September 1, 2004
Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.- The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College will present "Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Lower East Side: Photographs by Bruce Davidson" from Tuesday, Sept. 7, through Sunday, Oct. 24, 2004. Organized and presented by the Mead Art Museum on the occasion of the centennial of Singer's birth, the exhibition reflects his remarkable collaboration with Davidson in 43 photographs made between 1957 and 1990. Bruce Davidson will present a slide lecture, followed by a public screening of the film Isaac Singer's Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko's Beard on Thursday Sept. 30, at 4 p.m. in Stirn Auditorium. Jill Meredith, the museum director, will give a gallery talk on Thursday, Oct. 7, at 5 p.m. in the museum.
"Isaac Bashevis Singer and the Lower East Side" includes a selection of Davidson's portraits of Singer, stills from the film, the black and white portfolio "The Garden Cafeteria," and selections from the Lower East Side series. "The Garden Cafeteria," was a collaboration depicting denizens of the East Broadway restaurant frequented by Singer during his trips to The Jewish Daily Forward. This portfolio, never previously exhibited, includes an introduction by Singer. Through Davidson's lens we see Singer's literary world of Holocaust survivors and émigrés from Eastern Europe - a displaced culture in its twilight.
Born in Poland in 1904, Isaac Bashevis Singer lived much of his life in the United States, where he died in 1991. The Yiddish writer collaborated with the New York documentary photographer Bruce Davidson on the film Isaac Singer's Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko's Beard in 1973. Singer and Davidson, friends who lived in the same building on the upper West Side of Manhattan and shared an interest in New York City street life, created a funny and surreal feature, both a documentary about Singer in New York and a dramatization of one his short stories. During and after production, Davidson made portraits of Singer and later returned to the Lower East Side for a series of documentary photographs.
Born in 1933, Davidson began to photograph as a child in Oak Park, Ill., winning a prize in the Kodak National High School Competition at 16. He attended the Rochester Institute of Technology and Yale University. A freelance photographer for LIFE, he joined Magnum Photos in 1958, and produced documentary photo essays, such as "Brooklyn Gang" and the "Freedom Rides." In 1962 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship and photographed the Civil Rights Movement, including a rally in Harlem, Ku Klux Klan cross burnings and the marches in Birmingham and Selma. In 1966 he won the first grant for photography from the National Endowment for the Arts and documented East 100th Street in Harlem, work that was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and published in 1970. His most recent project is Subway (2004), a revised and expanded book and exhibition of New York City culture in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
An illustrated catalogue, published by the Mead Art Museum and the University of Wisconsin Press, will accompany the exhibition, with texts by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Ilan Stavans and Jill Meredith, and an interview with Bruce Davidson by Gabriele Werffeli.
Despite ongoing construction on campus, the Mead Art Museum is open. The temporary entrance is located next to Stirn Auditorium and the museum remains wheelchair accessible; please call ahead for details. The Mead is open regular hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Thursday evenings until 9 p.m. More information is available on the museum's Website at www.amherst.edu/~mead or by calling the Mead Art Museum at 413/542-2335. All events are free and open to the public.