The crowd at Broome Street Gallery‘s private reception for Bob Gruen seems famous. Flashbulbs pop and people pose by a golden saxophone statue pouring water in the center of the room. Perhaps it is the electrifying energy of Gruen’s legendary rock n’ roll photography that hangs on the walls. Gruen is best known for his iconic image of John Lennon wearing a New York City shirt in front of the Statue of Liberty, but Broome Street Gallery has put together a magnificent show dedicated to the Rolling Stones. Jagger in wild action, big lips pursed in Prophetic pout waltzes across a stage in one black and white image. Mick, John Lennon and a young Yoko Ono share a laugh in another. Keith Richards scowls, Andy Warhol pops up in others.
Though these people and images have become burned into our public, pop conscious, (they are faces sold on t-shirts from street vendors all over the city) Gruen’s images remain fresh. Though New York’s downtown has been invaded by artifice and gentrification, these portraits feel authentically raw — from a time when rock n’ roll wasn’t controlled by publicists, stylists, record labels. There is an innocence and honesty here, as well as a hint of what is to come: an impeccable style that would become an inspiration for the world.
Gruen himself is a native New Yorker who spent the ‘60s wandering around Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side with his camera, where he met bands like The Loving Spoonfull. The city’s delicious downtown grit and diversity is represented in all his work. On the wall facing Gruen’s photographs is art inspired by the Stones, from vintage tour posters to Warhol representations.
A giant painting of the Rolling Stones, larger than life, hangs as a sort of centerpiece at the back of the gallery, looming over the wine drunk, artsy crowd. As the night goes on, scenesters get bolder and the Stones painting becomes a backdrop for impromptu iPhone photo shoots. After all, who doesn’t want to have their picture taken with rock stars?
Bob Gruen’s photographs will be on display at Broome Street Gallery through February 3rd.