Alex Harsley























In 1971 Alex Harsley founded the nonprofit art organization Minority Photographers Inc. Two years later he

opened the 4th Street Photo Gallery in a storefront at 67 East Fourth Street in the East Village, where he has exhibited generations of artists, young and old, and kept a welcoming, mentoring salon, which tends to keep jazz hours, opening midafternoon and operating well into the evening.


The exhibition at June Kelly surveys a half-century of Mr. Harsley’s own estimable art. Born in South Carolina in 1938 and a New York resident since childhood, he has made the city a primary subject of his classical brand of “street photography,” from shots of life in Harlem in the 1950s to velvety black-and-white images of downtown, late at night and silent, under snow in the 1990s.


The show includes portraits of familiar cultural figures (Muhammad Ali, John Coltrane), and of friends and colleagues like Robert Frank and David Hammons. Mr. Harsley was the cinematographer for Mr. Hammons’s video “Phat Free,” a highlight of the 1997 Whitney Biennial and widely seen elsewhere. He has collaborated with other artists, including Candida Alvarez and Dawoud Bey, over long periods, and made a video on the life of the painter Vincent Smith. Much of what he has done since the 1990s has been in video and film. It would be good to see some of that work, in addition to photography, in an institutional career survey. And surely the time has come to put a history of that career between the covers of a book.


— A version of this review appears in print on June 15, 2012, on page C25 of the New York edition with the headline: Alex Harsley.



Born Rock Hill, South Carolina

Lives and works in New York City



 Private studies with Lloyd Varden (scientific advisor to photographic industry)


Solo Exhibitions

 2014                   A Visual History of the Lower East Side/ East Village, June Kelly Gallery, New York

                            Alex Harsley: The Comeback of Mohammed Ali, Torch Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands

 2012                   50 Years of Fine Art Images, June Kelly Gallery, New York

 2005                  Dualities, 4th Street Photo Gallery, New York

 2004                  44 Years of New York, June Kelly Gallery, New York

 2002                  Patchworks, essay by Dawoud Bey, June Kelly Gallery, New York

 1997                   Chiaroscuro, June Kelly Gallery, New York

 1973-97              4th Street Photo Gallery, New York

 1978                   Black History Museum, Hempstead, NY

 1974                   Parallels of Inspiration, Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, MA

 1971                   Optional Art One; Optional Art Two; Man, Matter & Art, Image Gallery, New York


Selected Group Exhibitions

 2007                  Celebration: Nine Artists Commemorate the 35th Anniversary of Winston-Salem Delta Fine Arts,

                               Winston-Salem, NC; brochure

 2004                  A Universe of Art, organized by Corporate Art Directions, Credit Suisse First Boston, NY

 1976                   Rhythms of Vision, Contemporary Arts Gallery, New York

 1973                   Communications ’73,Union Carbide Gallery, New York

                           Communications ’73, Long Island University, New York

 1972                   Symbols in the Mind - A Closer Look, Long Island University, New York


Selected Periodicals & Reviews

 2013                   Safran, Yehuda E., “Philip Johnson in MoMA’s Garden,” Potlach: A Journal of the

                                Potlach Lab at Columbia University GSAPP, Issue #3, Spring, pp. 81-83, one photograph

 2012                   Kley, Elisabeth, reviews: new york, “Alex Harsley, June Kelly,” ARTnews, September, pp.110-111

                            Cotter, Holland, “Alex Harsley,” Art in Review, The New York Times, June 15, p. C25

                            Boyd, Herb, “Alex Harsley’s Photos at June Kelly’s Gallery, The Network Journal, Friday, June 15

 2004                  Bey, Dawoud, “Into the Light,” review, art on paper, May/June

                            Aletti, Vince, review, Village Voice, February 4-10

 2002                  Tabron, Christopher, “Tiny ‘Patchworks’ of Art,” SoHo Weekly News, April

 1997                   Schjeldahl, Peter, “Whitney Biennial,” video collaboration with installation artist

                               David Hammons, Village Voice

 1985                   Braff, Phyllis, “Pictures Worth a thousand Words,” The New York Times,  Sunday, April

 1975                   Henni, P., “SWN Discoveries,” Soho Weekly News

 1971                   Coleman, A. D., “Latent Image,” Village Voice Coleman, A. D., “Shows We’ve Seen,”

                           Popular Photography


Public Collection

                           Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of African American History and Culture,

                               Washington, DC


Public Commissions

 2000                 Health and Hospital Corporation, Woodhull Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY


Professional Experience

 2004                  Artist-in-Residence, Light Work, Syracuse, New York

 1975-2003         Collaborative work with Dawoud Bey and David Hammons

 1991-1999          Freelance: Schomburg Library for Research in Black Culture

 1991-1992          Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration and Harlem Textiles Works

 1971                    Photojournalist, Relevant Magazine, photographing Muhammad Ali at training camp,

                                Deer Lake, PA

 1970-1971          Arverne Photographic Project

 1967-1970          Supervisor, Color Lab (Types C&R)

 1964-1967          Freelance for variety of black publications

 1961-1963          Photographer, U.S. Army

 1959                   Photographer, New York County, District Attorney’s Office



 1994-2001         Collaboration with choreographer Rod Rogers

 2000                 Collaboration with poet John Farris at Tribes Gallery

 1996-2000        Feature video, “The Life and Work of Vincent Smith”

 1999                   “Circles,” video collaboration with Candida Alvarez

                           “Passages,” feature piece for The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York

 1989-1999         Produced video for Harlem Textiles Works with the late director Kerris Wolsky

 1998                   Produced DVD for David Hammons

 1995                   “Kick the Bucket,” video collaboration with installation artist David Hammons

                           “The Plastic Man,” video collaboration with installation artist David Hammons


Contributor to the following publications:

 1976                   UNICEF Calendar, UNICEF, New York

 1975                   Looking Ahead, Harcourt Brace Jovanovic, Inc., New York

 1974                   Creative Photography, Eastman Kodak, Rochester, NY



 1973-present   Opened the 4th Street Photo Gallery, as owner and director

 1971                   Founded Minority Photographers, Inc, where he organized work and exhibitions of

                               emerging photographers and acted as consultant

                           Published, “Person, Camera & The Image” newsletter (2,000 readership) to which he was

                               a regular contributor with a piece called “To What Purpose a Leaf”

                           Organized special collection of photos taken in China, 1927-31by G.W. Meacham,

                               U.S. merchant sailor



 2000                  Dictionary of International Biography, International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England

                           The Complete Book of Photographers, Macmillan

 1988                  Willis-Thomas, Debra, An Illustrated Bio-Bibliography of Black Photographers, 1940-1988,

                               Vol. 2, Garland Publishing Company, New York, 1988



 1971                   Coached and collaborated with cyclist Patrick Gulanau who won national and

                               international races both on track and road. In 2003, Gulanau won the Masters

                               National Track championship

 1960                   Trained and collaborated with cyclist Herbert Francis, Olympics in Italy

 1959                   Photographed the six-day indoor bicycle races at Madison Square Garden, New York


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