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Jerome Liebling: Brooklyn and Other Boroughs, 1946-1996

The Stephen Kasher Gallery in New York City will show Jerome Liebling: Brooklyn and Other Boroughs, 1946-1996 from April 24 through June 6. The opening reception is Friday, April 24, from 6 to 8 p.m.

The Stephen Kasher Gallery in New York City will show Jerome Liebling: Brooklyn and Other Boroughs, 1946-1996 from April 24 through June 6. The opening reception is Friday, April 24, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Jerome Liebling photo

Liebling was among the founding professors of Hampshire College. He joined the faculty in 1969, before the College opened in fall 1970, and taught at Hampshire until his retirement in 1990. Hampshire’s Jerome Liebling Center for Film, Photography, and Video is named in his honor because he was as gifted and influential as a teacher and mentor as he was as a photographer and filmmaker.

This is the second exhibition of Liebling’s work at Steven Kasher Gallery. The show features 50 black-and-white and color photographs taken in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx over five decades. The exhibition highlights Liebling’s roots in, love for, and inspired representations of his home city.

Jerome Liebling (1924-2011) was born in Harlem and grew up poor in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. In 1942, Liebling quit his first semester at Brooklyn College to enlist in World War II, serving in the notoriously deadly glider infantry. The carnage he witnessed fueled his creative impulse to “figure out where the pain was..." Liebling returned to Brooklyn College in 1946 to study art under the G.I. Bill. Ad Reinhardt's Bauhaus-influenced design classes honed his formal sensibility. Documentary photographer Walter Rosenblum opened his eyes to the power of the photographic image.

In 1947, Liebling joined the Photo League, a socially minded collective of photographers who fanned across New York to document hidden corners of the city. For Liebling, children surviving the rough-and-tumble city streets became a symbol of fortitude. "Their faces could inform all that they felt, from grace, to reflective questioning, to supreme prescience," he said.

In 1949, Liebling accepted a position teaching photography and filmmaking at the University of Minnesota. Twenty years later, he returned to New York to discover that the city of his childhood had vanished. Despite their imagery of senseless destruction, his photographs reveal the ever-renewing spirit of humanity pushing up through the cracks.

In the late 1970s, Liebling rediscovered the long-lost Brooklyn of his childhood in the oceanside neighborhood known as "Little Odessa" in Brighton Beach. He spent three decades photographing there in brilliant chromogenic color as the old wave of Jewish denizens gave way to the new wave of Russian immigrants.

Jerome Liebling’s photographs are held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, J. Paul Getty Museum, and many others.

Located at 515 W. 26th St., New York City, the Steven Kasher Gallery’s hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information about the exhibition, email maya@stevenkasher.com.

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