by Marc H. Miller and Jonah Wolf
In the mid-1980s, as gentrification encroached on the East Village, the neighborhood’s eastern fringe remained a lawless landscape of abandoned buildings and rubble-strewn lots. Here in “Alphabet City,” amid the thriving drug trade, intrepid squatters surreptitiously reclaimed unused real estate. In 1986, a group of artist squatters led by Tenesh Webber sledgehammered their way into 292 East Third Street, between Avenues C and D. Accommodating living spaces as well as an exhibition space, Bullet Space quickly became a nexus for the East Village tradition of politically radical, semi-legal street art, producing works like the handmade artists’ book Your House Is Mine, an unrivaled embodiment of the downtown aesthetic.
Prominent in the Bullet Space group were the Castrucci brothers: printmaker Andrew and architect Paul, who together had run the short-lived A&P Gallery a block away. At A&P, as at Bullet Space, Andrew’s expertise shone in the posters and flyers that now make up a decades-long record of both galleries, and of the shifting political climate. A&P exhibition posters mocked the villains of the era: President Ronald Reagan and real estate tycoon Donald Trump. At Bullet Space, posters publicized demonstrations in support of fellow squatters, and celebrated the continued renovation of the building itself.
As a printmaker, Andrew Castrucci led Bullet Space’s most ambitious project, Your House Is Mine: a set of posters waging, as Elizabeth Hess described it in Artforum (October 1991), “an ongoing class war against landlords, drugs, and AIDS and an eloquent protest against the lack of a safe environment for children.” From 1988 to 1992, Andrew worked with selected artists at the Bullet Print Shop and the Lower East Side Print Shop to create the 33 prints that would appear first as street posters, and subsequently as a limited-edition artist’s book, produced with Nadia Coen and Paul Castrucci. With contributions from Sandra “Lady Pink” Fabara, David Wojnarowicz, Anton van Dalen, John Fekner, Lee Quiñones, and other local street artists, the book is now seen as an essential record of the politically assertive art of the Lower East Side at the end of the century.
Bullet Space remains active today. Gallery 98’s online exhibition focuses on its early history, in the 1980s and 1990s, and on the printmaking work of Andrew Castrucci, with original posters from A&P and Bullet Space, as well as from Your House Is Mine. Over the last 25 years, the original 150 books printed have found their way into many prominent collections, including the Library of Congress and Museum of Modern Art. Gallery 98 offers one of the last available copies, as well as selected individual posters, drawn from a small collection of artists’ proofs and now made available for the first time.