Unlike their Old World counterparts—which have risen from the foundations of former empires built upon previous civilizations and so on—American cities still rest somewhat unstably atop a wilderness forever poised to take back control. It's this invasive, corrosive nature, which cracks concrete andenvelops buildings, that Brooklyn-based artist Eva Struble portrays in her striking Fauvist-toned urban ruin paintings.
But that process of ruinification also informs her process, which involves a complex method of applying and cutting away layers of oil paints for an effect that often resembles collage and mimics the similarly volatile relationship between man-made structures and nature, between the figuration of architecture and the abstraction of boundless wilderness, that is her subject. Struble's new exhibition at Lombard Freid Projects, Landsmen (through July 29), portrays these transformations as they're unfolding at former military bases in Brooklyn and the Bay Area.
The ten canvases on view here deploy a dazzling palette of neons and push these disintegrating structures towards surrealism and abstraction. In "Navy Yard" (2011), one of the Brooklyn Navy Yard's dry docks sits empty, its sides glowing a spectacular sunset red under a small splotch of green sky. At the bottom of the dock, an unseen crane is reflected in stagnant waters, an apparent mirage or magical glimpse of the long-crumbled steel tower. The space seems otherwordly, yet the sight of water and ominous skies hint at the landscape beyond. It's Giorgio de Chirico on acid meets post-apocalyptic Le Douanier Rousseau by way of Andrew Moore's monumental, melancholy photographs—encounters between cities and resilient environments as painted by Deborah Brown and William Swanson also come to mind.