Lower East Side

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Given our ongoing interest in that classic New York film Ghostbusters (see here and here and here), it seems only right to present you with this picture, created by Lower East Side polymath Shawn Chittle, whose website brings together a variety of interests: the Lower East Side, music, and kinds of tech, old and new:

The image was featured recently on EV Grieve’s post about the Post, specifically the New York tabloid’s report about a new boutique hotel set to sprout up on the site of the former Salvation Army building on the Bowery.

Frankly, we’re more worked up about the hotel itself than about the Post‘s blooper about Bowery geography. We fantasize about being Dan Aykroyd’s character Ray Stantz listening to the command, “Choose the form of the destroyer!” We know what we’d choose.

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Vivien Goldman, from “To Hell & Back,” Sounds, 8 October 1977:

“I WONDER whether the bright spark who thought up the new Sire Records slogan Don’t Call It Punk realised exactly how spot on he/she was. Take a musician like Richard [Hell] – he isn’t a punk. True, he lives in a highly unsalubrious area of New York, way down on the lower east side, ideal turf for young punks to hang out on corners and shoot the shit, but Richard isn’t there because he’s a first generation American whose folks have just pulled in from Puerto Rico. He’s there because he’s one of the new generation of artist types flocking to low-rent areas, a process which will inevitably result in the rents slowly rising, the scabrous tenements being tarted up till the immigrant families can’t afford it any more and have to shift camp to somewhere even less advantageous. Right now, it’s still funky in the fullest sense of the word – mean, dirty and low down, just the kind of area your mother wouldn’t let you play in.”

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I haven’t had a chance to preview the Lush Life LES group show yet. Curated by Omar Lopez-Chahoud and Franklin Evans (no relation to the Walt Whitman temperance novel), the show opens officially on Thursday evening at nine different LES galleries. As the name implies it takes its inspiration from Richard Price’s 2008 novel, which I’ve read twice and think quite highly of. It’s the sort of book that remaps your experience of place: it’s hard not to encounter the novel’s LES landmarks, some of them renamed or slightly repositioned, without thinking about the book and its characters. I’ve never seen the bridges from the top of the Al Smith homes, for instance, but whenever I’m walking St. James Place I can’t help but think about Price’s Clara Lemlich Houses, closely based on the Smith towers, and it’s easier to imagine someone else’s views — which is precisely what the book aims to have you do.

I have been following Kianga Ellis’s tweets on the show @LushLifeLES and encourage Twitterers to give her a follow. (Facebook here.) I plan to hit the show’s nine chapters over the coming week — maybe even during the epic opening, if I can manage it — and promise to report back.

In the meantime, from the “About” page of the show’s website, a little more detail and a whole lot of links:

LUSH LIFE is an exhibition curated by Franklin Evans and Omar Lopez-Chahoud which takes place at nine Lower East Side (LES) galleries:

Collette Blanchard Gallery, Eleven Rivington, Invisible-Exports, Lehmann Maupin, On Stellar Rays, Salon 94, ScaramoucheSue Scott Gallery, and Y Gallery.

LUSH LIFE adopts Richard Price’s 2008 novel to title and organize the exhibition.  The novel is set in the contemporary LES and through a murder investigation exposes the dynamically changing community of the neighborhood, which despite its evolution retains a ghostly and vital link to its layered past.

The deep and varied history of the LES now includes the LES galleries as new community members, and Price’s novel provides a potent vehicle for the consideration of community as voices compete for, ignore and occasionally share the same physical and conceptual space.

The galleries will host concurrent exhibitions with each exhibition reflecting the idea of one of the nine chapters in the book. The curators selected one artist from each gallery to participate in the exhibition and solicited from each of them one additional artist recommendation of an artist not from one of the nine participating galleries (nine total recommendations). The curators then supplemented this base group of eighteen artists to complete nine exhibitions, ranging in size from three to twelve artists.

LUSH LIFE will be the present for what will become a living ghost to the future form into which the LES will inevitably morph. The exhibition schedule varies slightly at each gallery with the earliest installation being June 17 and the latest closing being August 13.  See gallery specific schedule below.

There will be a collective opening of all participating galleries on
Thursday, July 8th from 6 – 9 pm.

Sue Scott Gallery
1 Rivington Street
Chapter One: Whistle
June 17 – August 1

On Stellar Rays
133 Orchard Street
Chapter Two: Liar
June 23 – August 1

14A Orchard Street
Chapter Three: First Bird (A Few Butterflies)
June 25 – July 31

Lehmann Maupin
201 Chrystie Street
Chapter Four: Let It Die
July 8 – August 13

Y Gallery
355 A Bowery Street
Chapter Five: Want Cards
July 8 – July 25

Collette Blanchard Gallery
26 Clinton Street
Chapter Six: The Devil You Know
July 8 – August 13

Salon 94
1 Freeman Alley
Chapter Seven: Wolf Tickets
June 29 – July 30

52 Orchard Street
Chapter Eight: 17 Plus 25 Is 32
July 8 – August 7

Eleven Rivington
11 Rivington Street
Chapter Nine: She’ll Be Apples
July 15 – August 13

Artists: Alice O’Malley, Alisha Kerlin, Amy Longenecker-Brown, Carol Irving, Chakaia Booker, Charles Sabba, Christoph Draeger, Claudia Weber, Coco Fusco, Cynthia Lin, Dana Frankfort, Dana Levy, Dani Leventhal, David Kramer, David Shapiro, Derrick Adams, Elisabeth Subrin, Erik Benson, Ezra Johnson, Gail Thacker, Gina Magid, Ishmael Randall Weeks, Jackie Gendel, Jackie Saccoccio, Jayson Keeling, Jessica Dickinson, Joanne Greenbaum, Jonathan VanDyke, Jose Lerma, Judi Werthein, Justen Ladda, Kai Schiemenz / Iris Fluegel, Karen Heagle, Karina Aguilera Skvirsky, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Leslie Hewitt, Manuel Acevedo, Mario Ybarra Jr., Matthew Weinstein, Melissa Gordon, Nanna Debois Buhl, Nicolas Di Genova, Nina Lola Bachhuber, Olivier Babin, Patrick Lee, Patty Chang, Paul Gabrielli, Paul Pagk, Paul Pfeiffer, Pedro Barbeito, Rashid Johnson, Robert Beck, Robert Lazzarini, Robert Melee, Robin Graubard, Rudy Shepherd, Scott Hug, Tim Davis, Tommy Hartung, Xaviera Simmons, Yashua Klos

We are grateful to Richard Price and the vitality of his novel.

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I blogged this elsewhere last year, but this afternoon I’m leading an annual Sweets and Cheap Eats on the LES walking tour for students returning to the Residential College where I live as faculty in residence.

If you were to add something to this tour, what would it be?

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A few weeks back, my dad emailed me a link to John Strausbaugh’s Times article on the history of jazz and other popular entertainment at Lincoln Square, a “cradle for serious grooving” roughly in the area where Lincoln Center now stands.

The email also served as a reminder that I’d promised here, last fall, to keep tabs on Strausbaugh’s series of neighborhood notes and walking tours. So I should mention that, since I last mentioned these installments, Strausbaugh has also published entries on the Upper East Side and what he calls “P.T. Barnum’s New York,” meaning lower Manhattan in the 19th century.

I’ve also noticed that the Times is maintaining an interactive map with convenient links to each piece in the series, allowing you to get more details on specific sites Strausbaugh mentions along the way. As always, each installment is accompanied by a downloadable walking tour, though I have yet to give one of these a go. I’d love to hear from someone who’s tried out one or more of them.


Of course, when it comes to Barnum, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you to the extraordinary resources available from the CUNY Social History Project, including their site “The Lost Museum.”

Also in the realm of virtual NY, I’ve been meaning to say something about the Virtual LES articles that popped up in the paper a while back. You can visit the virtual LES at vles.com. I have more I want to say about that — including some gossip about the site’s treatment of rock and roll venues — but that will have to wait for another time.

On the general subject of the LES — cleaned up, virtual, or otherwise — I’ve been keen on getting Richard Price’s new novel, Lush Life, set in the neighborhood in the 90s.  Friends have recommended that I listen to his interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. I haven’t yet, but you can beat me to it by clicking here.

(Price, incidentally, will be speaking at the Tenement Museum on Tuesday, April 15, at 6:30 pm.)

One reason they’ve been on me about Price is that I’ve been obsessing, over on The Great Whatsit, about nostalgic and antinostalgic strains in New York writing. I haven’t had the time or space to work out everything I’m thinking on the topic, but for initial noodling around — with fugitive comments on Edith Wharton, Michael Chabon, Adam Gopnik, Theodore Dreiser and others — you can begin here.

[update, later that night: if Lush Life is half as entertaining as Sam Anderson’s review of it in New York  magazine, I think I’ll dig it. Sam, by the way, among other things is an advanced PhD student in our department; he just won the NBCC’s Balakian Award for his reviewing. Go, Sam!]

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