Cuchifritos Project Examines Essex Crossing (SPURA) History

Image: Nick Lawrence, Soto Family apartment, October 1969. Silver gelatin print.

Image: Nick Lawrence, Soto Family apartment, October 1969. Silver gelatin print.

Now that the Artists Alliance gallery and project space, Cuchifritos, is settled in at the new Essex Market at 88 Essex Street, they are taking a close look into some of the history of this new location (formerly known as SPURA, the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area).  Their current show, “Keep Me Nearby,” which closes Sunday, July 20th, features six never-before-seen images by photographer Nick Lawrence of the “lived-in apartments that were demolished at SPURA in the late 1960s and early 1970s bring us into homes and lives in 1969.”

They write:

Four of these images were taken in the family apartment of Angel Soto, another, with its vivid declaration of “Latin + Soul,” is from a nearby tenement, and the last hints at what was to come: a staircase in 145 Clinton Street, boarded up and awaiting demolition. Nick came to make these photographs while he was an art teacher at a local junior high school, and while pursuing a larger project photographing the teenagers he came to know on the Lower East Side. We are lucky that a few of those teenagers brought him into their homes, and took him on forays into the tinned up buildings around the neighborhood. We are lucky that he had the presence of mind to make these photographs, and to have kept them safely, able to unearth them when in her research for Contested City Gabrielle came asking if perhaps he might have a photograph of anyone’s home at SPURA. To have documentation of spaces of life in the midst of urban renewal is rare, and the meaning of these photographs is both derived from everything that happened at SPURA after they were made, and from the way that many of us can see our own homes and families reflected in them…

Layered SPURA with Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani

Cuchifritos is also hosting walking tours as part of “Layered SPURA,” an ongoing project from artist and urbanist Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani. They write:

Ten years ago, artist and urbanist Gabrielle Bendiner-Viani was invited to enter this tense community to collaborate on a new approach to planning through public history and public art. Created in a multi-year collaboration with community activists GOLES and SPARC, and her students at the New School, the exhibitions and performative guided tours of Bendiner-Viani’s “Layered SPURA” project provided new opportunities for dialogue about the past, present, and future of the neighborhood.

You can find more info about the tour here.