“I remember picking up the phone and telling my friends, ‘I did something crazy — but let’s do it together,’ ” says artist Izhar Patkin. This was 1994, and he had hastily put a down payment on an abandoned East Village public school that was newly up for sale. It took some convincing, but Patkin assembled a band of new housemates: The first tenants included a fashion editor, a musician, a documentary filmmaker, and a photographer. Over the years, the collective grew and transformed into a proper co-op, but back in the day Patkin had his pick of the rooms. And the only space he wanted was the ground floor — never mind that the windows were boarded up with tin and the wooden floorboards had been scorched in a fire. “I walked in and immediately was able to envision the whole thing as you see it now,” he says.
But his loft’s design can vary from one visit to the next. Patkin’s constantly shape-shifting home studio is an extension of his own work as well as a collaboration with other artists. Some of the first people Patkin worked with, back in the early ’80s, were the downtown gallerist Holly Solomon — who facilitated MoMA’s acquisition of his “Black Paintings” — and Kim MacConnel, whose startlingly bright hand-painted furniture graces Patkin’s labyrinth of rooms.
For the past few years, Patkin has been collaborating with the painter Scooter LaForge (whose large-scale graffiti-inspired paintings he first saw at the Howl! Happening gallery) on turning the living quarters into a freewheeling painter’s studio of sorts. LaForge is a fan of ancient Grecian amphorae, so he painted figures on a wall that was already the approximate shade of the Bronze Age vessels’ burnished orange. Meanwhile, over in the kitchen, LaForge decided to expand on his 15-by-6-foot canvas inspired by Tintoretto’s Creation of the Animals (completed in 1551 for the Trinity School in Venice) and painted the whole wall, the A/C vent included. As for the “chandelier” above the kitchen island: It’s an improvised dish rack. “It wasn’t really planned,” Patkin says. “I had a shitload of glass that needed to be put somewhere.”
*This article appears in the April 15, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!