Even for the most informed of our communicators, those believing they’ve seen it all, there is always something fresh, new and stunning about African American history and culture, and certainly from the countless number of unheralded artists.
One wonders where Alex Harsley has been all these many years and now out of the long days of relative obscurity at the June Kelly Gallery where his 29 photos comprise “50 Years of Fine Art Images.”
Anchoring the exhibit are huge photos of Jean Michel Basquiat (1980) and Muhammad Ali (1972).
Both are digital prints and are exemplary of Harsley’s later work that spans a half century, including wonderful images of John Coltrane on soprano saxophone during a performance at the Apollo Theatre in 1964.
Among the earliest photos is “The Bronx,” and it depicts a train decorated with graffiti speeding by on an elevated track. “Snake” is one of the taggers and it reveals that the street art forum is much older than many thought.
The contrasting photos on 4th Street in summer and winter (gelatin silver print) in lower Manhattan demonstrate Harsley’s sensitivity to urban scenes and the people who populate it.
Photographer Dawoud Bey, in the exhibition brochure, provides a glimpse of Harsley’s resume and notes: “This current exhibition focuses on Harsley’s beginnings, his use of the small hand-held camera and black and white materials. These materials are the foundation of photography’s expressive history and they are the reason the original experience of photography was of a world rendered on paper in shades of black, white, and gray.
“This is, of course, an abstraction of reality, as the world we live in is actually full of color,” Bey concluded.
That is certainly true, but that in no way minimizes Harsley intimacy and a kind of intuitive sense of color and movement that resonates from the shade and shadows of his work.
No, there is no contention here, only perspectives that it is hoped compel you to offer your opinion of the show which closes June 19 at the June Kelly Gallery 166 Mercer Street, Manhattan, 11:00am to 6pm, Tuesday-Saturday. 212 226-1660.