New York Photo Review
NYPR Archives - 2010

Silent Boomboxes
Lyle Owerko
The Boombox
Lyle Owerko

The boombox, the portable tape cassette player and radio connected to two or more loudspeakers ranging in size from big to humongous, is happily almost extinct now. Sadly (or not) this exhibition of 25 mostly black and white photographs of boomboxes of varying heft and complexity will not make you long for the glory days of hip-hop street culture. Unlike the fascinating book by photographer Lyle Owerko that spawned this modest exhibition, which placed the machines in the larger urban context, the images here are simply a visual archive of what used to be a vital sign of street cred and/or machismo. They’re unadorned photographs of the machines themselves, some showing more wear and tear than others, but the young people who carried them onto subway platforms or street gatherings, going full blast and assaulting you with their raucous sounds, are nowhere in sight in this show – and are missed! You almost wish there was a sound track with LL Cool J playing loud in the background.

Still, in an era when iPods and headphones have made music a personal experience and status may be based more on the size of your playlist and not your speakers, seeing a larger than life (58 x 87 inch) print of a vintage 1980s boombox equipped with four large speakers and graphic equalizer that could cost $700, is enough to make you realize this thing has achieved iconic status and is about to become a museum piece. Owerko, who is best known for his photograph of the burning World Trade Center that appeared on Time magazine’s September 14, 2001 cover, said that he sees people wearing images of boomboxes sprayed or drawn on various garments on a daily basis. So, his obsession with collecting and photographing boomboxes may be justified or understandable. But after seeing three or four of his pictures, you may feel that if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. Or you may want to hear some hip-hop instead.

 by unidentified photographer.
Lyle Owerko

Lyle Owerko
The Boombox

Clic Bookstore and Gallery (C)
255 Centre St.
Lower Manhattan - East         Map

212 219 9308

Tuesday, October 5 to
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Hours: Tue-Sun, 12 to 7