The Urban Lens: Bushwick’s ‘Bizarre’ world of burlesque, acrobats, and fire spinners

Posted On Fri, November 18, 2016 By

Posted On Fri, November 18, 2016 By In Bushwick, Features, photography, The urban lens

6sqft’s ongoing series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. In this installment, Meryl Meisler captures the artists and performers of Bushwick’s bar and event space Bizarre. Are you a photographer who’d like to see your work featured on The Urban Lens? Get in touch with us at tips@6sqft.com.

When he moved to NYC, French filmmaker Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire squatted in a boarded up Bushwick building until he eventually owned it. Along with friend Gregory Baubeau, he decided to turn the building into a bar, performance space, and gallery inspired by the wild stories of Greenwich Village’s underground, avant-garde Café Bizarre. Their own BIZARRE opened in 2013, and shortly thereafter they exhibited photographer Meryl Meisler’s iconic shots of the neighborhood in the glam/gritty ’70s and ’80s.

Now, Meisler has come together with Sauvaire and Baubeau for a new exhibition that showcases the “assorted madness and the unexpected” of present day BIZARRE. They’ve shared their energetic photos with 6sqft, capturing all those who make the venue special–the acrobats, artists, burlesque, circus, drag kings and queens, fire spinners, magicians, musicians, poets, patrons and more–and Meisler has given us the inside scoop on this unique scene.

How long have you lived in NYC? What neighborhood do you live in now?
I moved to NYC in 1975 and currently live in Chelsea.

How did you get introduced to Bizarre?
During Bushwick Open Studios 2012, my exhibit “Defying Devastation: Bushwick in The ‘80s,” a collaboration with the writer Vanessa Mártir, opened at The Living Gallery. A man who recently bought a building in Bushwick came across my photographs from a 2007 exhibit at The Brooklyn Historical Society and wanted to meet me and see the work in person. The following year, Vanessa and I collaborated on “Defying Devastation: Bushwick Then & Now” at The Living Gallery, which had moved to Broadway. Being in Bushwick Open Studios (BOS) is a marathon-like experience; we took a break to go to a recently opened bar down the street I heard about. As soon as I entered, that same man smiled. It was BIZARRE! Thus, I met Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire and soon after his business partner Gregory Babeau.

Jean showed me a sub basement space he recently painted black where he was exhibiting still photographs from his films. He wanted to turn the space into a “Black Box Gallery” and show photographers’ work he loved, such as mine. I went back to Bizarre in the fall for an exhibit opening. There was a disco ball spinning on the main floor. There was a disco ball in the restroom. It hit me, this would be the perfect place to show my disco and Bushwick photographs together.

I asked Jean if the space was available for BOS 2014; we agreed to do an exhibit on the spot. To my surprise BIZARRE decided to exhibit and publish my books “A Tale of Two Cities Disco Era Bushwick”(2015) and “Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City” (2016).

What makes this venue unique?
BIZARRE is a warm, welcoming intimate space to enjoy a nice conversation over beverages or food, see a unique live show, movie or book launch, exhibits, and relish the joys of freedom and life. It is frequented by locals and people from all over the New York region and even attracts visitors from abroad. The performances are not just entertaining, they’re often political, uplifting and sometimes a bit “mind blowing.”

How do your photos of the club compare to those you took of the arts scene in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s?
BIZARRE reminds me very much of the arts and club scenes I frequented and photographed over the decades.  That’s why I suggested to Jean and Greg to do an exhibit focused on BIZARRE as the subject. To me, the photographs are a throwback and current, somewhat timeless.

Instagram: merylmeisler
Website: merylmeisler.com

▽ ▽

bizarre-gregory-baubeau-3
Via Gregory Baubeau

bizarre-gregory-baubeau-2
Via Gregory Baubeau

Folk Circus Umbrella Dance

Madame Vivien V's Fire Circle, Bizarre Bushwick

bizarre-meryl-meisler-7

bizarre-jean-stephane-sauvaire-1
Via Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

bizarre-jean-stephane-sauvaire-2
Via Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

Jack Hammer, Bizarre Bushwick June 2015

bizarre-meryl-meisler-8

Sailor Kiss

+++

BIZARRE: Assorted Madness and the Unexpected is on view at the Black Box Gallery through January 1, 2017 on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am to 4am and Monday through Friday from 4pm to 4am.

MORE FROM THE URBAN LENS:

Photos © Meryl Meisler unless otherwise noted

Tags :

Neighborhoods : Bushwick

MOST RECENT ARTICLES

  • Steven Gambrel turned a Park Avenue apartment into a sophisticated playground for pastel colors

    Steven Gambrel turned a Park Avenue apartment into a sophisticated playground for pastel colors

    When one thinks of a sprawling Park Avenue apartment, what comes to mind is typically muted colors, clean lines, and ...
  • Weekly highlights: Top picks from the 6sqft staff

    Weekly highlights: Top picks from the 6sqft staff

    Jason Biggs and Jenny Mollen list uber-stylish Tribeca loft for $3M Jeanne Gang reveals sparkly new renderings of High Line-hugging ...
  • Plans for SHoP’s 10-story wooden condo tower squashed

    Plans for SHoP’s 10-story wooden condo tower squashed

    SHoP’s proposed wooden tower has gotten the axe, reports The Real Deal. The wood high-rise which was slated to rise along 18th ...
  • RAH:DESIGN employed modern home-building techniques to design this cool dog house

    RAH:DESIGN employed modern home-building techniques to design this cool dog house

    While there are many doggie-abodes on the market, the designers at RAH:DESIGN found themselves struggling to find something that fit with ...
  • J.P. Morgan’s 120-year-old ‘Great Camp Uncas’ in the Adirondack wilderness reduced to $2.7M

    J.P. Morgan’s 120-year-old ‘Great Camp Uncas’ in the Adirondack wilderness reduced to $2.7M

    A standout even among the region’s Great Camps, the secluded Camp Uncas was built in 1895 by Brooklynite William West ...
  • FREE RENT: A roundup of NYC’s latest rental concessions

    FREE RENT: A roundup of NYC’s latest rental concessions

    FiDi’s 180 Water Street Announces March Opening; Now Leasing No Fee Rentals + One Month Free [link] Renovated Apartments at ...
  • A slew of new residential developments are headed for the Rockaways

    A slew of new residential developments are headed for the Rockaways

    February is too frigid to fantasize about the Rockaways’ wide white-sand beaches, but the playground peninsula is hot for a different ...
  • Every NY Times front page since 1852 in under a minute; Brooklyn’s evil eye mecca

    Every NY Times front page since 1852 in under a minute; Brooklyn’s evil eye mecca

    Disney Research created a new technology that can wirelessly power an entire room and charge devices. [Travel + Leisure] Ellen DeGeneres ...
  • Glamorous modern condo inside a historic Bed-Stuy townhouse asks $855K

    Glamorous modern condo inside a historic Bed-Stuy townhouse asks $855K

    Talk about an apartment with good bones. This modern condo was carved from the historic four-story townhouse at 347 Gates ...
  • The Urban Lens: Will Ellis explores the relics and ruins of Staten Island’s remote edges

    The Urban Lens: Will Ellis explores the relics and ruins of Staten Island’s remote edges

    6sqft’s ongoing series The Urban Lens invites photographers to share work exploring a theme or a place within New York City. ...
  • Ivanka Trump’s Park Avenue starter pad, still without a buyer, gets a rental price chop to $13K a month

    Ivanka Trump’s Park Avenue starter pad, still without a buyer, gets a rental price chop to $13K a month

    As 6sqft previously reported, Ms. Trump and husband Jared Kushner, now senior adviser to President Donald Trump, first listed their apartment ...
  • South Harlem community board wants brokers to stop calling it ‘SoHa’

    South Harlem community board wants brokers to stop calling it ‘SoHa’

    Harlem’s gentrification and increasing real estate prices aren’t news at this point, but a local community board thinks certain real ...

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEWSLETTERS

Thank you, your sign-up request was successful!
This email address is already subscribed, thank you!
Please provide a valid email address.
Please complete the CAPTCHA.
Oops. Something went wrong. Please try again later.