Remember The Gas Station? I've spoken about it a few times here – notably on this post. Essentially, it was a former gas station that turned into a junkies' shooting gallery that turned into an art-installation-cum-performance space over on Avenue B back in the late `80s and early 90’s. As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, it made fleeting cameo appearances in this obscure video by late, lamented Amphetamine Reptile band Surgery and an equally obscure indie film called “Manhattan By Numbers,” but its biggest brush with notoriety came from hosting what became the final live performance by GG Allin & the Murder Junkies (more about that here and here). After that calamitous event, the Gas Station's days were pointedly numbered.
Anyway, why am I blathering about it now? Well, Jeremiah Moss over at Vanishing New York posted another one of those entries that we NYC bloggy types love -- that being the finding of a new trove of vintage NYC pics. JM pointed to this Flickr page by one Dead Dolly, and in her gallery of East Village pics, she features a nice, head-on shot of the Gas Station.
This, in turn, led me back to Google to do a periodic search for more photos of the place. I was amazed at what I found. When I composed my original piece about the Gas Station in 2008, the only visual evidence of the place's existence I could find across the internet was that photo of it being demolished. Here in 2012, the Gas Station is now lovingly commemorated with this lovely collection of photographs that really give a detailed depiction. I also found this nice first-person account of the Gas Station from a woman who lived around the corner from it, a post that came appended by the photo above (featuring GG in the center.... hat tip to Dying on Bar Time).
But the image I was really struck by in my searching was collage of the place made by one Leif Harmsen. Not only did Mr. Harmsen capture the ramshackle vibe of the Gas Station and it surrounding neighborhood circa 1989, but he also includes a telling and fittingly provocative back history. See below.
GAS STATION was an abandoned gas station at Avenue B & 2nd Street NYC that we used as a metal workshop, bar, outdoor sculpture exhibition space, an indoor and outdoor performance space, concerts venue and billboard art location. We welded everything out of abandoned scrap metal trash, including the perimeter fence and chairs. The electricity, weirdly, was still connected and free - perfect for our electric welders. While I worked there in 1989 I made maximallist urban landscape collages and cybernetic metal sculpture, including a car horn organ with matching chair that eventually wound up being incorporated into a bar called the "Bovine Sex Club" in Toronto. At the end of muggy summer days, especially after welding, I sometimes opened the fire hydrant and took a power shower right there on the side walk.
A collage I made at the Gas Station of Ave B @ 2nd St., incorporating found objects and featuring the Gas Station at centre, 1989. Sometime around 2000 as the area was gentrified, the Lower East Side landmark was demolished to make way for a drug store and low-rise condominiums. The work itself was bought by an insane Toronto art collector who then threatened to destroy it if I didn't do a bad deed for him. I refused his extortion and assume he's since made good on his threat. I still have the negatives, so could re-create something similar but it wouldn't have the authority of the original made as it was on a perfect day, then and there.
Check out his collage below and click on it to enlarge, but from from his original page, click on it to see it in striking, minute detail!
By the way, a quick word of warning: I was perusing around the rest of Harmsen's site, and a great deal of his artwork is of the decidedly NSFW type, so please surf with caution.
Anyway, as has been documented elsehwere, the Gas Station is long, long gone, replaced by a Duane Reade. It's been suggested that the ghost of GG Allin haunts its back aisles. I'd love it if that were true, but I'd imagine ol' Geeg would have other afterlife plans