Archive for June 2012
Local art concern, Artesan Gallery + Studio, has gleaming, pristine new digs at the Raffles Hotel.
And I do mean gleaming.
Not that their Bukit Timah home was lacking — if anything, the space was both charming and cozy — but in a sense the present move really marks an arrival of sorts.
The inaugural show is a solo presentation of Filipino artist Roldan “Manok” Ventura‘s latest work.
Bruce Davidson‘s been on the mind lately.
Was revisiting his Subway book for a short project I’m currently working on with a friend (apropos of the SKL0 affair). The images are justifiably admired: graceful, single-minded, beguilingly insalubrious snapshots of a New York City I thought I was going to discover when I moved there in the early 2000s — only to find, of course, that that world of urban decay, of dirt and graffiti and muggings and CBGB and Bernhard Goetz, had long given way to what, by then, statistics proved was the safest large city in the country. (A fact corroborated by the number of Starbucks cafes and D’agostino’s supermarkets I found on every block. Both phenomena thanks in large part to Giuliani-driven gentrification.)
But that’s not the point here.
Another pal and I were having drinks at a rooftop bar a couple of nights ago: a cool, balmy evening, with a slight breeze and a couple of beers (and the high of seeing one’s name on a wall) and talk for some reason turned to our adolescent days — misspent adolescence, in my case.
Of playing hooky, of screwing up the ‘O’s, of hiding out in the bathrooms to smoke during P.E. lessons …
Fast-forward two decades later, and sometimes I’d dream of some amateur photog out there who’s amassed an unseen stash of images capturing the subculture of ’90s ‘kids’: the doc marts and Birkenstocks, the Guess berms, the Hunting World tees, the black JPG wallets and the Sonia Rykiel quilted bags, the tea dances at Fire and hanging out at the McDonald’s outlet at Centrepoint … You know, the way Carol Jerrems did for the Sharpie movement in Melbourne, or Gavin Watson’s punks and skinheads.
The pal and I soon moved on to other topics, but the exchange, however brief, dredged up out of the cold-freeze of consciousness a younger self I haven’t seen around in a while. A younger, hungrier, more starry-eyed self. And, oddly enough, he’s been missed.
The images here are from another iconic Bruce Davidson project, his Brooklyn Gang series, which preceded the work of Jerrems and Watson. According to one commentator, it “stands as one of the first in-depth photographic records of rebellious postwar youth culture”:
In 1959, there were about 1,000 gang members in New York City, mainly teenage males from ethnically-defined neighbourhoods in the outer boroughs. In the spring of that year, Bruce Davidson read a newspaper article about outbreaks of street fighting in Prospect Park and travelled across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan in search of a gang to photograph.
“I met a group of teenagers called the Jokers,” he wrote in the afterword to his seminal book of insider reportage, Brooklyn Gang. “I was 25 and they were about 16. I could easily have been taken for one of them.”
…… For several months Davidson followed the Jokers on their endless wanderings around their Brooklyn turf and beyond. He captured them hanging out in Prospect Park, where outdoor dances were held on weekend summer nights, and lounging on the beach at Coney Island. He snapped the young men as they killed time in a neighbourhood diner called Helen’s Candy Store. In his photographs, the Jokers look both tough and innocent, uncertain adolescent kids caught in that hinterland between childhood and – this being New York – premature adulthood.
(Read the full Guardian article here.)
More pictures from the series below. The opening image at the top of the post, though, pretty much encapsulates my sentiments about vanished selves and halycon springs: a seemingly perfect moment fixed in monochrome, a taxidermic impression of a street corner, reckless hijinks, an endless stretch of street, and the splintered corona of a late-afternoon sunbeam scintillating out of an open sky — the Peter Pan-nish promise of the eternal good vibe.
The mythology of memory ……
Here’s perhaps the perfect counterpoint (culled from one of the most famous novels of prodigal youth):
I don’t even know what I was running for — I guess I just felt like it. After I got across the road, I felt like I was sort of disappearing. It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like disappearing every time you crossed a road.
So apparently she got picked up by the cops yesterday.
Who ? The “Press until shiok” sticker lady. Don’t know who that is ? See this abbreviated ST article.
The guerrilla art scene in Singapore gets slapped in the face.