Friday, February 27, 2015

The City Lost and Found

The photo exhibit, The City Lost and Found: Capturing New York, Chicago and Los Angeles 1960-1980 opened at The Princeton University Art Museum on Feb 21, 2015.

As I wandered through, I couldn't help but find myself in New York and Chicago. As a child of the '80s I caught the tail end of a lot of these changes, and more change since.

I grew up in the shadow of New York City. My earliest childhood memories of visits were filled with danger and decay. It all seems unbelievable now that most of Manhattan has become the picture of luxury, reconstruction and gentrification.

Were my childhood memories were warped and exaggerated by a child's intimidation at something new? Maybe. But seeing some of the photos of NYC at the end of the '70s showed bits of what I remember of the city.

I gasped when I took in Peter Hujar's "Westside Parking Lot."

Look at all the empty spaces! And the garbage, the overgrown weeds in pavement cracks! Some of those cars may have been abandoned there altogether.

I couldn't help but think: If this lot still exists, I doubt there's one open spot today.

Bruce Davidson's shot of a subway car in 1980 made me gasp again:

The City does not only bring us jarring images of  a different New York--it captures social unrest (including riveting images of Civil Rights protests in 1960s Harlem). It also showcases pieces from visual and performance artists, questioning if urban renewal diminished the rich history of the city and its people.

Four photos by Danny Lyon were featured, from his book The Destruction of Lower Manhattan.

I never would have recognized Danny Lyon's New York.

When I turned 18, I chose the Midwest. I spent six and a half years in Milwaukee or Madison, WI, where Chicago was just two hours away. Nearly all my friends from university came from Chicago (more likely its suburbs).

The first three times I went to Chicago, I was only taken to Millennium Park. What a clean, pristine view of the city I had then.

Only after really diving into the Midwest did I discover that Chicago is a quilt of ethnic neighborhoods, each with its own history and flavor.

I especially enjoyed five photos from Chicago's ethnic neighborhoods by Jonas Dovydenas.

I recognized an image of the Saint Nicholas Ukrainian Cathedral right away--and I hear that Ukrainian Village is a very hip neighborhood these days.

The 1960s and 1970s were tumultuous for this city as well.

In 1968 alone, two historical political uprisings broke out--one on the eve of Dr. King's assassination, and one in protest of the Democratic National Convention, hosted in downtown Chicago that year.

Here is what Barton Silverman captured at the DNC:

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