Naj Wikoff

Wikoff, Najart
Thu, 06/25/2020 - 15:18
When did you live in SoHo?


Where did you live in SoHo?

I was a sculptor living on Stanton Street, but showed at various galleries, did installations, early on assisted other artists in SoHo, hung out at Fanelli's & Kenn & John's, at at EATS,, attended lofts of loft parties, openings, and events in galleries - and had many friend with lofts there.

What was your occupation when you lived in SoHo?

I was an artist just starting out (BFA from Pratt, later MA from Hunter), so I did a variety of jobs to make $ like painting apartments, moving people, and assisting other artists, while I made work, did installations with OIA (Organization of Independent Artists), and pitched my work to galleries.

What do you miss most about SoHo in the 1970s?

The mix of people in the creative arts, painters, sculptors, dancers, choreographers, musicians, composers, and so on and how we constantly got together. There was so much work to be seen, terrific energy about the place.

What do you miss least about SoHo in the 1970s?

It was a tough environment, the lofts were cold at night/weekends, especially in the winter, there were no supermarkets so you had to go a distance to find stuff to purchase. But you could live cheaply.

If you no longer live in SoHo, why did you leave?

I got a job offer running an arts council in Poughkeepsie, NY (Dutchess County Arts Council). Another sculptor, Jim Pelletier and I had created a non-profit, The Public Arts Fund, as a means of raising money for artists who wanted to do large-scale public art works. The inspired a head hunter to pitch me to the DCAC.

What is your most vivid SoHo memory?

One that may interest you was the challenge of installing my banner sculpture, Wooster Boogie Woogie over Wooster St.(photo attached) I need permission by the city to put it up, and then from all the tenants of two buildings across from each other to install it. I went through all manner of city agencies and finally had to take out a parade permit, get insurance through a gallery, to be allowed to install the art; but I went through lots of buildings before I could find two where all the people said yes, often there was one on some floor that was against doing something that they felt would attract more attention to SoHo, would push it in a way they didn't want it to go. I installed the sculpture on the 4th of July 1977 as traffic was near zero that day. I left it up for six months, and nearly got arrested when I took it down as some felt I was vandalizing the neighborhood.

Is there anything else you would like to add to your profile?

Fun was going to Kenn & John's or Fanelli's on Saturday evening after the gallery openings and collecting slips of papers with addresses to the various loft parties.