George Tice: “Urban Landscapes”

at Joseph Bellows Gallery

“New International Cinema, New Brunswick, NJ,” 1974, George Tice, Vintage gelatin silver print, 8″ x 10″
Photo: courtesy Joseph Bellows Gallery

“George Tice: Urban Landscapes”focuses on the master black-and-white photographer’s home state of New Jersey. Taken in the 1970s when conceptualism reined and craft fell by the wayside, Tice worked with a 19th-century, 8-by-10 viewfinder capturing a level of detail unprecedented in contemporary photography. “Urban Landscapes”presents post-industrial decline-remnants of local businesses, before middle-class Americans abandoned urban areas while corporate stores overwhelmed the landscape. Tice’s work preserves a sense of place, encouraging viewers to linger over the beauty of decay, cracked sidewalks, and architecture from a bygone era. People are rarely included; taken during early morning or night, Tice features empty streets providing a stage-like setting. “Urban Landscapes”opens with White Castle, Route #1, Rahway, NJ, (1973), Tice’s iconic night shot of the hamburger joint dating to the 1930s. The mundane is elevated through Tice’s use of lighting and sharp perspective. Petit’s Mobile Station, Cherry Hill, NJ, (1974), one of Tice’s most dramatic works, captures bright florescent gas station lights against the night sky, a lone Camaro accentuates the sparse space, while a massive water tower looms. Telephone Booth, 3 A.M., Rahway, NJ, (1974) highlights a lone telephone booth lit at night beside a street lined with shadowy woods evoking a sense of mystery.

Images of mom-and-pop stores-dry cleaners, bakeries, laundromats, and diners-underline daily rituals of urban life, at once dignified but seemingly desolate in their rundown appearance. Pacific Avenue, Atlantic City, NJ, (1973), portrays an early to mid-century street-level restaurant and diner encroached upon by newer large-scale apartment buildings. New International Cinema, New Brunswick, NJ, (1974), a street corner theater shown under heavy grey skies plays the 1973 blaxploitation film “That Man Bolt”and Clint Eastwood western “High Plains Drifter”providing escapism. Lexington Avenue, Passaic, NJ, (1973) offers an avenue view, with bold graphic signs advertising clothing and pizza amidst sidewalks strewn with trash.

Railroad Bridge, High Bridge, NJ, (1974) utilizes strong perspective, capturing railroad tracks cutting through faded Victorian homes. Drawbridge, Morgan, NJ, (1973) portrays industrial machinery along murky water conjuring a cyclical tension between nature and development. Ferry Slip, Jersey City, NJ, (1979) depicts a lone figure looking across the water to the city from a vast covered promenade, beneath a striking archway. These haunting portraits highlight Tice’s distinctive eye for capturing the fleeting experience of human intervention in the landscape.