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Exhibition -

Alex Harsley - The Comeback of Muhammad Ali

Alex Harsley - The Comeback of Muhammad Ali

Exhibition overview:

19 Apr - 17 May 2014

TORCH gallery

Opening: Saturday the 19th of April, 5-7pm

Ali vs Frazier I,II & III video evening: Saturday the 10th of May, starting at 5pm

Opening days for the gallery: Thursday-Saturday 12-6pm, and by appointment

'No Vietcong ever called me nigger ' with these famous words Muhammad Ali made abundantly clear that he would not be serving in the United States Army. For this refusal of duty he was sentenced to five years in jail and had to pay a considerable fine. Besides these penalties the young athlete was also denied his boxing licenses, effectively halting his career at his physical prime (ages 25-29). He was not to be allowed into the ring from 1967 until 1971. However, he already received temporary licenses from several states in 1970 until his sentence was finally reversed in 1971. After several easily won matches Ali's big comeback was to be 'The Fight of the Century' versus reigning champion Joe Frazier. This legendary bout in Madison Square Garden was one of the biggest media events the sport had ever seen, with live broadcasts in over 35 countries. The tension before the fight was tense and almost perfectly orchestrated. Ali called Frazier an Uncle Tom, a white man's boxer, while he himself claimed to be fighting for the ghetto youths. He expertly used racial politics to craft his public image, and was assisted in this matter by the infamous Don King. The fight against Frazier would prove to be the first professional defeat in Muhammad Ali's boxing career. And precisely during this tumultuous period of his life his image was captured by an influential but underexposed photographer: Alex Harsley.


Harsley (1938, Rock Hill, South Carolina) arrived in New York at exactly the right moment. During the 60's, 70's and 80's he was able to photograph many of the nation's greats: from John Coltrane and Ray Charles to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Muhammed Ali. His 4th Street Photo Gallery is one of the hidden pearls in the history of photography. This humble space in the East Village was the social hub for a radical photographical movement among the city's (black) youths. Photographers and artists such as Andres Serrano, David Hammons and Robert Frank had their first exhibitions in this gallery. In 1970 Harsley also founded 'Minority Photographers, Inc.', an open platform for sharing knowledge about the craft of photography. Because Harsley had already been working as a press photographer,
photographer for the army, colour technician for the New York Times and as a student and friend of Professor Lloyd E. Varden (1911-1970), his knowledge on the matter was invaluable. Even until this day he loves to share this knowledge with anyone who enters his gallery.


But surprisingly he seems to be a bit more hesitant in showing his own work outside of his gallery space. Although his photographs are technically impressive, historically significant and imbued with a very distinct, personal aesthetic, they only seem to be appreciated within a very small social circle. TORCH is very honored to attempt to change this. This first exhibition on his images of Ali should be the start of a long overdue global recognition of his work.