Poetic Voices of the Muslim World
December 15, 2016 – May 14, 2017
City Lore Gallery welcomes Poetic Voices of the Muslim World, a multi-year initiative including programs and performances presented against the backdrop of a traveling exhibition and companion website.
Presentations by scholars, poets, and musicians celebrate varied styles and types of poetry of rare power and beauty — including ancient oral traditions still practiced today, literary forms that have flourished for more than a millennium, and contemporary poetic arts. Developed by the national poetry library and literary center Poets House and City Lore, Poetic Voices of the Muslim World explores an art form central to the lives of Muslim men and women around the world.
Since 2013, over 300,000 public library visitors in eleven different cities across the United States have viewed the traveling exhibit or attended programs and events related to Poetic Voices of the Muslim World.
The lushly-illustrated, vibrant exhibition, designed by Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA), features arresting photography and calligraphic masterworks, as well as the work of poets ranging from Rumi (the best-selling poet in America) to the well-known contemporary poet Adonis. The large visual elements comprise nine printed panels, each measuring four feet by six feet, with the exhibition extending to 48 feet when fully displayed in each of the libraries.
The exhibition at City Lore also features works by the late artist Samina Quraeshi: artist, designer, and educator dedicated to creating greater cultural understanding of her native Pakistan. Artwork inspired by Islamic poetry and created by K-12 students in the A Reverence for Words Institute: Understanding Muslim Cultures through the Arts will also be displayed.
The exhibition highlights the poetic traditions from four major language areas — Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu — and introduces poetry from Asia, Africa, and diasporic communities in the United States.
“Poetry is the most beloved art form throughout the Muslim world,” said Lee Briccetti, Poets House Executive Director. “Poetry is at the heart of many Islamic cultures and holds a key to these cultures. In fact, poetry is woven into the very fabric of Islamic identity. This exhibition and its accompanying programs turn to that art form to explore the history and social fabric of a variety of Muslim societies.”
Poetry also plays a large role in shaping popular culture, as seen in Abu Dhabi where an American Idol-type Arabic language television program thrills audiences as contestants perform their poems before judges while viewers vote on mobile phones for their favorite poet. Poetry plays a central role in all aspects of Muslim life. In these cultures, the many forms of poetry provide the language to speak of one’s beloved, tell the stories of epic heroes, honor the departed, celebrate marriage, express insights of the moment, speak to God and, often, shape a way of life.
“In the same way that American movies and popular culture have created pathways to understanding the U.S. for those abroad, we can find insight into these varied cultures through the poetries of the Muslim world,” said Steve Zeitlin, Founding Director of City Lore. “These programs provide new ways for Americans to engage with the Muslim world through the interpretation of poetry as they explore what poetry tells us about the history, social fabric and worldviews of a variety of Muslim societies.”
Presented in partnership with the American Library Association, the two-year national initiative is funded through the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Bridging Cultures program, with additional support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and New York State Council on the Arts. For a complete list of programs at each library and more information on Poetic Voices of the Muslim World please visit www.pvmw.org.
Mad Hatters: New York Hats and Hatmakers
In New York City, every hat has something to say. New Yorkers wear many hats – literally. Many of us get dressed from the hat down. Whether we are going to Baptist church to the mosque or the orthodox synagogue, to the rumble or the dance, to the Easter Parade or the West Indian Carnival; whether we’re wearing a Hijab or a yarmulke, a Fedora or a Hamburg, a pork pie or a Leopard skin pillbox hat; whether you’re running for president or going to a Mets game, hats matter – and tell the rest of us who we are.
“Cock your hat, angles are attitude,” said Frank Sinatra, a New Yorker at heart. Hats were so important during his time, that Mr. Sinatra had his signature fedoras specially designed with shorter brims than the average ones in order to appear taller to the untrained eye. Sinatra never left his hat at home and neither did the rest of the city during his time. Hats were a necessity, not only for fashion, but for blocking the sun as well. In the 1950’s, however, the mass-production of sunglasses and the prevalence of automobiles, not to mention James Dean’s coveted coif, ushered in a new era where the everyday hat was no longer needed. But New Yorkers have never left behind their love of hats. In a city of astonishing diversity and traditions, there are still a lot of mad hatters running around the streets of New York.
Mad Hatters showcases the identities that New Yorkers carve out for themselves by donning a simple piece of headwear in a crowded city. With special attention to the City’s defining grassroots folk cultures, the exhibit pays tribute to NYC’s master milliners while also documenting and celebrating the men and women who proudly wear hats to express their cultural traditions or simply for the hell of it. The show features a series of special hats made for the show by the New York Milliners Guild, illustrating “New York hat-itude.”
Produced in collaboration with the Center for Art, Tradition, and Cultural Heritage and the Westchester Arts Council, which staged the show “Hattitude” in 2015 at their White Plains Gallery.
Made possible thanks to The Coby Foundation and The New York State Council on the Arts.
Exhibit image by Maxine Marie.
How the Arts Saved Coney Island
November 5, 2015 – May 8, 2016
After the closing of Steeplechase Park in 1964, Coney Island went into a steep decline. Like the Bronx, Coney began burning in 1965 and a series of fires continued for the following decade. In the early 1980s, at its lowest point, an odd assortment of passionate young artists were drawn to Coney Island with the dream that their art might return this legendary honky tonk neighborhood to its glory days.
The artists had a wide variety of backgrounds, creating a vital art scene on the boardwalk: playwright Dick Zigun, with a Yale drama degree; artist Richard Eagan, who had a series of dreams about reopening Steeplechase Park; Philomena Marano, who visited Coney as a child, worked with artist, Robert Indiana (of the LOVE sculpture) and founded the Coney Island Hysterical Society with Eagan. Along with renowned artists Harvey Fierstein (Kinky Boots, Hairspray) Charles Ludlam (Theater of the Ridiculous) and Peter Schumann (Bread and Puppet Theater), and photographers Hazel Hankin, Elaine Norman and Charles Denson, who documented the era, they sparked new life and a new love for Coney.
Drawing inspiration from Coney Island’s past, the artists’ conceptual marriage of honky tonk with the avant garde produced installations such as the tableaus in Madam Lily’s aging World in Wax Museum and the Spookhouse, an “arthouse” amusement park ride. As the ‘80s progressed, Zigun began to recognize that the future of Coney was in honky tonk—Sideshows by the Seashore, the Mermaid Parade, and his pioneering Burlesque shows helped establish that Coney Island was here to stay, and the city along with investors listened. The vision of these artists lit a creative spark that saw Coney through desperate times and ignited its future as the centerpiece of New York City and America’s love affair with honky tonk.
Boardwalk Renaissance takes visitors on a trip to the Coney boardwalk of the 80’s and 90’s with installations and artifacts from the era—including a life-size recreation of Spookhouse, an “arthouse” ride, with a hand-painted car and recreation of the Skull entryway, costumes and footage from the first Mermaid Parade, and art inspired by the house under the roller coaster (the same one immortalized by Woody Allen). The Boardwalk Renaissance exhibit brings the Coney spirit back to the heart of the city that started it all.
Sponsored by the Coney Island History Project, Coney Island Hysterical Society and City Lore.
Produced in tandem with the Coney Island USA’s exhibit, Sodom by the Sea Salon. Also, check out the Brooklyn Museum’s exhibit Coney Island: Vision of an American Dreamland!
May 7th – July 20th 2015
September 9th – October 11th 2015
Augmented Reality Comic Book and Exhibition
The comic book, Priya’s Shakti, which presents a new Indian female superhero and rape survivor who tackles the problem of sexual violence in India and around the world, is having an augmented reality exhibition at City Lore Gallery in New York City. The first of its kind, the entire gallery will be turned into a walk-in comic book where audiences can unlock special animation, videos, real-life stories, and bring other interactive elements to life via Blippar, the leading mobile visual discovery platform and mobile app. The opening reception is May 7, 2015 at 7:30PM and is part of PEN World Voices Festival.
To bring any image in the gallery to life, audiences simply need to download the Blippar mobile app and hold it up to an image from Priya’s Shakti. Instantaneously, the images will come alive and viewers will be able to interact with engaging digital content directly on the device’s screen.
The innovative comic book premiered at the Mumbai Film and Comics Convention in December 2014 and immediately went viral with over 300 feature news stories all over the world. The comic books started a national debate in India on how society treats rape survivors and patriarchal views. The comic book’s superhero, Priya, was honored by UN Women as a “Gender Equality Champion.”
Inspired by ancient mythological tales, the comic book tells the story of Priya — a mortal woman and gang-rape survivor — and the Goddess Parvati as they fight against gender-based sexual violence in India and around the world supporting the movement against patriarchy, misogyny and indifference. Priya has become a global phenomenon and one of the “top ten female comic book characters to watch out for in the future.”
This project will help define the new frontier of integrating literary publications and exhibitions as well as social impact media with Blippar’s proprietary augmented reality technology. Commenting on the comic book, Blippar founder and CEO Ambarish Mitra said, “We’re proud to collaborate with Priya’s Shakti — not only to bring India’s first interactive comic to life for American audiences but to also exhibit the power new technologies have to raise awareness around social causes and create new channels for charitable giving.”
“Talking with several rape survivors, I realized how difficult it was for them to get justice,” said Ram Devineni. “Often, they do not report crimes out of fear for their lives, or to avoid the backlash they may face from their family, authorities, and community. The burden of shame is placed on the victim and not the perpetrators.Priya’s Shakti highlights the threat of sexual harassment and violence that women face on a daily basis unless deeply rooted patriarchal norms are challenged. Priya is a new hero for a modern India.”
“Stories like Priya’s are in the news often these days, not just in India but in all nations and online,” comments artist Dan Goldman. “With Priya’s Shakti came the chance to put a symbolic face to this issue and enlighten all genders about sexual violence, and there’s no format better suited to this than the instantly accessible medium of comics.”
For more information, visit www.priyashakti.com
Mother Tongues: Endangered Languages in NYC & Beyond
There are nine different words for the color blue in the Spanish Maya dictionary, but just three Spanish translations, leaving six [blue] butterflies that can be seen only by the Maya, proving that when a language dies six butterflies disappear from the consciousness of the earth.
Opening on January 29th at the City Lore Gallery on the Lower East Side, the new exhibition, Mother Tongues: Endangered Languages in NYC and Beyond, explores NYC as a living language lab where there are more spoken and endangered languages than anywhere else in the world.
The way we speak defines who we are. Whether we speak with a New York City accent or an accent from the country where we were born, or in another language, we contribute to the symphony of linguistic diversity that defines New York City. By the end of this century, over half of the world’s languages will be lost. It has been estimated that over 800 languages are spoken in New York, and 100 are endangered. With the loss of a language comes a loss of culture, a way of thinking and a way of life. This exhibit explores endangered languages spoken in New York, and offers a call to action to conserve linguistic diversity in this global city and around the world.
Mother Tongues offers audiences a unique opportunity to meet and learn about New York City’s remarkably diverse linguistic communities. Here visitors can engage with the Language Laboratory and Meet a Speaker—interactive mixed media booths that showcase individual speakers of endangered languages. From the decline of the New York accent to the wealth of history and tradition behind a single, resonant word, Mother Tongues takes us on a journey through the endangered linguistic diversity of New York City and the world.
Mother Tongues ran from January 29 – April 19, 2015.
Henry Chalfant & Martha Cooper’s All-City Graffiti Archive
Moving Murals: Henry Chalfant & Martha Cooper’s All-City Graffiti Archive was City Lore Gallery’s inaugural exhibition that ran from April 6th, 2014 through December 18th, 2014.
Shot during the “Golden Age of Graffiti” in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Chalfant and Cooper’s images of graffitied subway cars are among the major documents of American popular culture in the late twentieth century. Moving Murals presents their images in a way that they have never been seen in New York: a wall to wall mosaic of over 850 muraled trains, creating an ultimate All City graffiti trainyard environment complimented by wallpapered photographs of the writers in their element. And for the first time, the exhibit provides an interactive audience experience through the addition of Chalfant’s recently published iBook viewed on a large screen, complete with the train image archive, artist interviews, and videos.
These classic train murals, which have been the inspiration and guide for thousands of youthful artists around the world, did not survive on the trains for long before the city cleaned the cars, or the artists’ rivals painted over them. Chalfant and Cooper’s patience and determination in hunting down and capturing these ephemeral masterpieces with their cameras has left the world with a representative cross section of some of the best work by the most talented young artists who painted New York City’s subway cars in the seventies and eighties. These images pay homage to the young artists from the City’s underserved outer boroughs whose work—though often dismissed as vandalism—challenged contemporary fine arts standards, and lit the fuse for the street art and hip hop explosion heard around the world.