woensdag, oktober 04, 2017

Thomas Nozkowski

Thomas Nozkowski and Joyce Robins' studio, Hester Street 70, New York, 2012(?).

The collapse and demolition in 2006 of the First Roumanian-American Congregation synagogue at 89 Rivington Street — the “cantors’ Carnegie Hall” — seemed to have eradicated almost every trace of what was once a large and vibrant Jewish community.

But it had not. There is a remarkable vestige of the First Roumanian-American Congregation at 70 Hester Street, between Allen and Orchard Streets. It is the synagogue that the congregation built in 1860 and expanded as its membership grew, before moving to the much larger sanctuary on Rivington Street.
Last used for worship in the 19th century, the space housed a still during Prohibition and a raincoat and shower-curtain factory after World War II. In 1967, the artists Thomas Nozkowski and Joyce Robins moved in. They made their paintings and sculptures there. They raised their son there. And they lived much of their lives there until June, when they were told to get out in 30 days.
This much is certain: the Nozkowski-Robins association with 70 Hester is ending after 45 years. So is another chapter in the Bohemian era of the Lower East Side. The couple, now 68, met as students at Cooper Union. They were looking for a 2,000-square-foot loft for $100 a month. That was once a realistic aspiration.

On the day after their wedding in May 1967, they spied a “For Rent” sign at 70 Hester, owned by Sarah Feifer, an old-fashioned leftist. “The only newspaper she read was The Daily Worker,” Mr. Nozkowski said. Harry Snyder ran a fabric store on the main floor, but the former sanctuary upstairs had been vacant since the factory closed, leaving a floor full of grommets. Yet Ms. Robins, who had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish family, said she discerned something “very genial and obviously special” about the place.

In exchange for a few months of rent-free tenancy, the couple spent about $3,000 and a lot of elbow grease to replace windows, upgrade electricity and add plumbing. (From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.) The space was certified habitable under the city’s artist-in-residence program.
In 1992, their lease expired at 70 Hester. They have been month-to-month tenants ever since, paying a rent of $1,100.
The real estate listing said, “Delivered vacant.”
(bron: New York Times)

Stills uit de video "70 Hester Street" van Casimir Nozkowski. (bron video: YouTube)

Thomas Nozkowski in his studio, 70 Hester Street, New York, 2008(?).

“When we came to New York in the early sixties, we were taught by Abstract Expressionists,” says Nozkowski. “And I remember discussing with our teachers that, you know, it was morally important to live and work in the same place. You fried eggs the same way you painted paintings.”
(bron: NYMag, foto's: Jason Schmidt)

> Joyce Robbins

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