Cavalier Galleries is delighted to announce DARK—a solo exhibition of Mark S. Kornbluth’s photographs of Broadway theaters during the pandemic closure. The series comprises large-format photographs of dozens of New York City theater exteriors, a majority of which will be on display in the exhibition. Images of the Ambassador, Barrymore, Booth, Eugene O’Neill, Imperial, Lunt-Fontanne, Lyric, Music Box, New Victory, and Richard Rodgers theaters are featured, among others. Broadway shows captured in the historical moment include The Book of Mormon, Hamilton, Hangmen, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Inheritance, Moulin Rouge, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and TINA: The Tina Turner Musical. The exhibition opens Thursday, March 2, with an artist reception from 6–8 p.m., and runs through Saturday, April 15, 2023.
In 2020 when Broadway stages went dark, New York City’s theater buildings lit up the quiet nights in a state of suspended animation. At the encouragement of a mentor, Kornbluth traded his 35 mm for a large format digital camera and began making pictures of as many theaters as possible. Access to one of the busiest places on earth was unprecedented, and he took dozens of images of each structure from the deserted streets, returning night after night until certain he had captured all he needed.
Kornbluth explains, “I started this series with the intention to dramatize the language and narrative in the signage, contrasted with the stillness of the mise-en-scène. Despite the sudden and lasting emptiness that the pandemic gave rise to, I discovered a delightful tension, a sense of Broadway waiting for the promise and renewal that art invariably brings. I’m deeply curious about relationships between objects, how emotions are rooted in time and place, and how to create the power of a shared experience.”
Kornbluth will tell you that he has always had a camera with him, for as long as he can remember, but that photography is not his only artistic love, just the one which continues to magnetize him. As a teen he secured an internship as a production assistant, converted that to an assistant stage manager role through ambition, a keen mind, and an infectious energy, and spent ten years in the theatrical arts—touring Broadway shows around the country, and working in film and television. He subsequently earned an MFA in acting and has studied a range of disciplines including art history, literature, psychology, and art therapy. It is no surprise then that his dramatic talents, wandering intellect, and insatiable curiosity find a home in the work of a fine art photographer. At once he is screenwriter, stage manager, director, and producer, an explorer of his world through the lens.
Working his artistic magic in post-production, out of many, Kornbluth creates one final image that encapsulates the poetry of a scene, preserving in his craft the mood of suspended animation and the romance of memory. In his own words, he “sculpts” the photograph from individual frames, using additions and subtractions to produce a finished work of art. “I love the way that the ambient light at night, billboards and streetlights became my studio lights, illuminating the grandeur that has always been, and remains unique to New York City,” the artist says.
There is not a single figure in Kornbluth’s theater images, yet they are deeply human. The series is a profound reminder of how acutely and uniquely one feels the presence of others in their absence. The relationship of the urban environment to the people who inhabit it, and the mutual impact of one on the other, is an idea that continues to inform the photographer’s work. Though Broadway has reopened, and the city streets teem with life once again, Kornbluth finds his inspiration in the silent spaces, the dead of night, and the interstitial moments, allowing us to see the unseen, encounter one another in unexpected ways, and consider our environments anew.
Mark S. Kornbluth: DARK will be on view from March 2 through April 15, 2023 at Cavalier Gallery, 530 West 24th Street, NYC.