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Book Review By ANONYM
in: am New York, Issue 175, Vol. 3, September 8, 2005.
Popular artists like Madonna and “Broken Flowers” director Jim Jarmusch, who lived for a while in the Lower East Side, receive the most attention when critics and historians survey the neighborhood’s rich cultural past.
But Clayton Patterson, an informal documentarian of the Lower East Side, says they were just the surface of its once vibrant art scene.
But tressing some of those successful counterculture crossovers, he said, were hundreds of unrecognized creative minds, or “pillars,” as he calls them.
“You will hear about a Jarmusch,” said Patterson, whose gray hair, ancient fu Manchu and tattoos give the appearance of an aging biker. “But in reality there’s a whole subculture beneath Jarmusch that made Jarmusch into Jarmusch.”
Since he moved to the neighborhood in 1979, Patterson has spent decades recording Lower East Side unknowns who have shaped much of the city’s creative scene. His photos range from a young boy writhing in pain from a bullet wound to portraits of Lower East Side artists to the Tompkins Park riots.
Now some of the life he captured on film has been compiled into a book. Late last month, 7 Stories Press published, “Captured: A Film/Video History of the Lower East Side,” which contains essays by various contributors about the neighborhood’s avant garde and underground moviemakers.
One entry is devoted to Rafic, an artist little known outside the Lower East Side who supplied others with editing equipment and developed film.
“He had a list of almost everything you would need to make a small independent avant garde or underground film,” said Patterson, who also owns the Clayton Gallery and Outlaw Museum, on Essex Street. “He was really the backbone to so many people, and I am sure if you talk to Jim Jarmusch, he would say the same.”
The book offers only a glimpse of Patterson’s personal recordings. He has amassed hundreds of thousands of photographs and video footage capturing the neighborhood, which has been largely unshown.
The neighborhood’s dimming art scene is partly why he’s started to turn his recordings into a readable history.
“Now that the neighborhood is in a place where so much creativity and that reckless energy has stopped, it seems like this was the time now to dig into the archives,” he said.