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“Lower East Side Trilogy” Comes to MoMA

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A still from Autumn. 2017. Directed by Ernie Gehr, via MoMA's website.
A still from Autumn. 2017. Directed by Ernie Gehr, via MoMA’s website.

Three recent pieces by avant-garde filmmaker Ernie Gehr’s “Lower East Side Trilogy” is screening online at MoMA.

Autumn (completed 2017), Aproposessexstreetmarket (2018), and Circling Essex Crossing (2018).  MoMA describes the trilogy as a sequel to Gehr’s Essex Street Quartet, currently screening in an installation on the Museum’s fourth floor. They write:

Trilogy is comprised of Autumn, shot in the style of a classical “city film,” which observes the interplay of humanity and the fragmented landscape of the streets; Aproposessexstreetmarket, which documents the everyday poetry of the retail experience in the soon-to-be-demolished old Essex Street Market building; and Circling Essex Crossing, a preview of the ghostly intrusion of a large-scale retail hub currently under construction.

Gehr, who is self-taught, has been making experimental films since the 70’s.

In an interview with Filmmaker Magazine, he explained, “The Essex Street Quartet was recorded in the early 1970s and then sat on a shelf for 25 years. I had decided to throw it out because I needed shelf space. But I looked at it, and found out that I actually liked the footage. Without my previous ideas about what I wanted to do with the material, I was able to recompose that footage…Let me give you some background. When I came to New York in the 1960s, I lived on the Lower East Side. I was attracted to its diversity, and its cultural and economic opportunities. In 1988 I took a teaching position in San Francisco. My wife and I moved there for 18 years. When I stopped teaching and came back to New York, I began to explore the city again. I was struck by the changes taking place on the Lower East Side. Developers were buying up places and the neighborhood was rapidly changing. There wasn’t a block without construction.”

“Lower East Side Trilogy” is screening online at MoMA through Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020.

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