Clayton Patterson at Howl Happening gallery

Clayton Patterson making a statement in the 1980s.

Clayton Patterson making a statement in the 1980s.

Howl Happening is presenting “Outside IN,” an exhibition of Lower East Side documentarian Clayton Patterson’s photography and art. The opening reception is Fri., June 19, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the gallery, at 6 E. First St., between the Bowery and Second Ave. The exhibition runs through Aug. 14. Also in the show will be paintings by Elsa Rensaa. The opening will be streamed live, free at @ .

“The exhibition goes beyond Patterson’s work as a documentarian to examine the full range of his artistic practice, including sculpture, photographs, fashion and books, as well as paintings by his wife and lifelong collaborator, Elsa Rensaa,” a press release for the show notes.

Patterson has been documenting Downtown since he and Rensaa moved from Canada to New York in 1979. They briefly lived in Soho, whose art scene Patterson found to be pretentious, before moving to the then-gritty Lower East Side.

“Like the works of Jacob Riis and Weegee before him, his photos capture moments of real life as they’re happening, unglamorized and unromanticized,” the gallery notes. “The ‘Front Door’ photo-portraits on view at the gallery present a kind of mosaic of the neighborhood as it was, one face at a time: tenement kids and homeless people, poets and politicians, drug dealers and drag queens, rabbis and santeros, beat cops, graffiti writers, hookers, junkies, punks, anarchists, squatters, mystics and crackpots.”

Patterson refers to this project — in which he took photos of people in front of his Essex St. home’s front door — as “the people’s photography.”

Also in the show are sculptural cabinets crafted from artifacts Patterson found on the street, ranging from toys, teeth and bullets to scraps of posters and postcards.

“As an artist, you have to use what life offers you,” Patterson said. “It’s about remaining creative and following that path.”

Also on view are the distinctive Clayton Caps he and Rensaa manufactured.

More recently, Patterson has organized and edited several massive books on the storied neighborhood’s history as explained by people who lived it and shaped it: “Captured,” on the L.E.S. as an incubator for underground film and avant-garde video; “Resistance,” on its radical political and social history; and “Jews: A People’s History of the Lower East Side.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *