Steve Schapiro 

Art Review

Steve Schapiro
S.K. Josefsberg Studio
403 NW 11th, 241-9112
Through Nov 24

Photographer Steve Schapiro began his career in 1960 with the documentary projects, Arkansas Migrant Workers, and Narcotics Addiction in East Harlem. Since that time, he has shadowed and recorded the lives of various people, both those famous and those otherwise ignored. The selection of black and white images on view this month at S.K. Josefsberg reveal a photographer who, with the aid of a great compositional eye, illuminates a cast of intriguing subjects.

Schapiro spent time with Bobby Kennedy during his presidential campaign, as well as weeks with James Baldwin in the South, where he recorded a slew of civil rights stories, including the Selma March. He also acquainted himself with high-profile entertainers. A compelling example is "Ike and Tina Turner, Los Angeles, 1974," which captures one of the music world's most tumultuous relationships.

Standing in front of an idealized portrait of themselves, the real Ike and Tina appear as larger-than-life, Rock 'n' Roll monoliths. Tina gazes serenely into the camera, flashing a wide smile and exercising her million-dollar cheekbones. Big hoop earrings, a gold chain with heart pendant, and a low-cut '70's dress complete her diva image. Her hands clutch the waist of her stormy beloved; She radiates like a woman in love, like a woman proud to be standing next to her strong man. Ike, on the other hand, appears tense and ill-at-ease. His muscular body is accentuated by the tight tanktop, firmly tucked into belted jeans. Like Tina, he also wears necklaces, but his pendant is not a jewel-encrusted heart. Instead, the Star of David rests on his well-defined chest. His expression is stern; He looks coldly into the camera. He exudes an air of both angst and distrust; he is ready to pounce on the photographer if he were to "try anything funny." The image illuminates a pair of opposites, one existing calmly in the world, while the other appears at constant odds with his environment.

Schapiro spent some time cataloguing the 1960's New York art scene and amassed an impressive archive of the leading artists and personalities of the time. "Andy Warhol, Edie Sedgwick and Entourage, New York, 1965," (detail above) is just one example. Schapiro also caught a young Roy Lichtenstein on film. The image "Roy Lichtenstein, Venice, 1962" reveals a fetching young Roy sporting a perfect tan and tight, black swim trunks. He is caught wading out of the ocean, looking like a true Adonis. The young painter is miles away from the contextual art studio, which somehow makes the portrait more interesting.

Arguably the most poetic image in the exhibit, "Old Age Home, Brooklyn, N.Y., 1961," goes beyond the glamour of fame and the prestige of presidential campaigns. Schapiro exposes two elderly men as they pass each other in a narrow hallway. They are adorned with aged slippers, thick socks, and hospital-issue bathrobes. Both wear yarmulkes atop their balding heads. Neither of the fellows look up as they pass; each look downward at the floor of the hallway. Bright sunlight pours through a window at the end of the hall. Here Schapiro sets up a quiet metaphor: As one man heads down the hall toward the brilliant light, his cohort passes him by, walking away from the golden rays.

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