In the past year and a half, the East Village has grown accustomed to the presence of candles, messages of remembrance and fresh flowers outside 136 Second Avenue, home to the Ukrainian American Youth Foundation. This impromptu memorial has served as a constant reminder of the many lives lost during the November 2013 “Rise up, Ukraine!” anti-government uprisings in Kiev.
Meryl Meisler turned heads last year with her photographs of Bushwick in the late ’70s and early ’80s, when the neighborhood was racked by arson, economic crisis, and crime, epitomized in the chaos of the 1977 blackout. Nevertheless, her photos were filled with as much liveliness as the dance floor at Studio 54 (which the photographer also documented). As a local school teacher, Meisler saw beyond the blight, connecting with the community in spite of the neighborhood’s troubles. But her photos are just as much a conduit for nostalgia as they are a memo for the present and seem as relevant as ever for the neighborhood as it continues to go through immense change. Now our initial obsession the photographer’s work has been rewarded with a new book, Purgatory & Paradise: Sassy ’70s Suburbia & the City.
While wandering from gallery to gallery yesterday in the Lower East Side, soaking up a pair of museum-like nostalgia exhibitions focusing on at least one part if not all of a few-decades long span from Warhol’s Factory days through the ’90s club kid scene, I started thinking about a conversation I’d had with one JJ Brine, Satanic gallerist extraordinaire. Before JJ took off for Vanuatu (btw according to his Facebook page, he made it just fine), he explained he was departing indefinitely because he was frustrated with what he understood as New York City’s unusual fixation on the past at the expense of devoting energy to the future. I couldn’t have agreed more, but somehow The Last Party and Michael Alig’s appropriately-titled solo exhibition, Inside / Out succeed in drawing a line, however crooked, between the past and the present and making this nostalgia part of current existence. How? Well, I felt as though I could almost see myself in some of the blurry old party photos and even the creepy clown-like painted odes to various poisons of choice.
Robyn Renee Hasty is no stranger to outsiders, countercultures, and misfits. So it might feel a little strange for the artist to be in the midst of what’s becoming a mainstream social movement and media obsession to match, as embodied in the debut of Caitlyn Jenner. A new exhibition featuring Hasty’s most recent work, opening Thursday at Brooklyn’s Pioneer Works, couldn’t be more timely. But even with a newfound frank (but still sometimes fraught) discussion of the transgender experience going mainstream, Hasty’s nude portraits of transgender, gender non-conforming, and cisgender people are still subversive.
Williamsburg’s Honey Gifts will be displaying more than just the usual lingerie and sex toys this Friday night. Brooklyn artist Tal Shpantzer has adorned the shop’s windows with images of women holding flowers and petals in their mouths. The photographs from Shpantzer’s Petal Series are inspired by Dadaism and, specifically, Hannah Höch’s collages. They’re striking, intense, and beautiful–some of the women look a little sad, others almost feral.
When photographer Stéphanie de Rougé moved to New York in 2006 she settled on the south side of Williamsburg. “From the first day, I knew I was at home here,” she wrote on her website. “Williamsburg had it all: the Brooklyn grittiness, the sexy wild parties, the shady pharmacy, the old pigeon cooper and the sweet little café around the corner. Other than the fact that yellow cabs refused to cross the bridge, life was good.” Yes, yes it was. But then Starbucks moved in, and Whole Foods and Apple made their nefarious plans.
Chilean-born photographer Sergio Purtell moved to New York City back in the ’80s but for the past eight years, the changing landscape of Brooklyn struck him as a development worth documenting. The result is over 1,400 black-and-white images, all of which are on view (in either large format print or slideshow form) at Art 3 in Bushwick.
Danielle De Jesus is surprisingly level-headed when talking about how gentrification has affected her family and her community. The 27-year-old artist was born and raised in Bushwick and has seen the neighborhood change dramatically over the past several years. Her photographs, part of a one-day-only exhibition, “Made in Bushwick,” happening at the Living Gallery this Thursday evening, capture a neighborhood most newcomers might never have seen and the stark contrast between old and new.
You might remember a show space in Williamsburg called Dead Herring. It was around for six years — practically decades in DIY years — before it closed in 2013. “I knew it wouldn’t last forever,” Nicki Ishmael admitted. “It’s that whole DIY has-an-expiration-date thing.” But it’s a wonder Nicki can keep it together when reminiscing. DIY’s the only home she’s ever had in New York City. From the moment she arrived here Ishmael has been deeply involved in the underground music scene. “I immediately moved into a DIY space when I moved here back in 2006,” she recalled. So it’s only natural that Ishmael and others from Dead Herring refused to let their own closure, and dozens more around them, get them down.
After talking to photographer Ken Schles last week about his exhibition opening at the Howard Greenberg Gallery I headed to the Midtown East last Thursday to check it out. Ken captured the East Village during the 1980s heroin haze and I wanted to see the glittering carnage up close. What I found was something else entirely.
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Ken Schles, the artist behind the underground cult classic Invisible City will be speaking tonight between 6 and 8 pm at an opening reception of his work at the Howard Greenberg Gallery. Schles lived in the East Village during the gritty, burned out decade of the 1980s and documented the harrowing yet glamorous world he saw through the lens of his camera.
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Luis Mallo was searching for an apartment in Williamsburg with his then-girlfriend, Ana, in 1994, when a woman in her 70s sitting outside a building caught his eye. “She was this older, Polish lady sitting in front of a door. I thought, ‘Should I ask? What are the odds?’ I said to her, ‘My girlfriend and I are looking for an apartment. Do you know of anything available?’ She looked me up and down, paused for a minute, and said, ‘Come with me.’”
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