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Tags for: Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang
  • Special Exhibition

Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang

Sunday, October 25, 2020–Sunday, June 13, 2021
Location:  230 Photography
Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz Photography Galleries

About The Exhibition

Bruce Davidson, one of the most highly respected and influential American documentary photographers of the past half century, offered an independent look at America in the age of visual and social homogenization presented by Life and Look magazines. Davidson’s 1959 series Brooklyn Gang—his first major project—was the fruit of several months spent photographing the daily lives of the Jokers, one of the many teenage street gangs worrying New York City officials at the time. Bruce Davidson features 50 photographs from that series, which are part of a recent anonymous gift to the museum of extensive selections from the artist’s archives. Included are several sets of variant images, affording a rare glimpse into Davidson’s working process.

Davidson approached the Jokers after reading a newspaper article detailing their fight with a Puerto Rican gang. The Jokers’ home turf was a block in Park Slope, Brooklyn, now one of New York’s most desirable neighborhoods but then an impoverished, mostly Irish area. While many officials and commentators at the time saw the gangs as evidence of social deterioration resulting from poverty, others regarded them as the most visible manifestations of a socially disengaged generation of males—rebels without a cause. 

Davidson’s subjects were mostly Catholic school students or dropouts. “I was 26 and they were 15, but I could see my own repression in them and I began to feel a connection to their desperation. I began to feel their isolation and even my own.” Davidson’s black-and-white images reflect the teens’ alienation but also their camaraderie. He hung out with them on street corners and in the local candy store, and accompanied them to the beach at Coney Island with their girlfriends. Describing his process, the artist says, “I stay a long time. . . . I am an outsider on the inside.”

Sponsors

All exhibitions at the Cleveland Museum of Art are underwritten by the CMA Fund for Exhibitions. Principal annual support is provided by Michael Frank and the late Pat Snyder, the John and Jeanette Walton Exhibition Fund, and the late Roy L. Williams. Generous annual support is provided by an anonymous supporter, the late Dick Blum and Harriet Warm, Gary and Katy Brahler, Cynthia and Dale Brogan, Dr. Ben and Julia Brouhard, Brenda and Marshall Brown, Richard and Dian Disantis, the Jeffery Wallace Ellis Trust in memory of Lloyd H. Ellis Jr., Leigh and Andy Fabens, the Frankino-Dodero Family Fund for Exhibitions Endowment, Florence Kahane Goodman, Janice Hammond and Edward Hemmelgarn, Marta Jack and the late Donald M. Jack Jr., Carl T. Jagatich, Eva and Rudolf Linnebach, William S. and Margaret F. Lipscomb, Bill and Joyce Litzler, the Roy Minoff Family Fund, Lu Anne and the late Carl Morrison, Jeffrey Mostade and Eric Nilson and Varun Shetty, Tim O’Brien and Breck Platner, William J. and Katherine T. O’Neill, Michael and Cindy Resch, Betty T. and David M. Schneider, the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation, Paula and Eugene Stevens, Margaret and Loyal Wilson, the Womens Council of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Claudia Woods and David Osage.