Los Angeles, CA. Louis Stern Fine Arts is pleased to present the first West Coast exhibition of the late New York photographer Mark Feldstein, in the show “Mark Feldstein: NYC, circa 1970” (March 30 – May 18, 2017). A well-respected artist who had a number of shows in his lifetime, including O.K. Harris Gallery, New York, Castelli Graphics, New Yok and Galerie Jean-Pierre Lambert, Paris. Feldstein was also a professor of photography who helped established the photography department at Hunter College in the 1970s. In the 1980s, along with Hunter colleague Roy de Carava, he was instrumental in making photography part of the school’s MFA program.
The exhibition’s 50 vintage prints, printed by Feldstein himself, include many never shown before. In them he captured beautifully composed shots of the buildings and streets of New York in the 1970s. Feldstein went everywhere with his cameras, always on the lookout for the right subject, the right composition, the right lighting. His home and studio was in a loft on Bond Street, and he would take regular walks, often in his neighborhood of The Bowery, at a time when the area was in decline and known for being dangerous and gritty. “Mark was an inveterate walker,” recalled Sanford Wurmfeld,former chair at Hunter’s Fine Art department chair,” and quintessentially a New Yorker in this, which was in his view an activity crucial to his work.”
Feldstein’s work reflects his keen sense of observation, focusing as they do on architectural details, design patterns, and deep shadows. He clearly enjoyed incorporating text into his shots, to somewhat humorous or ironic effect. One photograph features the side of a building with text in all-caps, “RESTAURANT/HOME COOKING/HEROS,” while two men stand in front, one watching as the other is bent over, trying to open or close a delivery door. Another features an exterior pilaster with the word “HATS” advertised – underneath is a slightly tattered handbill announcing Lesbian Pride Week in June 1973. While people were generally not his main focus, blurred pedestrians sometimes make an appearance in his long exposures, and in one photograph he captures the lower half of a pedestrian from the back, someone pushing a shopping cart, as we see from the shadow that falls on the sidewalk. Here the shadow becomes almost an abstraction.
Feldstein (1937 – 2001) was born in Italy, where his parents stopped while in flight from Nazi-occupied Austria. He grew up in New York City and studied at Hunter College, where one of his teachers was Robert Motherwell. Feldstein began his artistic career as a painter, but transitioned to photography in the 1970s, when this body of work was created.
In a monograph of his work, critic and curator Ellen Handy wrote, “The world is enriched when a master artist employs his eye to seek beauties unseen by others, and brings them to our attention through skillful observation, composition and superb photographic print-making -- and this Feldstein has consistently done in his work.”