80 Washington Square East, NYU

Uzi Parnes

Basra on First Avenue: Jack Smith's Last Apartment

October 29, 2014 – March 6, 2015


The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development presented BASRA ON FIRST AVENUE: JACK SMITH’S LAST APARTMENT, a site specific installation of photographs by artist Uzi Parnes. The installation was on view from October 29, 2014 – March 6, 2015 at 80WSE Gallery’s satellite space, a series of five street-level windows located at the corner of Broadway and East 10th Street. 

Uzi Parnes first met Jack Smith in 1979, soon after beginning to collaborate with him on numerous photo shoots, which both staged and documented Smith’s work, up until his death from AIDS in 1989. Parnes’ dissertation, Pop Performance: Four Seminal Influences, documented and deconstructed Smith’s play I Was a Male Yvonne DeCarlo for the Lucky Landlord Underground. Upon being published in 1988, it quickly became an influential reference for scholarship around Jack Smith’s work.

The photographs on view were taken by Parnes at Jack Smith’s 21 First Avenue apartment, shortly after Smith’s died. He began in daylight returning later with a film light to complete the shoot. At the time of his death Smith was transforming his home in to the set for a never-lensed film titled “Sinbad in the Rented World,” a final project that was emblematic of the entirety of his creative practice and philosophical approach, where the boundary between art and daily life was non-existent. In this regard Parnes’s images stand as a remarkable glimpse in to the incomparable environment that Smith lived in: a studio, a home, an artwork, and the site for a future life.

“When the film is long since over the apartment will be lived in and used with its kitchen in the style of a ruined sambucca, beached in a papyrus swamp and perhaps someone will be gazing at the Bagdadian sink instead of a T.V. The apartment, the architecture entertains you, it soothes you. It helps you, it civilizes you, it is ‘BASRA’…” Jack Smith, excerpt from grant application, February 5, 1982. 

Uzi Parnes is a New York based filmmaker, curator, and photographer, who has been documenting the performers and architectural ruins of downtown New York City since 1978.. Presentations of his work have been shown internationally, most recently in a career survey at The Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art (Berlin, 2012). Parnes was founder and co-director with Ela Troyano of legendary 1980's performance club “Chandelier,” later collaborating with Carmelita Tropicana as co-writer and director for four of her performances, including Memories of the Revolution 1986-87. From 2003 to 2005, he ran the Uzi N.Y. Gallery, in the East Village. He has a Ph.D. in Performance Studies & M.A. in Drama from New York University.  

Close up image of painting featuring an abstract figure with its arms up in the air. On the left is another figure walking away from the figure on the right. The wall behind them is brown-orange.