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That 70's Show
PowerHouse Arena
37 Main Street at Water Street
Dumbo, Brooklyn
Show Closes April 15th

Written by Melinda Maclean and John Proctor
Photographed by Melinda Maclean


 

John Proctor's Story

The 1970’s seem to be a decade that most people who lived through it tend to romanticize, but don’t ever want to live through again. Riots, blackouts, crumbling urban economic infrastructures, a subway system you didn’t use at night – and a relatively small artistic community with the foresight to preserve it for posterity – all combined to create a scene ripe for evocation thirty years later.

PowerHouse Arena in DUMBO is celebrating that now-canonized period with That 70s Show, a collection of photos, graffiti and assorted other primary sources that capture the punks, pushers, malcontents, rubble, freaks, fashionistas, young, old, and everyday people and places that reveal the soul of a time when Times Square was scary (it still is, in a wholly different way) and Coney Island was freaky (which it soon won’t be after its recent buyout by Thor Equities - http://nymag.com/nymetro/realestate/features/14498/).

 


Cold Crush Brothers
Photo Credit Joe Conzo

Speaking of which, both are well-represented in the gallery. Builder Levy’s “Astroland Moon Rocket” reveals the Coney Island that haunts our dreams in all its gaudy summer grandeur, while Harvey Wang’s “Coney Island, Brooklyn, 1980” gives a peek at some female swimmers who seem alternately suspicious, angry, and amused. Martha Cooper’s “Times Square, 1979” perhaps more harrowingly gives a view of a Times Square that we’ll probably never see again – a desolate snow-covered Broadway with Clint Eastwood and Richard Pryor on the billboards and as many pedestrians as cars (neither too many).



Dictators, Bowery, 1976
Photo Credit Godlis

But the exhibit is just as much about the celebrities as the circumstances. Godlis recorded the CBGB’s scene better than anyone, showing how good an eater then-budding filmmaker Jim Jarmusch was, how good a drinker the Dead Boys frontman Stiv Bators was, and how disregarding of private space some Dictators fans could be.


Stiv Bators, CBGB's, 1977
Photo Credit Godlis

Take a look at the online gallery at http://www.powerhousearena.com/70s_home/home_2.html.

Melinda Maclean's Story

The way the exhibition is arranged – you get a sense of looking back in time through a kaleidoscope - into the faces of a city and era that seem resolute, proud and defiantly individualistic. Style, culture, attitude, the fall-out of the city's economic crisis, the politics of everyday survival and self-expression seem to jump out of all these images – as if to say – can you see me – well, here I am.



Beside candid portraits of iconographic figures who helped define the decade and New York– like Andy Warhol, John Lennon or Debbie Harry - there are many wonderfully evocative images of everyday people and the life of the streets. Arlene Gottfried's intimate portraits brilliantly capture the need for self-expression which make New York City so unique - a young tattooed man hanging out in an Avenue C bodega on the Lower East Side; two stylishly dressed men visiting Coney Island; an old woman skipping rope in Brooklyn. The photos show New York in all it's diverse liveliness - from Susan Meiselas's pictures of young girls in Little Italy to Joe Conzo's candid shots of the birth of hip-hop in the Bronx.

And then there is the graffiti – visual proof of a city on the edge - it's sub-conscious spilling over in colorful pieces and tags. The gallery walls are peppered with artwork by legendary New York graffiti pioneers, such as Iz the Wiz, Snake 1 aka Eddie Rodriguez, Tracy 168, Seen, Blade, Taki 183 and Dondi White. All writers from the early and mid-1970's, when the MTA was low on funds granting easier access to the moving canvas of subway cars and train yards - they helped innovate a unique urban art form that is now a part of New York City lore and culture.

For a more in-depth overview and history of NYC graffit visit: www.at149st.com and also check out the legendary graffiti films Wild Style by Charlie Ahearn and Style Wars by Tony Silver.

Krylon Jungle Green by Metela Man Ed Power House Arena Graffiti



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