Monday, February 4, 2013

Ginsberg Photos

You have until April to go see "Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg" at NYU's Grey Art Gallery.

A vast array of Ginsberg's black-and-white, hand-inscribed photographs, many were taken in the East Village where the poet lived first on 7th Street and later on 12th. (In the above photo, he's on the 7th Street rooftop, the steeples of St. Brigid's in the background.)

On one wall, a quartet of views from his 12th Street apartment show a ragged backside in winter, spring, and summer, scenes of ailanthus trees and chimney pots. Allen died there in 1997. Now someone new occupies that renovated kitchen, looks out that window, and does what with it?

Among the many photos, there are also artifacts in vitrines--letters, books, and other ephemera. In one hand-written letter to Carl Solomon, Ginsberg tells of visiting Ezra Pound, to whom he gave a Beatles record as an 82nd birthday gift. I keep trying to imagine crotchety old Ezra Pound listening to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Allen mostly took pictures of his friends, so detailed city scenery is rare. But there is one shot in the show that does the trick, a rarely seen photo of Avenue A between 7th and 8th along Tompkins Square Park. Taken in 1953 of a "Shopping Cart Prophet," it shows the long-lost businesses of that time--the Volga Inn, a Bar & Grill, a Soda Ice Cream Candy Luncheonette, and the Park Center Restaurant (now the "new" Odessa, a photo lab, a bodega, and Sushi Lounge). Writing on the photo, Ginsberg recalls: "Leshko's Restaurant was cheap and popular as at present." That's gone, too.

A little more Allen Ginsberg:


Anonymous said...

Regular posts about Ginsberg (and the neighborhood!) here on the Allen Ginsberg blog -
& earlier reviews of the photo show - see here

Joe Bonomo said...

Saw this show at the National Gallery in DC a few years ago. Excellent.

Gojira said...

Leshko's - sigh - in 1980 a breakfast special consisting of two eggs, potatoes, toast, coffee and small OJ cost 75 cents, and they opened at 5 AM to catch the pre-work shift...

Murgatroid, A Sort of Beat said...

Ginsberg did not die at the 12th St apt. By the time he passed he was living in a floor through loft, ironically above the McDonald's on 14th St & First. He had finally made some real money selling his archives, and invested in his own place. Sadly liver cancer took him soon after. A little accuracy please - He was a dear friend, we often shared a supper at the old Mei Noodle Shop.