Spotlight: See New York City Through the Lens of Legendary Photographer Richard Sandler in a New Exhibition at Hudson Yards

"Richard Sandler: The Eyes of the City" opens at Avant Gallery, New York, on May 18, 2023.

Richard Sandler, Grand Central Terminal, NYC (1990). Courtesy of Avant Gallery.

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About the Artist: American artist Richard Sandler (b. 1946) has a practice centered on street photography and documentary filmmaking. He is perhaps most recognized for his street photography taken around New York City—particularly from the 1980s. Many images, such as of Grand Central Terminal and of the city’s Metro, have become synonymous with 1980s city nostalgia, as they capture an intimate vision of a bygone era. Originally from Forest Hills, Queens, he initially began photographing urban scenes while working in Boston in 1977. Following his return to New York a few years later, he continued to expand his street photography practice, capturing some of the most illustrative and evocative images of the city from the decade. After 2001, Sandler ultimately pivoted to focus on documentary filmmaking and directed and produced several films including The Gods of Times Square (1999), Brave New York (2004), and Radioactive City (2011).

What You Need to Know: This month, Avant Gallery will present the exhibition “Richard Sandler: The Eyes of the City” at the gallery’s Hudson Yards location in New York. Opening on May 18, 2023, the show includes more than 40 traditional gelatin silver prints of photographs taken around the city by Sandler—many of which are not only iconic of the artist’s oeuvre but of the city as well. The title of the show is drawn from the 2016 publication of the same name, which features his work from 1977 through 2001. The exhibition is in many ways a homecoming for the works, as many of Sandler’s photographs are part of permanent New York collections, including the New York Public Library, New York Historical Society, Museum of the City of New York, and the Brooklyn Museum.

Why We Like It: As a global center of culture, finance, and industry, the city of New York is codified within the collective imagination. Each decade evokes a signature atmosphere and aesthetic, and images such as those taken by Sandler allow viewers to take a step back into a previous era of life in the city—finding beauty in otherwise overlooked vignettes of everyday life. As Sandler once said, “You could say, ‘Look how fucked up New York was in the ’80s, look at all this graffiti,’ but also it was very beautiful. The layering of randomness, of one person’s tagging over another, and it would go on for months and years, and it started to look like Jackson Pollock.” It was an era when artists such as Keith Haring commonly worked in the subways and the street art scene was burgeoning/ Sandler’s photographs capture the indefinable air of the time. Employing the inimitable gelatin silver print process, the images have a distinct clarity and sense of depth, lending a distinct artistic facet to the photographer’s documentary style.

See featured works below.

Richard Sandler, Subway Noir, NYC (1986). Courtesy of Avant Gallery.

Richard Sandler, Subway Noir, NYC (1986). Courtesy of Avant Gallery.

Richard Sandler, Hasid and Hipster, NYC (2001). Courtesy of Avant Gallery.

Richard Sandler, Hasid and Hipster, NYC (2001). Courtesy of Avant Gallery.

Richard Sandler, Subway Swoon, NYC (ca. 1986). Courtesy of Avant Gallery.

Richard Sandler, Subway Swoon, NYC (ca. 1986). Courtesy of Avant Gallery.

Richard Sandler, Subway Kiss, NYC (1987). Courtesy of Avant Gallery.

Richard Sandler, Subway Kiss, NYC (1987). Courtesy of Avant Gallery.

Richard Sandler, CC Train, NYC (1985). Courtesy of Avant Gallery.

Richard Sandler, CC Train, NYC (1985). Courtesy of Avant Gallery.

Richard Sandler: The Eyes of the City” is on view May 18–July 16, 2023, at Avant Gallery, New York City.


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