Monday, July 27, 2009

Glitz & Grime: Photographs of Times Square @Richardson

JTF (just the facts): A total of 24 works: 23 photographs and 1 artist's book, variously framed and matted, and hung in the main gallery (primarily color) and the project room (primarily black and white). The images were taken between 1945 and the present. (Installation shots at right.)

The following artists are included in the exhibit, with the number of images on display in parentheses:

Olivo Barbieri (1)
Lillian Bassman (1)
Rudy Burckhardt (1)
Ted Croner (1)
Philip-Lorca diCorcia (2)
Alfred Eisenstadt (1)
Mitch Epstein (1)
Elliot Erwitt (1)
Louis Faurer (1)
Robert Frank (1)
David Hilliard (1)
Paul Himmel (1)
Lisa Kereszi (1)
William Klein (1)
Jeff Liao (1)
Benn Mitchell (2)
Andrew Moore (1)
Lynn Saville (1)
Stephen Shore (1 book)
Louis Stettner (1)
Dennis Stock (1)
Brian Ulrich (1)

Comments/Context: Yancey Richardson's offering in the parade of New York themed summer group shows is a celebration of the quintessential New York landmark: Times Square. Images from different decades show a remarkably uneven history of waxing and waning commercial success: from the brightly lit theaters and shiny cars of the 1940s and 1950s, to the down at the heels shops and strip clubs of the 1970s and 1980s, to the cacophonous consumption explosion of recent years.

Most of the early black and white images use the reflections from rows of bright theater lights and the contrasts of light and dark to drive composition, many photographers opting for multiple images or shadowy abstracted views to catch the nighttime energy of the site. Mitch Epstein and Lisa Kerezsi chronicle the grittier in-between years: a boarded-up theater seen though a window with peeling paint, and an out of use neon sign, now dark and abandoned. Andrew Moore and Jeff Liao show the current state of Times Square: a chaotic brew of saturated color advertising, piled in flashing overlapping layers of shouting billboards. Brian Ulrich's slack jawed teen playing a video game seems the perfect response to this over-the-top stimuli.
Like most of the summer group shows in this series, this is light fare, with a broad mix of styles and approaches designed to appeal to a wide audience. Just like Times Square itself, there is plenty of vitality and sparkle in this show to entertain just about anyone for a short period of time.
One entirely unrelated side note: unless many of the galleries participating in these New York group shows have deeper secondary market inventories than I had imagined, there seems to be a lot of trading and borrowing going on between galleries in the background to put these thematic exhibits together (i.e. artists represented by one gallery showing up in the group show of another). While some amount of this back room exchange is always going on, perhaps this is a sign of increased collaboration and support between like minded galleries in these tougher economic times.
Collector's POV: The images in the show range in price from $2100 to $40000, with the Stephen Shore book at $500; in general, most of the prints are under $10000. For our particular collection, we liked Ted Croner's Times Square Montage, 1947, Paul Himmel's Times Square, 1950, and William Klein's Selwyn 42nd Street, New York, 1955.

Rating: * (1 star) GOOD (rating system described here)

Transit Hub:
  • Ted Croner obituary in the NY Times, 2005 (here)
  • Benn Mitchell artist site (here)
  • Jeff Liao artist site (here)
Glitz & Grime: Photographs of Times Square
Through August 28th

535 West 22nd Street
New York, NY 10011

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