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2019 SPE Annual Conference: The Myths of Photography and the American Dream / Major support by The Joy Family Legacy Foundation

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Danny Lyon: The Destruction of Lower Manhattan

Already a respected photographer at age 25, Danny Lyon returned to his hometown of New York in 1966 and settled in Lower Manhattan. After observing that half the buildings on his street were boarded up, he learned that a 60-acre area was slated for urban renewal—a wholesale leveling of several neighborhoods, including one of the city's oldest. He realized that his next project must be this momentous transition and envisioned images that would be both document and eulogy. "I came to see the buildings as fossils of a time past," wrote Lyon. "For a hundred years they have stood in the darkness and the day. . . . Now, in the end, they are visited by demolition men . . . pulling apart brick by brick and beam by beam the work of other American workers who once stood on the same walls and held the same bricks, then new, so long ago."

This exhibition of 52 photographs from the museum's collection, all recent gifts from George Stephanopoulos, coincides with FRONT, a regional contemporary triennial exhibition with the inaugural theme "An American City: Eleven Cultural Exercises." Lyon's documentary series became the model for visual work addressing the aging infrastructure of American cities, now sometimes called ruin porn, and the perils of the 1960s policy of urban renewal through demolition. 

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