Visu­al Arts

Isaac Bashe­vis Singer and the Low­er East Side

Isaac Bashe­vis Singer; Bruce David­son, photographs
  • Review
By – September 28, 2012

Exhi­bi­tion cat­a­logues fre­quent­ly offer a spe­cial focus to art, with new crit­i­cal and cura­to­r­i­al com­ments. This cat­a­logue also includes a short sto­ry, pre­vi­ous­ly part of a doc­u­men­tary made by Isaac Bashe­vis Singer and Bruce David­son. The two had a long cre­ative and neigh­bor­ly rela­tion­ship, dis­cussed in Gabriele Werfeli’s inter­view with David­son. The Mead Art Muse­um exhi­bi­tion includ­ed clas­sic pho­tographs of the shtetl by Roman Vish­ni­ac and Davidson’s work — 35- year-old stud­ies of the Low­er East Side and recent por­traits of Singer at ease in the now-defunct Gar­den Cafe­te­ria, his uptown apart­ment and in his neigh­bor­hood — almost to the end of his days. 

The for­lorn, weath­ered beau­ty pho­tographed by David­son forms a curi­ous coun­ter­point to Singer’s The Beard, “ with its alter­nat­ing fan­ta­sy and grit­ty world­li­ness. Singer moved the set­tings of his sto­ries from Poland to New York just before World War II, and recre­at­ed there the spir­it and flesh of those devoured or dev­as­tat­ed by the Shoah. 

David­son has been pho­tograph­ing the chang­ing Low­er East Side for more than 50 years. The cat­a­log is print­ed in a hand­some, 8 1/2 “ x 8 1/2 “ for­mat. Acknowl­edge­ments; con­trib­u­tors; 45 plates; 10 text illustrations.

Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in Eng­lish, and has had many years of expe­ri­ence as a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and pub­lic rela­tions professional.

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