Colette: On the Streets and in the Clubs, 1972–1985

By Marc H. Miller

From the very start of her career in the 1970s, Colette was a much-noted presence in the New York art world. It was a time of radical change brought on by the advent of pop art, and a new generation felt free to break the rules that traditionally separated fine art and popular culture. Colette worked without inhibition. Acting out an inner-world of fantasies she began making photographic self-portraits, creating soft fabric environments in which she was often a crucial living presence, and exhibiting self-referential hybrid works that combined sculpture, painting, and photography. By the mid-1980s she was famous here and in Europe for performances in which she slept in store windows and art spaces, street paintings for which she was once arrested, and forays into fashion and music that worked equally well in boutiques, nightclubs and museums.

Colette has always stood out as an original. Her sources are exhaustive: Victorian art, surrealism and assemblage, contemporary styles like conceptual art, staged photography, performance, feminist art, punk, graffiti, and much more. She has absorbed all of these models but imitates none. Colette’s singular oeuvre cuts across movements and media as it explores her own personal fantasy world ripe with childhood dreams and adult desires. Her work embodies intuitive self-invention in the form of an ongoing series of lavishly costumed feminine personas.

Like many of her contemporaries, Colette has made the documentation of transitory events and performances a fine art in itself. “Records from the Story of My Life,” a long-running series of twelve-inch square collages (sized like LPs) incorporate photographs embellished with paint and other materials. “Postcards from the Story of My Life ” use smaller photographs with handwritten captions. There are also posters designed by Colette to advertise her performances and art products.

Gallery 98 has assembled a choice vintage selection that features some of Colette’s most remembered works from the 1970s and 80s. You will encounter her street paintings, the legendary window performance at Fiorucci, appearances at nightclubs like the Mudd Club, and the environment she lived in for six days at the Cologne Art Fair in 1977.

Colette profile picture

From the Collection