East Village Eye magazine
72 issues issues documenting art, music, film, fashion, news & sports
From its inception in May of 1979 until its final issue in January of 1987, East Village Eye magazine exerted a profound influence on the neighborhood and city it called home, and through it, the popular, avant-garde and youth cultures of the nation – an influence that reached in some ways across the entire world.
East Village Eye was much more than a magazine. It was an attempt, with some success, to create a community among the artists, musicians and other residents of the neighborhood – as well as like-minded individuals the world over – that would carve out a free space, a mental safe harbor, cultivating a creative force that could grow from its pages into the physical world. The magazine received no arts funding, sustaining itself with a great deal of donated labor, some modest financial investments by friends, and support from local advertisers and a paying readership.
Perhaps what most set the East Village Eye apart was its ability to attract and harness the talents of individuals who were drawn to it. People like Richard Hell, who chose the Eye as a venue for his “Slum Journal,” in which he set the record straight that the punk movement started (with him as a leading actor) in the United States rather than in England, a popular misconception until then. Cookie Mueller, the underground film star who dished out bold and often hilarious health advice. Glenn O’Brien, a leading avant-pop media figure who chose the Eye to expound on the Yankees. David Wojnarowicz, who wrote about his harrowing past and present, giving us important insights into his powerful artwork as well as the world around us.
As society turned to art for help in understanding an increasingly bizarre and threatening world, the Eye was already becoming known not only for its features on some of the most important emerging artists of the time, but for giving them its centerfold to create new work. In fact, the Eye, always a proponent of disposable and accessible art, stretched the limit of the printing press, creating unique color artworks on ordinary newsprint, something rarely attempted before then. The result was a series of stunning pieces that exist nowhere else.
When some of these same artists helped bring hip-hop, break dancing and graffiti art to greater recognition, the Eye was there with early stories, photos and specially made art by such historical figures as Afrikaa Bambaataa, Fab Five Freddy, Futura 2000, the Rock Steady Crew and many others. How early? Some scholars have identified East Village Eye as the first place in which the words “hip hop” appeared in print. When DEA agents invaded the Lower East Side and realtors invaded just about everywhere, the Eye was there to document the conflicts and give valuable information to those impacted. When a gimlet eye was needed, the Eye came through with ego-deflating spoofs on scenesters and pop icons, loads of comics, and perhaps the nation’s first series of satirical obituaries.
When creative people the word over – the Eye was self-distributed across the nation and intermittently in the UK and Europe – searched for rays of light, they found them in small clubs and performance spaces like 8BC, ABC No Rio and Darinka that often advertised and were covered in the Eye and nowhere else. In fact, many artists, writers and musicians say they moved to New York on the basis of what they read in the Eye, which in this pre-Internet age was one of the few sources of news on independent culture during one of the most important decades for the arts in New York.