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Queens Chronicle

Flies in amber: Artist draws historic NYC

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Posted: Thursday, December 15, 2011 12:00 pm

While many of us enjoy New York’s architecture, few residents probably take as much note of the city’s buildings as Joe LoGuirato, who has been painstakingly drawing historic structures for the last three years.

The College Point artist — LoGuirato has lived in the neighborhood since the 1970s — now has an exhibit of his work in what is itself a historic building, College Point’s Poppenhusen Institute.

“They just catch my eye,” LoGuirato said of the pre-1950 structures he draws. “I was always interested in architecture.”

Some of the edifices in LoGuirato’s drawings are iconic, like the Empire State Building and the Williamsburg Bridge; others are lesser known gems, including the landmarked French Renaissance firehouse on 43rd Avenue in Corona.

Each piece on display took LoGuirato 30 to 40 hours to complete, he said. He begins with a piece of wood — nontraditional shapes sometimes attract him, such as the tall, thin block he used to portray just a sliver of the Manhattan bridge.

He then paints several coats of gesso, a primer, on the wood, and sands the surface down. To recreate the architecture, LoGuirato must take hundreds of photographs of the real thing, from all possible angles.

“I have been known to climb fences,” the artist said with a laugh.

Armed with photographs and a primed wood surface, LoGuirato begins the process of drawing, later adding finishing touches with a blade to artfully weather the piece.

Far from clinical architectural studies, LoGuirato’s drawings provide interesting angles and perspectives. In the case of his portrait of the 1868 Poppenhusen Institute, for example, he wanted to play with negative space — in the finished piece, only the institute’s top half appears, beneath a wide expanse of sky.

The product of a bygone time, German immigrant Conrad Poppenhusen built the institute as a community center near his rubber plant. Poppenhusen volunteer Bob Lusk, describing some film he had preserved from destruction, could have easily been describing the center itself or LoGuirato’s art: “It’s a fly in amber.”

Of his interest in such historic buildings, LoGuirato noted, “I would like us to be a little more sensitive to old buildings, instead of knocking them down.”

Drawings by Joe LoGuirato

When: Through Dec. 23. Mon. and Fri. noon-6 p.m.; Wed. noon-4 p.m.; Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. After Dec. 23, call for hours.

Where: Poppenhusen Institute, 114-04 14 Road, College Pt.

Tickets: Free

(718) 358-0067


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