Jules Allen: Public Photographs

About the Exhibition

Jules Allen (b.1947, San Francisco, CA) presents a series of four photographic images in the advertising spaces of bus shelters throughout Harlem. All four images portray the inner-city experience, oftentimes using objects such as hats as photographic indicators, specifically of urban African-American public life and culture, and more generally, of universal human experience. Each of the four images is complimented by poetic text written by poet Wayne Providence in collaboration with the artist. Providence’s text addresses, in some way, the specific image.

The project evolved from the Public Art Fund’s 1990 citywide exhibition entitled “PSA: PUBLIC SERVICE ART.” Contemporary artists such as Barbara Kruger and the collaborative group Gran Fury were commissioned to design bus shelter posters dealing with a range of current social issues such as AIDS and abortion rights. In addition, the Guerrilla Girls created a billboard for this project which featured the Mona Lisa with a fig leaf over her mouth. This work addressed reproductive rights and art censorship.

Allen described the objective of the piece as describing “a culture, photographing it, [and] evidencing itself through behavior (a clinical approach). There are many themes or characters one may select in order to focus, access, and/or illustrate the point. Here, I have selected ‘hats’…a visual metaphor.

Oftentimes food, religion, music and land are themes used to depict culture. However, hats more specifically address culture; that is both personal and general simultaneously. A psyche that runs through both of unconscious and the universal conscious. The choice of hats, as a symbol of mankind, is a logical one. It is a global symbol understood by all.

The sensibility of the images is expressed through gesture and environment. The gesture of the subjects is based in funk, rhythm, urban and African American…a recent vision.”



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