Daylight to publish 'The Many Pleasures: Found Art in New York City' by Barton Lewis

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Daylight to publish 'The Many Pleasures: Found Art in New York City' by Barton Lewis
Lewis's subjects are graffiti, torn advertising posters, stickers, paint, the texture of decay, the contributions of anonymous artists, rips, rain, and sun all combining in color, shape, and meaning.

NEW YORK, NY.- Since 2018, filmmaker and photographer Barton Lewis has photographed urban surfaces altered and transformed by humans, weather, or time on New York City's streets and subways. The Many Pleasures: Found Art in New York City (Daylight Books, Summer, 2024) is a rich collection of images that demonstrates art is everywhere, and for everyone.

Lewis's subjects are graffiti, torn advertising posters, stickers, paint, the texture of decay, the contributions of anonymous artists, rips, rain, and sun all combining in color, shape, and meaning. Abstraction and layers expand content and invite metaphor and interpretation from the viewer, and in this way, Lewis is highlighting the collaborative creativity present in everyday life and interactions.

The book is divided into two parts, On the Street, and Wall Cuts. On the Street includes posters, stickered and painted over mailboxes, building walls, and other structural elements. In one particularly arresting gatefold, torn advertisement posters of Levi's 501 jeans are shown plastered on an abandoned industrial building. For this image, Lewis digitally stitched together 152 images to reinforce the relentless barrage of advertising messages our culture is subjected to, particularly in urban environments.

New York City public historian, Kathleen Hulser, wrote the essay for the book, and she highlights the messaging this particular image holds, commenting, "Weathering has lacerated the posters into individual ghosts of their former selves, a procession that extends sixty-five feet. The phenomenon of large unoccupied industrial buildings reduced to marketing space speaks to how cycles of decay can make the once solid city seem like a movie set of forlorn facades."

She also notes the role of language throughout Lewis' imagery. The re-translation of meaning through the torn, defaced, or naturally decaying advertising leaves behind remnants of words originally meant to convince or even reinforce a cultural divide, and transforms them.

She writes, "Lewis makes us aware of the layered rhetoric of advertising, how weaponized language and icons are deployed to persuade and open wallets. Advertising originated as a layered language of culture symbols. But the symbolic language of ads operates in public space, where commercial aims may be bent to other, more free-spirited expressions. Both natural deterioration and the deliberate slicing of ads underline the metaphoric energy of these palimpsests."

For the subway wall cuts, Lewis composites each image from 12 to 18 different shots, and some of them stretch 14 feet or longer. The images are created to include the borders of the iconic subway tiles, reinforcing the sense of place these visuals inhabit. Advertising is about consumerism and attention-getting; but when altered, the images, colors, shapes, and text messages become street art, and carry commentaries on society, history, and redefinitions of creative agency. The energy of New York plays a role in this collection of work, and Lewis highlights this significance.

Barton Lewis is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and photographer whose current work centers around features and fixtures of the street and subway transformed by street artists and organic decay. Most recently, his photography showed in an exhibit at Gallery 85, in the lobby of Google’s New York headquarters, in The Indian Photo Festival, in Hyderabad, and at the Barcelona Foto Biennale. His work was featured in the May-June 2023 issue of The Harvard Business Review. A monograph of his work will be published by Daylight Books in Spring 2024. Before turning to photography in 2018, Barton made films about natural light and the urban landscape. His films have been shown in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Szczecin, Poland and elsewhere in the US and Europe.

Kathleen Hulser is an independent historian, writer, and educator who manages cultural projects. She is curator at the New York Transit Museum. Hulser has recently worked on rewriting tours of Gracie Mansion and City Hall. She has taught history, urban studies and American Studies at Pace, New York University and the New School.

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