Colab is the commonly used abbreviation of the New York City artists' group Collaborative Projects, which was formed after a series of open meetings between artists of various disciplines. Colab came together as a collective in 1977, and initially received an NEA Workshop Grant through Center for New Art Activities, Inc., a small not-for-profit formed in 1974. The grant was divided equally among the artist members in groups of three.
In 1978, Collaborative Projects was incorporated as a not-for-profit and later received its tax-exempt status from the IRS, so that it could apply for grants from the NEA and other sources independently. Colab was active for about 10 years and became distinguished by the raw energy of its members and sometimes politically engaged open membership. By raising its own sources of funding, Colab was in control of its own exhibitions and cable TV shows, and bypassed the bigger, more established alternative spaces
From January 1979, different artist members put on several notable one-off group shows in their own studios or other temporary sites, such as The Manifesto Show (5 Bleecker Street 1979), The Real Estate Show (Delancey Street, Jan. 1980), and especially The Times Square Show (201 W 41st, Summer 1980), a large open exhibition near the center of New York's entertainment (and pornography) district (Times Square) put on with Bronx-based Fashion Moda. Seed money from the first Colab workshop grant led to the creation of New Cinema, a screening room on St. Mark's Place for narrative Super 8 films transferred to video and projected on an Advent screen; the publication of X Motion Picture Magazine(1979); support and inspiration for the ABC No Rio cultural center (1980-82 (ongoing); Potato Wolf artists' TV series on Manhattan Cable (1978–1984), support of the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine (1984), and MWF Video Club (established in 1986). Members of the original group are presently highly active making art, and the membership has shifted and evolved. ABC No Rio was recently awarded a $1.6 million capital construction grant from the City of New York.
"We [Collaborative Projects] are functioning as a group of artists with complementary resources and skills providing a solid ground for collaborative work directed to the needs of the community-at-large. Specifically we are involved in programs facilitating development, production, and distribution of collaborative works. These works are realized in various media including film and video for distribution and cable-cast, and live cable TV broadcasts, as well as other more conventional art media such as graphics and printed materials."
"This statement (the one above) defines three fundamental aspects of Colab - members' desire to create and distribute "collaborative work" under the umbrella of an artist-run organization, their focus on new media versus traditional art objects and their openness to a range of aesthetic styles that would meet the "needs of the community-at-large." This last point was critical to the group's identity and served as the foundation of a workshop-oriented administration that encouraged experimentation in many different areas, including but not limited to TV production, video editing, film, and performance art. With various workshops operating simultaneously and the participants' ability to draw on like-minded members as partners, Colab could produce many projects without the burden of an institutional identity. Typically, individual members worked together on more than one project in small subgroups that changed and over lapped from one project to the next."
In 1980, artists emulating 1970s Puerto Rican activists seized a building on New York's Lower East Side and opened it as a collectively run cultural center. ABC No Rio was passed on to successive managements until today it is an anarchist cultural center run by a collective with close ties to the publishing group Autonomedia."
"In the bohemia of downtown Manhattan, the band - and crew - based practices of art rock and super-8 film making thrived. The first artists' group to achieve prominence in New York was Colab (Collaborative Projects), which produced a show in Times Square in 1980. This exhibition was a groundswell of popularly accessible socially themed artworks held in an empty building that has housed an erotic massage parlor. Critics called it "punk art" -- "three cord art anyone can play." The South Bronx art space Fashion Moda. participated in the Times Square Show, bringing in some of the new generation of graffiti artists who had been exhibiting in the Bronx as part of the hip-hop culture of writers, rappers, and break dancers. A forty-member democratically run membership group; Colab inspired other artists to form groups and mount huge shows in Brooklyn lofts, not to mention collaboration with the Washington Project for the Arts, for the Ritz Hotel Project in Washington, D.C. in 1983.
In 2011, Printed Matter, Inc. presented an exhibition entitled "A Show about Colab (and Related Activities)". This overarching survey presented a wide range of materials and artworks from various Colab activities from the late 1970’s through the mid 1980’s, including screenings of film and video works, and cable broadcasts.
In 2012, The Hunter College Art Galleries presented "Times Square Show Revisited", an in-depth look at the original "Times Square Show" (1980). "Times Square Show Revisited" was the first focused assessment of the landmark exhibition organized by the artist group Collaborative Projects, Inc. Bobby G's audio piece "Times Sq. Show Audio" (0:38) appears on Just Another Asshole, a compilation anthology LP that was released in 1981 and reissued in 1995 on Atavistic Records.
In 2013, an exhibition workshop entitled "XFR STN" (Transfer Station) was held at the New Museum. The opening night featured "Moving Image Artists' Distribution Then & Now" an ersatz assembly of participants in the MWF video club, introduced by Andrea Callard, Michael Carter, Alan W. Moore, Nick Zedd and Coleen Fitzgibbon. Alan W. Moore created MWF Club in 1986 as a distribution company for Potato Wolf and All Color News COLAB television programs that aired on public access TV. MWF Club expanded to include programs from various other groups such as Communications Update, Downtown TV, Glenn O'Brien's TV Party, New Cinema, Cinema of Transgression, Naked Eye Cinema and numerous artists and filmmakers. Also in 2013 Tom Warren's Photo Portfolio of "Colab Artists Portraits (1981-1984)" were featured at Gallery 98 and The Film-Makers' Cooperative presented a mini video retrospective entitled "Colab TV Video Excerpts" on November 15th at Soho House in New York City with discussion with Tom Otterness.
Various artists who were associated with Colab, include:
- Charlie Ahearn
- John Ahearn
- Liza Bear
- Scott Billingsley (Scott B and Beth B)
- Andrea Callard
- Ellen Cooper
- Diego Cortez
- Mitch Corber
- Jody Culkin
- Debby Davis
- Eva DeCarlo
- Jane Dickson
- Orshi Drozdik
- Stefan Eins
- Carson Grant
- Peter Fend
- Coleen Fitzgibbon
- Bobby G
- Matthew Geller
- Mike Glier
- Ilona Granet
- Julie Harrison
- John Hogan
- Jenny Holzer
- G. H. Hovagimyan
- Becky Howland
- Lisa Kahane
- Christof Kohlhofer
- Fred Krughoff
- Justen Ladda
- Mary Lemley
- Joe Lewis
- Aline Mayer
- Michael McClard
- Dick Miller
- Eric Mitchell
- Alan W. Moore
- John D Morton
- James Nares
- Joseph Nechvatal
- Mic Neumann
- Tom Otterness
- Cara Perlman
- Virge Piersol
- Uli Rimkus
- Judy Rifka
- Walter Robinson
- Christy Rupp
- Jane Sherry
- Teri Slotkin
- Beatrice (Bebe) Smith
- Kiki Smith
- Seton Smith
- Wolfgang Staehle
- Anton van Dalen
- Sophie VDT
- Tom Warren
- Robin Winters
- David Little, Colab Takes a Piece, History Takes It Back: Collectivity and New York Alternative Spaces, Art Journal Vol.66, No. 1, Spring 2007, College Art Association, New York, pp. 60-74.
- Julie Ault. Alternative Art, New York, 1965-1985 University of Minnesota Press, 2002: p.217.
- Marc Masters, (2007) No Wave, Black Dog Publishing, London, p. 141
- Carlo McCormick, The Downtown Book: The New York Art Scene, 1974–1984, Princeton University Press, 2006
- The Red Book, 1978 (NEA application document authored by Coleen Fitzgibbon, Andrea Callard and Ulli Rimkus) Andrea Callard Papers, The Downtown Collection, Fales Library, NYU
-  David Little, Artjounal pdf file
- Alan W. Moore, Artists' Collectives: Focus on New York, 1975-2000 in Collectivism After Modernism: The Art of Social Imagination after 1945, Blake Stimson & Gregory Sholette, (eds) University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2007, pp. 193-221
- Colab Redux installation
- Colab Redux PR
- A Show about Colab (and Related Activities)
- Times Square Show Revisited
- Preserving That Great Performance - XFR STN Offers a Digital Update at the New Museum - article in the New York Times
- XFR STN at the New Museum
-  Tom Warren, Photo Portfolio COLAB Artists Portraits, 1981-1984
- Julie Ault, Alternative Art, New York, 1965-1985, University of Minnesota Press, 2002.
- Grace Glueck, Up With People, Collaborative Projects exhibition review, New York Times, January 6, 1984.
- David Little, Colab Takes a Piece, History Takes It Back: Collectivity and New York Alternative Spaces, Art Journal Vol.66, No. 1, Spring 2007, College Art Association, New York, pp. 60–74 (Article )
- Marc Masters, No Wave, Black Dog Publishing, London, 2007.
- Carlo McCormick, The Downtown Book: The New York Art Scene, 1974–1984, Princeton University Press, 2006.
- Alan W. Moore, Artists' Collectives: Focus on New York, 1975-2000 in Collectivism After Modernism: The Art of Social Imagination after 1945, Blake Stimson & Gregory Sholette, (eds) University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2007, pp. 193–221.
- Alan W. Moore and Marc Miller (eds), ABC No Rio Dinero: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery, Collaborative Projects, NY, 1985.
- The Red Book, 1978 (NEA application document authored by Coleen Fitzgibbon, Andrea Callard and Ulli Rimkus) Andrea Callard Papers, The Downtown Collection, Fales Library, NYU.
-  “Colab” section from ABC No Rio: The Story of a Lower East Side Art Gallery
-  A Show about Colab (and Related Activities) October 15 – November 30, 2011 at Printed Matter, Inc
-  Review of "A Show About Colab (and Related Activities)" at Printed Matter Inc by Colby Chamberlain in Artforum Magazine
-  Colab related Art Film & Video listing
-  "Book report" discussing Colab history and members
-  Interview with Jenny Holzer with discussion of Colab
-  Raphael Rubinstein, "When bad was good: the art scene of downtown Manhattan ca. 1974-1984 is resurrected in a show that originated in New York and is now in Pittsburgh" Art in America (June-July 2006)
-  "Colab Redux" 2008 art exhibition of Colab members at Brooke Alexander Gallery
-  Colab related Artists Cable Television listing (Potatoe Wolf)
- Colab at UbuWeb
-  Colab Archive
-  XFR STN project web archive at Internet Archive
-  Colab artists texts concerning the New Museum XFR STN project at Internet Archive