Those who proclaim the spirit of New York City is dead would be wise to look away from the fresh horror that is the CBGB Target and instead fix their eyes on the work of photographer Walter Wlodarczyk. There, you’ll find a vibrant collection of musicians, performance artists, dancers, and other experimental creative types. As Wlodarczyk’s solo exhibition There Is Only One Of You demonstrates in an impressive 160 or so photos, thriving artistry is still alive and well here. Keep Reading »
Longtime East Village photographers James and Karla Murray installed a structure in Seward Park recreating the Lower East Side’s Cup and Saucer, which closed after more than 70 years in business. Now, they’ve set up a gallery show featuring photographs from their “Store Front” books just a few blocks away at The Storefront Project (70 Orchard Street). The exhibit, “Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York,” pays homage to the mom-and-pop shops of the Lower East Side and will remain open through August 12. Bedford + Bowery chatted with Karla Murray about her hopes and thoughts on the changing neighborhood. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
I hope the opening reception went well.
We got a lot of love and support from our friends and store owners as well. The granddaughter of Moe Albanese [of] Albanese Meats & Poultry on Elizabeth [Street]. Really the last butcher in Nolita. A neon sign fabricator who created the sign for Trash & Vaudeville and refurbished the Russ & Daughter’s sign was in attendance as well.
Tell me about your hopes for the Orchard Street exhibit.
The majority of the photos relate to the Lower East Side. You know, to relate back to the neighborhood that the gallery is in. We also have a smattering from our so-called other “favorite” ones, mostly departed stores like Zig Zag Records and the Ralph’s that you saw in the window. We included some others but concentrated on the Lower East Side because we wanted to continue our story. ‘Cuz certainly the Lower East Side has changed a lot with gentrification and different people moving in. Unfortunately, a lot of mom-and-pop stores have closed. Buildings have been knocked down—it’s not only the stores. They’ve destroyed a lot of old tenement buildings [that] have been replaced with newer developments. When that happens, what replaces them on the ground floor as far as retail [goes] is a massive space that usually doesn’t lend to a mom-and-pop store leasing it because it’s just too expensive.
Are you mainly trying to preserve the legacy of these buildings or do you think there is some hope for activists to see your work and get inspired?
Oh, of course. The way we’ve always thought of it is a celebration of the businesses that are still around. We always photograph vibrant, lively businesses. That’s why we always put the address with the cross street because we want people to be able to go to the stores and shop at them. That’s really the key to their survival, [which] is that they need customers.
And how many businesses did you end up photographing as part of this project?
It’s countless. Thousands of photos. There’s over 325 stores just in our first book. And we have three books on the subject. Too many to count and interviews with the store owners as well. It’s over twenty years now [that] we’ve been documenting these mom-and-pop stores.
You [and James] have been East Village residents for how many years now?
We’ve lived in the same apartment for 22 years now. So it’s been a long time. It’s changed a lot in the time that we’ve been there. To be honest: we wish we had photographed more. There’s many, many small businesses that we remember fondly, but frankly we didn’t ever take a photo of [them] because we didn’t think they would ever close. And then it was too late. It’s always been a race against time to document them because they seem to be closing almost on a daily basis. For the most part, if they don’t own the building they’re located in, with the cost of new real estate going up, the landlord will triple, quadruple [the rent]. One business, they increased the rent 15 times. I mean, no small business can absorb that kind of rent increase, so then they’re forced to close.
So how do you feel about new developments like the Target in the East Village? Do you feel that kind of bodes ill for the mom-and-pop businesses?
We live on that street.That was all mom-and-pop stores. We documented them on film in the ‘90s. There was a pizzeria. There was a Permacut [Beauty Salon]. There was an old dive bar. Blarney Cove. There was a little bodega. There was a 99 cent [store]. There was a whole strip of store after store after store. Mom-and-pop places. They knocked all that down and built that development. I mean, you can go anywhere and shop in Target. You don’t have to be in New York City. That doesn’t make a neighborhood. To us, it’s the mom-and-pop stores that define a community. The very reason we moved to the East Village years ago [was] that we thought it was fun and funky and had a lot of cool and interesting shops. When those types of stores close, the fabric of the neighborhood suffers.
James and Karla Murray will lead a walking tour from their Seward Park installation to the Orchard Street exhibit on Saturday, August 4th from 1-3 p.m. Check their Instagram and Facebook for further details coming soon.
As the son of a distinguished rabbi and Talmudic scholar, Saul Leiter could have been expected to follow a similar path. But instead, he chose to pursue a more unorthodox life in the creative arts and showcased a rich side of New York through decades of photographs.
What may be the “most unique studio in New York” (and the only one to continually throw a party featuring a live llama) has left its longtime home on Williamsburg’s North 3rd Street and Kent Avenue. As of June 1, ACME Studio has moved its operations entirely to its Bushwick warehouse location on Meserole Street, as well as consolidated its business to focus on props. Keep Reading »
Out of more than 400 participating artists in the annual Greenpoint Open Studios this past weekend, Bedford + Bowery interviewed five zany (and impressive) artists you should definitely keep an eye on.
Check out our five artist Q+As below: Keep Reading »
Meryl Meisler, the New York-based photographer known for her images of the city in the ’70s and ’80s, will show previously unseen photos of the Lower East Side during those years in an upcoming exhibition. Opening May 3 at The Storefront Project, “LES YES!” focuses on the rich cultural history of the neighborhood and takes an unflinching look at the daily lives of the working-class people and immigrants who lived there.
Opening Wednesday, March 28 at Elizabeth Houston Gallery, 7 pm to 9 pm. On view through May 5.
Though digital photography (whether on fancy DSLRs or iPhones with portrait mode) is inarguably king today, there are still people out there shooting film. Though not quite a relic yet, the chemical-laden process of developing and printing your own film in a darkroom is something many people may not understand or even be aware of. One of the key components of doing this is laying the soon-to-be photograph in a tray filled with developer chemicals, which steadily brings the photo to life. Artist John Cyr, a photographer and printer himself, has latched onto the developer tray as an integral object to the working photographer. His images, portraying developer trays that belonged to notable and unknown photographers alike, cast these practical objects in a light usually reserved for more “important”-seeming items. Their unique textures, stains, colors, and designs documented for posterity illuminate film development as a historically-significant art practice in itself. Keep Reading »
Home Away From Home
Opening Wednesday, March 14 at Aperture Gallery, 7pm to 8:30 pm. On view through May 10.
For some people, home is the place they have lived for their entire lives. But for immigrants, it’s not always so clear-cut. Photographer Taysir Batniji is originally from Gaza, in Palestine, but he is also French and splits his time between the two places. Members of his family, on the other hand, have ended up in America, in places like California and Florida. Batniji paid these people a series of visits, photographing and interviewing them about their sense of home and experience living in America. His new solo exhibition at Aperture Gallery combines these new images with archival material, such as old photographs and sketches of their family home made from memory, creating a portrait of generational memory and history contrasted with current lives. Keep Reading »
Opening Tuesday, February 13 at Cooler Gallery, 7 pm to 10 pm.
Everyone’s favorite Navy Yard industrial icebox turned gallery is at it once again with a new exhibition by artistic duo Chiaozza. While their show’s name, Chiaozza Chapel, may sound like an old piece of ornate architecture you’d learn about in art history class, their work is certainly very modern. However, it’s still an actual chapel, at least in the formal sense of the word. The duo has transformed a small 6’x7’ section of the space into a colorful, geometrical space for contemplation and gathering. If you’re old-school, think of the structure within as a kind of modernized, minimalist stained glass. Personally, I think it kind of looks like a nice, stylish condo for birds. Keep Reading »
This Is My Home (Too)
Opening Monday, October 9 at Casa Mezcal, 7 pm to 11 pm. $10 suggested donation. On view through October 28.
Today, according to my iCal, is Columbus Day. But for years upon years, many have called into question how much a man who accidentally found some land and was unrelentingly cruel to its Indigenous inhabitants deserves an entire day named after him. This is why many cities, including Austin, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles, have elected to rename Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day.
Analog v. Digital
Opening Wednesday, August 16 at Foley Gallery, 6 pm to 8 pm. On view through August 26.
Nowadays, it’s common to hear that film photography is dead and that anyone can be a photographer who has enough money to get the iPhone with that fancy Portrait Mode built-in. Nothing like automated depth of field to convey the illusion of skill and craft! However, this group show at Foley Gallery seeks to uplift both analog and digital forms of photographic art.
The gallery defines “analog” as “the photographer using light sensitive paper or film in the process” and “digital” as “using hardware requiring a digital component (point and shoot, cell phone or dSLR cameras) regardless of how it was printed.” Fifty artists in total, approximately 25 in each category, will demonstrate the wide range of photography that’s still out there. It’s one of the rare times that focusing on the merits of “both sides” isn’t a totally useless thing to do.
Center for Book Arts Summer Exhibitions
Opening Wednesday, July 12 at Center for Book Arts, 6 pm to 8 pm. On view through September 23.
This Wednesday, The Center for Book Arts will unveil their two summer exhibitions, titled “Protest ≠ Profest: Global Burdens” and “Animation + Printing.” Though the institutions focuses on books (obviously), the exhibitions themselves span a variety of disciplines. “Protest ≠ Profest” is their annual Artist Members Exhibition, with the timely concept of showing work dealing with activism and “current societal concerns.” In order to narrow down the type of theme that could easily fill multiple rooms worth of art (and to keep with the book focus), works on display will either be artist’s books or works relating to the book arts.
“Animation + Printing” is predominantly a short film showcase, but all films have been created using techniques typically applied to the creation of books, such as etching, moveable type, and silkscreen. A whopping 50-ish artists will be partaking, and the exhibition theme invites a cross-discipline experience for many, as several printmakers will be attempting animation and vice versa. Keep Reading »