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Alfredo Martinez convinced an art collector to purchase two drawings by Jean-Michel Basquiat (which belonged to Tom Warren) in the late winter of 2001 for a bargain price. The work in question appeared that December in an

exhibition Martinez co-curated with me entitled, Welcome to the Playground of the Fearless. Martinez took charge of returning the pieces to Warren, but before doing so, made his own versions. After returning the drawings, he mentioned that there was interest in the work from collectors who saw the show. He said he wanted to make copies of the certificates of authenticity before shopping the work around. Warren handed over the certificates, which Martinez went on to forge as well, he then returned falsified certificates and sold fake paintings – with real certificates – to the collector. The collector was tipped off that the paintings were fake by a Chelsea dealer and subsequently notified the F.B.I.. Claiming to be collectors the F.B.I. led Martinez to make more Basquiat drawings and certificates in an elaborate sting operation. His later forgeries were apparently sloppy compared to the first ones, as a result of his carelessness & and a possible desire to get caught (not to mention the encouragement from the F.B.I. for him to make more), he was apprehended by the F.B.I. on June 19, 2002. Forgery is difficult to prove however, so during the sting, the undercover F.B.I. agent posing as a collector named Bob Clay, asked Alfredo to Fed Ex and email a photo of the works in question across state lines. Federal prosecutors found him guilty on four counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud which lead to a mandatory sentencing of at least three years in jail. He currently resides at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, three blocks away from where Martinez grew up.

Alfredo Martinez’ art career began in 1993 at Pat Hearn Gallery, the show was a happening called Skater Angels produced by David Greenberg and Diego Cortez. Afterwards he went on to participate in the seminal Bong Show at Alleged Gallery where artists such as Tom Sachs and Dirk Westphal made elaborate bongs as sculpture. His heights of legitimacy came first when he exhibited in group shows at the P.S. 1 Museum, a Mo Ma? Affiliate (Agent Artist, Generation Z), that same year he had his first career solo show at the Donahue Sosinski gallery in So Ho? (this exhibition marks his second solo exhibit with the gallery). In the summer of 2000 Roberta Smith reviewed an exhibition he curated Na’er Do Wells for The New York Times. That same year, a dot-com millionaire by the name of Joshua Harris (in collaboration with Leo Koenig) financed an indoor automatic weapon firing range designed by Martinez for a millennial project entitled Quiet. Martinez is a weapons expert, most recently he spent several years working with Rick Washburn at Weapons Specialists Limited. These were noteworthy achievements for someone who never graduated high school. In a field where academic legitimacy is highly revered, Martinez managed to do remarkably well with only an eleventh grade education. In this regard, he is a true folk artist, an elitist term synonymous with “outsider”, a derelict.

During his time in federal prison, he continues to make art. This is significant because despite all of his escapades, his primary interest is still in making a career for himself as an artist. Were his actions just a desperate attempt to earn a quick buck? A decisive critique on the sometimes absurd values we place on art objects? Or is he in jail on purpose?

Works to be exhibited:

I. Drawings from prison*: Self-portraits, portraits of inmates, guns, tanks, political figures, fictional apocalyptic characters & collages primarily made with prison issued coffee & fruit punch. II. Sculpture: Collaborations with John Eberenz made just prior to his arrest. III. Alfredo a film by Tom Jarmusch documenting Martinez during his 1999-2000 project at Quiet. IV. Sound*: 13 audio cassettes featuring every conversation Martinez had with an undercover F.B.I. agent aka Bob Clay, posing as a collector who wanted to purchase Basquiat's from Martinez. V. Detritus from the trial*: Court documents, correspondence, images of the forgeries etc. etc. {*Indicates items that were sent to the curator from Martinez in jail by mail.}

see also:


On view from May 17 - June 17 2001, opening May 17 5-8 pm.

The exhibition will take place at 1201 Lafayette Avenue in the Hunt’s Point section of the South Bronx. The 7,500 square ft. space is being used for this one occasion only.

The South Bronx Story is a survey of some of the influential projects, artists and institutions to come out of the South Bronx within the past twenty five years. The exhibition will also serve as a catalyst for new work.

The South Bronx Story will feature:

Fashion Moda - Founded in 1978 by tefan Eins, Fashion Moda successfully married the “downtown” scene and the South Bronx’s world of Graffiti, Hip Hop, and Activism. Fashion Moda deeply influenced the contemporary art world of the eighties and today.

The featured Artists/Projects from Fashion Moda:

The Keith Haring Foundation will present photographs of his very first T-Shirt design which he created for Fashion Moda on the occasion of Documenta 7 in 1982. The Estate of David Wojnarowicz will present work he exhibited at Fashion Moda in 1984. The Estate of Darrel Ellis will present several of his deeply personal works related to the inexplicable killing of his father. Tom Warren will resume his “Portrait Studio” project which began at Fashion Moda in 1983.

Longwood Arts Project - Started in 1981 under the direction of 1999 Mac Arthur? Award-winning artist Fred Wilson, Longwood Arts has a proud history of providing artists from under-represented groups with professional and artistic development and exposure. There will be a presentation of slides related to its history including, Love & Rockets, Nadine Robinson, Pepon Osorio, Daze, Willie Cole, Danny Tisdale, Johan Grimonprez among others.

The featured artist/projects from Longwood Arts:

Carlos Ortiz will present his documentation of the South Bronx in the 1970’s. Longwood Cyber Residency will present an variety of computer projects. It is a move from a conventional residency program to an access technology initiative. The program makes available to four artists a year, hardware, internet, software, and technology consultants.

There will be several featured graffiti artists:

Chain 3 - Started writing in 1974 when he was in junior high school. After several years writing with The Death Squad, Chain 3 joined The Magnificent Team in 1977. TMT became known for doing whole subway cars and VAUGHN BODE characters. TMT placed equal priority on writing on subway car interiors. When asked why he joined TMT after retiring in 1976 he stated, “They gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse, they said I would never have to steal paint again... they would steal it for me.” TAT’s Cru - Top Artistic Talent bombed the IR Ts? during the early 80s with many colorful burners. TA Ts? Cru are among the most successful aerosol art based businesses. In addition to utilizing their skills for financial gain, they continue to create art on the streets of New York. They have built a reputation among their peers for precise paint control. Del of the Fabulous 5ive - The Fab 5ive was the most admired whole car crew in New York City and are among the only crew’s to successfully bomb a whole train (10 cars). Del retired from painting in 1981, this exhibition marks his official re-entry into the scene.

The Environmental Issues in the South Bronx particularly Hunt’s Point’s Air and Land quality issues will be addressed with the work of: William Meyer will filter the air from outside and present the paper filters as indicators of diesel, automotive, industrial and medical waste particulates. Bob Braine will present documentation of his journey’s around the waters of the South Bronx. He has navigated the waters of the South Bronx in handmade kayaks since 1995.

Projects will also be produced by the following:

David Perry will create a site specific painting on two windows of the exhibition space as well as present several paintings. Tim Rollins, Crash & James Fuentes participated in a Panel Discussion which will be featured. Stefan Eins plans to activate an abandoned space nearby. Crash will produce a “Bus Stop” built to scale which he will paint from top to bottom. Christoph Draeger is presenting a large puzzle. Peter Fend is not disclosing the details of his project. James Fuentes is producing The Fantastic Voyage - On the 6 & On the 2/5 - A continuous panoramic view (on video) from the 2/5 train beginning at 149 Street/Third Avenue ending at 180 Street as well as the 6 train starting at Hunt’s Point ending at Parkchester/177 Street. Both routes are elevated trains and the final destinations mark the end of what is technically considered “The South Bronx” .

Alleged Galleries

Exile on Ludlow Street

It was, from the outset, always something of a hypothetical. Sure, it was a gallery, but the disclaimer was inherent in the name: Alleged. With the first sandwich board signs and banners announcing its arrival, there was no mistaking the iconoclastic agenda. This was pure Carney, an exhibition space as conceived for the midway, a notion of the art world as it might exist in the less savory social margins where sleazy clip joints and vulgar entertainments proffer their goods and services to more populist sensibilities. And the proprietor, one we still only know by his dealer alias as Aaron Rose, embellished the galleristís persona of cultural huckster with a grace and occasional gravity, and a warmth befitting the proverbial whore with a heart of gold. He may have been trafficking in visually asocial taboo, dropping the capital ìAî from Art in favor of the anarchist A, and specializing in the curious contemporary alchemy of transforming the deviant detritus of our pre-programmed cultural mediocrity into the foolís gold of sub cultural spectacle. But if Rose was trying to get one and all to drink from the moonshinerís bottle of some dubious patent medicine, his elixir actually worked. The trick was in the skepticism itself. If you were driven too hard by the necessities of faith itself, you didnít get the joke- you were the joke. But if you understood the nature of what was ëallegedí, and how it rubbed against the authority of that other consensus reality, well then, it could make an old heart young again, loosen up the mental arthritis of an ossified world view... was blind and now can see.

In its germination, the good old days of, say, 1992, Alleged Gallery was all about the nabe- a very specific place and time when Ludlow Street was still just another Lower East Side gutter of low rent tenement dreams that just so happened to have a phenomenally deep demographic of artists, musicians, film-makers, designers, writers and all around hoodlums. Hell, it was a freak show, fueled by every illicit vice- from powders to pills to prostitutes- that your mommy and minister ever warned you about. As much as Alleged was a community project, it was very much a community in exile, a degenerate horde of expats who had fled the American dream machine and the glitter of Gotham for a little piece of paradise that was simply too smelly, dangerous, inaccessible, dirty and dilapidated for the world of the white and polite. Perhaps Aaron didnít know any better than to open a gallery on a street where the only other merchandise being offered in those days came in folded up little glassine bags with skulls stamped on them. My bet however, is that he knew just what he was doing. There always was a method to his madness, but more significantly, there was just as consistently a defining aesthetic criteria.

Alleged was democratic and inclusive as all venues for emerging artists should be. And, as with anything that is truly organic, it only gathered strength from its curatorial nepotism. Those first shows there, parties for the entire neighborhood to get drunk and misbehave in ways that would have sent any fine art collector who might have accidentally stumbled in there running for their lives, featured some of the best urban folk artists from the early Ludlow Street scene. That a number of them happened to be the same folk pouring the booze at the then obscure art bar next door, Max Fish, well, letís just call that a fortuitous coincidence. No doubt Mr. Rose was just the kind of down and out hipster then that he would have been able to drink for free even if he werenít exhibiting the bartenderís work. And truth be told, there was a radical symbiosis between those two idiosyncratic anti-establishments in those halcyon Ludlow daze that was nothing less than a profoundly potent stew-pot of raw creativity. What was shared in that peculiar space between the music, the art, the words and pictures, the sex, drugs and drinking, was too elusive to be a movement. It was more of a moment, an attitude that was contrary to the dominant trends of cultural consumption, a humor that defied the tyranny of political correctness, and a mode of representation that was imbued with process, casual in its stylizations, and emblematic of a gestural simplicity that all but belied the intensity of emotions and quirky conceptualisms underscoring its manifest intentionality.

From such a sensibility- at once a kind of visual sampling that was akin to the emerging strategies of DJ culture, yet somehow psychically incompatible to the discourse of post-modernism that was also borrowing the same kind of appropriations- Alleged launched Minimal Trix, an exhibition of Skateboard Art in 1993, a show that would come to define an entire generation of art-making before it made the full transition from the streets to the galleries. Subsequently exhibiting the full range of auteur expressions coming up fresh from a new breed of artist, including Mark Gonzales, Ed Templeton, Thomas Campbell, Diann Bauer, Jeremy Henderson, Glen E. Friedman, David Aron, Daniel Higgs, Phil Frost, Spike Jonze, Andy Jenkins, Sofia Coppola, Andre Razo, Chris Johanson, Tobin Yelland, Ari Marcopolis, Barry Mc Gee?, Margaret Kilgallen, Mike Mills, Shepard Fairey, Tom Sachs and many others who first showed their work at this persistently peripheral gallery, with succeeding years of shows tracing the aesthetic edges of folk, fashion, film, performance and music, Alleged Gallery was the unlikely flop-house for every manner of misfit master otherwise barred from the hallowed halls of an ever more institutionalized art market.

Over long term career-spanning collaborations with many of the aforementioned artists, and in many other sundry hit and run projects with visual provocateurs from other media who chose to run down that slippery slope of being ëartyí (with designers like Susan Cianciolo and musicians like Unsane, Surgery, Railroad Jerk, Cibo Matto, The Boredoms, Kim Gordon, Thurston Moore, and a daunting list of low brow lo-fi turntablists, as well as an assortment of film-fiends dedicated to rupturing the mundane dynamics of narrative through movies, videos and photographs- including Jim Jarmusch, Harmony Korine, Mark Borthwick, Cameron Jamie, and Terry Richardson), Aaron Rose proved much more than a stunning acumen at spotting talent early. What Alleged really accomplished was a profound understanding of the moment at hand. The ground zero of the zeitgeist where there is no substantive difference between any creative medium- and a way of translating and articulating this opaque ephemeral vernacular into a concrete visual language that even old farts like me could understand.

By Fall of 1997, Alleged moved its way too informal club-house to more posh digs on Prince Street, in the suddenly trendy zone of Nolita, and Aaron Rose finally learned how to speak for a group of artists who as a rule hated to speak about their own art. Then, a New York heartbeat later, Alleged once again pulled up its gypsy caravan and moved to Washington Street (another neighborhood that would also soon be renamed- this time as the Meat Market district- and become way too hip for its own good) in September, 1999. By then Mr. Rose had traded in his collection of rude tee shirts for a few fancy suits and found a way to juggle a community of bored kids guzzling 40 ouncers with the more professional demands of an international clientele of critics, curators and collectors of novelty. By all accounts in the old neighborhood, Aaron Rose and Alleged Gallery had finally arrived. But for those of us who knew and loved him from the start, neither dress nor manners fooled us in the least. An alley cat cannot change its dumpster diving habits any more than a leopard its proverbial spots. No one could be visionary enough to foretell what Rose would do next, because, well, he rarely knew himself. But having come to expect that disconcertingly sudden veer in the road of Allegedís constant evolution, I canít say we were all that surprised to find that once Alleged had attained what every kid with that ëheck, weíve got a barn in the back yard, letís put on a showí dream would aspire to, Aaron Rose would once again pack up his bags, leaving behind the baggage of success entirely, and re-invent his hopeless project anew.

As you look through these pictures, spontaneous unposed snaps like the pictures that cluttered their walls, enjoy them as mementos of impossible moments, artifacts of an art that always was a few steps ahead of the object itself. And know this, for every picture that was taken, there were countless others never committed to celluloid, or simply too rude and libelous to share with the public. For any of us who passed by chance, circumstance or sheer nerve through those fun house doors, we all hold our own taboo photo album in our minds. For me, my favorite picture I will never see but in own my mindís eye is the desperately after-hours vision of Courtney Love, doped to the gills, passed out with cream cheese smeared on her mouth and a half-finished bagel and cream-cheese adorned with half-smoked cigarette butts dangling from her creepy claws. But then again, it was all one great hallucination there, a dream that perhaps never happened save in the disturbed REM cycle of a madman named Aaron Rose. As for that name, Alleged, story has it that Rose took it off of one of those good luck fortune candles that were always on sale at every local bodega and Santeria shop in those days. Itís the kind of legal codicil that now accompanies those late night TV infomercials for psychic readings- a give us your money and weíll tell you the future, but itís only just for ëentertainmentí purposes, subtext. So perhaps he never did believe in the magic, but like all superstitions, it still worked.

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