Artists in Residence

Published June 2023 by Letter16 Press

Artists in Residence: Downtown New York in the 1970s

Aiken’s photos of this downtown scene include intimate portraits of the poets William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, John Giorno, and an on-the-cusp of stardom Patti Smith; the artist Joseph Beuys during his first visit to America, holding court with fellow artist Hannah Wilke before a raucous audience at the New School; and the musicians John Cale, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan. These shots of hipster royalty are paired with Aiken’s no-less-revealing street photography capturing the city in all its then-gritty glory.

Looking back it seems odd that as the city teetered on the brink of collapse, with its poorer neighborhoods turned into abandoned war zones, artists were launching what turned out to be a decade’s worth of new art movements… In photographs of that desperate streetscape we can see today a picturesque setting for the daring and the new.

Walter Robinson, artist and critic
Excerpt from the forward to Aiken’s book: Artists in Residence

The book includes a beautifully written foreword by Walter Robinson, co-founder of the seminal ’70s art journal Art-Rite, and an introduction by Brett Sokol, a contributing writer on the arts for the New York Times

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Letter16 Press, Inc, 2023

Letter16 Press is a 501(c)(3) non-profit publishing house founded by designer Francesco Casale and journalist Brett Sokol. We are discovering visually arresting imagery from the pre-digital era currently remains trapped on 35mm film, hidden away in boxes, and largely unknown to today’s audiences. Thanks to financial assistance from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Letter16 Press is carefully digitizing and restoring these images and publishing the strongest work in a series of beautifully produced hardcover books, introducing these photos to fresh eyes.

Stephen Aiken has a second book coming from Letter16 Press in the sprint/summer of 2024. You can find more information about “An Artist, a Coyote, and a Cage: Joseph Beuys in New York 1974” at both Press16 and here.