MADONNA NYC83: Photos by Richard Corman - Opening Night

“There was a group of guys hanging outside of her building, and she leaned over the banister and yelled down from the fourth floor and the seas just parted. I saw those eyes, and at that point it was clear to me that I was walking up into something of infamy — there was some kind of magic there and she didn’t disappoint.”

It was 1983 when photographer Richard Corman first met Madonna, an as-yet undiscovered artist with all the makings of a star. In her tiny kitchenette, she served him bubble gum and espresso on a silver-plated tray, then he took his first photo of her leaning over the stove with that signature sparkle in her eyes. It’s also the first image that greets you as you enter Madonna NYC83: Photos by Richard Corman, the newest exhibition on display at Milk Gallery.

Just as Madonna drew a crowd dancing down her block in New York’s Lower East Side 30 years ago, last night’s opening party brought out the city’s emerging creative set. The spirit of the images filled the room, with Madonna’s otherworldly energy emanating from each of the more than 50 photos on display. For Corman, the night was decades in the making, but felt as fresh as that day in the kitchenette.

“Everything about the pictures feels modern, from the way she’s dressed to her attitude," Corman told Milk Made. "And the fact that we’re doing it at Milk, which is so cutting edge, it just feels so fresh.”

The collection of images captures a pivotal period in Madonna’s life, just before she became a star, and each one feels special in some way: from the candid portrait in front of the bodega, to the shot of her standing on the rooftop surrounded by the neighborhood kids. Corman’s collaboration with graffiti artist Alec Monopoly feels particularly contemporary. Alec’s bold strokes of color jump out from the images, a visual representation of Madonna’s charisma.

Seemingly moments after the doors opened, the gallery was packed with Madonna devotees, some who’d been part of the scene during the ‘80s, while others had grown up listening to her music with their parents. When Like a Prayer, blared from the speakers, it was like a scene out of a movie — everyone started dancing and belting out the words as if they were the choir from the music video.

One of the security guards leaned over to me and told me a story from his days as a bouncer at The Fun House, a popular 1980s club on the West Side: “Madonna was dating the DJ back then, Jellybean Benitez, and I remember when he spun her first tracks and everyone in the club would go wild." — Just as they did last night. From The Fun House to Milk Gallery, leave it to Madonna to inspire dance parties like it’s 1983.

Photography by Masha Maltsava and Alexis Adam

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