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New York Through the Lens of George Kalinsky

Art Scene

New York Through the Lens of George Kalinsky

Photographer George Kalinsky has captured a phenomenal amount of iconic moments in sports and entertainment in the dream making capital of the world, New York City. As Madison Square Garden’s official photographer, he has had unlimited access to a myriad of vantage points, from intimate moments to epic stadium views. Visitors to the New-York Historical Society’s exhibition, New York Through the Lens of George Kalinsky, will have a chance to taste the thrill of live performances, monumental victories and candid team camaraderie through more than 70 photographs shot from 1955 to 2017 by Kalinsky, both in and outside the Garden.

George Kalinsky, Brooklyn Dodgers at Yankee Stadium, 1955, Inkjet with baryta, New-York Historical Society

The Brooklyn Dodgers line up at Yankee Stadium as they play their across-the-city rivals, the New York Yankees, in the 1955 World Series. The Dodgers took the series in seven games.

The exhibition begins with a 1955 image of the Brooklyn Dodgers, taking viewers back into the early days of New York sports. Winning images from baseball’s World Series (the Mets), the NBA playoffs (the Knicks), and the U.S. Open (Sloane Stephens, 2017) are interspersed throughout a linear installation of medium-scale color and black and white photographs. In an image of Jesse Orosco in 1986 celebrating the New York Mets defeat of the Boston Red Sox in game seven of the World Series, Kalinsky captures Orosco on stretched-out knees, leaning back with his arms in the air and clenched fists, simultaneously humbled and overjoyed by the moment. Pure delight seems to exude from Orosco, making it easy to imagine him screaming in euphoria alongside Mets fans in the stands.

George Kalinsky, Jesse Orosco, 1986, Inkjet with baryta, New-York Historical Society

Jesse Orosco celebrates after the New York Mets defeat the Boston Red Sox in Game 7 by a score of 8-5 to win the World Series. Orosco pitched perfect 8th and 9th innings, capping off a spectacular World Series in which he did not allow a single earned run.

All of the photographs on view are celebratory or feature artists at elegant points of musical or creative inflection. An intimate black and white image of David Bowie captures the singer in profile with a spotlight shining in the center of the image adding a special glimmer to Bowie’s handheld microphone, face and wisps of hair. The image skillfully utilizes Bowie’s crisp white dress shirt to play with the tonalities available in a black and white image. Wall text indicates that the artist was one of Kalinsky’s favorite subjects. The image was taken in 1976 at Madison Square Garden, the last stop on Bowie’s U.S. Tour, which received rave reviews. Other musicians on view include: Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Alicia Keys, Diana Ross, John Lennon, Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, among others.

George Kalinsky, John Lennon and Elton John, 1974, Inkjet with baryta, New-York Historical Society

For what would end up being Lennon’s last live (and legendary) concert performance, he joins Elton John on stage for three songs, including “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

George Kalinsky, Diana Ross, 1984, Inkjet with baryta, New-York Historical Society

During a charity concert for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center at Radio City Music Hall, Diana Ross takes the stage. Among the other performers that night are Frank Sinatra and Pavarotti.

In many cases, the power in Kalinsky’s images seems to stem from an ability to capture the emotional currents of a moment through the expressiveness of his subjects. One stunningly intimate image captures O.J. Simpson as he passes the 2000 yard mark in 1973, breaking the all-time rushing record at Shea Stadium in a blizzard; a stark counterpoint to Simpson’s subsequent fall from grace.

Simpson is caught mid-stride at an angle, ball in hand with arms swinging, full of desire, on the right side of the black and white image frame. The left side of the frame is full of defenders caught mid-motion coming off the scrimmage line, which cuts through the middle of the frame. As thick white snowflakes fall, the opponents eye each other with equal tenacity, leaving viewers in a moment of anticipation. Kalinksy is also know for the working relationship he had with the legendary boxer, Muhammad Ali, which resulted in an onslaught of spectacular photographs that were featured in an exhibition in 2016 of Kalinsky’s Ali images.

George Kalinsky, Muhammad Ali working out at Madison Square Garden, 1967, Chromogenic print from original scanned film, New-York Historical Society

Kalinsky photographed Ali dozens of times and developed a friendship that lasted until the boxer’s death.

Kalinsky’s work undoubtedly speaks to the divine pleasure of performance, the sheer greatness of all of his subjects, and the overwhelming generosity of entertainers who give so much to their audiences through their commitment to excellence. The images also seem to have an added flare because they all happened in New York City.

New York Through the Lens of George Kalinsky is on view through September 30, 2018.