As a graduate student at the Illinois Institute of Technology in the late 1970s, photographer Michael Abramson spent a lot of time in clubs with names like Perv’s House and Pepper’s Hideout. Marked with neon signs and wood-paneled walls, these Chicago joints were the main hubs for the city’s bustling underground jazz, juke, and blues scenes. Gritty and quirky, Abramson’s work is an intimate documentation of this South Side subculture, a community that had largely disappeared by the mid-1980s.
“I walked into a timeless place … full of supporting actors and actresses of every conceivable role,” Abramson wrote in Light: On the South Side, published by Chicago’s Numero Group in 2009. He died in 2011, but more than 30 of his photos are on display in Michael L. Abramson: Pulse of the Night, a new Museum of Contemporary Photography exhibit that runs through December 19 at Columbia College Chicago Library (624 S. Michigan Ave.).