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FIVE POINTS

PRESS RELEASE
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For Immediate Release 

 

FIVE POINTS

May 24 -  June 24,  2006
    Opening reception: March 24, 6 - 8 pm

 

CHARLIE BALLETTO, JONATHAN BOGARIN, GRACIELA  CASSEL, BEN CELL, MIGUEL LOREDO, JAVIER RAMIREX, VERONIQUE SAN LEANDRO, ANGIE SMITH.

 

Marzia Frozen is pleased to present FIVE POINTS at University Settlement at the Houston Street Center's Second Floor gallery; a group exhibition of New  York based artists.  Revolving around an interest in Cutting Edge  and a lifelong association with New Contemporary Art.

The name Five Points evokes images of poverty, rampant crime, decadence and despair. That’s true. The Five Points was a lurid geographical cancer filled with dilapidated and unlivable tenement houses, gang extortion, corrupt politicians, houses of ill-repute and drunkenness and gambling. This was a place where all manner of crime flourished, the residents terrorized and squalor prevailed. This is the setting over many decades through thenineteenth century.
The district was known as the Sixth Ward bounded, south, by Reade Street; west, by West Street; north by Canal Street; east by Broadway. The Five Points so named in the 1830’s from the convergence of the intersection of five streets: Mulberry, Anthony (now Worth St.), Cross (now Park), Orange (now Baxter), and Little Water Street (no longer exists). This neighborhood was built over the Collect Pond and its adjacent swampland north of City Hall and the Courthouse, between Broadway and the Bowery. The scene is set.
Certain areas of Manhattan are not suitable to build tall structures because there is no bedrock underground. This was the case in the Canal Street area. If you look at the skyline from either west or east, you’ll notice how the tall buildings are clustered together whereas the skyline dips to smaller structures where there is no bedrock to support them. This is the reason.


When the landfill started to decay in the 1820’s the wood frame houses began to tilt over and sink. It became infested with mosquitoes and disease; the decent residents moved out, those who remained became impoverished and victims of slum lords, gangs and ruthless politicians looking for easy votes. Personal safety was compromised and a person was in constant threat of being robbed or worse. Beginning with the “Old Brewery” – a building that was converted to an apartment house, the floors were partitioned into small flats, rented to the poor and seedy characters. Each room had whole families, cooking, eating, and sleeping in this one room. It was a ghastly sight with squalid living conditions. The same situation prevailed throughout the district – the lower floors usually for drinking, dancing, gambling, and riotous behavior. Many people were robbed, beaten or shanghaied. In the cellars (they were called “cellar dwellers”) were the “oyster saloons,” which were kept open all night luring fresh, unsuspecting victims. This neighborhood was a dangerous place to live in and visit.


The many dancehalls brought together the Irish and African-Americans who had a large population in the area. A combination of the Irish jig or reel and the African-American shuffle, created a new dance form – Tap Dancing. This became a popular trend and forever was ingrained in American culture. As to stuffing the ballot boxes and stealing elections, this neighborhood became expert and notorious. After the Civil War, in particular, the Five Points (Sixth Ward) district had a reputation for casting more ballots than eligible voters!
Over the decades the neighborhood changed. It was extremely bad in the 1830’s and ‘40’s until Protestant religious sects made inroads to clean up the area in the 1850’s. By 1860 Five Points was a little less violent, but still a slum. Abraham Lincoln visited the area in 1860 and reluctantly gave a speech to some school children. He as well as Charles Dickens, who visited the area in 1842, were appalled at the abject poverty and terrible living conditions. Conditions improved only to crumble again in the 1880’s with the influx of Italian and Chinese immigrants. By 1897 the area houses had been demolished and the district took on a whole new look. 
It’s hard to determine how much of these accounts are true or fabrications to sell newspapers. To many uptown New Yorkers no one was “respectable” that came from the Five Points. But multi-ethnic America was borne out of that slum.

You must be the judge. The violence and living conditions are fact and most of the descriptions that follow are rich in period history.

In the Chinese proverb, it certainly was ‘interesting times’ to be living.

FIVE POINTS presents artists who have emerged since the late nineties. Their work explores both this time period – during which the world has changed dramatically – shows vitality, energy, and exciting promise; and anticipates new directions in the contemporary art world.
 

 

FIVE POINTS  was  curated  by  MARZIA FROZEN