ClampArt is pleased to announce “Meryl Meisler | New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco”—the artist’s first solo show with the gallery. The exhibition coincides with the release of the artist’s monograph of the same title from Parallel Pictures Press (Hardcover, 272 pages, 130 duotones, 132 color photos, $48). A complimentary show of related works will be mounted at The Center for Photography at Woodstock from July 3 – August 15, 2021.
Meryl Meisler’s series “New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco” is an intimate journey through the pandemonium and ecstasy of New York City from the 1970s to the early 1990s. Meisler documents a tumultuous time in the city’s history marred by epidemics of crime, addiction, and AIDS, intensified by a paralyzing blackout and political and fiscal crises. Frequenting Manhattan’s legendary discos that arose from the disorder, she captured hedonistic havens patronized by celebrities and revelers of the night. In contrast, daylight revealed the beauty of those who loved and thrived in burnt-out Bushwick, where Meisler worked as a public-school art teacher and continuously documented her surroundings.
Meisler’s effervescent photographs are a personal memoir—love letters filled with compassion, humor, and angst as well—kept secret for decades until she retired from teaching. Meisler was headed to Studio 54 the night of the ’77 blackout, and the next day, she and the world first heard of Bushwick—a hellish neighborhood where fires and looting had erupted. Later in 2013, at BIZARRE (a Bushwick drag/burlesque nightclub), Meisler noticed a disco ball in the restroom along with another above the dance floor. This was an epiphany. Bushwick was now THE sizzling club scene, and in her mind the disparate worlds of Bushwick and disco collided becoming intertwined strands of NYC’s story and her own journey. This is when Meisler realized her photographs of Manhattan nightlife and Bushwick daylight belonged together.
Meisler’s two previous internationally acclaimed books, A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick (2014) and Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City (2015) were just the tip of the iceberg. The artist continued to dig into her archive, finding hidden treasures. New York PARADISE LOST Bushwick Era Disco takes an unexpected turn from clandestine clubs to the classroom where students and staff create a safe space to learn despite societal ills of poverty and prejudice. Meisler’s street photographs radiate with the joys of daily life in contrast to a background of hardship. The nightlife images expose the edgiest, darkest activities the artist has shared to date. Flash forward four decades, and Bushwick is a hub of new music, art, fashion, literature, nightlife, and creative thinking. However, many bemoan the gentrification of neighborhoods like Bushwick. There is nostalgia and sorrow for what is lost in the process of change.