The current show by Bruce Davidson at Aperture is a fascinating series of documentary photographs of the New York subway in the early 80s – a subterrean graffiti scrawled world that has been substantially cleaned up since then. Unusually, these are all in vivid colour, accentuating the vibrancy of the subject matter. First published in 1986, his classic book Subway has become critically acclaimed for this extreme use of colour and shadow set against flash-lit skin. The information on the show describes the work as moving the viewer through a ‘landscape sometimes menacing, at other times lyrical, soulful and satiric. The images include the full panoply of New Yorkers—from weary straphangers and languorous ladies in summer dresses, to stalking predators and the homeless’. In this respect, it is VERY New York.
We meet with the Exhibitions Coordinator Annette Booth, who draws our attention to Joseph Keubelka’s ‘Prague 1968’ book and tells us it is opening in Moscow the following day, the heart of the beast that crushed that Spring revolt in Czeckoslovakia. Other shows currently out on tour include Brian Ulrich’s ‘Copia – Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stories’ and Jonathan Torgovnik’s ‘Intended Consequences: Rwandan Children Born of Rape’, in Boston and Cleveland respectively.
Like ICP, there is little contact with UK venues and again the shipping costs are prohibitive. Aperture magazine is still their main method of profiling what they do outside of America (which you can buy in Street Level incidentally). Their hanging wall space is probably slightly larger than Street Level by a metre or two, a nice surprise. She tells us of the difficulty of touring exhibitions these days, with venues preferring to be involved in partnerships of one kind or another. I pass on information on Street Level and ask her to send me info on their current exhibitions. The following night they are hosting a slide talk by Diane Arbus, an original recording from the early 70s. As a publisher, they produce a number of books per year, some of which have become cult classics, such as Nan Goldin’s ‘The Ballad of Sexual Dependency’ which illustrates a late 1970s/early 1980s New York now lost to time, and a seedy underworld that ‘is visceral and seething with life’. Only one other book epitemises the New York’s incandescence, and that is Patti Smith’s book ‘Just Kids, about her youth and friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe, which I manage to find in a local art bookstore.
Like many of the places we visited, they have an impressive list of sponsor, donators, and major givers and in addition to this they undertake an annual Benefit, Auction and SNAP Party. This is coming up next weekend and is one of several benefits being held by venues visited (Gallery 44, WCP included). Their ‘support Aperture Foundation’ postcard maps out the range of support that can be given: a contribution of your choosing, a programme advertisement, a benefit party ticket at $150, dual ticket $250, a $1000 friend ticket, $1500 patron ticker, $10000 friend table and the higher amount of $15000 patron table. It includes nearly 100 works by luminaries such as Arbus and Davidson, Alex Webb and Charlotte Dumas.