Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York is a remarkable book of photos by Karla and James Murray, featuring a huge selection of store façades snapped all over the five boroughs. Unified by their charmingly unvarnished aesthetic, these stores have maintained a look seemingly impervious to the slick architecture and generic branding that has redefined the topography of modern New York.
Clic Gallery (255 Centre Street), a space dedicated to showcasing emerging artists, is displaying a medley of photos from the Murrays’ book through August 30. Easily identifiable New York institutions like Reggio’s and the now-shuttered Vesuvio Bakery are on display alongside nameless bodegas and barber shops characteristic of many a local hood. The venues are throwbacks to old New York, when family business legacies and specialty shops weren’t such novelties. The gallery’s white walls and white frames (not to mention large-windowed, well-lit corner location) allow the viewer a clear zoom-in on the frontal details, including carefully-considered embellishments like hand-painted signs and surprising typographical choices that fly in the face of big-business homogeneity.
As the husband and wife team told Flavorpill:
“[Curator] Christiane Celle selected all the photos for the exhibit. We have found that everyone is drawn to different stores and has different ‘favorites’ so we were happy to have someone else do the selection for us. It’s also interesting for us to see what stores people are drawn to. Our favorites tend to involve more than just the photo because we have such a personal connection to many of the store owners since we interviewed them for the book project. Many of the owners have in fact become friends with us and we remain in touch with them even if their store has closed.
The arrangement of the photos for the show was also done by the gallery. They grouped the photos into collections of “booze-related stores”, “guy-related stores” (ie: fishing, bicycles, tire shops, guitar shops), food-related stores and bakeries and “girl-related stores” (ie: hair salons, fur shops, clothing stores)”.
It’s a visual touchstone to an old New York not [yet] extinct or maimed by architectural Botox — a discrete yet rousing reminder to recognize the beauty of small-scale commerce.