ENTHRALL & SQUALOR: Photographing Downtown 1977-1987


For five days during Lower East Side History Month, The Living Gallery Outpost at 246 East 4th Street will host a series of events and a pop-up exhibition that harks back to a time when living (and life) was cheap and legends were born. 


ENTHRALL & SQUALOR: Photographing Downtown 1977-1987 brings together the photographic work of four New York originals who captured the essence of a time indelibly etched in the City’s consciousness. 


Alexis Adler will show photos of a young Jean-Michel Basquiat and the East Village apartment they squatted together in 1979 that became both refuge and artist atelier after he dropped out of high school while transitioning from graffiti artist to icon.

Arlene Gottfried (1951-2017) “…chronicled life the way she saw it, thriving on the energy of the streets, roaming and recording everything she felt through a deeply empathetic and loving lens.”  Paul Moakley, TIME magazine. 

Meryl Meisler will exhibit classic images of CBGBs and Infinity Disco from her books A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick and Purgatory & Paradise: SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City. Newly recovered Club 57 photos round out this profound document depicting a city reveling at the edge of collapse.   

Ken Schles will deconstruct and install 168 prints from his downtown books, Invisible City and Night Walk, creating an immersive chronicle of his life downtown during New York City’s last outburst of pre-Internet creativity.


Join us at The Living Gallery Outpost, 246 East 4th Street, NYC 10009 for five days of book-signings and talks, artist walks and celebrations as we delve downtown, back into a city (and a time) lost and found.


May 20th: Opening reception Sunday between 6-8pm.

May 21st: Gallery Hours, Monday 6 – 8pm.

Special event: Night Walk Tour

Join us Monday, May 21st 7-9pm for a special Night Walk! Alexis Adler, Meryl Meisler and Ken Schles will take you on tour of legendary downtown sites documented in their books. Hear their stories; bring your questions, an open mind (and camera if you wish). The tour will culminate with refreshments at The Storefront Project, 70 Orchard Street where LES YES!  Meisler’s Lower East Side photos of the 1970s and 1980s are on exhibit. Tickets are available through Eventbright for $10.00. Paid tickets can be redeemed for a $10.00 discount towards the purchase of an Alexis Adler, Arlene Gottfried, Meryl Meisler or Ken Schles book available after the tour or at The Living Gallery Outpost through May 23, 2018.

May 22nd: Gallery hours Tuesday, 6-8pm.

May 23rd: Artist talks and book signings. Hear the artists in their own words! Karen Gottfried will tell Arlene’s story. Wednesday 7-9pm. Gallery opens at 6pm.

May 24th: Share your downtown stories (and closing party), Thursday, 6-9pm.



Alexis Adler creates human life. As a pioneering embryologist working with In vitro fertilization, Adler has been privileged to witness life at its inception. With a camera attached to inverted microscopes, Alexis captures moments of early human development. A life-long photographer, Alexis found herself at the heart of a historical moment in 1979 when she teamed up with her roommate and sometime lover, Jean-Michel Basquiat, to capture his creative explosion as a teenager in their 12th Street squat. These images offer a rare window into Jean-Michel’s development as an artist. To this day, Alexis continues her photographic mission, working not only with archival images, but also through explorations of macroscopic and microscopic worlds around us.  


Arlene Gottfried (1950 – 2017) was a New York City street photographer who recorded scenes of ordinary daily life in some of the city's less well-to-do neighborhoods. Born in Brooklyn, she moved with her Jewish immigrant family to Alphabet City and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology. Later in life she embarked on a career as a gospel singer, but throughout photography was her passion and her livelihood. Although her personal photographic work was not widely known until she was in her fifties, she eventually published five books: The Eternal Light (1999); Midnight (2003); Sometimes Overwhelming (2008); Bacalaitos and Fireworks (2011) and Mommie: Three Generations of Women (2015), a portrait of her immigrant grandmother, mother, and sister, which was a TIME magazine photo book of the year in 2016. Her photographs and archives are in the collection of the European House of Photography (MEP), the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and the New York Public Library. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Berenice Abbott International Competition of Women's Documentary. Daniel Cooney Fine Art represents Arlene Gottfried’s work.


Meryl Meisler was born 1951 in the South Bronx and raised in North Massapequa, Long Island. Inspired by Diane Arbus and Jacques Henri Lartigue, Meryl began photographing herself, family and friends while enrolled in a photography class taught by Cavalliere Ketchum at The University of Wisconsin, Madison. In 1975, Meryl returned to NYC and studied with Lisette Model while continuing to photograph her hometown and the city around her. Working as a freelance illustrator by day, Meryl frequented and photographed the infamous NYC Discos in their heyday. As a 1978 CETA Artist grant recipient, Meryl created a portfolio of photographs that explored her Jewish Identity for the American Jewish Congress. After CETA, Meryl began a 31-year career as a NYC Public School Art Teacher. Upon retirement from teaching she began revealing large bodies of unseen work. The Living Gallery BK was the 1st Bushwick gallery to show her Bushwick series. Her books A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick and Purgatory & Paradise: SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City (Bizarre Publishing) have received international acclaim. Steven Kasher Gallery represents Meryl’s work.


Ken Schles (1960) is a photographer, writer and native New Yorker. Author of five photographic books, his images and texts have appeared internationally in multiple anthologies and publications. Invisible City and Night Walk, his two books focusing on 1980s downtown New York (featured in this exhibition and printed by the renowned German publishing house Steidl), were Vogue Italia, Mother Jones and TIME books of the year. Invisible City also has the distinction of being a New York Times notable book of the year and recognized in four histories of the photographic book. Vince Aletti, in the New Yorker, called Invisible City, “hellishly brilliant.” A New York Foundation for the Arts Fellow, Ken Schles has organized and mounted eighteen solo exhibitions and contributed to more than three dozen group shows in over a dozen countries. His work is represented in museum collections throughout the world including The Museum of Modern Art and The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and The Rijksmuseum in The Netherlands. The Howard Greenberg Gallery represents his work.


246 E.4th ST., New York, NY, 10009

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