Friday, February 6, 2009


When I mention to my mother that I might be spending Friday night in Harlem, I hear a rather worried gasp crackle through the cell phone before the usual assault of questions and pleas hit my ear. I have to remind her that I'm probably not going to become a heroin mule or fall head over heals for a pimp--I mean, why would I spend that much time on the subway for thrills I could just as easily find in the East Village? 

The Harlem I'm after is the Harlem portrayed here--all flickering neon and velvet black night. I love how the white vertical lines punch out the image into a giant H, how the whole street gets sucked into this vast darkness that feels anything but empty. If ever an image truly captured that area, it's this one. 

And where does it come from, you ask? Back in the late 1960s, this poster was part of a ten-image series commissioned by the Container Corporation of America as a salute to New York City. Used as public decoration, these posters covered the walls of churches and subways cars alike. If only Big Business still found this sort of public art appealing, I wouldn't have to look at so many advertisements for 1-800-DIVORCE or the 'Best Pediatrist in NYC' on my way to work every day. 

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