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NYPD sketch artist takes his work from precinct house to art gallery

Written by
Howard Halle

Perpetrators of murder, rape and other forms of mayhem in our fair city often think they’ll get away with their crimes, and sometimes they do. Other times, though, they are tracked down thanks to the help of NYPD Detective Jason Harvey. Despite his rank, Harvey isn’t a gumshoe hitting the streets to find his man: He’s one of three sketch artists in the department tasked with synthesizing eyewitnesses descriptions of potential suspects into plausible likenesses that will help with identification. These drawings are pasted on flyers, printed in newspapers and posted on the NYPD’s website, and when they do result in arrests, Harvey’s renderings often look uncannily like the actual criminal.

It takes a great deal of skill to coax details about facial features from someone's memory to create such images, and while Harvey's sketches aren't considered art, they are artful, especially in the way merge fine fluid outlines with cross-hatching. Anyway, Adam Shopkorn and Josh Safdie, co-founders of MePa gallery Fort Gansevoort seem to think so: They invited Harvey to exhibit his non-NYPD drawings, which, while rendered with the same methods as his police work, picture completely made up individuals. These “Fantasy Composites” include mugs shots that wouldn’t look out of place on the front page of the New York Post. But there are also more prosaic subjects, including a completely white bread-looking business man and a portly housewife in curlers. The show is on view until January at 5 Ninth Avenue.

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