Above Image: Bathtub, 1978, Vintage gelatin silver print

Jimmy DeSana was a true original and an anti-establishment artist who was very much a part of the East Village Punk scene in the 70’s. Born in Detroit in 1949 he arrived in New York in 1973 and hung out with William Burroughs, Patti Smith, Victor Hugo, Nam June Paik, Laurie Simmons, Andy Warhol and his retinue who made up the Factory. His work was subversive, quirky and dark. He was coming into his own at the same time as Robert Mapplethorpe. He published 101 Nudes in 1972 and a series called Submission in 1980 explored the world of sado-masochism. Both of these series reveal a surreal and bizarre sense of humor, simultaneously compelling and just possibly riffing. Hard to know. The gallery has acquired a number of images from the 101 Nudes series as well as Submission. These include both color and black and white.

This show now on view at Daniel Cooney/Fine Art was first shown at the West 57 Street gallery of Rob Stefanotti in 1980. It consists of idiosyncratic portraits (mostly black and white) in which the subject is presented as a larger main image surrounded by smaller out-takes which are arranged in the same mat. DeSana wanted them shown in this manner and cut the mats himself and signed the mat rather than the individual imagesthus insuring that they would remain intact as he intended them.

His subjects include figures from the creative demi-monde which he inhabited. They are artists, writers, musicians and muses. Also present are important figures in the art world and society figures of the time. Ethel Scull, who with her husband, Robert (who started a cab company called Skull’s Angels) were early collectors of contemporary art. There are many of the usual suspects, Andy Warhol, William Burroughs, Debbie Harry. Seeing them in this way - with the out-takes included - gives a window into the creative process as well as a broader and more intimate picture of the subjects. They feel very immediate and casual and very much of their time. These are a chronicle of an era by an artist who was definitely an insider.

Review by Belle McIntyre


Empress Farah Pahlavi of Iran, 1978, Vintage gelatin silver print//JackSmith, 1977 Vintage gelatin silver prints

Andy Warhol, Victor Hugo, 1978 Vintage gelatin silver print

Andy Warhol, Victor Hugo, 1978, Vintage gelatin silver print

Television, 1979 Vintage gelatin silver print       Television, 1979, Vintage gelatin silver print


City Unseen: Signs and Symbols

Rockaway! presented by MoMA PS1