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Art Shay : Troublemakers


What does democracy look like? And when should we cause trouble to pursue it? Troublemakers by Art Shay fuses photography and history to demonstrate how racial and economic inequality gave rise to a decades-long struggle for justice in one American city.  Combining vintage, lifetime and modern prints, this exhibition brings you up close to these American conflicts.

Shay himself was a “troublemaker,” seeking to unsettle society by illuminating truths that many middle-class, white, media, political, and businesspeople pretended did not exist. Shay served as a navigator in the US Army Air Forces during World War II, then took a position as a writer for Life Magazine. But soon after his 1948 move to Chicago, he decided to become a freelance photographer. Shay wandered the city photographing whatever caught his eye—and much did. His lens captured everything from private moments of rebellion to era-defining public movements, as he sought to understand the creative and destructive energies that propelled freedom struggles in the Windy City.

Releasing on January 20, 2020, on Martin Luther King’s birthday, Art Shay’s book Troublemakers published by Chicago University Press, Shay illuminates the pain and ecstasy that sprung up from the streets of Chicago. Teaming up with Erik. S. Gellman, this collaboration offers a fresh and timely look at how social conflict can shape a city—and may even inspire us to make trouble today. In dialogue with 275 of Art Shay’s photographs, Erik S. Gellman takes a new look at major developments in postwar US history: the Second Great Migration, “white flight,” and neighborhood and street conflicts, as well as shifting party politics and the growth of the carceral state. The result is a visual and written history that complicates—and even upends—the morality tales and popular memory of postwar freedom struggles.

Combining Ms. Efron’s technology skills and her storytelling ability, ilon Art Gallery is bringing Troublemakers to

Logon on January 20, 2020 for the virtual gallery experience.


Art Shay : Troublemakers

January 16 – April 5, 2020

ilon Art Gallery

204 West 123rd Street, Harlem


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