Taji’s Mahal - Clayton Patterson’s Lower East Side

By Taji Ameen

Clayton Patterson is a legend. When everyone else was using giant shoulder cams and multiple sound guys to make documentaries, he was using a handheld video camera as a tool for activism. In 1988, he shot three hours and 33 minutes of police wrongdoing, which led to six cops being criminally indicted. This incident later became known as the infamous Tompkins Square Police Riots. He’s still making all kinds of art and videos, and this week I got to walk around the Lower East Side with him, in the process learning about what it was like back in the day and how it is now.

We started our day at his studio, looking through his art collection. He broke it all down, explaining that many of the artists surrounding him have gone uncredited for their contributions. For example, the early work of Keith Haring was in collaboration with graffiti artist Angel Ortiz, who used the moniker LA Rock. But for whatever reason The Whitney and all those other fancy museums never bother to credit LA Rock when they sell Haring’s work.

In the 60s, ManWoman, author of the book The Friendly Swastika, had visions and dreams that it was his duty to resurrect the swastika as a symbol of good after it had been demonized by Hitler. The symbol had always been attached to positive karma. 

Jerry Pagane was born with no ears and abandoned on a church doorstep on Christmas Eve, 1948. After surviving a long journey through group homes, he was picked up by a well-off family in Pittsburg. He had become rough around the edges, to say the least, but after the family threatened to get rid of him if he didn’t shape up, he turned to art and developed a real passion for it. 

This is some of Clayton’s non-political art that he does for fun. 

Clayton had a ton of memorabilia lying around from bygone eras of New York. 

Clayton and Cochise are working on a coloring book featuring street-gang members.

One of Clayton’s goals is to bring recognition to ignored artists. This was the inspiration behind the Front Door Book, in which he documents all of Lower East Side’s natives at who show up at his front door. Later he posted his photos in a storefront window.

We ran into a bunch of old friends on our walk who were featured in the Front Door Book

After going into “prestigious” gallery openings, we sauntered into Ricky Powell’s and Akira Ruiz’s photo show, where we got much better vibes and ended our night.

Photos by Taji Ameen and Jade Katz.

@Redalurk

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