Late this afternoon we left Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg, taking the very reliable weekend G train to Clinton Hill for the opening reception of POSITIVITY, a collective photography exhibition curated by Jamel Shabazz at Danny Simmons' Corridor Gallery.
A few years ago, the gallery opened in the buff-colored Grand Avenue brick carriage house of owner Danny Simmons, the ubiquitous abstract-expressionist painter, Def Poetry Jam producer, art collector, author, and philanthropist.
(His little brothers are no slouches, either: world-famous hip-hop impressario Russell Simmons and rapper Joseph - "Rev Run" of Run DMC - Simmons.)
(Alessandro Simonetti, Five Boros)
The POSITIVITY exhibition, which is on view till July 26, is curated by documentary photographer Jamel Shabazz, a Brooklyn native who first picked up a camera at 15 and now is widely known for his pioneering documentation of New York’s street culture. In the PR stuff for this, Jamel explains:
Art and photography are universal languages that transcends race, color, and creed. POSITIVITY is...created for the purpose of bringing young photographers together from diverse backgrounds and cultures. This project allows them to share their interpretation of POSITIVITY, something we so urgently need... Historically, art has been used to address social activism and bring about awareness.
There was a sizable crowd on the street in front of the gallery, and it was pretty much an overflow crowd all the time we were there. When Jamel cried out, "Show time!" and we all gathered into the main gallery space, it was kind of hot, but we were all glad to stick it out to give him, Danny and the photographers props for a really resonant collection of work.
Jamel had the artists stand up in front of the crowd, introduce them, and also introduced Danny -- who seemed shy about coming up and who Jamel referred to as one of his mentors, inspiring him to become a mentor too. (Last year in Toronto, Jamel founded Project Positivity, a community based project designed to teach documentary photography to what we Brooklyn natives call ute.
Among those photographers in attendance were Sara Shamsavari, who came all the way from her home in London for the opening, and Che Kothari, who took the exhibition's fantastic signature photograph, Telling the Children the Truth - Ziggy Marley, top. Most of the artists are emerging or midlevel, with some exhibiting their works for the very first time.
(Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Trifecta)
For the past couple of years, we've been teaching photography students on Wednesday morning at the fabulous School of Visual Arts, so we feel well-qualified to review a photography exhibit. Um, actually, we teach Literature and Writing I and II, so we'd be on firmer ground evaluating the artists' critical essays on Candide and Beowulf...
So we'll just say we were really impressed with all of the works shown and we'll single out just a few of the great photographers with some selections of their work posted here (ones we could find online; other standouts include Nsenga Knight's "As the Veil Turns" series about black Islamic women, Natasha Daniels' photos of Indian Dalits, Kalalea's wedding photographs and Corren Conway's "We Are Sean Bell") to avoid a really long-ass blog post. (One of the talented artists, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, has posted some pics of the reception at Flickr.)
You've got to see POSITIVITY for yourself, and we plan to come back. It's an upbeat exhibit and of course it really did help us get through the rest of the day.
Por ejemplo, we made it to the Classon Avenue subway station when the huge thuderstorm was just starting, before any rain had fallen, and thinking positively, we knew our reliable weekend G train would take almost an hour to come and take us the five stops back to Williamsburg so that by the time we emerged from underground, inshallah, the downpour would be over and the sun would be shining again.
Positivity works! Isn't life wonderful!