In the winter of 1993-94, photographer Merry Alpern visited a friend’s New York loft, situated in the Wall Street district. He led her to a back room and from his window, one floor below, she could see a tiny bathroom window from which pounded the heavy bass of nightclub music. She realized that she was looking into the bathroom of an illegal lap-dance club, where “stock-brokers and other well-to-do businessmen handed over hundreds of dollars and drugs to women in G-strings and black lace.” Transfixed by the spectacle, the artist started taking pictures of what she saw, using a fast black and white film that gave the photos a peep-show quality.
In 1994 she submitted the series to the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) only to find her work, along with that of co-candidates Andres Serrano, and Barbara DeGenevieve, rejected and vilified by conservatives who sought to undermine the NEA, creating a huge debate that paradoxically served to promote the work. Today, works from ‘Dirty Windows’ feature in major private and museum collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Modern Art, National Museum of Women in the Arts and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Works from the series were exhibited in 1996 at the Fondation Cartier in Paris, in a group exhibition entitled ‘By Night’, and, more recently, were included in the exhibition ‘Public, Private, Secret’ at the ICP Museum in New York from June 2016 to January 8, 2017.
Taken before the emergence of social media and its accompanying exhibitionism, these poetic and gritty images of the underbelly of New York remain as pertinent as ever, with the multiple questions they raise about the sexual exploitation of women, consumerism, power, finance, surveillance and the female gaze. Galerie Miranda will present selected vintage prints from the series.
Merry Alpern – Dirty Windows
22 February – 20 April 2019
21 rue du Château d’Eau