Long Island City in Queens, just across the East River from midtown Manhattan, is the fastest growing neighborhood in New York City. 10,000 apartments/condos were built there in last 10 years; 25,000 more
are planned or under construction today. Some 100,000 people work in LIC every day, and these are boom years too for office construction, business expansion, and growth in amenities such as restaurants, art galleries, park development and the like. All good news, right, America on the move? Well, not if you’re from Blue Island, a working class neighborhood on the Southwest side of Chicago, and not if you’re someone who moved to LIC (after grad school at the University of Illinois-Chicago) and sense in its rapid gentrification that as much is being lost as is being gained. Daniel Shea’s evocative photographic prints (his usual move is to begin with his own photographs and then overlay them with other kinds of information-graphic designs, other photographs, geometric forms, etc.) do a couple of things, but mostly they provide a sobering and wistful regret for the dehumanization in these mega-condo-monoliths sprouting so relentlessly across his community.
To convey that sense of a forlorn model, giddy with technology but empty at its core, in some of his LIC series Shea overlaps photographs of details of these glass-and-steel or concrete condo/apartment buildings, usually while under construction, with an image or elevation taken from Brasilia. The juxtaposition of the new grid with that old grid, the condos of privilege with the modernist effrontery of building a city from scratch in the jungle and making it your nation’s capital, interests Shea as that kind of vacant hubris that makes everything feel dreary (as does his predilection for a sort of 1970s Kodak cibachrome orange tone). Shea’s other series, Cruising, is more about the here and now; LIC has become more or less a construction site, with many blocks fenced with plywood walls behind which construction crews are always at work. City regulations require that these walls have apertures cut into them so both passersby and city inspectors can peer through them, a kind of peep show or glory hole where you can quasi-anonymously watch workers do their thing in a curious confluence of voyeurism and surveillance. Shea mimics that squarish or diamond shape wall aperture in some of his photos, putting his viewers in that voyeur position, as workers scurry to build the structures in which they can’t afford to live.
Archival pigment print, painted oak, acrylic and framing materials
32″ x 23″
Photo: courtesy Andrew Rafacz Gallery