The ’70s were a wild time to be in Bushwick: following a major blackout in 1977, shops and homes were devastated in a wave of riots and looting. Meryl Meisler began teaching art at a public school there in 1981 and spent her early adulthood capturing both the hedonistic disco scene of Manhattan and the bombed-out streets of de-industrializing North Brooklyn. The native New Yorker’s snapshots, taken during the height of the city’s crack epidemic, will go on display Friday as part of Bushwick Open Studios.
“It wasn’t work, it was play,” Meisler explains, laughing. “It was my life.” She eventually accumulated boxes of photographs, which remained in storage for decades. In 2007, a stranger asked her to contribute to an exhibition at the Brooklyn Historical Society. “After the show was over I realized how amazing this body of work was,” Meisler recalls. “And there was so much of it.”
An exhibition of selected works from this period (both Meisler’s Bushwick stash and her disco nightlife shots) will appear this Friday as an exhibition for BOS, and also as a book, Disco Era Bushwick: A Tale of Two Cities. We spoke to Meisler, now in the Art Education department at NYU, about the significance of the photographs and the life behind the lens. Click through the slideshow to see the photos and share her musings.
“A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick,” May 30 to Sept. 10 (opening reception May 30 from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m.) at Bizarre Black Box Gallery, 12 Jefferson St, Bushwick