Asbury Park & the Jersey Shore, c. 1979
June 22 - August 16, 2013
After a hiatus of twenty years, the photographer Joe Maloney will be featured in a retrospective exhibition of photographs of the seaside resort town of Asbury Park and the Jersey Shore from the 1970s and early 1980s. The show will consist mostly of images not previously exhibited in the United States.
Maloney was a member of the stable of legendary photographers at LIGHT, the preeminent New York gallery of contemporary photography which included many notable photographers whose work in color helped revolutionize the acceptance of the medium. Maloney, along with Stephen Shore, Mitch Epstein, Carl Toth and others helped set the stage for today’s generation of photographers whose use of color is automatic and not necessarily a conscious choice. At a time when polychromatic images were radical and their validity fought over, Maloney found the subject matter closest to him, suburbia, the receding rural landscape and the cultural oddities that America had created of them bathed in sunlight of enormous emotional range and conflict. Late, electric, raking sun cut swathes of scenery into patterns sewn together by streets and parks populated by pleasure seekers, poseurs, and other characters caught up in what Bruce Springsteen sang as “this runaway American Dream.” Maloney’s exploration of the Jersey Shore and in particular Asbury Park is fueled by the urge to discover something immediate, concrete and candid within the artifice of the resort town culture. At their heart, these are rock ‘n’ roll pictures, neither glamourous nor naive but hallucinatory and street wise, rebellious but respectful of the world that came before. Maloney and his peers shared a rampant desire to go beyond the photographers that came before but to bring with them the lessons they learned at a time when it seemed few cared. A telling work in the exhibition shows Maloney’s friend, the photographer Victor Schrager, lying on a bed in a typical Jersey Shore motel room, wearing an intense red shirt andsunglasses. Above him on the wall hangs a framed reproduction of the Rembrandt painting, Man in a Golden Helmet.
The works exhibited are both pigment prints recently made from negatives salvaged through the miracle of digitization, and premium vintage dye transfer prints, the now archaic process that Maloney preferred for its legendary color saturation, control and longevity. Feeling dismayed by the inability of photographic manufacturers to produce affordable materials of lasting quality, Maloney abandoned photography in the 1990s as he watched years of work literally fade away. The ability to salvage his negatives through scanning revived a vital, important and largely forgotten body of work, making it possible to produce prints of greater brilliance and variety than he could afford to in the past. Mining his archive released images that would otherwise have been consigned to history. These add a dimension to Maloney’s work that, had they been lost, would have left a half complete legacy.
Images of teenagers in cars at night, of Asbury Park’s landmark miniature golf course and The Stone Pony, the legendary rock club where Springsteen forged his career; of the Palace Amusements arcade, the famed boardwalk and ferris wheel are today, in this post-Sandy world of recovery, also reclamation projects. Without the resurrection of these images, the known world and the history of the last years of modernist photography would be smaller, less defined and certainly, much less colorful.