Andrew Moore at Yancey Richardson Gallery
November 5, 2009 – January 9, 2010
535 West 22nd Street 3rd floor
New York City, 646-230-9610
Detroit contains a barely believable 80,000 abandoned buildings and lots. Andrew Moore’s current exhibition, named for the auto city in crisis, consists of ten large-scale photographs reflecting this urban blight. Although the majority of this imagery is indeed based on Detroit (Palace Theatre, the exception, was taken in Gary, Indiana), the specificity of the photographs is not located in geographical location so much as in transformative relationship of abandoned architecture to the natural elements and, through time, its reclamation by the same.
Moore tends to work in series, pace his previous bodies of work documenting Governor’s Island, Havana, Sarajevo and Russia. His photographs are, characteristically, highly saturated, recalling advertising while also suggesting a painterly sensibility. In Model T Headquarters, Detroit, Michigan (2009), a humidity-soaked and mold-encrusted shag carpet appears verdant in both the forms its decomposition has naturally taken and the digital heightening of its chromatic intensity. These concerns he shares with such contemporary photographers as Anthony Goicolea and Edward Burtynsky while having in common with Thomas Struth an interest in the theatricality of space and scale. In Palace Theatre, Gary, Indiana (2008), the stage and backdrop smartly puns on antiquity, as if a Piero della Francesca fresco has been digitally transported into a contemporary ruin’s interior.
But Moore’s work can feel commercially slick, as in his rainbows of light drenching the interior of The Rouge, Detroit, Michigan (2008). Although subtly and beautifully executed, this over-embellishment of a rough, gritty space is problematic in its heavy-handed aestheticization of decay. Moore has said that in his work, “The great wonder of Detroit’s transformation is the Janus-faced role that Nature evinces through its devouring decay as well as its power of renewal.” These works do indeed speak volumes about a relationship between nature and the decay of the humanmade, yet as a whole, these photographs lack a cumulative force and have little specific formal, conceptual or thematic relationships to one another. That a photograph depicting rusting colossal factory gears such as Marine Terminal, Detroit, Michigan (2009) is in Detroit seems unimportant—it could be just as easily be Germany or the former Soviet Union.
In Detroit, urban artist interventions verging on Duchampian pranksterism has reclaimed much of its industrial and residential blight. Such actions as “Detroit. Demolition. Disneyland.” in which a group of artists has covered abandoned buildings with a construction orange-colored paint, visually and conceptually unify decay. Calling attention to these specific issues, these buildings are also politically and economically charged. With his interest in what he describes as “a city whose actual decomposition extends to surreal proportions,” documenting the results of such a site-specific artistic intervention is an ideal future project for Andrew Moore.