“Sean Hemmerle: Rust Belt” at Front Room Gallery
“Sean Hemmerle: Rust Belt”
February 15-March 10, 2013
Opening Reception Friday, February, 15th 7-9pm
Front Room Gallery 147 Roebling Street, Brooklyn, NY
Hours: Friday-Sunday 1-6pm (and by appointment)
In Sean Hemmerle’s poignant photographs of theaters, banks, factories, and dilapidated houses in the “Rust Belt” the architecture becomes symbolic of societal issues that have been ignored for decades. Hemmerle’s stunning photos create a visual language—the texture of flaking paint, broken windows and the shiny reflections in pools of frozen water inside of vast industrial buildings— that instills in us a feeling of loneliness felt for these neighborhoods that have all but been forgotten. The Industrial Center of the United States once stretched from Chicago to New York City. Linked first by waterways, then rail, and finally by road, built by the likes of Rockefeller, Morgan, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, Schwab, Gould and Ford, affluence blossomed in cities like Gary, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Albany with the advent of steel, rail, oil and associated industries. Manufacturing in the United States continued to outpace the rest of the world for almost 100 years, eliciting phrases like “American Exceptionalism” to mark this period of unprecedented growth and prosperity. When manufacturing slipped away from these cities the area began to die the death of 1000 cuts, and in 1976 Walter Mondale renamed the acres of darkened factories and streets stretching from Chicago to New York as “The Rust Belt”. As the automobile industry declined, acres of downtown Detroit reverted to prairie. As steel production shifted to Asia, workers abandoned Braddock, and Gary. Citizens of Troy, New York know of the final resting place of Uncle Sam in the local cemetery and the shuttered houses that border it. As barges on the Erie Canal dwindled to extinction, industrial centers on its borders migrated to properties flanked by rails.
Sean Hemmerle’s photographs capture the remaining architectural icons of American independence as they become restructured into a new post-manufacturing era. Hemmerle’s haunting photographs expose the reconditioning of these once bustling towns and city-centers as structures become absorbed into the land, once glorious architectural elements are consumed to retain urban viability and isolated long standing hold-outs struggle to preserve a semblance of community.