Rafael Fuchs Exhibit Captures Y2K Nostalgia

A sign on a door reads "19th Street Gallery" leading to a room with art on the walls.

On a nondescript block tucked away from the usual Park Slope crowds, 19th Street Gallery welcomes a crowd for its first showcase.

Inside, onlookers stand in a space caught in between eras. On display are portraits taken by Brooklyn-based photographer Rafael Fuchs. Celebrities Pink and John Leguizamo look into the distance, not meeting the steely gaze of late politician Colin Powell. Beyoncé’s languid gaze is framed not by her icy platinum mane adopted for her recent Renaissance Tour but instead by her old groupmates from Destiny’s Child.

Luminaries showcases Fuchs’ work from the turn of the millennium, apt for the present-day Y2K nostalgia that continues to infiltrate all parts of culture.

A photograph of John Leguizamo hung on a wall.

Fuchs comments to PetaPixel on the curation of pieces, all of which feature people who have had influence, whether in pop culture or in politics, hence the title Luminaries for the exhibition. The gift of time gives observers another angle at which to look at the subjects’ influence. After all, Powell, in 1997 when the portrait on display was taken, had far more influence at the time than leading up to his death in 2021.

Conversely, Beyoncé, as a solo artist, has catapulted in fame since starting with Destiny’s Child. Author J.K. Rowling, who is also featured, maintains her wealth and relevance. But in 1999, when the photograph on display was captured, her famous Harry Potter books were still coming out. And while the series maintains a healthy level of pop culture relevance today, Rowling’s personal reputation has been somewhat marred due to her controversial opinions on transwomen.

“Some of them are with us, some of them are not,” Fuchs further points out. “Tony Bennet, Colin Powell.”

Two people look at art hung on a wall.

But Fuchs quickly moves on, rather than lingering on what and who has been lost over the years. He excited shares that John Leguizamo, who is not only still very much alive and acting but is also very active on social media.

“Whenever I post something, he shares it in his Reel, and he writes funny stuff,” Fuchs elaborates with a wide smile, seeming to revel in his past subject’s nostalgic reminiscence.

In the crowd, Fuchs stands out in a royal blue suit over a coral button-down. He greets nearly everyone in the room with a wide smile in between taking photographs of the scene.

Photographer Rafael Fuchs

Fuchs, who was born and raised in Israel, moved to New York City several decades ago. He’s gained notoriety for his portraiture, and his work has been featured in many publications including Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, and Glamour among others. He also has a gallery, Fuchs Projects, in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn.

Over the pop music filling the space, Fuchs tells PetaPixel he’s worked with Printique, which runs the gallery, for upwards of 30 years. Gabrielle Grace, Printique’s social media manager and the curator of the Luminaries, was inspired to put on the showcase when running into Fuchs, realizing she recently came across his work at a solo exhibition.

People observe the art at the Luminaries solo exhibition.

“Considering the early 2000s renaissance currently surging in culture, along with the kooky backdrops and imaginative concepts, I found myself drawn to Rafael’s work,” Grace says in a release announcing the show. “Moreover, after the conversation about a gallery in Printique was brought up, he felt like the obvious choice to christen the space with larger-than-life metal portrait prints.”

Luminaries is the continuation of the exhibition Grace saw, Icons, which was held at the Kube Art Center in Beacon, NY, over the summer. Both showcases capture the colorful allure of early aughts aesthetics. But the latest display with Printique puts not only Fuchs’ work on display but also the Printique photo lab.

Acrylic blocks in a row.

The images along the walls are largely dye sublimation prints on aluminum, the largest of which spans 40×50 inches. A couple of others, like a portrait of Tony Bennett and his Maltese Boo, are printed on canvas. Some of the largest images, including one of Mary J. Blige in a heavily saturated orange space surrounded by butterflies and one of Destiny’s Child (with three members circa 2000), are TK photo rag Hahnemuhle German etchings. A few rows of 8×10 inch acrylic blocks sit in rows, all nestled in small wooden easels. More portraits, including enlarged contact sheets, are HD acrylic prints.

Like a symbiotic relationship found in wildlife, the Luminaries exhibition showcases both Fuchs’ and Printinque’s prowess in equal measure.

Walking through the plant where the printing takes place, the space transforms from the intimacy of the exhibition space. It feels busy even in the off hours when most workers have gone home. A maze of supplies and printers, organized by the types of projects worked on, feels endless, the rows obscuring the far end of the space.

A corridor in a printing facility.

The chemical room in a printing facility.

My tour guide points out what he calls “the Lamboughini of printers,” and picks up samples from the outtakes pile, taking pride even in these items. He picks up some canvas before it’s stretched onto a frame and rubs it between his thumb and forefinger, commenting on the quality and process.

Further into the impromptu tour, there’s the chemical room, which PetaPixel learns is heaving controlled for temperature and humidity. Throughout the facility, there are mechanisms hanging from the high ceilings. Every few minutes, they emit a mist, protecting the delicate balance needed.

The inside of a printing facility.

The inside of a printing facility.

The inside of a printing facility.

Moving back into the event space makes physical a before and after transformation. Where the printing facility displays uncut leather and unstretched canvas, the exhibition shows the result of the work put in elsewhere in the building. Here, on the opening night of the 19th Street Gallery’s first exhibition, viewers see what’s possible from Prinitique while getting lost in time.

Luminaries is on display, by appointment, Mondays from 9 AM to 5 PM. and Thursdays from 9 AM to 7 PM, now through Thursday, February 29. Admission is free.

Image credits: Lisa Marie Segarra