The subways, roaring buses, highballing yellow cabs, the bustling Broadway streets, the Gotham towers, the bright lights, big city-if New York were a color, it would be flashy, vibrant and unquestionably hard to miss. Strange then how Harvey Zipkin and Patisse, contributors to the exhibit NYC: the Pretentious and Pedestrian at the Daniel Azoulay Gallery, have depicted the incomprehensibly busy metropolis in simplistic black-and-white photography. The display stars a collection of monochromatic snapshots that attempt to reveal the big picture behind the Big Apple.
The gallery, planted in the heart of Miami’s trendy art district, is an archetypal setting for showcasing photography. Inside, stark concrete floors and white walls match the minimalist simplicity of the high ceilings. Sparse studio lighting subtly brightens the room and throbbing world music forms a satisfying atmosphere for drinking.
Zipkin, a New York native who’s been photographing professionally since the early 1960s, includes nothing complicated in his work. There’s no intricate symbolism, no fussy lighting techniques, no unnecessary bells and whistles. Rather, he depicts real, raw humanity: the ups and the downs, the ordinary and the extraordinary, the heart-pounding excitement of life as well as the simple beauty found in everyday routine. “The Hyatt 42nd Street” offers a delightful glimpse of businessmen en route as the busy workday trickles on. Brilliant in its veracity, “Golden Earring” shows a woman staring out of a bus window, the light glinting off a large gilded hoop that dangles from her left ear. “Along Broadway” is a simple aerial shot of a crowded intersection, its focal point a splashy billboard for “Donahue.” Also noteworthy are the cheery scenes that smell of summer-from a swimmer diving neatly into a pool to panoramas with Coney Island roller coasters arching dizzily in the background.
Contrastingly, Patisse takes a darker look at the city, her photos filled with imagery from New York’s bleaker underbelly during the excesses of the ’80s. Nightclubs provide much of the setting for the murky prints, which include shots of glitzy elitists and singers, as well as, interestingly, shots of the then-fledgling pop star Madonna. She also captures other New York personalities such as artist Jean-Michel Basquiat on the road to his eventual demise, as well as drag queens and socialites of the time. Her intuitive view of New York after dark is enticing and elucidating.
Whether you hail from Long Island, have racked up several frequent flyer miles to LaGuardia as a tourist, or even never set foot on the warm streets of Manhattan, there’s something to pique your interest in NYC – don’t pass this one up.
The exhibit runs through Oct. 12th. For more info, call 305-576-1977.
Jessica Misener can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org