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In ‘Eyes on the Street,’ Photographer Jamel Shabazz Identifies the Boundless Culture of New York City’s Outer Boroughs
One of New York City’s most discerning and essential documentarians, photographer Jamel Shabazz has built a career around capturing the unique visual lexicon of the outer boroughs. His images are deeply empathetic and resolute in the value of all life regardless of race, class, and social status. With a self-described goal of preserving “the world history and culture,” Shabazz continually finds the joy and vibrancy emanating from communities like Brownsville, Red Hook, and Harlem.
His first institutional survey, an expansive exhibition of Shabazz’s photos is on view through September 4 at The Bronx Museum. Eyes on the Streets contains more than 150 images from his extensive archive, some of which are shown for the first time. Distinctly rooted in place, the collection transcends neighborhood and time period, creating a rich, photographic mosaic of New Yorkers through the last four decades. The exhibition also speaks to current conversations around policing and alternatives by showing how tight-knit communities and street activity have long bolstered public safety.
Often recognized for capturing hip-hop culture and the fashions of the 1980s, Shabazz’s photos range from the stylishly posed to the candid and serendipitous. He frames a pitbull mid-air as it grips a strap, children flipping onto a frayed mattress, and a beaming, rush-hour crowd grinning through an open window. Having recorded poverty, the widespread effects of racism, and those housed at Rikers Island during his time working for the Department of Corrections, Shabazz continually chooses humanity and happiness. “Some of the people in the community might see themselves when they were at a really bad point in their lives,” he told The New York Times in reference to the images he chose to leave out of Eyes on the Streets. “I wanted to focus more on the joy.”
Shabazz has published multiple monographs throughout his career, and his new A Time Before Crack is available for pre-order. The forthcoming Jamel Shabazz: Albums, which won the Gordon Parks Foundation/Steidl Book Prize, is also slated for release next fall. You can find more of his photos on his site.
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Thanks to Lewis Miller Design, those passing through New York City have gotten some respite from the rank smells and soggy refuse of streetside garbage cans. For years, the florist (previously) has been planting guerrilla installations of sunflowers, hydrangeas, and peonies in public areas, transforming trash receptacles, construction zones, and lampposts with sprawling assemblages. Check out some of the recent “Flower Flashes” below, and follow the designer on Instagram to see where the temporary bouquets pop up next.
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Artist Sarah Sze explores the myriad conceptions of time and space through a tremendous new spherical sculpture. Titled “Shorter than the Day” —a reference to Emily Dickinson’s poem “Because I could not stop for Death,” which considers the comfort found in life’s finality—Sze’s piece weighs five tons and was unveiled Thursday at LaGuardia Airport. It is suspended above an atrium in Terminal B.
The New York-based artist captures the magnitude of the upper atmosphere as it changes from bright blue morning to a vibrant sunset to the rich hues of the night through nearly 1,000 photographs of the sky. Each printed image is fastened to the aluminum and steel with alligator clips and is revealed as viewers move around the massive work, just like the earth circles the sun to mark a day. The piece was fabricated in collaboration with Amuneal.
Along with three other projects from artists Jeppe Hein, Laura Owens, Sabine Hornig, “Shorter than the Day” was commissioned by LaGuardia Gateway Partners and Public Art Fund. To find out more about Sze, whose work involves countless individual objects positioned in precise arrangements, watch her TED Talk and visit her site. (via ArtNet)
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For those who aren’t keen on emblazoning their rent checks or letters with an American flag, the United States Postal Service recently released a stamp collection dedicated to one of the most influential periods in the nation’s history. The new set features pastel renderings of four prominent figures of the Harlem Renaissance, a profound artistic and intellectual movement that spanned the 1920s. This year marks a century since the period began and became a turning point for Black culture.
Nella Larsen is recognized most often for her two novels Quicksand (1928) and Passing (1929), which explore race relations at the intersection of gender, sexuality, and class; Educator, poet, and avid gardener Anne Spencer exemplified the far-reaching effects of the Harlem Renaissance by hosting artists and intellectuals at her home in Virginia; Arturo Alfonso Schomburg was an Afro-Latinx historian dedicated to furthering recognition of Black artists, writers, and intellectuals. His collections now are housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City; and writer, philosopher, and educator Alain Locke is one of the most prominent thinkers of the period. He also edited and contributed to the foundational text, The New Negro.
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French artist JR (previously) is back in New York, transforming pockets of the city with his latest work. Installed on stacked shipping containers, “The Chronicles of New York City” is a compilation of images depicting more than 1,000 New York residents, who the artist photographed and reproduced for the large-scale work. Created in Williamsburg’s Domino Park, the black-and-white mural is JR’s biggest public project to date in the city. It overlooks the East River and features people living in all five boroughs gathered in a public space that mimics the newly built park.
Since opening his exhibition “JR: Chronicles” in October of 2019, the artist has been transforming areas throughout the city, like a space at the Kings Theatre in Flatbush and the Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance in Bedford Stuyvesant. “The Chronicles of New York City” is the centerpiece of the exhibition, which is on view through May 3, 2020, at Brooklyn Museum, and is accompanied by audio recordings of those portrayed in the monochromatic mural. The public installation was a collaboration with architectural firm LOT-EK, which is known for its sustainable design and helped in creating the site.
“Working at the intersections of photography, social engagement, and street art, JR collaborates with communities by taking individual portraits, reproducing them at a monumental scale, and wheat pasting them—sometimes illegally—in nearby public spaces,” says a statement about the exhibition. See where JR’s work pops up next by following him on Instagram and peek in his shop to check out what’s available for purchase.
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An Enormous Red Sun Will Shine Above the Streets of New York in Thanksgiving Parade Balloon by Yayoi Kusama
If you haven’t had a chance to experience a Yayoi Kusama piece in person, the iconic Japanese artist will be debuting a sun-themed balloon in this year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Kusama (previously), whose wide-ranging work across a long career includes her wildly popular infinity rooms and large-scale polka dotted objects, has designed “Love Flies Up to the Sky” to be floated along the streets of Manhattan. The red balloon, hand-painted with white and yellow dots and a blue face, joins “more than 1,500 dancers and cheerleaders, close to 1,000 clowns, almost 30 parade floats, and a dozen marching bands,” according to NYCTourist.com. Kusama is the first female artist to be commissioned by the parade to create a ballon as part of their Blue Sky Gallery program, joining a roster that has included KAWS, Jeff Koons, Tim Burton, and FriendsWithYou, among others. (via Hyperallergic)
Update: The Kusama balloon was grounded because of weather.
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Editor's Picks: Craft
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