Last year, when Richard Kern was revisiting his series New York Girls for a gallery show, he told us of the photography: “It was so long ago, almost seems like somebody else did it. It was definitely a different time period.” Much has changed since he snapped his dark, drug-drenched nudes of downtown hipsters– so much so that he told us he feels “a little pervy” doing the same these days. But that isn’t stopping him from rifling through the vault again for a new show of old work.
Back when Kern visited our pop-up Bedford + Bowery Newsroom and spoke to Cat Marnell about the challenges of photographing the seamier side of New York City, the photographer and filmmaker told us he moved to the East Village back when it was “where you went when you couldn’t get a place in Soho.” He surprised us by describing the East Village as “a neighborhood that still has all the bad stuff– you can’t get away from it.” On September 9, some of the work Kern has shot in the neighborhood over the years will go on display at Fortnight Institute, just steps away from his Alphabet City apartment.
According to a press release, the exhibit will consist of test slides, video footage, books, and flyers that document “theatrical sequences in his apartment on East 3rd Street, footage of drug busts from his window, documentation of his student work as a sculptor and land artist in the 1970s, portraits of friends and collaborators, including the actor Lung Leg and the writer/performer Lydia Lunch.” (Even if you don’t know Lung Leg by name, you probably recognize her from the cover of Sonic Youth’s Sister, which is a still from Kern’s film “Submit to Me.”) Also on display will be his early experimental publications, which he discussed at the Newsroom. “The magazines were more about that outlook you have as a heroin addict, or a drug addict,” he said, “where it’s just like ech, where a lot of your life is just in pursuit of one thing and you have a dark.”
The press release notes that Kern had his first exhibit in the East Village, alongside David Wojnarowicz, in 1985. “The exhibition re-examines the work of an artist long deemed controversial in regard to picturing fixations of pleasure and perversion,” it promises.
“Polarized” at Fortnight Institute, 60 East 4th St., bet. Bowery and 2nd Ave., East Village; opening reception Sept. 9, 6-8 p.m.