The New York Times, Saturday, March 3, 2007
ART IN REVIEW: LIMELIGHT: GALLERY AND COFFEE HOUSE, 1954-61
By Martha Schwendener
From 1954 to 1961, Helen Gee, photography maven and skilled photographic retoucher, ran the Limelight, a coffeehouse at 91 Seventh Avenue in Greenwich Village that became a gathering place for writers, editors, and photographers. It also housed New York's first gallery devoted to postwar photography. In seven years, Ms. Gee mounted an impressive roster of solo shows: Berenice Abbott, Answerl Adams, Gordon Parks, Edward Weston, Minor White, and others.
Drawing from Ms. Gee's 1997 book, "Limelight: A Memoir," Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett, founders and curators at Triple Candie, have constructed a homage in the form of a plywood-walled space inside the gallery with cafe tables and chairs and self-service coffee, available at the 1950s price of 25 cens a cup.
A cubicle inside the structure recreates, roughly, a 1959 Limelight show titled "The HIstory of Photography," which included artists like Lisette Model (with whom Ms. Gee studied briefly), Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, and Robert Frank.
Ms. Gee's 1959 show consisted of original prints lent by the George Eastman House in Rochester; Tripl eCandie was denied a similar loan and has resorted instead to photocopies mounted on cardboard.
A similar situation arose last year when Ms. Bancroft and Mr. Nesbett set out to mount a rtrospective of the work of David Hammons. According to the gallery, the artist wouldn't cooperate, so they installed "David Hammons: The Unauthorized Retrospective," an exhibition consisting solely of black-and-white reproductions of his work. The unorthodox show was oddly in sync with Mr. Hammons' own oeuvre, raising interesting questions about art and representation, reproduction and authorship.
"Limelight" doesn't rise similarly to the occasion. The cafe is a light exercise in nostalgia (and not the first tribute: Sarah Morthland mounted a "Limelight" show in 2002), and the photocopies, unlabeled and unaccompanied by a checklist, impose the organizers' frustration with George Eastman House on the viewer.
It all makes you wish that Triple Candie would return to its original mission, to show the work of Harlem artists, many of whom would be thrilled to exhibit their work in this scrappy, cavernous nonprofit space.
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The New York Times, Sunday, March 4 2007
FOR THE RECORD
A brief art review in Weekend yesterday about "Limelinght," an exhibition at the Triple Candie gallery in Harlem based on a 1959 show at the Limelight coffeehouse and gallery in the West Village, misidentified the content of the original show. It included reprints of photographs by major artists lent by the George Eastman House in Rochester, not originals.
The review also mistated Triple Candie's dealings with the Eastman on the current show; it did not request a similar loan from tat institution and thus was not denied one. And it referred imprecisely to the history o fthe gallery. Triple Candie says that its goal is to provide Harlem with a site for contemporary art and artists with opportunities unavailable in commercial galleries; its original mission was not to show the work of Harlem artists.