Night and Day: Visual Commentary of a Past Era
by: Stephanie Roush
July 17, 2012
Upon entering the Half Gallery, a nondescript LES location, I immediately felt transported into a different world. After a quick look around, the gallery had me fraught with nostalgia for a time never even experienced. Although quite small, the gallery uses its size to its advantage by creating a more intimate setting for viewing David Armstrong’s late 1970s Kodachrome portraits of the New York bohemian scene. The gallery’s white walls strewn with eight carefully-selected photos from Armstrong’s collection create a sense that you’re in someone’s upstairs hallway looking at a nostalgic tribute to their youth.
The focal image of the gallery depicts an intimate embrace in the backseat of a car. The color contrast, as well as the tender pose of the two subjects, conjures up the sensation that you’re intruding in the fragile lives of the young lovers. The signs of youth, such as the colored ribbons around her neck and the intentionally-placed barrettes in her hair, make the image a portrait of youthful desire. Perhaps the most striking detail of the photo is the Pabst Blue Ribbon can visible through the car window, visually reminding the viewer that they’re not alone, they’re part of a greater culture that at one point defined the New York City social scene.
David Armstrong’s latest work is simple in concept and execution, but complex in its cultural significance. The entire time I was in the Half Gallery I felt I was just scratching the surface of the lives lived of Armstrong’s subjects in a time that I can only begin to understand. The bleached blond hair, the red lipstick, and the seemingly candid poses combine with one another to construct a space in which frivolity is romanticized and youth is celebrated.
Armstrong’ s iconic photos have also been put together in a collection for his new book “Night and Day.”