Three New York artists pay homage to
The Greatest City On Earth
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When George Harrison arrived in New York for the Beatles' historic visit he was carrying a Pentax Spotmatic as he descended the airplane's steps. Susan Barnett, then 15 years old, soon bought the same Pentax and began to photograph her everyday life such as it appeared to her.
With a formal education in Art History and Studio Art, she landed a job at Perls Galleries on Madison Avenue, where she worked for twelve years as Associate Director. She handled Picasso, Braque, Leger and Matisse as well as preparing exhibitions and catalogues for Alexander Calder. Next door to Perls Galleries was Light Gallery, one of the earliest galleries to show Contemporary Photography. There Susan experienced first hand the work of Steven Shore and Lee Friedlandler.
In ElectriCity, Barnett presents her series, "Not In Your Face". The t-shirt is starkly evident but these photographs are not about the t-shirt per se. They are about the stories of people who tell their own story. "I look for individuals who stand out in a crowd by their choice of the message on their back." The messages are combinations of pictures and words that are appropriated from contemporary culture but have the unique effect of mixing up meanings and creating new meanings. On the streets these personalities create their own iconography that explore the cultural, political and social issues that have an impact on our everyday lives.
"I am influenced by the typologies of August Sander which address the sociological aspect of his time and I am attempting a similar kind of process. In these photographs we witness a chronicle of American subcultures and vernaculars which illustrate the American identity.
"These photographs demonstrate how these individuals wear a kind of badge of honor or trophy that says 'I belong to this group not the other'. Each one of these people reveal a part of themselves that advertises their hopes, ideals, likes, dislikes, political views, and personal mantras. By photographing from the back I challenge the time-honored tradition of the portrait being of the face and test whether body type, dress and demeanor can tell us just as much as a facial expression might."
Linda Zacks is equal parts design, smarts, art, paint, poetry, zip and zoom with an Empire-state-of-mind. She is an award-winning, Brown University graduate and former Vh1.com Design Director. Zacks has created campaigns for Broadway, Sony, Adobe and The Sundance Film Festival among many others. Her art installations include "The Greatest City on Earth" public art project in lower Manhattan; Paris Murals Collaboration in Gare Montparnasse Station, Paris; Sony Style Flagship and Retail in New York City; and INQ Mobile World Conference Booth in Barcelona.
She is an innovative thinker, whose work blurs distinctions between commercial and fine art mediums and genres. She has been featured in numerous exhibitions and publications and has had limited edition books in the MoMA Design Store and The International Center of Photography.
Zacks' work percolates from the tangible grime that is the oozy texture of New York City. It is about the cacophony of whooping sirens and grinding metal. Her words form a rhythmic latin hustle, pimp strutting with meaning and experiences, setting one up for that same sort of woozy swoon one feels when roaming the streets around Times Square. Tension. Calamity. The urban obstinance that turns a jackhammer into a musical instrument. If it’s not cathartic, it’s not in her artistic vocabulary.
But even within the pissy, greasy pavement in the alley behind a Chinese takeout joint, Zacks' work reminds us that these textures are about the lived urban experience through which many of us find a particular sort of pleasure. It is a giddiness that is the liquor store hold-up approach to making meaning, from the hip and with zesty passion. It’s got mood swings, attitude problems, and intensity.
Nothing is out of the question: old wood, torn paper, rusty metal, ink, duct tape or a scribbled-over Polaroid. Zacks is all about the anxiety, adoration, filth, fear, and visceral energy of just being alive and aware, and that makes its way into each picture. The world is a treasure hunt and a box of 64 crayons is like a 24-carat diamond.
For more than two decades, Tom White has been a widely commissioned and published art director, designer and visual storyteller. In 1995, White launched 9 Surf Studios in New York City, an award-winning boutique multidisciplinary studio specializing in a hybrid of art direction, design, illustration and photography for all media. His work continues to be commissioned by many of the worlds leading brands, publications and agencies.
Though fully immersed in digital media (White is an early pioneer of the use of digital toolsets in the arts), he returned to his early training in printmaking in 2012 and founded 9 Surf Editions, a fine art print studio working one-on-one with artists and photographers the world over.
Even after relocating to Asbury Park, NJ in 2008, his fascination with New York City has not changed. In ElectriCity, White presents “Tagged: Remix”, a series of photographic multiple exposure images of street tag and art elements amongst the surrounding visual landscape in a particular location; in this case the Lower East Side in New York City. Tagging is transient because of weathering, painting over, retagging, removal, etc.. The images capture the essence of the selected elements, textures, architecture, surfaces, spraypaint, paint, cement, tar, and other urban underlayers within a location and recasts and preserves them in one window of vision.
Using the photographic process as a starting point, complemented by an experimental process in everything from intent, to shooting and editing, to the printmaking process, White weaves newly told stories and scenes through veils of captured images, colors and textures.
"I am a hybrid of experimenter, creator and technician. It is important for me to challenge the traditional understandings of photography and fine art and remove typical distinctions of what a photograph or painting is and allow the viewer to focus on the image without needing to define the medium.”
Along with wife Lois, Tom White is a founder and resident artist at Exhibit No.9.