Rosco Louie

87 S Washington Street

Contemporary photo of Rosco Louie location
Left to right, Tracey Rowland, Larry Reid and Randy Eriksen standing in front of Peter Santino's paintings at Rosco Louie, March 3, 1980

In 1978 a newly arrived photographer, Randy Ericksen, rented a tiny gallery space in the neighborhood. By February 1979, he’d befriended Seattle punk culture impresarios Larry Reid and Tracey Rowland and together they moved the gallery to this larger venue and created a uniquely subversive art emporium/gallery/event space called Rosco Louie. The venue’s odd name was a clever reference to old West Coast driving lingo, as in: “At the upcoming intersection hang a louie” [turn left], or “hang a rosco” [turn right].

Their debut exhibit was titled “Needles and Pins,” followed by “Pawn Shop,” and then a show of Xerox art by Reis Neimi. The gallery usually featured a rock or reggae soundtrack and offered coffee to visitors. Its stated goal was “to make art fun … Get it off the pedestal and make it a dialog rather than a monolog.”

On November 25, 1979, the gallery upped its game of provocation by featuring performance art and visual art by Johanna Went along with confrontational music by one of Seattle’s earliest punk bands, Chinas Comidas. That event had a ripple effect throughout the nascent punk and rad art scenes, forging a wild reputation that Rosco Louie would thrive on. Years of interesting exhibits and events awaited, including “Great Guns”; the “No More Nostalgia” modern youth fashion show; January 1980’s predictive “Famous Artists of the Eighties”; the “Ground Zero” anti-nukes multimedia show; the Off The Wall Players’ “This Won’t Hurt Too Much” show; an “Etch-A-Sketch Invitational” competition; and the “Prices Slashed! Art Sale” show, which was promoted as featuring “Cheap Art … plus … boring travel slides of Hong Kong, Burma and points east … Don’t miss this opportunity to nap!”

Every exhibit revealed artistic and curatorial imagination and spunk, but it was those nights when bands performed that had the greatest impact, including shows by New Wave pioneers the Beakers, the Blackouts, Face Ditch, the Fastbacks, Steve Fisk, the Living, Pell Mell, Student Nurse, Supershaft, 3 Swimmers, and Young Scientist, plus readings by Seattle’s disturbing poet Jesse Bernstein. In addition, the gallery hosted performances by national touring acts including Eric Bogosian, the Bush Tetras, DNA, the Raybeats, and Tuxedo Moon. Rosco Louie can also be credited with offering early support to numerous up-and-coming cartoonists including Lynda Barry, Gary Panter, Carl Smool, and Payton Wilkinson.

In 1982 Reid and Rowland moved on and soon launched new hijinks at their Graven Image Gallery (at 311 S Washington Street).

Continue down S Washington Street, turning left at Alaskan Way.

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