“Dress my friends up/just for show/see them as they really are” - Andy Warhol, David Bowie
Oh to be alive and young and living in New York City in the mid-seventies. That amazing depraved, playground for the artistic. Valhalla for the ugly bohemians and beautiful losers who flocked to it. Whether you were tricking with Dee Dee Ramone on 53rd and 3rd or tieing off Lou Reed in a loft on Christopher Street or having Andy Warhol take a Polaroid snap of you outside of a New York Dolls show at the Mercer Center, NYC was the place to be. At that time it was the top of the low-brow dung heap of subversive art. There were many documentarians at the time - Robert Mapplethorpe, Warhol, Bob Gruen, Glenn O’Brien and...Anton Perich.
Perich ran with the Lettrist Group in France, a rogue band of novelists, painters, filmmakers, and photographers. Miscreants and derelicts all. He was also involved with the underground film festival scene in Paris, showcasing avant garde works by the celebrated fringe-directors of the day - Mekas, Basson, Warhol, etc. It was at the dawn of the 70s he set sail for the Big Apple, grabbing gigs as a contributing photographer for Warhol’s heralded Interview Magazine and bussing tables at the legendary restaurant/nightclub, Max’s Kansas City. Max’s Kansas City was ground zero for all sorts of modes of new performance and art. Celebrities, artists and critics all hobnobbed in back booths, espousing new ideas and indulging in the day’s decadence. It was pre-Studio 54, with the emphasis on creativity, not so much the prevalent mountains of cocaine. Andy Warhol and his stars were front and center at Max’s, a replacement for their Factory. It was here that Perlich found his footing amongst the NYC glitterati, taking candid photos of Iggy Pop, David Johansen, Nico, and his muse, Candy Darling.
At the same time, the Manhattan Cable station was hitting the airwaves, the first urban underground station to broadcast a peep-show parade of pervs, punks and panderers. Perich soon brought his talent and eye for the outrageous to the budding channel. One subject was Ara Gallant, the hip hairstylist to the stars of film and fashion. A short film was made, simply entitled “Ara Gallant”. It’s a rambling half hour of downtown hipsters, shrill transvestites, misplaced film stars and a bombed-out John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas fame (one unsettling moment, at some point Phillips is asked about his daughter Mackenzie, and the look on his face leads me to believe that little miss Mackenzie may not be fibbing about the alleged incest that took place between the two). It’s a dinner party for the downtown jet-set, and the topics include Catholic rituals, giving up farting for Lent, Liz Taylor and Katherine Hepburn impersonations, and in a moment of sheer torture, everybody breaks down into a drunken “American Pie” singalong. Another short film was a roundtable discussion with a chain smoking John Waters, Divine, Mink Stole and, worth the price alone for it’s rarity, Mr. David Lochary, all promoting the cult classic Female Trouble. The whole shebang runs a little less than an hour, and it’s a treat for anybody in love with The Pope of Trash.
Anton Perich is a pioneer of Digital Art as well. In 1977 he designed an electric painting machine, an early precursor to the commonplace inkjet projector. It is essentially what
it sounds like - it paints pictures with an aerosol can the same way paper prints. The end result are visually striking large scale portraits of New York celebutantes and models, an updated take of Warhol’s cultural icon portraits, switching out the silkscreens for spraycans.
Perich hasn’t stopped.. He’s still working and producing art, and he’s the creator of NIGHT magazine, “the world’s most avant-garde/sophisticated/provocative periodical”, chock full of fashion, essays, painting and interviews. New York City may not be the decaying, burnt out city that was once a breeding ground for the creative anymore, but one time it was, and Anton Perich was there to showcase it in all it's debauched glory.