It seems apt that my opening here at Flash, Crash, Zoom… is to look at another opening… of a new exhibition of Larry Fink‘s photography. In this exhibition, Larry Fink has captured the journey that is a jazz scene managing survival as the city moves on. In Third Floor Gallery, the exhibition has found a kindred spirit, on the fringes, itself a cool, little club providing for a niche art in this world of American Idol and X Factor. Together it is a wonderful mix that I really do recommend you see.
If I say 3 phrases to you: “New York”, “Jazz”, “1960’s” – a cliché appears in your mind, at least it does with me, of small, dark, smokey clubs oozing cool. Hip cats and beatniks getting down to the rare grooves of John Coltrane or Dizzy Gillespie. Cliché or not, there is something about it which just grabs the attention and makes me, if no-one else, want to have been there. This is probably two things i) nostalgia [everything was better “then” wasn’t it(?)] and ii) not being from New York. I have been there (for 9 hours) and it seemed to be the coolest place on earth – blame movies, blame TV but New York just has something. When putting this collection together, Fink himself wanted to subtitle this “images of New York before the bankers took over” – reflecting the fact that this New York, the one of movies and clichés is no longer there, Harlem and the lower East Side have been “gentrified” (I seriously hate that word…) and are even on the tourist trail. This is a theme that he seems always to return to having been best known for his Social Graces contrast of rich New Yorkers and rural Pennsylvanians.
This is where a wonderful touch in the collection comes into play to separate this from any other set of old black and whites from NYC – the images from the ’50’s, ’60’s and ’70’s heyday are juxtaposed with images from the early 2000s – bar a few fashion cues (a lovely pair of Nike Air sneak into one shot) it is difficult to tell that time has moved on unless you look at the name card under the print. Further to this, Fink has caught up with some of the musicians he shot in the ’60s and ’70s and shown that they are still at it, still in the little clubs (although now fewer of them), just loving the music.
The pictures are all, without exception, beautifully taken (a few I would definitely want on my wall) in black & white, showing both musicians and punters, scenery and mise en scene. From the flurry of movement of John Coltrane busting out a solo to the slow burn of a lone cigarette on the ledge of a music stand, left unattended whilst its owner is lost in the music. This particular curation also focuses only on Jazz and the images of New York that fit the jazz scene. The wider work in this collection is more generally about music, covering many other genres (The Boss to Jay Z with a bit of Coltrane in the middle).
The Arek Mazurek Quartet were added to the mix by Third Floor Gallery for the opening night – a dash of apt music to compliment the images. A heady mix (with the divine Otley’s ale that was on tap) that set the whole thing up perfectly to imagine yourself standing in one of NYC’s crowded cubby-holes of cool. Although not necessary, I would definitely recommend taking your own little in ear jazz band to enhance your viewing.
The prints themselves are good quality and real care has been put in by the guys at the gallery in their curation. If there is one (very small…no pun intended) criticism, it is the size of some of the prints (a minority I must add). Granted there could be technological reasons why (the gallery is run by volunteers and donations – paper and ink are expensive ya know!), but a reasonable number were 10×8 (a couple even seemed 7×5). When sat next to some large format 24 or 36 inch prints (unframed) they lose a little of their impact.
Black and white photography, New York and jazz clubs may be a cliché but they are one, in Larry Fink’s hands, I could look at all day. This is a great exhibition so, get some jazz on your MP3 player, whack it in your ears and go catch it before it ends 19 February 2012. Nice…
For more info see Third Floor’s website here: Third Floor Gallery and when you’ve seen it, come and let’s talk below the line.