Andrew Moore reveals magic in ruins

Photographers Detroit series understands the beauty of decay

In the South, there's a professed passion for the past and things that show the impasto of age: We understand the beauty of decay. This ideology is also found in the work of New York photographer Andrew Moore, who traveled to Detroit, Mich., seven times from 2008 to 2009 and recorded the city's abject elegance. Economically, Detroit is way past its prime. The remnants of the auto industry, including factories, offices, warehouses, and businesses that depended on autoworkers, have gone to ruin. Moore's photographic pilgrimages yielded the work that comprises his current exhibition, Detroit, on view at Jackson Fine Art, as well as the book Detroit Disassembled.

Moore's an exceptional technician. He still shoots 8-by-10 negatives that he scans and prints digitally. The images are extraordinarily crisp. Thanks to his attention to craft, every detail and nuance stands in sharp focus.

Like photographers Thomas Struth, Jeff Wall and Andreas Gursky, Moore works in the traditional scale of monumental paintings – a trend that's developed since digital printing began competing with photography. Scale has power, particularly for Moore, since the large size makes his works' details that much more visible. In "Rouge, Detroit," each girder in the roof of a dilapidated factory becomes a perspectival line that leads the eye through the cavernous space, pausing to absorb the specific textures of decaying wood and rusting metal. The generous size of Moore's work also makes his use of vivid color even more dramatic. The factory walls in "Rouge, Detroit" modulate in rich tones from purple to rust on the left and green to gray on the right. The colors are so extraordinary, that they appear to have been digitally manipulated: They were not.

Moore's work is particularly evocative in its rendering of decay; he brings out the fascinating strangeness of neglected and abandoned buildings. In "Organ Screen UA Theater, Detroit," an old movie house's flaking Gothic filigree calls to mind a mysterious mosque or an ancient church recently unearthed by an archaeologist. "National Time, Detroit" centers on a large clock that literally melted on the wall, bringing Salvador Dali's "The Persistence of Memory" to life. In "Model T HQ, Detroit," a paneled room appears at first glance to be carpeted in green shag. A second look reveals that bright green moss has taken over the entire floor, as the ruins of industry return to nature.

Moore depicts a complete world of wretched splendor. He reveals beauty in decay, magic in ruins, surrealism in reality.

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