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Harlem by Camilo José Vergara

February 17, 2012 - September 16, 2012

Harlem: The People: February 17, 2012 - June 10, 2012
Harlem: The Place: June 13, 2012 - September 16, 2012
 
This exhibition of photographs by Camilo José Vergara will be shown in two cycles: Harlem: The People and Harlem: The Place. Vergara’s images serve as powerful and poignant witness to the changes that have occurred over the past four decades in one of the most famous neighborhoods of New York City. Known as the capital of black America, Harlem is a place that has been home to many in the civil rights movement. However, this dynamic part of the city north of Central Park is defined by not only its residents, but also by the physical environment; buildings, which, viewed repeatedly over time, have an organic quality of their own. The first installation (February 17-June 10, 2012) was defined by the personalities and people of Harlem and the second cycle which is presently installed focuses upon the bricks and mortar: those buildings that tell their own stories.
 

Camilo José Vergara, Astor Row, 2008. Inkjet print. New-York Historical Society, Gift of the artist

Vergara himself offers this eloquent testament to his mission:

Since 1977 I have been recording changes in the urban world, becoming along the way an archivist of decline, a documentarian of walls, buildings, and city blocks. Bricks, signs, trees, and sidewalks: these were things that spoke to me as truthfully and eloquently about urban reality as the people. I felt a people’s history-their accomplishments, failures and aspirations-were not only reflected in their faces and their bodies, but in the material world in which they lived and which they helped to shape….” If I did not get an image right the first time, I could return the following week….I chose to record the changing nature of the city itself…I saw my mission as compiling a record of the destruction and violence done to New York at the height of America’s urban crisis of the 1960s and 1970s.

Please visit Vergara’s website to learn more about his unique documentation of Harlem. The works on display are a generous gift from the artist to the New-York Historical Society.

Creative: Tronvig Group