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Berenice Abbott, the woman who shot ‘the greatest collection of photographs of New York City’
11.13.2017
01:17 pm
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‘Columbus Circle, Manhattan.’
 
Berenice Abbott was born in Springfield, Ohio, the “Home City” then best known for its Masonic Lodges and farming equipment, in July 1898. Her parents split when Berenice was young, leaving her mother Lilly to raise her daughter on her own.

Abbott grew up wanting to be an artist. She figured she’d be a sculptor and signed-on for classes at Ohio State but dropped out after two semesters in 1918. Ohio was dullsville compared to the exciting lights and freedoms of Paris with its freedoms and long list of bohemian artists, writers, and dancers who’d made the city their home. Abbott skipped town. Moved to Europe. Spent a couple of years studying art and sculpture in Paris and Berlin.

She arrived in Paris at the right time. With the end of the First World War, a whole new generation of tyro artists and writers moved in to stake their claim on immortality. The cobbled boulevards were bordered with scrums of “creative types” expounding their revolutionary thoughts and ideas between gasps of Gitanes and vin rouge.

Abbott hooked up with a band of men and women who were in the process of making history. One introduction led to another and led to another and so on. She hung out with Djuna Barnes—who herself had arrived in Paris with an introductory letter to James Joyce. It was Barnes who told Abbott to change her birth name Bernice to the more exotic Berenice. Abbott met Man Ray, Sylvia Beach (the American owner of the famed bookshop Shakespeare and Co.), Jean Cocteau, and photographer Eugène Atget, among many others.

Abbott began her career as Man Ray’s photographic assistance in 1923. She took to photography like “a duck to water,” she later said, and never looked back. Man Ray was impressed by her flair and skill in the darkroom. Abbott was taking portraits and soon had a series of small exhibitions of her own work. But after looking at flâneur photographer Atget’s work, a whole new world of possibilities opened up to her.

Atget was a highly eccentric individual with weird notions about food and cleanliness. He lived off a diet of milk, bread, and sugar most of his life. Abbott essentially “discovered” Atget and realized he was a brilliant photographer. After his death, she snapped up as much of his work as she could, fearing it would be lost to the public forever. Atget took photographs that triggered memory. He wandered the streets of Paris with his camera and tripod and snapped those seemingly odd, inconsequential moments that when captured resonated with a potent tension and hidden drama.

When Abbott traveled to New York in 1929, she instantly saw the potential of photographing the city as Atget had captured Paris—but through her own personality and obsessions. She started documenting New York as it changed from an old 19th-century city to the high-rise, skyscraper city of the future. The buildings changing from statements of individual wealth and success to the collective growth and worth of the thousands of people who lived and worked together in the city.

Abbott called her project Changing New York. She supported herself during for six years while she walked the streets of Manhattan carrying her Century Universal camera taking pictures of the “fantastic” contrasts between the old buildings falling into ruin and the modern blocks rising like a New Jerusalem. Abbott’s photographs of New York during the 1930s was described by pioneering documentarian and filmmaker Ralph Steiner as “the greatest collection of photographs of New York City ever made.” Her photographs redefined the city and influenced generations of photographers and filmmakers on how they represented New York.

Berenice Abbott was one of the handful of brilliant photographs whose work not only captured life in the twentieth century but changed our aesthetic appreciation of it.
 
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‘Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, looking south-west, Brooklyn.’
 
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‘Manhattan Bridge.’
 
See more of Berenice Abbott’s New York, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.13.2017
01:17 pm
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Hell on Wheels: New York City’s subway system as seen in the 70s and 80s
05.11.2017
12:53 pm
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It’s difficult to reconstruct for a typical member of the NYU’s Class of 2019 just how fucked up the NYC subways were in the 1970s and 1980s—indeed, much of Manhattan was an undisguised war zone. Sure, many have “heard” about this on some level, but when you’re perambulating through today’s clean and spacious Union Square station, you’re not likely to be reminded of Bernie Goetz, are you?

Bernhard Goetz made national headlines when (almost certainly as an entirely calculated act) he blew away four would-be muggers on the downtown 2 line in December of 1984. The white Goetz was held up as a national hero because he “fearlessly” entered the dangerous NYC subway system and seriously wounded a quartet of black guys with malice aforethought. The word vigilante was suddenly on everyone’s lips; Curtis Sliwa’s Guardian Angels were a related icon of the time. The Clash even sang about them.

All of this is to explain why, when he decided to commence a project of documenting the city’s subway, photographer Bruce Davidson felt the need to outfit himself as if he were about to go into battle, complete with brass knuckles, a jackknife, pepper spray, combat boots, and an army jacket. That’s just what you did then! Davidson’s pictures eventually became the landmark book Subway

Late last year saw the publication of a book that can honorably be placed alongside Davidson’s—I refer to Willy Spiller’s Hell on Wheels, which includes the Swiss photographer’s subway-related output from the 1977-1984 period. Sturm & Drang Press brought out the book last year in a limited edition; they promptly sold out, which means that prices for the volume have become rather inflated.

These photos are a reminder of an era when two art forms were finding their footing in the city—that is to say, graffiti and hip-hop. The relative lack of a bourgeois and “safe” culture on the subways meant that the outlaw accoutrements of aerosol cans and boom boxes were permitted free rein.

And yet, these pictures do not actually document violence or really anything dangerous. Many of the photos seem like they were taken during the sultry summer, and (as is always the case in New York) you have dissimilar people seated side by side and (in many instances) enjoying the environment for the opportunities it provided to lounge and chat and people-watch.

As Tobia Bezzola has written of Spiller’s subway photographs,
 

His charming chutzpah is the root of the extraordinary quality of these photographs. It seems only logical that this wildly colourful underground performance appeared highly exotic, fantastic and often bizarre to the eyes of this young greenhorn just arrived from the innocent city of Zürich, Switzerland.

 
Anyone who finds our sanitized world dispiriting will surely find succor in these vivid and interesting pictures.
 

 

 
Much more after the jump…....

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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05.11.2017
12:53 pm
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Fierce and provocative vintage artwork & images from New York’s infamous Fiorucci store
03.30.2017
10:18 am
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A vintage 80s ad for Italian fashion brand, Fiorucci featuring Divine. Art by Richard Bernstein

“Went to Fiorucci and it’s so much fun there. It’s everything I’ve always wanted, all plastic.”

—Andy Warhol diary entry for December 21, 1983

Although Fiorucci was a global brand, it was the NYC store where Elio Fiorucci’s visionary day-glo retailing vision was best realized. Everyone from Jackie O to Andy Warhol spent time hanging out and shopping at Fiorucci—a glammy New York store that was fondly referred to as the “daytime Studio 54.” From the late 70s and most of the 80s the clothing brand founded by Elio Fiorucci in Milan was a fashion trendsetter and can be credited with many looks that defined the era. Like primary colors and “neon” fabrics, form-fitting “stretch” denim jeans and the accessories that were worn by a young Madonna, thanks to Fiorucci’s art director, jewelry designer Maripol who styled her iconic look. (Ms. Ciccone even performed at the store’s 1983 anniversary party). Maripol also dressed the likes of Grace Jones and another New York fashion icon, Debbie Harry. Keith Haring would draw on the walls. Kenny Scharf did his first art show there. Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine had office space in the store for a while, too, and it was pretty difficult to turn up at the store—across from Bloomingdale’s flagship on 59th and Lexington Ave—and not see someone incredibly famous.
 

Madonna and her dancers
 
And since this is New York we’re talking about, one of the store’s most popular employees (he was the manager) flamboyant performance artist Joey Arias appeared with David Bowie and Klaus Nomi on what would become one of the most infamous episodes of Saturday Night Live on December 15th, 1979. Because everybody was somebody in New York back then. Fashion designer Betsey Johnson

I was recently made aware of the fact that earlier this month high-end UK retailer Selfridges debuted a pop-up shop where you could actually purchase items from Fiorucci’s classic clothing catalog. Everything from the brand’s famous denimwear to an accessory I have been obsessed with since I was skating around the roller rink to Sister Sledge (who sang about the store), Fiorucci patches. Selfridges even provided a service where you could have a vintage patch, which were created in 1984, affixed to the item of your choosing. If you missed that, like I sadly did, the store is now carrying a number of new Fiorucci items including some cool, vibrantly colored t-shirts with the brand’s neon, zig-zagging logo on the front. Below I’ve posted an array of images from Fiorucci ad campaigns, marketing posters as well as a few of the vintage patches sold at the Selfridges’ pop-up store.

Sunglasses are encouraged to protect your eyes. Some are NSFW.
 

The famous Fiorucci logo
 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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03.30.2017
10:18 am
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New Wave: Peek inside ‘Bogey’s Underground Fashion’ catalog from the good old 1980s


A page from the vintage fashion catalog ‘Bogey’s Underground Fashion,’ late 80s, early 90s.
 
Today I have for you something that I know many of our readers will recall coming across back in the mid to late 80s: a catalog catering to goth, “new wave” and punk style clothes sold by the New York-based company “Bogey’s Underground-Fashion From London.”
 

 
Back in the Boston-area during the 80s (where I was busily stomping around at the time) there were several shops in Cambridge that catered to the crowd who wanted their clothes to be black and tight with zippers and holes in all the right places. I spent A LOT of cash at the Allston Beat (RIP) in Harvard Square. To this day I refuse to get rid of the few pieces I still have that I purchased there back in the late ‘80s.

Much of the clothing and shoes sold by Bogey’s appeared to be from London (specifically pieces from “BOY of London”). Additionally, they sold their own “Bogey’s” brand which I will cautiously assume might have been designed in the company’s former home-base at 767 5th Avenue in New York. I can also tell you that looking at these images (best viewed whilst listening to Bauhaus, Adam & the Ants or Alien Sex Fiend) you may wish that Bogey’s awesomely cheesey 800 number, “1-800-YO-BOGEY” still was in operation, as they called it a day back in the early spring of 1993.
 

 

 
More pages from Bogey’s Underground-Fashion From London catalogs after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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09.14.2016
01:35 pm
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Peep Shows, Pimps and Prostitutes: A Walk on the Wild Side of New York in the 1970s
05.27.2016
10:19 am
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Leland Bobbé started his career as a photographer in the mid-1970s shooting street scenes around Times Square and the Bowery in New York City. Bobbé was living downtown near the Brooklyn Bridge. He played drums with a band on the CBGBs/Max’s Kansas City scene.

Because I didn’t write music, I eventually realized through taking pictures I was able to make more of a personal statement than playing rock n’ roll written by others.

At night Bobbé drove a taxi. He scouted the streets in different neighborhoods. During the day, he returned to these neighborhoods to take photographs of the people who hung around the sidewalks, peep shows, bars, and flop houses.

Hard as it is to remember now, at that moment New York was kind of on its ass. Crime was at a high. Destitution and poverty were spreading like plague. Drugs and vice seemed to be the only booming enterprises. The Son of Sam slayings terrorized New Yorkers. The city was virtually bankrupt—President Gerald Ford told New York to “drop dead,” as the New York Daily News famously had it. He eventually relented and stumped up a loan to save the Big Apple. Bobbé‘s photos captured the city long before its gentrification as a rich hipster’s playground.

Bobbé often shot from the hip using a 28mm to avoid detection. Others were shot with a telephoto lens. The resulting photographs are stunning, gritty and powerful—filled with character and atmosphere that captured the city at an unforgettable point in its history.
 
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More of Leland Bobbé‘s gritty photographs of New York in the 1970s, after the jump…..
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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05.27.2016
10:19 am
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Early color Autochromes of New York City, 1900-1930
04.26.2016
12:38 pm
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The lowly potato changed color photography forever.

In 1903, two French inventors and photographers, Auguste and Louis Lumière, used the potato as the basis for their patented process in creating color photographs, or Autochromes as they were called. It was a simple but ingenious technique—crush potatoes into tiny particles; separate these minuscule starch particles into three; add red, violet and green dye; mix onto a glass plate; brush off the excess; flatten the dyed particles onto the plate between two rollers—thus creating microscopic color filters; fill in any gaps with carbon; brush with light sensitive silver bromide. Now you have a photographic plate ready to take color pictures.

By 1907, the Lumières’ technique had infected the photographic world with “color fever.” Many early color photographers claimed painting was dead. The future was the Autochrome. (Apparently someone forgot to tell Picasso.)

Unlike many of the European or Russian Autochromes from the turn of the twentieth century—which are usually filled with citizens at work or idly posing in narrow streets—these early Autochromes of New York are often empty of people as if the monumental nature of the city’s buildings made humans seem irrelevant, Lillputian, or simply unnecessary. When the city’s residents do appear they’re often blurred, frenetically charged, crammed into market scenes, or watching the camera from the seashore.
 
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Mulberry Street market, circa 1900s.
 
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Balcony overlooking Mulberry Street, ca. 1900s.
 
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Lower East Side, ca. 1900s.
 
More early color Autochromes of New York, after the jump….

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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04.26.2016
12:38 pm
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New York City BAD BOYS: Intimate photos of Punks, Poets and Provocateurs, 1977-1982
09.16.2015
11:05 am
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Johnny Thunders, 1978
Johnny Thunders 1978

From interviews with William Burroughs and Richard Hell, to in-depth revelations and photographs of the people who helped shape popular culture and music, a new book from photographer Marcia Resnick, Punks, Poets and Provocateurs: New York City BAD BOYS * 1977 - 1982 transports you back to a time when there were no rules. A time before many of Resnick’s subjects too quickly burned out like the bright lights they were.

For example, here’s an evocative excerpt (and an image) of David Byrne from Punks, Poets and Provocateurs in which Byrne “predicts the future” back in 1977. It was taken from an interview Byrne did with Traveler’s Digest in which he made a total of 46 predictions about the future. The following ten turned out to be rather unfortunately, spot-on.
 
David Byrne
David Byrne, late 70s, early 80s
 

In the future, half of us will be “mentally ill”

In the future, water will be expensive

In the future, everyone’s house will be like a little fortress

In the future, there will be mini-wars going on everywhere

In the future, people will constantly be having plastic surgery

altering their features many times during their lifetime

In the future there will be many mass suicides

In the future there will be starving people everywhere

In the future, the crippled, retarded and helpless will be killed

In the future, there will be so much going on nobody will be able to keep track of it

 
William Burroughs and photographer, Marcia Resnick
William Burroughs and photographer, Marcia Resnick

Resnick (who very much reminds me of a real-life punk rock version of ass-kicking journalist Lois Lane) and her lucky lens were able to capture powerful and often poignant images of the most legendary bad boy rule breakers (as well as a few girls) from the past. I spoke to Victor Bockris, the author of Punks, Poets and Provocateurs and asked him to share his thoughts on Resnick when it came her uncanny ability to capture this hedonistic period in time on film. A time that would drastically change with the arrival of the AIDS epidemic.

DM: Can you give DM’s readers any first-hand insight into Marcia’s expertise when it came to capturing the compelling and emotionally charged images that are featured in Punks, Poets and Provocateurs?

Victor Bockris: Marcia worked on this project over a period of five years so there were many sessions. What they shared in common was the way Marcia turned every session into a game of fantasy seduction. As she writes, she dressed provocatively with a girlish flair, which included a splash of Lolita. Despite the fact that punk was the first rock movement in which the girls were equal to the boys, punk rockers were particularly drawn to the Lolita Syndrome. This is not to suggest that Marcia was anything but a fine artist. It was her ability to keep her sessions on edge with displays of coy sexuality that drew from her subjects such light in the case of Josef Beuys, or dark in the case Belushi responses. I once noticed that in all the pictures the moments she intuitively captured are moments of tenderness she evoked. There’s a lot of trembling in her work. She was one of the most remarkable girls in that truly remarkable scene. And she played it to the hilt.
 
John Belushi, 1981
John Belushi, 1981. This was Belushi’s last photo session before his death on March 5th, 1982

Despite the notoriety of many of Resnick’s subjects, it was her ability to draw tenderness from her “bad boys” that allowed for such familiar faces such as Mick Jagger and Johnny Thunders, to be viewed freshly. Bockris’ (as well as Resnick’s) encyclopedic details of the past make for an addictive page-turning read. While reading it (something I’ve done several times already), you may also feel like the world that existed during that all too brief six-year period might disappear before your eyes if you close its pages.

The 272 pages of hedonistic gratification that is Punks, Poets and Provocateurs will be available in November. Pre-orders are happening now. Many images that were graciously provided for your perusal by Marcia Resnick (as well as a old-school interview I dug up with glam metal pioneer and NYC club promoter, Tommy Gunn) follow.
 
Arthur
Arthur “Killer” Kane of the New York Dolls
 
Brian Eno
Brian Eno, 1978
 
H.R. of Bad Brains
H.R.
 
More punks, poets and provocateurs after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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09.16.2015
11:05 am
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Move over, Naked Cowboy! There’s another New Yorker showing off his butt
08.13.2015
01:23 pm
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Photo: Don Stahl
 
I’ve lived in or near New York City for virtually my entire life. One of the challenges of living in a city as fiercely romanticized and idealized as New York is finding that little bit of the city that hasn’t been defined to death already—it’s so easy to fall into the trap of saying, “This cupcake shop is really cool because Lou Reed used to shoot up around the corner!” And yet the city is always rapidly changing, so the dynamic you may have craved from even just ten or fifteen years ago might already be long gone, even as it shapes your current expectations.

One of the many things I love about “Levenbutt,” Jeremy Levenbach’s whimsical series of Instagram city scenes—in which he appears naked, with his back to the camera—is that it captures a New York I can really relate to, whether it’s the Astor Place cube or the familiar facade of Pearl Paint on Canal Street or the bizarre, monolithic blue Ikea premises in Red Hook. (You have no idea how strong the instinct is to use the word “selfie” above—but clearly, it would be quite strange if any of them were selfies!)

I’ve known Jeremy for nearly a decade; for most of that time he has been the booker for the city’s best latenight standup showcase (when Aziz Ansari and his Human Giant collaborators were hosting it, it was called Crash Test; when Leo Allen took it over around 2008, it became Whiplash; there was also a transitional show called Cavalcade). As a regular attendee in the intimate Upright Citizens Brigade Theater most Monday nights for several years, I got to know Jeremy a little bit, and he remains one of my favorite people in New York, invariably good-natured and contributing to the city in a singular way—actually, multiple singular ways, if that makes any sense.

A little bit after we became Facebook friends, Jeremy started posting these occasional pics of himself standing naked, facing away from the camera, in some familiar NYC location. He would tag these images “Levenbutt,” and they’ve enhanced my Facebook feed for the last several years.

For me the Levenbutt pictures work precisely because they’re not sexualized; they’re absurd and deadpan. Naturally they also acquire a good deal of their impact from what one might call stunt value: “Did that guy really go into that intersection and stand there?” etc. It’s always more interesting to watch people doing something you would never do.

The other day there was a good piece about Jeremy’s “Levenbutt” project in Joanna Goddard’s blog Cup of Jo, complete with an interview that is far more thorough than anything I could muster—I recommend checking it out if this post intrigues. Here’s my favorite bit from that post, something that photographers the world over would probably instantly understand—Jeremy’s comments on how his own mental attitude affects the, ah, visual appearance of his cheeks: “The average time is about 20 to 40 seconds while I’m standing there naked. That’s when you feel really vulnerable. I do one of those 100-yard stares. I’ve noticed if I’m tense, my butt cheeks do a weird thing. I need to relax and everything kind of loosens up.”

Jeremy was kind enough to take a little time to discuss the Levenbutt project for DM.

The main thing I was curious about was whether Jeremy had in some cases used any unseen clothing on his frontal side—he insisted that well, “naked” means “naked”: “Yes, 100% naked. Generally my clothes are thrown just out of frame or stashed behind objects.”

I was especially taken with the picture in which he is standing next to the beekeeper, and asked him if he had gotten stung that day. He replied,

Nope, the beekeeper was someone I met briefly at Smorgasburg. She’s Dutch and was totally into the idea. We (photog Christian Torres) met Marleen in Queens at a public city garden that she had taken conservatorship over. I was expecting/dreading getting stung, but I didn’t get a single angry bee. Marleen said, in her accent, “My bees must like you!”

One of my favorite pics is the one of Jeremy standing in the middle of oncoming traffic. I mistakenly identified it as one of the avenues on the East Side, but two-way North-South thoroughfares without an island in the middle aren’t very common in Manhattan. It turns out it was 42nd Street near 2nd Avenue. I was glad to hear that it’s one of Jeremy’s favorites as well:

That shot was taken from the Tudor City overpass. It was the idea of my photographer, Benjamin Joseph Mistak. We planned on (and shot) at the Flatiron building, and Ben suggested we do a shot from the “place where all those people take Manhattanhenge photos.”

Photos where I’m far away from my photographer are always the scariest (and Ben was really far away up on the walkway) because to anyone who walks by, I’m not some weirdo taking a dumb art photo, I’m some lunatic that is just standing around (in the middle of traffic, in this case) naked.

There’s a black SUV in the lane that I’m standing in, it got to that shaft of light (maybe 20-30 ft from me) , before I ran back to the sidewalk. We also did that shot twice, because the first time I was standing in the middle of the street, legs on straddling the traffic lines, it looked cool, but the yellow lines were too similar in tone to my body.

Jeremy’s role as NYC’s top alt-comic impresario gives him access to some of the most successful touring comedians, a few of whom have been incorporated into the project. We’ve included a picture that includes Zach Galifianakis here, but Aziz Ansari, Bob Odenkirk, and Pete Holmes have also been roped in. Not one to stick rigorously to the core idea just because that’s what a big fancy artiste might do, Jeremy has also included whimsical artworks that are consistent with the Levenbutt project, as for instance this lovely drawing of Levenbutt perched on a giant Valkyrie by Matteo Lane or this funny appropriation of the New Yorker’s Cartoon Caption Contest.

Jeremy’s a little worried that Instagram is going to shut down his account, but so far they’ve been a good sport about it. Here’s a little gallery of Levenbutt highlights, but you should check out the original feed for yourself, there are tons of great ones I didn’t include.
 

Photo: Benjamin Joseph Mistak
 

Photo: Benjamin Joseph Mistak
 

Photo: Christian Torres
 
More excellent Levenbutt pics after the jump…...
 

 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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08.13.2015
01:23 pm
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Brutal, intimate photos depict the 1980s ‘heroin epidemic’ of the East Village
03.03.2015
06:21 pm
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Boy on East 5th Street (4th of July), 1984
 
Anyone who’s hung out on Rivington Street the last few years might be surprised to learn that the East Village was one of the scariest parts of New York just a few decades ago. Not for nothing did one police officer in the 1980s label Avenue D “the world’s largest retail drug market.”

Photographer Ken Schles, who lived in the East Village in the 1980s, once said that it was “like a war zone.” Schles witnessed firsthand the heroin epidemic and the AIDS crisis happening all around him. His photographs, many taken from his bedroom window, depict the urgency and hopelessness of a neighborhood in crisis. 

Schles’ building, where he also had his darkroom, was in disrepair from the moment he moved in in 1978; just a few years later, the landlord abandoned the building, leaving tenants to their own devices. Schles led a rent strike and worked to improve the living conditions, as drug gangs moved in on the space.

Unlike the romanticized imagery produced by some, Schles’ frank pictures offer no illusion as to what is being depicted. Schles himslf is disgusted by such idealized portraits and offers a refreshingly honest and pragmatic take on the era—as he says, “I don’t pine for the days when I’d drive down the Bowery and have to lock the doors, or having to step over the junkies or finding the door bashed in because heroin dealers decided they wanted to set up a shooting gallery. ... A lot of dysfunction has been romanticized.”

Schles’ shots, many taken from his bedroom window, provide blurred and grainy fragments, stories to which we do not know the beginning, even if we can guess at the grim ending. Eventually Schles’ fellow artists and gallery owners banded together to rebuild the neighborhood.

In 1988 Schles published Invisible City, which has recently been reissued, and late last year he came out with a follow-up, Night Walk. Together they add up to an intimate study of a neighborhood that is no longer recognizable.

Invisible City and Night Walk are on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery on 57th Street until March 14, 2015.
 

Couple Fucking, 1985
 

Embrace, 1984
 

Landscape with Garbage Bag, 1984
 

Drowned in Sorrow, 1984
 

Scene at a Stag Party, May 1985
 

Claudia Lights Cigarette, 1985
 
More after the jump…..
 

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Posted by Martin Schneider
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03.03.2015
06:21 pm
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‘My Name is New York’: NYC through the eyes of Woody Guthrie
08.01.2014
05:19 pm
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For obvious reasons, it’s easy to think of the great American folksinger/songwriter Woody Guthrie as a lifelong hardscrabble dust bowl Okie, but the reality is, the man called New York City home for nearly three decades, from 1940 until his death in 1967.

Of course, that was at a time when lower Manhattan, especially Greenwich Village, was an urban bohemia, a haven and incubator for America’s artists and musicians. Those times are gone—I’m in NYC at least once a year, and every year, more and more of the Village looks like it’s been eaten by a strip mall. So it goes, but the character of what’s been lost there may be irreplaceable, as a startlingly rapid gentrification is eating into every once-affordable art enclave in that fabled city. I realize that the emergence of an arts district often heralds gentrification—I’ve long lived in such a neighborhood myself, and seen firsthand those kinds of changes, for better and worse—but from an outsider’s perspective, what’s been happening to NYC, especially the northern part of Brooklyn in the last several years, seems unusual and kind of alarming in speed and scope. So these photos of Woody Guthrie’s New York seem to me especially valuable documents. They’ll be part of a 3-disc audiobook set to be released in September, titled My Name is New York. A regular dead-trees edition, by Guthrie’s daughter Nora, has been available for a couple of years.
 

The Hotel Savoy-Plaza, 59th Street at 5th Avenue, Manhattan, at the southeast corner of Central Park. Guthrie lived here with Will Geer, an actor, activist and Communist who’d be blacklisted in the ‘50s, but would nonetheless go on to fame in the ‘70s as Grandpa on The Waltons. This is where the Apple Store is now.
 

Guthrie, rockin’ one out for the shoeshine guy.
 

Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie at Seeger’s wedding, 129 MacDougal Street, 1943. Currently an Italian restaurant, and for all I know it might have been one then, too.
 

Woody Guthrie in 1943, at McSorley’s Ale House, which still exists at 15 East 7th Street, Manhattan. Photo: Eric Schaal for Time Life. Used with permission from Getty Images. WGA.
 

31 East 21st Street, Manhattan, where Guthrie and Pete Seeger lived with sculptor Harold Ambellan in the ‘40s.
 

5 West 101st Street, Manhattan, right off Central Park West. Once Guthrie’s music started making him some money, he moved here, and sent for his wife and kids in Texas to join him. Frequent guests here included Alan Lomax, Lead Belly, Sonny Terry, and Burl Ives. The building is still there, but I’m assuming mere mortals can’t afford to live in it anymore.
 

Woody Guthrie performing in the New York City subway, 1943, a Bound for Glory publicity shot. Photo: Eric Schaal. WGA.
 

A Woody Guthrie paleo-selfie, from a subway photo booth, ca. 1945. WGA.

The audiobook set includes recorded interviews with, among others, Pete Seeger, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Bob Dylan, and totally unsurprisingly, Guthrie’s famous-in-his-own-right son, musician Arlo Guthrie. It’ll also include music, naturally, by Guthrie and others. Notably, one of the tracks is a home demo of the song that gives the package its name, “My Name Is New York.” Here are Guthrie’s typewritten lyrics, and the song itself.
 

 

 

Posted by Ron Kretsch
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08.01.2014
05:19 pm
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The disappearing face of New York

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During the eight years it took Jim and Karla Murray to photograph these New York storefronts, a third of them had closed down. According to the Murrays:

...the influx of big box retailers and chain stores pose a serious threat to these humble institutions, and neighborhood modernization and the anonymity it brings are replacing the unique appearance and character of what were once incredibly colourful streets.

Taken from their book The Disappearing Face of New York, these beautiful photographs of neon-lit, window-crammed, characterful storefronts document the cultural cost of the malls and online retailers that have taken business from small shopkeepers, in favor of the supposed “choice” offered by corporations. As the general Julius Agricola noted way, way back in the invasion of Britain circa 73 AD, when the invading armies brought bath houses, roads, and alike, the so-called advancement of civilisation can often disguise its inherent servitude.
 
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More disappearing New York stores, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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06.10.2014
09:55 am
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Even ‘The New Yorker’ agrees, most New Yorkers don’t really care about Banksy
10.16.2013
02:40 pm
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Banksy cartoon
Sick burn, New Yorker!

Recently, British guerrilla artist Banksy has taken up “residency” in New York, meaning his stencils randomly pop up, only to be immediately tagged over by local graffiti artists. And then there’s been a few performance pieces he pulled, like selling his work to unwitting buyers from a streetside stall for $60 (had serious art buyers been in the know, the pieces would have gone for about $31,000). But you know what’s kind of awesome about New York? We really don’t give a shit. Sure, there’s perpetual 24/7 Banksy media coverage, but the average Joe probably gives a Banksy stencil the same attention as he would a bodega mural mourning the death of a local drug dealer.

I’ll admit, it’s almost always nice to see public art. Whether it’s your taste or not, it’s usually better than an empty lot or a crumbling wall. But it seems like the city’s sentiment was summed up nicely in The New Yorker cartoon. There’s something extra stinging about a flippant dismiss from a New Yorker. It’s like having your white grandma inform you that your twerking is sub-par, or being told by a local beat policeman that your Captain Beefheart collection consists of only his “Tragic Band” material.

Take the latest Banksy performance piece, wherein a meat truck of stuffed animals is animated to, I don’t know, show the horrors of factory farming? There’s a presumptuousness to that piece—“Hey, did you know that factory farming is really inhumane?!?” “Why no I didn’t! At least not until I saw that really earnest and heavy-handed social commentary rolling down 8th Avenue!” Plus, I saw a drag queen do something similar (but better) two years ago.

And that shit had glitter.

When so much of your hype stems from your anonymity,  it makes perfect sense that New Yorkers would be largely unimpressed. It’s a city full of anonymous people, so that whole supposedly edgy anonymity novelty just doesn’t move us. You don’t want to be seen? Awesome, ‘cos we don’t have the time to look. There’s dog shit on the sidewalk and bike messengers and taxis to dodge. There’s so, so, so much going on. Why would we pursue a coy “anonymous celebrity,” when we have tons of artists in the minor leagues, desperate to get their real names out there? It was tourists who bought those Banksy originals in Central Park, and I have to wonder, if Banksy revealed his identity, would his fans (and the media) continue to be so enthusiastic about his work?

Perhaps we Banksy-shruggers just don’t “get it”—I never claimed to be cultured. But I really do think that his brand of “spectacle” simply doesn’t translate very well to our fair city. Below, you can see his venture into short film, wherein Syrian rebels shoot down Dumbo the elephant with a rocket launcher, shrieking “Allahu Akbar!”. It’s ironic, it’s political, it’s vague, it’s Banksy. It’s a another brand in a heavily branded city, and we have shit to do.
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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10.16.2013
02:40 pm
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NY State Highways now have ‘Texting Zones’
09.25.2013
02:36 pm
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This is brilliant! Hopefully California—and everywhere else—will soon follow.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today continued the state’s efforts to reduce distracted driving by unveiling special “Texting Zones” along the New York State Thruway and State Highways that will give motorists a pull-off area to park and use their mobile devices. Existing Park-n-Ride facilities, rest stops, and parking areas along the Thruway and Highways will dual-function as Texting Zones, and signage will be placed along the highway to inform drivers where the Zones are located. A total of 298 signs will be located along major highways across the state, notifying motorists to 91 Texting Zone locations.

There are also going to be tougher penalties in the state of New York if you’re caught on your cell phone or texting. I’m assuming ticket fines will be sky-high. THEY SHOULD BE.

You can read about the new texting zones (where they’ll be located) and regulations at NY.gov.

Below, I posted this video a while ago on DM, but it never gets old. A man gets sweet, sweet revenge on a texting fool.

 
Via The World’s Best Ever

Posted by Tara McGinley
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09.25.2013
02:36 pm
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Old New York crime photographs superimposed on their present day locations
09.15.2013
12:31 pm
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The past inhabits the present in Marc A. Hermann’s composite images of crime scene photographs overlaid on their present day locations.

Above: 497 Dean Street, Brooklyn. A distraught Edna Egbert battles the police on the ledge of her home.
 
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427 1/2 Hicks Street, Brooklyn. Gangster Salvatore Santoro met a violent death on January 31, 1957.
 
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923 44th Street, Brooklyn. Gangster Frankie Yale dead after a car crash, July 1, 1928.
 
More then and now crime pix, after the jump…

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.15.2013
12:31 pm
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‘Painters Painting’: The definitive documentary on the New York Art Scene 1940-70
07.17.2013
07:29 pm
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Jasper Johns’ ‘Three Flags,’ 1958
 
Painters Painting is a definitive documentary history of the New York Art Scene 1940-1970. Directed by Emile de Antonio, the film focuses on American art movements from Abstract Expressionism to Pop Art. De Antonio was a Marxist film-maker who was once described as “…the most important political filmmaker in the United States during the Cold War.”

In the 1960s and 1970s, De Antonio established his reputation with a series of political documentaries including Point of Order (1964) on the Senate Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954; Rush to Judgment 91967) investigating the aftermath of the Kennedy assassination; Millhouse: A White Comedy (1971) which followed Richard Nixon’s political career; and as co-director, Underground (1976) on the Weathermen.

De Antonio claimed he was able to make Painters Painting (1972) as he knew all of the artists involved:

“I was probably the only filmmaker in the world who could [have made Painters Painting] because I knew all those people, from the time that they were poor, and unsuccessful and had no money. I knew Warhol and Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and Stella before they ever sold a painting, and so it was interesting to [make this film].”

His close relationship with these artists allowed some incredibly candid interviews from the likes of Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Barnett Newman, Hans Hofmann, Jules Olitski, Philip Pavia, Larry Poons, Robert Motherwell, and Kenneth Noland. Though, as ever, Andy Warhol deflected questions, claiming Brigid Berlin painted his pictures—though he had previously claimed everything he knew about painting he had learned from “De.”
 

 
With thanks to Christopher Mooney!

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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07.17.2013
07:29 pm
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