Zito Studio Gallery, Lower East Side, NYC 2002 – 2006

Zito Studio Gallery was located at 122 Ludlow Street between Delancey and Rivington. In direct response to the flight from New York caused by the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001, Zito decided this was the time to really drop roots and he rented a storefront for $1375 a month on Ludlow Street. There he hung out his shingle and began painting portraits of people in the neighborhood on objects and materials scrounged from their streets. His classical, expressionist portraits, slapped with ease onto these odd canvases, became an essential part of the cultural landscape of the Lower East Side in the early 2000s. Zito Gallery became a meeting place, a clubhouse, where neighborhood people could feel free to drop in at any time, sit on the couch, shoot the breeze, and spin records. Many times Zito would be busily working away on a portrait or painting the walls for the next exhibition.

Gentrification Arrives…

All the while, as he worked on his paintings and welcomed the people of his neighborhood inside, the streets around this idyllic storefront were undergoing a drastic change. Entire city blocks would be leveled to the ground almost overnight and the dirty, ornate, historic tenement buildings that made up all the flavor of this legendary neighborhood would give way to glossy, impersonal, corporate high-rises. Where once stood the sign for a humble dive bar, a massive backlit bank logo now glared across the street at the residents. Zito Studio Gallery closed on August 31, 2002, and on that very night the Lower East Side was treated to a wildly memorable evening at what Zito promoted as “One Last Anti-Gentrification Freakout” – his closing party on Ludlow Street. The party filled the block until the wee hours of the morning with costumed revelers honoring the demise of yet another neighborhood outpost. The Lower East Side would forever be changed from that point on. There would be no turning back to the once vibrant, creative, diverse, and colorful neighborhood that was Manhattan’s Lower East Side.