Colab came together as a collective in 1977, first using the name Green Corporation, and initially received an NEA Workshop Grant through Center for New Art Activities, Inc., a small not-for-profit formed in 1974.
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.
Advocating a form of cultural activism that was purely artist driven, the group created artworks, negotiated venues, curated shows, crafted their own PR, and engaged in discourse that responded to the political themes and predicaments of their time, among them the recessions of the 1970s, the Reagan era of budget cuts and nuclear armament, the housing crisis and gentrification in New York City, and other pressing social issues.
From November 1978, different artist members organized and installed original one-off group shows in their own studios or other temporary sites, such as "The Batman Show," (591 Broadway 1979), "Income and Wealth Show" (5 Bleecker Store 1979), "Doctors & Dentists Show" (591 Broadway 1979), The Manifesto Show (5 Bleecker Store 1979), "The Dog Show" (591 Broadway 1979), "Just Another Asshole Show" (5 Bleecker Store), The Real Estate Show (Delancey Street, Jan. 1980), Jay St film shows 1979, Exhibit A (93 Grand Street, 1979) and, notably, The Times Square Show (201 W 41st, June 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 (Green Corp.) workshop grant through Center for New Art Inc. led to the creation of Colab artists' TV series on Manhattan Cable (1978–1984) "All Color News," "Potato Wolf" and "Red Curtain", 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 continued publication of X Motion Picture Magazine(1979), whose first issue preceded the formation of Colab; support and inspiration for the ABC No Rio cultural center (1980-82 (ongoing) created from the Real Estate Show; support of the Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine (1984), NightShift Theater 1979, Spanner Magazine (3 issues 1979), MWF Video Club (established in 1986) and Bomb Magazine (1981). 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.
A Book About Colab (and Related Activities)
In 2016 "A Book About Colab (and Related Activities)" was published by Printed Matter, Inc. It was edited by Max Schumann, the director of Printed Matter, and contained a Foreword and Afterword by art writer and Colab member Walter Robinson. The book traces the output of Collaborative Projects from the late 1970s through the mid 1980s and serves as an exhaustive homage to the group’s work and a testimonial about their particular practice of collaboration, collectivity, and social engagement, while reflecting an iconic period of NYC cultural history. In keeping with the democratic "by and for artists" ethos of Colab, the publication places this material alongside newly solicited texts from many of the group’s members – a mix of reflections and anecdotes, statements, manifestos, and excerpts from the ‘Colab Annual Report’, which provide a close perspective on the meaning of Colab for those who came into its orbit.
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 1970s through the mid 1980s, 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 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's 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 15 at Soho House in New York City with discussion with Tom Otterness.
In early 2014, there were four concurrent art exhibitions in New York City around The Real Estate Show: at James Fuentes Gallery, ABC No Rio, the Lodge Gallery, and Cuchifritos Gallery/Essex Street Market. That year also Art International Radio featured an interview and conversation between Jane Dickson, Coleen Fitzgibbon, and Becky Howland about Colab and the 1980 The Real Estate Show which birthed the ABC No Rio cultural center.
From April 15 to May 15, 2016, Printed Matter, Inc presented a restating of The A. More Store, a Colab-sponsored artists’ outlet for low-priced multiples from the early 1980s The selling exhibition included over 100 artworks from over 50 participating Colab members, including works on loan from historic A. More Stores. The first A. More Store evolved from the Gift Shop at the legendary Colab-organized Times Square Show and appeared shortly after on Broome Street in 1980 with the tag-line “You won’t pay more at the A. More Store”. Other iterations of the store were later presented at Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Jack Tilton Gallery, White Columns, and Printed Matter, Inc.
Clocktower Productions web exhibited The Colab Vinyl Mix, an 80-minute audio mix (aired 5/9/16) of no wave, hip hop, anti-pop, punk, funk, and noise music. These sounds provided the soundtrack to Colab art productions in the 1980s. The playlist was assembled by Sandra Seymour, Mark C of Live Skull, and Robert Goldman (Bobby G). The audio files were captured from the original vinyl record by the producers and illustrate the world of such legendary projects as The Times Square Show, The Real Estate Show, ABC No Rio, Fashion Moda. The mix includes the post-punk sounds of Y Pants, DNA, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Alan Vega, The Lounge Lizards, Bush Tetras, Glenn Branca as The Static, ESG, Robin Crutchfield, Afrika Bambaataa and others.
Between April 20 and May 15, 2016 an art historic street posters show from 1984 called Talk is Cheap at Printed Matter, Inc. Sponsored by Colab and organized by John Hogan in 1984, the show featured 47 two-color broadsides posted in the streets around downtown New York. The posters addressed political and economic issues of the time. The original ephemeral exhibition lasted a few days, as the posters were covered by signage and eventually posted over. Colab collaborators include Charlie Ahearn, Jane Dickson, Kiki Smith, Joseph Nechvatal, Jolie Stahl, Mitch Corber, Andrea Callard, Christy Rupp, Alan W. Moore, and others.
In June 2017, Becky Howland & Matthias Mayer curated The Real Estate Show at Spor Klubu in Berlin, drawing from documentation of the original Real Estate Show (1980) from the Archive Collection of the extant project space ABC No Rio. Included in the show were Robert Cooney, Mitch Corber, Peter Fend, Coleen Fitzgibbon, Bobby G (Robert Goldman), Ilona Granet, Becky Howland, Christof Kohlhofer, Gregory Lehmann, Ann Messner, Peter Mönnig, Alan Moore, Joseph Nechvatal, Cara Perlman, Scott Pfaffman, Christy Rupp and Robin Winters. In conjunction with this show, another exhibition called The Real Estate Show Extended/Berlin: Group exhibition on the subject of Gentrification, Real Estate Speculation and Selling out the City was presented at Kunstpunkt Berlin. This show included many Berlin artists along with four original members of the Real Estate Show (1980): Becky Howland, Peter Mönnig, Alan Moore, and Joseph Nechvatal. Howland, Mönnig, Moore and Nechvatal also participated in a panel discussion on Real Estate and Art on June 3, 2017 that was moderated by Howard McCalebb of Dada Post, Berlin.
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
- David Hammons (participated in "The Times Square Show")
- Julie Harrison
- John Hogan
- Jenny Holzer
- G. H. Hovagimyan
- Becky Howland
- Lisa Kahane
- Christof Kohlhofer
- Fred Krughoff
- Justen Ladda
- Mary Lemley
- Joe Lewis
- Peggy Lynn (Peggy Katz)
- 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
- Sandra Seymour
- Jane Sherry
- Teri Slotkin
- Beatrice (Bebe) Smith
- Kiki Smith
- Seton Smith
- Wolfgang Staehle
- Jolie Stahl
- Anton van Dalen
- Sophie VDT
- Tom Warren
- Robin Winters
- TV Party
- The Poetry Project's Public Access Poetry
- Jamie Davidovich's The Live! Show (1979-1984)
- The Coca Crystal Show: If I Can’t Dance, You Can Keep Your Revolution
- East Village Eye
- 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
- Max Schumann (ed.) A Book about Colab (and Related Activities) Printed Matter, Inc, 2016: pp.9-11
- Max Schumann (ed.) A Book about Colab (and Related Activities) Printed Matter, Inc, 2016: pp.9-11
- Max Schumann (ed.) A Book about Colab (and Related Activities) Printed Matter, Inc, 2016: pp.120-135
- Colab 78-80 (1978-80): Anybody's Show; End of the World; July 4, 1980; Real Estate Show; Shipwreck; Dance of the Leper; All Color News (Colab)
- 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
- "For $1, a Collective Mixing Art and Radical Politics Turns Itself Into Its Own Landlord". The New York Times. July 4, 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
- Max Schumann (ed.) A Book about Colab (and Related Activities) Printed Matter, Inc, 2016: p.9
- A More Store & A Book About Colab (and Related Activities
- 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". The New York Times.
- XFR STN at the New Museum
-  Tom Warren, Photo Portfolio COLAB Artists Portraits, 1981-1984
-  Article on James Fuentes Gallery show Real Estate Show, Then...And Now
-  Lower East Side: The Real Estate Show Redux by Natasha Kurchanova at Studio International
-  The Real Estate Show Revisited
-  Art International Radio Colab interview
-  Printed Matter, Inc Exhibition for A More Store & A Book About Colab (and Related Activities)
- The Colab Vinyl Mix
-  Event Exhibition for A More Store & A Book About Colab (and Related Activities) at Printed Matter, Inc.
-  The Real Estate Show at Kunstpunkt Berlin
- Julie Ault, Alternative Art, New York, 1965-1985, University of Minnesota Press, 2002.
- Grace Glueck, Up With People, Collaborative Projects exhibition review, The 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 (Potato 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
-  The Colab Vinyl Mix at Clocktower Radio