White Room: Nicola Tyson Bowie Nights at Billy’s Club, London, 1978October 27–December 15, 2012
White Columns is proud to present the first exhibition of photographs by the New York-based British artist Nicola Tyson. Tyson’s exhibition consists of photographs she took in the fall of 1978, aged 18, while studying at London’s Chelsea College of Art. The images are presented as enlarged versions of her original contact sheets, so that the context and sequence of the images is retained (including brief glimpses of her home life). Tyson’s photographs document the scene at Billy’s Club, a somewhat down-at-heel gay discotheque in London’s Soho, at the now legendary “Bowie Nights” organized on Tuesdays by DJ Rusty Egan and Steve Strange, who along with club regular George O’Dowd (aka Boy George) would soon help shape the New Romantic music, club and fashion scenes of the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Tyson’s intimate photographs taken between September and November 1978 – at a time when this nascent scene was still an underground and unacknowledged phenomenon – are the only visual account of this seminal moment in British subcultural history. (Those documented include Rusty Egan, Steve Strange, Boy George, Simon LeBon, Phillip Sallon, and Jeremy Healy, among other central figures in the scene.) As Tyson states in her autobiographical essay in the publication that accompanies the exhibition:
“By 1978 a new scene was needed to fill the vacuum left after Punk went mainstream – the underground thrill and edginess over – and “Bowie Night” was a start. Roxy Music and David Bowie had influenced the darkly flamboyant aspects of the London punk scene, and so in opposition to the dumb monochrome cynicism of mainstream Punk, each Tuesday anything went at Billy’s, the more theatrical the better.”
Set against a backdrop of the social and political austerity of the era – documented in Michael Bracewell’s introductory text in the publication – the regulars at the “Bowie Nights” would have a profound and lasting impact on popular culture. (e.g. Without their lead it is unlikely that the ‘style press’ of the early 1980s, such as The Face or i-D Magazine, would have emerged – which in turn influenced and inspired subsequent generations of designers, musicians and artists.)
The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated ‘zine with essays by Nicola Tyson and Michael Bracewell, available from the gallery for $3.00.
Tyson has also created a new edition, an 18” x14” color c-print of one complete contact sheet. The print is in an edition of 12 and available from the gallery for $1,200.00. For more details please contact the gallery.
Nicola Tyson (b. 1960) is a New York-based British artist. Her work has been shown internationally since the early 1990s, including solo exhibitions at Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York; Sadie Coles HQ, London; Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin; and the Kunsthalle, Zurich, among many others. She has a forthcoming solo exhibition at Susanne Vielmetter Project, Los Angeles. She studied at Chelsea School of Art, London and Central/St. Martins School of Art, London.