A lot of planning goes into a seemingly candid photograph when an artist is at work. This fact becomes self-evident when you visit the current show at June Kelly Gallery titled “Alex Harsely: An Overview,” now on display through July 28. More than just a primer, the show feels like an intimate deep dive, exploring decades of work but centered around the early 1970s and more specifically around a primary subject: Muhammad Ali.
The show is dominated by images of Ali the artist took as the champ trained at his upstate center. Several large scale photographs anchor the show, with the big color prints transforming the images through the revelation of grain into near paintings. The familiar faces and poses as he shouts and punches shine through, but we see something else: we discover the philosopher’s hidden depths. The other treat of these images is that we see more of Ali than we are used to as the artist shows him chopping wood and
even riding a horse.
The other photographs in the show, which are almost exclusively black and white, span the decades from the late ’50s to the mid ’90s. We see the Fruit of Islam waiting patiently in seats for what we know not, and we see the great photographer Roy DeCarava at an exhibition opening at the Museum of Modern Art. There is also a stunning portrait of a dancer that shows how much can be accomplished when an artist ceases to search for more light but
simply respects the light.
June Kelly, whose eponymous gallery has been in business, at the same location no less, for 30 years, has shown Harsely’s work four other times. She keeps coming back to his work, explaining, “Alex has a unique voice. There’s an intimacy he brings to his photographs; they have a special clarity.” She continued, “There’s a body of work that I keep unearthing; there’s always a fresh eye there.”
A true artist shows us that
with which we are familiar in new ways and by doing so transforms the subject before our eyes. This show is a wonderful example of just that.
June Kelly Gallery is located at 166 Mercer St. in downtown Manhattan. The gallery is open from Monday to Friday from 11
a.m. to 6 p.m.
For more information, please visit www.junekellygallery.com or call 212-226-1660.