A SYRACUSE REBEL IN NEW YORK: In the late summer of 1959, I moved to the Lower East Side, renting a $56.00 a month railroad type apartment on 10th Street and Avenue C. This was once a Jewish neighborhood which had become Puerto Rican except for the bakery, where I regularly bought a large round loaf of rye bread for 50 cents. My apartment was one flight up, a few blocks from where Allen Ginsberg lived; the bathtub was in the kitchen. I met a few artists and joined the co-op gallery called “The Brata” located on 3rd Avenue and 10th Street, one of the remaining co-ops from the previous 10th Street era. At the gallery, I had a one man show and participated in group shows.
I had developed my own method of making sculpture by using sand to cast hydrocal, so I needed a space on the ground floor. I found a single storefront at 217 East 2nd Street near Avenue C for $60.00 a month. My companion Elsa and I loaded all of our belongings in a rented push cart and making several trips at night, we moved. The neighborhood looked tough. I had several skulls and bones from cows and hung them on the front store window together with one of my early sculptures which was coated with black tar. I lit the whole thing with candles. It was a strange voodoo-like sight in the night. In today’s terminology, it would probably be considered the earliest installation by an artist in that area. The neighbors and the Puerto Rican children on the following days gathered around the window thinking I was a “brujo”. One day, when my door was opened they saw a big black box that I used for sand casting one of the children remarked, “That’s where the magician cuts the lady in half.” The gypsy living in the storefront at the end of the block came over, knocked on my door wanting to know why I, who was not a gypsy, was living in a storefront. I invited her in, told her I was an artist, and showed her some of my work. ►more
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THE BLACK GATE THEATRE: Holding true to the philosophy of the underground that art can be created outside the restriction of expensive equipment and materials, I continued to work in many art forms. Therefore, it was a natural progression to treat my films in a physical way by experimenting with painting, drawing and burning on clear leader and scratching, punching holes and eating away the emulsion on black leader later, using chemicals which caused me to develop severe allergies. Simultaneously, I was working on 35 mm sequential images on slides. I produced my first 4 minute film called “BLACK IS.” The Grove Press Film Catalog which later distributed almost all of my films described “BLACK IS,” “To the sound of a heartbeat and made entirely without the use of a camera, this film projects abstract forms and illuminations on a night-black background and suggests says Tambellini, ‘seed black, seed black, sperm black, sperm black’.”
One day, while walking on the street, I found a large discarded roll of what was then computer tape. The punched out holes was data in a language understood by a computer. I transferred this language onto clear leader by using this tape as a stencil, spraying the holes with black paint. By projecting this leader, I realized the frantic action that the frames produced forming a new visual language through its images. I began to collect leader from Japanese films whose markings were different, other found footage and scraps of film. A filmmaker sold me a used Bolex Camera for $300 and I started shooting film. After endless hours of editing, viewing and re-editing a series of film which were “sensory experiences” was born. My 10 films became paintings in motion. ►more