Two current photo shows feature pictures documenting another era of New York City, when glamour, creativity, and legendary parties were de rigour. Clayton Patterson: Pyramid Portraits on view at Esopus Space on West 3rd Street, features never-before-seen photos taken during the mid-80s at the East Village's Pyramid Club. Patterson (scroll down for my October 2009 post on his L.E.S. Captured show), a long-time photo/video/audio documenter of the Lower East Side and its inhabitants, took countless portraits of the drag queens who performed in Whispers, a weekly cabaret night at the Pyramid. As Patterson states, "Up to that point, drag had been about referencing movie stars like Bette Davis or Judy Garland... but the queens at the Pyramid Club invented entirely fictitious characters" (from the exhibit's press release). These characters (usually costumed on shoestring budgets) included "everything from space aliens to goth punks to suburban housewives" and were the colorful creations of performers like Tabboo!, Hapi Phace, Sun PK, John Kelly, Maze, John Sex, Sister Dimension, and International Chrysis. The portraits, taken in the Pyramid's dressing room, showcase the performers' artistry, imagination, and innovation. As the press release states, "these photographs document—and celebrate—the denizens of a dynamic, radically diverse Lower East Side, a community that would soon be decimated by the AIDS epidemic (and in the ensuing years, by relentless gentrification and development of the neighborhood)."
Esopus Space is an intimate, nonprofit exhibition and performance space located in an office building at 64 West 3rd Street. Founded in 2003, the venue "provides an accessible and noncommercial arena in which creative people and the public can connect in meaningful, productive ways." Learn more at esopusspace.org and learn more about Clayton Patterson: Pyramid Portraits at esopusmag.com. Through July 15th.
Down at Broome Street's Clic Gallery is Smash His Camera: The Notorious Photographs of Ron Galella. Galella, the self-coined "bandit of images," is the original, pre-TMZ paparazzo, having shot countless, glamorous celebs since the 60s, most infamously Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis whom he regularly stalked and who ultimately got a restraining order on him. Along with pics of smiling and/or partying stars, his candid shots capture Jackie O and her children off guard, Sean Penn punching another lensman, and Mick Jagger flipping the bird. The photos on display seem to be primarily from the 80s, many showing Andy Warhol hanging around NYC and at Studio 54 with his famous friends. According to the show's press release, "In the past few years, Galella has become recognized as one of the foremost chroniclers of twentieth century America" with many of his photos added to the permanent collections of many major institutions.
Smash His Camera: The Notorious Photographs of Ron Galella is on display in conjunction with the premiere of Leon Gast's documentary on the photog's career, Smash His Camera, which debuted on HBO on June 7th. Learn more at clicgallery.com. Through June 30th.
Photos of Andy Warhol (with Chris Stein and Deborah Harry; Bianca Jagger) at Smash His Camera: The Notorious Photographs of Ron Galella