Not just another Factory Girl or a Chelsea Girl of Andy Warhol, Nico (Christa Päffgen, 1938 – 1988) was a voice collaborator with the American rock band, The Velvet Underground. The iconic 1967 album cover for “The Velvet Underground & Nico” of a yellow banana by Warhol is iconic as the controversial music it contained. Who was Nico? One photographer had the fortuitous opportunity to capture this legendary Empress of the Lower East Side / East Village as a fresh-faced 23 year-old beauty upon her arrival in New York and documented rare facets of this woman before she became an artist in her own right. Rooster Gallery presented as its opener for the Fall 2012 Season the collection of photos by Jerry Schatzberg for “Nico: New York, New York”.
The title of the show was derived from Nico’s jaded rendition of the song “New York, New York” from a film, which was in sharp contrast to the youthful and irrepressible beauty that once beamed on photographs taken by Schatzberg. In 1961, fantasy fashion shots taken of Nico as the icy blonde (she was a commercial model) that stood out from the background of fiery red flames. The self-assurance in her eyes and the parted pleasurable smile denoted a woman destined for something beyond facial perfection. It was this same unmatched beauty that Federico Fellini included her in his legendary film “La Dolce Vita”. The colored photographs done in 1961 stand the test of time with its fashion editorial style that can fit easily in today’s magazines like Vogue. Schatzberg took these never before seen photos for the sheer pleasure of capturing a rare beauty like Nico. He immortalized a sliver of intimate and approachable qualities not typically associated with this legendary woman. Later on in her life that her Germanic stance of being not accessible was a reinvention far from the girl that Schatzberg once captured – still unspoiled by her fate in New York, with Warhol, the Velvet Underground and forays into music/cinema.
There is a searing honesty with Nico’s pictures taken by Schatzberg in her early life and the woman that’s yet to make her destiny. Besides being a photographer, Schatzberg has an illustrious career as a film director. Certain photographers shoot images but rarely get the real person caught on it. In this rare collection of photos that you’ll get a refreshing look at the woman that made being burnt-out flare into infamy. Perhaps Nico is like the iconic banana album cover by Warhol where you need to peel it back to get to what’s inside. Schatzberg managed to capture the woman without layers – just her pure unbridled glory.
Jerry Schatzberg – Nico: New York, New York / On View: Sept. 5 – Oct. 21, 2012
Gallery Schedule: Wed – Sun (12 – 7 pm) / Mon – Tue by appointment
Rooster Gallery. 190 Orchard Street, NYC, NY 10002.
art review by: Oscar A. Laluyan
images from Rooster Gallery courtesy of Jerry Schatzberg
event photography by: Deukyun Hwang