With great pride, Bizarre Publishing and Black Box Gallery present Purgatory & Paradise: SASSY'70 Suburbia & The City, Meryl Meisler’s book launch and exhibition. Her first book A Tale of 2 Cities: Disco Era Bushwick received worldwide attention for contrasting Disco’s zenith and burned out yet beautiful ‘80s Bushwick. Purgatory & Paradise: SASSY'70 Suburbia & The City is the prequel, a photographic memoir of a uniquely American story, sweet and sassy with a pinch of mystery.
Purgatory & Paradise: SASSY'70 Suburbia & The City juxtaposes intimate images of home life on Long-Island alongside NYC street and night life, the likes of which have never been seen. Quirky, nostalgic and a bit naughty, it’s a genuine cultural capsule of a decade that captivates today’s generation. The photos and stories illustrate Meryl’s coming of age: The South Bronx, suburbia, The Mystery Club, dance lessons, Girl Scouts, the Rockettes, the circus, school, mitzvahs, proms, weddings, gay Fire Island, the Hamptons, feminists, happy hookers, CBGB, Punks, Disco, After Hours and Go-Go Bars, Jewish and LGBT Pride, street life, home theatrics, holidays, friendship, family and love. She had to photograph it to make sense of it all, to hold onto the time, to release and now finally share it. The ’70s were sassy, but also sweet, and so was Meryl.
Meryl’s introduction to purgatory and the importance of being open-minded, not pre-judging people, began with a 1957 childhood incident, being told “You can never go to heaven, the best you can do is purgatory” because she was Jewish. That’s when Meryl learned about purgatory, and the importance of being open minded and not pre-judging people. Meryl moved to NYC in 1975, with her first paycheck she bought an antique edition of Dante’s Purgatory & Paradise illustrated by Gustave Doré. She needed to “own it” literaly and figuratively. Meryl carried her medium format camera everywhere with great delight – photographing the world she knew on Long Island donning childhood uniforms and costumes for self-portraits, comedic insider views of family and friends homes, the hilarity of her parents’ Mystery Club circle. “Not in mine eyes alone is Paradise,” declares Dante in Paradiso. Many viewed ‘70s NYC as hell, purgatory at best. With an open mind and heart, Meryl found paradise photographing the streets and nightlife of The City, many so wild she never dared to show them until now.
Meryl Meisler was born in the South Bronx and raised in Massapequa, NY. She is the daughter of a commercial printer and an employment “head hunter”, and granddaughter of Eastern European Jewish immigrants from Russia, Hungary and Galicia. Upon graduating from SUNY College at Buffalo and University of Wisconsin at Madison, Meryl moved to NYC in 1975. She’s worked as a freelance illustrator and photographer, taught art in the NYC Public Schools and continues to teach future art teachers at New York University.
Meryl has received fellowships and grants from New York Foundation from the Arts, The Puffin Foundation, Time Warner, Artists Space, C.E.T.A., the China Institute and the Japan Society. She has exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Historical Society, Dia Center NYC, MASS MoCA, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, and The Whitney Museum of American Art and in public spaces such as Grand Central Terminal, The South Street Seaport and throughout the NYC subway system. Her work is in the permanent collections of AT&T, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Brooklyn Historical Society, Library of Congress, Islip Art Museum, Metropolitan Transit Authority, Pfizer, Reuters, Columbia University, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and within artist books in the collections of Carnegie Mellon, Centre Georges Pompidou, Chrysler Museum, Metronome, Museum of the City of New York, Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Meryl is the author of A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick (Bizarre Publishing 2014). She is married to Patricia Jean O’Brien; they live and work in NYC and Woodstock, NY with their dog Via.
Press Excerpts about Meryl Meisler's 1st Book A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick
Bizarre Publishing 2014
In the late nineteen-seventies, as a heady night-life scene flourished in Manhattan, Meryl Meisler, then in her mid-twenties, spent night after night at Studio 54, Hurrah, Paradise Garage, and other clubs that would come to define the disco era. As she did so, she built a photographic archive that, until recently, had never been published, let alone seen. Genevieve Fussell, THE NEW YORKER
Meryl Meisler couldn’t believe the sight that greeted her when she emerged from the subway in Bushwick, Brooklyn, for the first time, in 1981. “It looked like the photographs that I had seen of Beirut,” she recalled of the cityscape of bombed-out buildings... She wasn’t interested in capturing the urban decay, so much as she was the signs of normal life happening despite it.
Jonathan Mahler, The New York Times
MetroFocus reporter Jenna Flanagan retraces teacher and photographer Meryl Meisler‘s walk from the subway to work in a formerly decimated part of the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn...After years of documenting the 70s disco club scene in Manhattan, Meisler decided she needed to document what she was seeing on the streets of Bushwick. Kirsti Itameria, PBS WNET MetroFocus TV
...the morning sun gave the burned-out buildings, the rubble and the garbage an almost romantic glow. Meryl couldn't resist and started to photograph– hesitantly at first but soon encouraged by the friendly reception of the locals who welcomed her and her camera with open arms. Angelika Hala, STERN
Meisler shot the club world primarily in luminous black and white. The resulting high-contrast prints depict a world going gleefully to hell. The photos are raw in both contrast and content, capturing a soulless hedonism. Everyone is having “fun,” but when you look closely, the fun is hard to find... a visual warmth blankets in the content of Meisler’s photos. Melissa Stern, HYPERALLERGIC
PURGATORY & PARADISE SUBURBIA & THE CITY SASSY'70s
PHOTOGRAPHS MERYL MEISLER
EXHIBITION AT BLACKBOX GALLERY 12 JEFFERSON STREET 11206 BROOKLYN,NY
HOURS DAILY FROM 11AM-MIDNIGHT / BOOK FOR SALE AT BIZARRE SPECIAL PRICE: $40 USD
© Bizarre Publishing
© Meryl Meisler for the photographs & text
Photographs and text by Meryl Meisler Introduction by Catherine Kirkpatrick Design by Patricia Jean O’Brien Writing by Esther Cohen, Amy Leffler, Dr. Ernest Drucker and Emanuel Xavier
BIZARRE PUBLISHING Photography / the 1970s / NYC / Long Island / Suburbia / Streetlife / Nightlife Hardcover 8.5 x 11 inches 256 pages, 241 B&W photographs ISBN: 978-0-9910141-3-2 $45.00 USA/CAN