show'
GROUND-BREAKING SCULPTURES: Doom Show
ORGANICALLY GROWING AND CHANGING MANIFESTATION EXHIBITIONS
Publiziert in: NO box, Edition Hundertmark, Köln 1996