Harlem comes to Boston.


Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Presents
Bruce Davidson: East 100th Street

On the third floor of the new glass cube at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in a small room off to one side, is one of the most impressive exhibitions I have seen recently. The exhibition shows no new work, has no oversized color prints, and doesn’t present a single celebrity portrait. It consists of only 43 small black and white prints taken in the 1960s for Bruce Davidson’s brilliant photography book, East 100th Street.

To see the prints you must stand close and actually interact with them. Compare that experience with the MFA’s recently closed Mario Testino exhibit.

Prior to visiting the exhibition, two photographers mentioned (negatively) to me that they felt the prints were too dark. I thought they were lush and rich and the dense blacks helped to reinforce the gritty reality of life on East 100th Street in the sixties.

From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website:
A photography exhibition that offers a bold, honest look at life in 1960s Harlem

This exhibition celebrates the MFA’s recent acquisition of the 43 prints by renowned New York photographer Bruce Davidson that were originally showcased in his groundbreaking show, East 100th Street, at the Museum of Modern Art in 1970. These powerful images capture the gritty reality of life on the block between First and Second Avenues, which had been described during the 1950s as the most dangerous in the entire city. Davidson began the project in 1967, when this section of East Harlem was slowly improving. Carrying his bulky, large-format camera and tripod, Davidson returned almost daily for nearly two years recording the strength and diversity of the inhabitants of this Harlem neighborhood. Gradually gaining the trust of the residents meant that Davidson was able to make intimate, close-up portraits like this young pair on the street.

The facts:
Bruce Davidson: East 100th Street
January 19, 2013 – September 8, 2013
Gallery 335
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Avenue of the Arts
465 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115

Photo above left and below:
East 100th Street (Two Young Men in Hats), Harlem, New York, 1966-1968

East 100th Street (Teenage Couples on Stairwell and Street), Harlem, New York, 1966-1968

East 100th Street (Untitled, Fire Escape), Harlem, New York, 1966-68