Monday, November 21, 2011

Out Harvey Wang's Window

The Tenement Museum differs from most museums in that our collection is displayed in  re-created apartments, rather than galleries. While we've presented temporary visual art exhibits in our storefront windows (and even in the apartments at 97 Orchard Street, back in our early days), the Museum hasn't had a purpose-build gallery space until this fall. This gives us an exciting new opportunity to present new perspectives on immigration, New York City history, architecture and other themes.

We're inaugurating our new exhibition space within the Visitor Center at 103 Orchard Street with "Out Harvey Wang's Window", an exhibition of Lower East Side photographs by Harvey Wang. Below, Tenement staffer Alana Rosen reflects on Harvey's work and our unusual curatorial process.

Harvey Wang, Mr. Wong's Kitchen, 1980

Harvey Wang, a New York photographer and filmmaker, took photographs of the Lower East Side for many years. In our exhibit, we focus on the black and white pictures he took in the 1970's and 80's.  The images feature storefronts and local businesses, activities unfolding in the streets, and portraits of Lower East Side residents.  The pictures aptly represent the diversity, energy, and uniqueness of the LES during that time.  Although the neighborhood has vastly changed over the past 30 years, there is still a deep sense of history, culture, and vigor. 

Harvey Wang, Essex Street, 1979

After I saw the photographs and learned that the staff was developing a gallery guide for the exhibit, I knew I wanted to be part of the project. The exhibit was developed in a very democratic way--staff members from every department voted to decide which photographs would be included. We also answered questions about our reactions to the photos and how we felt they related to the Museum and its mission. These short texts are included in the Gallery Guide we've created for visitors. It was fascinating to hear what my co-workers had to say. I love piecing together the history of those who lived and worked in the Lower East Side, and becoming part of the neighborhood's history myself.

Harvey Wang, Cleveland Place, 1980

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