This spring the Noorderlicht Photogallery digs deep into a mythic time in New York’s Lower East Side. Ken Schles’ images from the 1980s are a gritty, penetrating portrayal of a city racked with violence, when crime rates were high and drug addicts and artists ruled his downtown world. An explosive but creative cocktail yielding an intoxicating brew of light, darkness and desire.
The exhibition of 100 black and white photographs coincides with the publication of a new monograph, Night Walk (2014), a companion to Schles’s underground cult classic Invisible City (1988). Recently reprinted by Steidl, the book is considered alongside Brassaï’s Paris de Nuit and Ed van der Elksen’s Love On The Left Bank to be one of the great depictions of the nocturnal bohemian experience of the 20th century.
Twenty-five years after the printing of his seminal 1988 book, Invisible City, Ken Schles revisits his archive and fashions a narrative of lost youth: a delirious, peripatetic walk in the evening air of an irretrievable downtown New York as he saw and experienced it. Night Walk is a substantive and intimate chronicle of New York's last pre-Internet bohemian outpost, a stream of consciousness portrayal that peels back layers of petulance and squalor to find the frisson and striving of a life lived amongst the rubble. Here, Schles embodies the flâneur as Susan Sontag defines it, as a "connoisseur of empathy... cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes." We see in Night Walk a new and revelatory Ulysses for the 21st century: a searching tale of wonder and desire, life and love in the dying hulk of a ruined American city.
For a decade Ken Schles watched the passing of time from his Lower East Side neighborhood. His camera fixed the instances of his observations, and these moments became the foundation of his invisible city. Friends and architecture come under the scrutiny of his lens and, when sorted and viewed in the pages of this book, a remarkable achievement of personal vision emerges.
Opening: Friday 3 April at 17.00 hrs. With an introduction by Ken Schles.
- Ken Schles
- Invisible City/Night Watch 1983 - 1989
- 4 April - 7 June
- Noorderlicht Photogallery
- Akerkhof 12, 9711 JB Groningen, The Netherlands
- Opening hours Wed – Sun, noon – 6 pm
- Free admission