When one thinks about the Motor City, two things usually come to mind — great music and fast cars. Detroit is the birthplace of Motown Records and the home of the Big Three automakers. But now the once bustling urban center might be mistaken for a ghost town since so many buildings have been abandoned.
Andrew Moore, a New York-based photographer, has taken that aura of emptiness and transformed it into a visual feast. Between 2008 and 2009, he made seven trips to Detroit, a city that has faced a declining population and economic troubles for more than 50 years.
Moore took about 1,000 photographs. Thirty of the images are featured in “Detroit Disassembled,” an exhibit at the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing, which will run through Jan. 15.
“I felt a mixture of emotions,” Moore said of snapping the pictures. “Sometimes when I looked at the abandoned schools, I felt great sadness about the tremendous waste of resources and the underlying corruption. So, that was difficult.”
From an abandoned chemistry lab at Cass Technical High School with beakers and test tubes strewn about, to an empty nursing home overlooking the gorgeous autumn foliage of a forest, the detailed color photographs, some of which are as large as 62 by 78 inches, captivate viewers with their beautiful representation of urban decay. The concept of representing ruins in art is not a new one, however; it goes back to at least the 17th century.
“It’s not just that there are empty ruins, but you see that things were just kind of left in place,” said Prerana Reddy, QMA director of public events. “It’s almost as if time stood still. ... So, there is this sense of how quickly when these transitions happen, in terms of the economy, how quickly things change and things that used to be vibrant and used become outdated.”
The museum will be hosting several public programming events to complement the exhibit and will include talks and workshops on photography, beauty and urbanism inspired by the past and future of Detroit.
“We felt there was such an interest in urban planning and development issues, Reddy said. “There has been a lot of talk on a national level, not just a Queens level, about the role of manufacturing, industry and our economy and how its being increasingly pushed out. ... We thought Detroit was emblematic of this.”
Superfront, a nonprofit organization promoting experiments in architecture, will offer a critical walk-through tour of Moore’s exhibit to discuss the aesthetics of ruins within the the larger context of Detroit as a post-industrial city. The event will take place on Saturday, Oct. 8 from 3 to 5 p.m.
A group of artists know as the Artefacting Collective will also conduct a tour of the exhibit, followed by a presentation of their own recent work in Detroit on Saturday, Oct. 22 from 4 to 6 p.m.
Moore will host a free one-day master class for photography students on Sunday, Oct. 23 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Pre-registration is required.
“There was an exhilaration in showing people places that hadn’t been seen in years, Moore said of his Detroit photos. “I discovered all these amazing places that I never knew existed.”
When: Wed. to Sun. 12-6 p.m., through Jan. 15.
Special events Oct. 8, 22 and 23
Where: Queens Museum of Art,
Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Tickets: Free. (718) 592-9700. queensmuseum.org