In a hilarious "News in Brief" piece this weekend, The Onion proclaimed the end of urban decay art, stating: "the art world announced Tuesday that it had captured all the beauty it was going to find in rusted-out cars, abandoned houses, and condemned industrial sites." Point taken: poverty porn is played out. However, as longtime fans of the art of urban decay, we feel compelled to point out that well, actually, there are a bunch of artists (or at least five) right here in Brooklyn using this popular type of imagery in interesting ways.
Peter Feigenbaum: Sculptor and photographer of ephemeral depressed cityscapes inspired as much from lived experience as childhood visions informed by years of rap listenership, Feigenbaum created his Trainset Ghetto series as a reflection on precisely the kind of ruin romanticism The Onion claims has come to an end.
Amanda C. Mathis: Like Gordon Matta-Clark with an archaeological angle, Mathis doesn't cut holes in walls of abandoned buildings, but strips back their layers to reveal the accumulation of paints, wallpapers, materials and vestiges of generations of inhabitants. For her, urban decay isn't something to be aestheticized, but rather investigated and picked apart.
Eva Struble: In her recent paintings devoted to decommissioned military bases, as well as previous series portraying scrap metal yards and industrial sites, Struble's work always draws out the tension between tightly controlled man-made spaces and the encroaching natural environment seeking to subvert them. Her expressionist style reflects this contest, with figurative details always at risk of being overwhelmed by abstract natural forces.
Dan Witz: Encountering one of Witz's In Plain View pieces is a profoundly unsettling experience; he applies windows, doors and vents onto buildings—often with real frames—from which ghostly figures peer out, or dimly visible body parts create a morbid trompe l'oeil effect.
Ben Wolf: Like an architectural collagist, Wolf creates installations that often involve a jarring reassembly of fragments of abandoned buildings fallen into disrepair. Urban decay is his raw material, which he transforms radically.
The Onion piece concludes that, though urban decay art may be dead, "artists [will] spend at least another 50 years churning out heavy-handed depictions of the inherent soullessness of suburban sprawl." Hey, Gregory Crewdson's gotta make a living, ya know?
(Gordon Matta-Clark photo: David Zwirner)