Wednesday, November 15 2006 @ 04:29 AM EST
 


Linus Corragio



Linus Corragio

From: portraits.new


with the big Siciliana



with the big Siciliana

From: STUDIO


Reiko Tagaki



Reiko Tagaki

From: PORTRAITS


Ron Weissman 3



Ron Weissman 3

From: portraits.new


Mick Jagger 2



Mick Jagger 2

From: ALBUM COVERS


with the big Siciliana



with the big Siciliana

From: STUDIO


Sarena Wallach



Sarena Wallach

From: portraits.new


Guernica chandelier



Guernica chandelier

From: SCULPTURE


Carol Gimble 2



Carol Gimble 2

From: portraits.new


Simon Sun



Simon Sun

From: portraits.new


Thats some tan, guy.



Thats some tan, guy.

From: STUDIO


Joel Magee



Joel Magee

From: PORTRAITS


Luli



Luli

From: portraits.new


Alejandra Joffroy



Alejandra Joffroy

From: PORTRAITS


Rocky



Rocky

From: ALBUM COVERS





New Work!

Archival Giclée Prints Available of most images on site


Indicate title and size

22”x 30” print for $350 and 11”x 13” for $65
Contact zito@zitogallery.com

And to inquire about commissioned portraits
or original artworks

Images from Closing Party
in "Studio" section of "Gallery" page

Zito currently working
in the Fun Factory, LIC


This is the story of Zito Studio Gallery and the gentrification of the Lower East Side
By Otis Nyanto


After ten years of struggle as an artist in New York, Antony Zito finally achieved his dream. With a loan from his father, his best friend, he was able to sign the lease on a tiny storefront in his neighborhood, where he could create and exhibit his artwork. It was a dream come true and every minute he could spare was spent down on the quiet end of Ludlow Street happily painting away.

Zito began discussing the lease with his future landlord at a time when no-one wanted to be in New York at all. It was December 2001, just a few months after the Twin Towers were bombed and there was a sense of dread all throughout the city as odd, military, moon units whizzed through the streets eerily glazed in white dust. Thousands had died a mere mile away from Zito’s home and the blocks of his neighborhood were under Marshall Law patrolled by MPs weilding machine guns. Pedestrians on the street all wore gas masks or bandanas over their faces, as the toxic remains of a million burnt cubicles and their contents blanketed the entire area.

Many people lost faith in their city and grew fearful of another attack. It was a strange time to live in Lower Manhattan, a time in which Zito had helped many good friends pack their bags and move out of town. But there were a segment of determined New Yorkers who refused to leave their smoldering city. Some people would not allow themselves to go into the fear created by the attacks and sensationalized by the media.

Zito was one of those people. The fears of the populous were clearly illustrated in the classified ads by a rare dip in the price of rent from one week to the next. Zito signed a lease for the store at 122 Ludlow Street just before New Year’s Eve 2001.

No one wanted that store. It was on the dead end block of Ludlow where the foot traffic faded into the ghetto. There was a greasy Chinese restaurant across the street and an old duct-taped luggage shop next door.

But for Zito, it was love at first sight. The old wooden door with its cast iron handle and the decorative medallions encircling antiquated gas-lamp pipes still on the ceiling created an old-world charm that was irresistible to him. With the help of his new friend, Marcela, visiting from Miami, Zito began painting the floors and clearing out the debris and garbage left by the last tenant. An Italian designer whose business had failed, keeping the landlord in court for over six months, was the only tenant the space has seen after its 50 plus years as an underwear storage room. Folks who have been in the neighborhood a long time remember Irwin and his mother, Hasidic Jews, setting up their wooden stand for the last half century, peddling skivvies out in front while the entire store stood stuffed with moldy boxes.

Zito had no plan laid out but knew that somehow he would come up with that rent every month – no matter what. With antique letters he found in a barn in upstate New York, and an old florescent light fixture dredged from the debris outside the infamous Cuando squat, Zito constructed the lighted sign that would make him a household name in the neighborhood.

For the next few years, Zito painted and exhibited and worked and played in his little store, all the while taking odd jobs as an art-handler or a gallery assistant or a man-with-a-van. He started selling his work almost immediately and, as more people came to notice this unique little shop, his reputation as a portrait painter grew, making his gallery a regular destination.

Zito was beginning to become known for his particular style of painting. Not only were his portraits instantly recognizable through their bold classicism but the objects that he chose to paint on were specifically unique. He had gotten into the habit of collecting interesting discarded items off the street; mirrors, doors, tabletops and suitcases. He was known to paint his brightly colored, realistically rendered portraits on everything from a violin case to a barber-chair booster seat; from an old guitar to an antique Kotex dispenser.

But it was the eyes of his subjects that spoke volumes. Time after time, unsuspecting people would wander into his studio, where he worked in full view of the public, and become enthralled with the subtle yet powerful energy glowing from the faces – specifically the eyes – of his paintings. Most of the people who came into Zito's gallery left with the feeling that they had stumbled upon something precious. And they had. They had found the last hold-out of real true art in a city that was quickly turning beige. It soon became widely known that Zito had a natural ability to see deeply into the soul of his model and to translate that vision into a beautiful rendering of their face.

A couple of years into it, Zito took the plunge and dropped all his other sources of income to dedicate his complete time and energy to his gallery and portrait studio. There were quiet spells, but overall he found that he could make his living painting portraits on commission and selling his personal artwork right off the walls. This was a major personal achievement for him and, without any expectation of doing so, he found himself actually running a small business.

Many changes and interesting scenes unfolded in this incredible little space, which he had transformed from a dour undergarment storehouse to the energetic central hub of the Lower East Side arts community. Working collectively with other small galleries, Zito formed The Every Last Sunday Art Loop, a tour of the independent art spaces in the neighborhood. He began teaching art classes and doing private tutoring, declaring that he could teach anyone to paint. His students, who came fron all levels of talent and expertise, always left inspired, often seeing for the first time in their lives the direct and powerful correlation between the relationships within a painting and the applications of the very same practices in daily life. He insisted on giving his students the tools of knowledge needed to paint on their own, without a dependent relationship created between student and teacher. His lessons emphasized the importance of one’s own experience and the undeniable understanding that it imbued.

Zito hung hundreds of paintings on his walls every month, rotating the stock as the new, fresher work came to be. Lower East Siders would come in at all times of the day and night to find recognizable renderings of their friends and neighbors displayed on the walls, interspersed with iconic images of the likes of Sitting Bull and Jimi Hendrix. He collected old album covers and painted musicians on them. He painted abstractions on mother-boards, he painted calligraphic abbreviations of faces on sheet music. He painted a girl on a muffler, himself on a garbage can and his lover, a beautiful Spanish woman, on the back of a broken cello.

Always with several places to sit, Zito’s studio became a meeting place for people of all ages and they would come in laughing or crying, smiling or hurt, all with something to share with their friend, the artist. A very giving person, Zito would always listen patiently, often times having been pulled from his work, his compassion overriding the need to continue his productive flow.

Zito made constant improvements to the appearance of his space, such as the black and gold letters elegantly painted across his window reading, “FINE ART”, with the ‘sit at your own risk’ bench constructed of welded scrap metal just below it, in front of the store. He painted the interior walls of his space a warm, mustard yellow and, set against the bright red floors, the room positively glowed. He found that hanging his work on these golden walls seemed to accentuate the earthy and colorful tones in his paintings creating a feeling of softness and vibrancy that white walls didn’t have. A computer and a credit card machine were added out of necessity while the piles of scrap materials and finished paintings in the basement below the store grew to uncontrollable proportions.

The “company car”, as he called it, demonstrated Zito’s love of junk and his sense of humor. It was a few decades past of one of Toyota’s finest and tiniest pick-ups fashioned with a wooden flatbed, a home-grown Von Dutch flame-job, a chrome cobra-head shifter and chrome longhorns on the roof. With his web address painted in red, black and gold across the sideboards, the artist’s presence, whether driving or parked, was quite notably ‘high profile’.

As articles of press began to roll in, he laminated and posted them outside his door as he’d seen other establishments do. He received acclaim from the Voice, the Post, the Times, Time Out, L Magazine, The Robb Report, New York Arts Magazine, AM New York, Black Book Magazine, the Villager and New York Press as well as numerous other publications, webzines and travel guides. His paintings entered hundreds of collections including those of celebrities like Ronnie Dunn, Thora Birch, Michael Musto, Patrick McMullan and hundreds of lesser known individuals.

Zito was approached by Jim Jarmusch’s production team, through which he met the celebrated director and contributed work to two of his films; Coffee and Cigarettes and Broken Flowers. Photos showing his painting of Lee Marvin alongside The White Stripes were shown in publications worldwide, including Entertainment Weekly. Profiled by Japanese television and interviewed in a Spanish magazine, Zito was quickly becoming a Lower Manhattan icon of the arts but, as his reputation grew stronger, his demeanor remained calm, humble and compassionate.

The death of his father, his dearest friend and greatest teacher, followed by the deaths of his two closest pals, triggered a massive transformation in the artist. It was in the spring of 2005, that Zito discovered the power of raw food and nutritional cleansing and, due in part to the drastic physical change he underwent, became a sort of neighborhood spokesman on the subject. In just a few weeks, his entire body and face had transfomed, leaving him 45 pounds lighter and more energetic. People who knew him before were amazed at the renewed spark of life in his eyes and the incredible rise in his energy. He had become instantly ten years younger.

“It wasn’t so much the weight he lost but the look in his eyes,” said his neighbor Marty Kirschner. “After switching to the raw food diet, he looked like a different person.”

Zito’s artwork began to flourish after this miraculous change and, with so many people coming to him asking how they could do the same, he was a little overwhelmed. But he spoke with people frequently about the renewed energy in his body and the incredible flow of consciousness in his mind and helped them to understand that this was possible for anyone to achieve. As well as his monthly openings and art tours, he began hosting raw food potluck dinners at the gallery on Friday nights, attracting people from all walks of life curious about art and nutrition.

An active participant in the HOWL Festival, Zito hosted art openings in his space during the East Village’s annual event and would spend the entire weekend doing live painting performances at Art Around the Park, during Wigstock and the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival at Thomkins Square Park. This was when he really shone, combining painting with performance, a practice he has indulged in many times over.

For over a decade, Zito has been a conspicuous character at Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade, usually astride a decorated bike-float, painted from head to toe in bright blue, green, yellow, orange, red, purple, pink or white body paint and outrageous sunglasses. Years of Mermaid Parades have seen Zito on the news or in the papers several times as a colorful representation of New York’s most bizarre celebration of summer.

The openings at Zito Studio Gallery were crowded and energetic affairs. One wall of the narrow room was designated for the work of a guest artist or group of artists every month, punctuated by a public reception featuring an array of local personalities and art stars. One such group exhibition featured small works by over 50 New York artists, packing hundreds of people into and around the tiny 250 square foot gallery. While curating the exhibition of Mexican artist, Primitivo Cuevas, Zito created a Lucha Libre wrestling theme, where both he and the guest artist painted images of Mexican wrestlers, wore Lucha Libre Masks and actually conducted wrestling matches in the middle of the gallery during the opening. No wrestlers were harmed in the making of this mess and a good time was had by all.

But the fun was soon to end.

In a letter stuffed in the handle of the door to his gallery, Zito discovered one sunny afternoon, that his landlord, Allan Luke, was no longer interested in having him as a tenant. Meanwhile, the store two doors down, which had been rented at $2500 a year ago, again lay vacant, home to yet another failed business. The new rent for the space was slated at a nausea-inducing $4200 a month. So, even though he had negotiated and come to a verbal agreement, with a lease signed by the tenant on his desk, Mr. Luke ultimately refused to sign, stating that his reason for doing so was that Mr. Zito was consistently a few weeks late with the rent.

It didn’t matter that Zito had been a good tenant, never complaining or causing any trouble. It didn’t matter that the tenant and landlord had a decent and polite relationship. It didn’t matter that Zito’s store was up and running while two others, in the same row of buildings, had come and gone. It didn’t matter that Zito was the first new store on the block in decades - that he pioneered that particular segment of real estate, inherently making the area more pleasing to prospective tenants, raising the property value off the entire building. And it certainly didn’t matter that Zito’s presence in the neighborhood was contributing a much-needed element of culture to a dying arts community. What mattered was the fat new rent the space would now fetch.

A young man’s livelihood and the career he had built was hardly a karmic consideration here in the toxic realm of unconscious capitalism. What had begun as a supportive and understanding relationship between a kind landlord and a hopeful artist, faded into a cold, impersonal letter of eviction.

Is it possible that the laws of the universe apply to more than just money? Is this abstract, created by man, the only rule that governs our lives? Are we so locked into our fear that we can’t give a little to our neighbors, safe in the knowledge that no kind gesture goes unrewarded? Is there any way for a person in business to be kind and generous instead of bleeding dry the relationships he has established? Is there a way for humankind to evolve into a place of understanding and compassion instead of fear and avarice?

As the rents in the Lower East Side reach astronomical levels, rivalled only by the heights of the buildings now being constructed, residents of this once-quiet artist colony have little choice but to kiss their lovable neighborhood good-bye. True - this is an area of constant flux, but none so rapid and senseless as the change being forced upon it in recent years. There were once zoning laws prohibiting the construction of buildings over 6 floors but, for whatever reason ($), these laws have been swept under the carpet along with the vibrant sense of culture that made the neighborhood an attraction to begin with.

Isn’t it sad that we destroy the things we love by trying to possess them? The imperialistic urge to own and exploit is a tragic characteristic of current human nature and it leaves in its wake once thriving ecosystems necessary to the survival of many species.

For years to come, visitors to New York and locals alike will return to Ludlow Street with the sole intention of popping in to say hello to Zito, to see his latest creations and to speak with the man who inspired so many to open their hearts and believe in the power of art once again. And they will find another slick, overpriced boutique instead.
Please come to the final closing party at the gallery Thursday August 31st at 8:pm


RSS
P O R T R A I T S
O T H E R - P A I N T I N G S
S C U L P T U R E
I L L U S T R A T I O N
I N F O / P R E S S / C O N T A C T

Benadetta Ballucci, oil on canvas, 5' x 8'

Lee Marvin, featured in Jim Jarmusch's COFFEE & CIGARETTES

Pete Townsend, Album Cover Project to be exhibited at Barneys, Beverly Hills

- The Angel Sculpture - a tribute to John Zito Jr.


by phone and email



Zito can be reached at
212.673.9074
see CONTACT page




"The downtown demimonde turned out... spent the evening literally watching paint dry as downtown artist Zito whipped out amazingly realistic 15-minute portraits of the party guests. Snapper extraordinaire McMullan, whose portrait was painted on a floral bathroom cabinet door, purchased his likeness on the spot." -- Page Six, NY Post

"Antony Zito is a master of the found object, rendering breezy designs on old 78s or a winsome portrait on a discarded car muffler." --Village Voice

"Zito is able to use his substantial skill as a painter to navigate the tricky landscape between capturing a likeness, unveiling the sitter's character, expressing the subliminal connections between the sitter and the found object, and finally creating a portrait that borders more on a sublime reflection of the sitter's being than 'hey, great, that looks like me'." -- NY Arts Magazine

"Sensual Oil Paintings" -- NY Post

"Zito is one of my very favorite New York artists, partly because he thinks of himself as an artisan (he likes to make paintings on commission) and partly because he¹s just a really fine and inventive painter. I have two of his paintings, one is a portrait of Lee Marvin (commissioned for my film COFFEE AND CIGARETTES) and one of the Ethiopian master musician Mulatu Astatke (commissioned for my new film, currently in post-production). I value them greatly. I hope for a few more in the future. Hats off to Zito! -- Jim Jarmusch

"Zito can capture your essence by painting on a found object for 20 minutes more effectively than more formal and pretentious artists can
do by fussing on a canvas for weeks. A genius!"
-- Michael Musto, Village Voice

"Antony Zito took an old flowered cabinet door and transformed it into a cool, realistic portrait of myself that I felt compelled to buy on the spot.(I don't even like looking at myself either) did I mention he did it in about 7 minutes because there is no way I could sit any longer. The best quick portrait painter in the business, with an amazing artistic flair. This guy is amazing." -- Patrick McMullan, Celebrity Photographer.





All artwork ©  Antony Zito 2005



 Michael Ricardo Andreev + Zito opening @ Zito Studio gallery

  

Wednesday, February 09 2005 @ 06:25 PM EST
Views: 1101





 Zito Art @ Voting Reform FUNdraiser Tues 1/18 Ukrainian National Home

  

Tuesday, January 18 2005 @ 02:42 PM EST
Views: 903





 Mike Ruffino Book Release Party (legendary Unband documentarian) this Thurs.

  

Tuesday, December 14 2004 @ 02:35 PM EST
Views: 842




Christopher "Noodles" Graziano



Christopher "Noodles" Graziano

From: WATERCOLORS


Infinity SS at the Closing Party



Infinity SS at the Closing Party

From: STUDIO


Joey Ramone



Joey Ramone

From: portraits.new


Francie Fillatti



Francie Fillatti

From: PORTRAITS


artstars! Kymber, Primitivo and Theresa Byrnes



artstars! Kymber, Primitivo and Theresa Byrnes

From: STUDIO


Lynette



Lynette

From: portraits.new


Blue Sparks



Blue Sparks

From: THE COMPANY CAR - R.I.P.


Diana DeLeon



Diana DeLeon

From: PORTRAITS


Peter Cox



Peter Cox

From: portraits.new


Self Portrait in the Rain



Self Portrait in the Rain

From: portraits.new


Babe in the Woods - Penny Arcade



Babe in the Woods - Penny Arcade

From: PORTRAITS


Self Portrait with Beard



Self Portrait with Beard

From: PORTRAITS


Kim Savage



Kim Savage

From: PORTRAITS


Does Red Bastard have bun in the oven?



Does Red Bastard have bun in the oven?

From: EVENTS and OTHER SHOTS


Smokey



Smokey

From: portraits.new


Mimi Keen 3



Mimi Keen 3

From: PORTRAITS




Zito Studio Gallery

Company Car - R.I.P.

Photos from Events

          
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