The work of renowned photojournalist Ricky Powell curated by Tono Radvany
As the recession of the early 1980’s gave way to the wall street excess the decade is known for, the streets of downtown New York were flush with inspired graffiti from a new generation of artists. The poetic, wall written musings of Samo© and rhythmic patterns of Haring’s subway chalk paintings are excellent examples of that new art form. These visual artists accompanied or actively participated in the sounds of a new style of musicians, noise bands and punk rock- hip hop fusions. The term “famous for being famous” created a mystique surrounding this urban revolution launched in the wasteland below 14th street. Scharf, Haring and Basquiat were the logical step from the father of pop art, Warhol. In the same way as the Beastie Boys, known for their punk rock swagger were learned in the school of hip hop instructed by Run DMC.
Bushwick today represents a strong similarity to New York in the mid 80’s. Our country is emerging from a long term recession. The then downtown scene, a place where desolate streets hide art events, performances and late night music behind steel loft doors, is mirrored in the urban wasteland of industrial East Williamsburg and Bushwick. A familiar terrain where like in the decades past, everyone knows everyone, everyone is an artist, actor, writer or musician or possibly a combination thereof. Here and now, as was then, an artist, denied exhibition at the gallery plies their trade with spray paint and wheatpaste, capable of going as far as their creativity will take them. Scharf is the new father figure, showing the new generation tenacity with his late night graffiti walks, as deftly as his installs showcases in a blue chip Chelsea gallery.
It is for this reason, and in this context, that we reflect on the renowned photojournalist work of Ricky Powell. Far from paparazzi, far from fly on the wall, Powell was the peer these artists spent time with. A photographer whose candor reflects in his subjects the intimacy that was Downtown New York. An intimacy that is now found in the Bushwick Scene.
When looked at in large format, Powell’s Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol On Mercer Street Going To Tony Shafrazi Gallery, 1985 is reflection of this relationship. This black and white photograph, printed in museum quality as large as the gallery wall is an epic work the size of these epic characters. Basquiat a hero of contemporary street art, heralded a new style of poetry, written in spray paint with a drive to be on museum walls. Warhol, the hero of the Neo-Expressionists, a graphic designer using color, repetition and marketing to mold the art world. Both artists, both quiet, sometimes shy individuals. In a city much like their personalities, shyly protective of its hidden treasure, its underground scene. This photo could easily been seen as taken today, on Bogart street in a moment of transit with an artist and his young peer.
So with this context we are please to announce that David Kesting Presents: Ricky Powell, a collection of photographs from the artists archives reflecting the urban artistic and music references between these two times and cultures. Curated by Tono Radvany a longtime friend of Powell known for cataloging, exhibiting and printing Powell’s work. The exhibition opens to the public with a reception for the artist on Friday May 17 from 7:00 – 10:00pm, and will be open to the public during the Bushwick Open Studios May 31 to June 2 and close on June 9. For additional details please visit http://kesting.net for details. David Kesting Presents: is a contemporary art space in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn NY. The gallery was originally founded in 2003 as Capla Kesting Fine Art, then in 2008 became Leo Kesting Gallery in the Meat Packing District & Kesting/Ray in Soho in 2011.
Ricky Powell, American Photographer B.1961, Brooklyn NY – Raised in New York City, Powell graduated from Hunter College and has worked as a photographer for numerous international publications. Photographs in Time Magazine, RollingStone and the New York Times have given Powell notoriety as a intimate photographer who captures the private candor of well known musicians, artists and actors.
Powell has four published books and is in the collection of several prominent institutions.