The famous subjects of New York photographer Marcia Resnick include John Belushi, William S. Burroughs and Mick Jagger. The Resnick retrospective PUNKS, POETS & POLITICIANS opens this week at McKay Imaging Gallery in Red Bank.
By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit September 22, 2009)
There’s a disarmingly casual image of three cultural touchstones — Mick Jagger, Andy Warhol and William S. Burroughs — breaking bread together at a downtown eatery. There’s rock muse and sometime singer Bebe Buell, hoisting her young daughter Liv Tyler up by the ankles. The infamous legal lizard Roy Cohn hanging out at 54 with Steve Rubell.
There’s a dizzying parade of iconic faces, all of them passed from the scene. Abbie Hoffman, Timothy Leary, Norman Mailer and Allen Ginsberg. Sid Vicious, James Brown and Divine. A bleary-eyed, sweaty, unshaven John Belushi, pictured just a few months before the end.
Most of all there are the people that made New York City what it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s — the musicians and the underground filmmakers; the designers and artists and writers and hangers-on who infused the filthy, fading, failing, dynamically dangerous town with a light and heat that would power their own eventual demise, at the hands of condo developers, upscale retailers and media monoliths.
We’re dropping names like Joey Ramone and Blondie, Television and Talking Heads, Johnny Thunders and Richard Hell, Jim Jarmusch and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Betsey Johnson and Laurie Anderson, Legs McNeil and Lester Bangs — and right in the middle of it all, as much of a participant as an observer, was an artist and photojournalist by name of Marcia Resnick.
The Brooklyn-born Resnick had graduated second in her class (to valedictorian and future Senator Chuck Schumer) and attended Cooper Union when she made a name for herself as a creator of art photo books and denizen of the downtown scene. Her proximity to the “superstars” of that insular world earned her the trust of her subjects, and a lasting legacy that’s remained her calling card throughout a long career as an educator and fine artist. She was even married for a brief time to punk progenitor Wayne Kramer of the MC5, an interlude touched upon in McNeil’s oral history Please Kill Me.
Beginning with an opening reception this Friday night and continuing through mid-November, Red Bank will be the setting for a major retrospective of Resnick’s portrait work entitled Punks, Poets and Politicians. It’s an exhibit keyed in to her forthcoming book Bad Boys: A Compendium of Punks, Poets and Powerful People(a work that “examines power, fame and sexuality in addition to the ironic gamut of meanings for the word bad”), and it’s being hosted by McKay Imaging Gallery, Robert and Elisabeth McKay’s walk-up wonderland dedicated to expanding (and exploding) all your preconceived notions of the captured image.
Resnick will be present for the opening night reception inside the artspace at 12 Monmouth Street; an affair that happens between the hours of 7 and 10pm. Red Bank oRBit had the pleasure of chatting up one of our heroes on the phone — and when it was over she had even managed to talk us into compiling a custom CD soundtrack to Friday’s show. Read on.