Friday, March 27, 2009

Clean, Well-Lighted Place

On the Beverly Hills'd end of Bleecker Street, that mini Rodeo Drive west of about 10th Street, also known as the Marc Jacobs Mall, there's little left of the old Village. After we lost Nusraty Afghan Imports to Brooks Brothers, perhaps the only "original" shop that now remains is a small gallery called A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.



According to a number on the door, it was established in 1976. Today, it's wedged between an Intermix and one of the two (?) James Perse stores on the street. Its storefront isn't slick or pretty. Its name is still spelled out in a circa-1980s typeface that looks a lot like Courier.

I'll bet you they get pressure from all sides to move or sell. Yet every time I walk by, they are still there. Surviving.



I can't find much information about the gallery. One online listing states that it's run by a couple named Martinelli and their mission is "to educate people about contemporary prints by exhibiting graphics of the highest quality and the broadest range that appeal to us," like Hockney and Motherwell.

This week, they've got a photograph in the window that caught my eye. (I couldn't read the photographer's name.) It's a scene from another piece of the vanished city, a scene of old Times Square, from 1993 when 42nd Street was a mixture of sleaze and art, in that moment before "revitalization" washed it clean. In this shot, we see Jenny Holzer's "Truisms" on the marquees and my favorite (now vanished) ghost sign of all time: "Cooped Up? Feelin' Low? Enjoy a movie today."



This is all we have left. Ghosts inside ghosts. How long before this is gone too?

19 comments:

EV Grieve said...

Places like this fascinate...offbeat little storefronts that somehow survive. But how? A 500-year lease? Rich kooks own the joint? Sure glad places like this still exist.

Hofstra University said...

Interesting place!
Thank you for posting!

Ess G said...

Very interesting and "ghosts inside ghosts" is a perfect way to encapsulate it. Hope this ghost keeps haunting this neighborhood for awhile longer.

Ken Mac said...

walked by there just the other day. How did I miss this? !!

Ken Mac said...

and who wrote the book of the same name?

Mark said...

The photographer is Michael Magill.
His website is:

http://magillphoto.com/

He used to have a small gallery down the block on Bleecker closer right off Christopher Street. If I'm not mistaken, the gallery was called Barr/Magill or Magill/Barr.

I own a print of this photo, which I love, as well as another of of the Fedora neon sign on West 4th Street & West 10th.

Boomka said...

God I love little places that are squeezed in between others. Like they weren't good enough to be changed and ended up being better than their neighbors. Great find!

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks for the info and link on the photographer, mark.

pretty sure it's the title of a hemingway story--right, ken? and, if i remember correctly, it's about an old man looking for a quiet cafe to sit in. harder and harder to find these days.

Erik said...

Very interesting story and find. Places like these add so much soul and essence to a neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

walk by this place everyday for years. rarely see customers inside.

now you have jinxed it by noticing it. the kiss of death.

Jill said...

1993 was before Times Square was sanitized? Can it be? That was the year my son was born. Am I old? Did I misread that? Now I'm depressed. Maybe I need to get that cataract looked at and get my hip replaced.

Maddy said...

Speaking of the Fedora on W. 4th and W 10th St, does anyone know if they are still operating the restaurant? The same family owns the building as runs the restaurant, but the owner was getting on in years when I was last there 5 years ago, and I was the only customer. Wish I knew more about the history of the place if anyone knows....thanks

Jeremiah Moss said...

yes, the fedora is still chugging along!

Anonymous said...

Fedora's has been there at least 40 years. Fedora greeted and seated. I was told that her husband (Henry?) ran the small bar, that her son had a dentist office upstairs, that some customers ate there nightly, requesting the same tables and the same waiters. Another New York! It was rumored that the late Tom Tryon named a character in his books after her.

Mark said...

all of these Fedora stories are true.

Anonymous said...

Am glad to know my Fedora memories are intact! Another thing: I think the restaurant was closed on Tuesday nights, making it an anomaly. Most West Village restaurants tended to be closed on Monday nights. No dummy our Fedora! Wonder what she thinks of the WV restaurant scene now that it has been reconfigured to Yunnies. J, why not interview her before it's too late? A perfect subject for your wonderful blog.

Olive Twist said...

Yes, Fedora is there. She greeted us on Friday!

Emma said...

I'm familiar with Michael Magill's photographs from when he had his gallery further down on Bleecker Street. If you're a fan of vanishing New York, you should go into A Clean Well-Lighted Place and check out more of his work (or go to magillphoto.com). No photographer I know of captures timeless moments in New York like he does.

Anonymous said...

It is run by Tom Martinelli, a village resident, and all around terrific character. You should stop in and talk with him.