Looking up! Artist portrays Downtown skyscrapers with giant photos

Looking up! Artist portrays Downtown skyscrapers with giant photos
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

He’s bringing his art to new heights!

A Bushwick artist will unroll a series of enormous prints that portray the Brooklyn towers that have recently broken the borough’s height records. The “Highest and Best Use” series is part of the “Reconstruct” exhibit opening at Long Island University’s Selna Gallery on April 4, which examines changes to Brooklyn’s urban environment. The elongated images — which stand between 10 and 16 feet high and spill across the ground — convey the colossal impact of the buildings, said the artist.

“Part of why I do it is to reinforce that idea of scale. Sometimes photographs or images depicting skyscrapers tend to diminish the kind of impact you have standing on the ground,” said Lawrence Mesich. “It evokes that feeling of being hopelessly dwarfed by these impossibly large things. They are so large — they’re almost unknowable.”

In 2004, the city rezoned the Downtown area bounded by Flatbush Avenue, the Fulton Street Mall, and Willoughby Avenue to spur office development. But instead the area has seen a glut of luxury housing, commercial hotels, and cultural institutions — straining the existing infrastructure. As the sky-high consequences became more visible, Mesich said his interest was piqued, and he began photographing each building as it broke the previous height record.

Each piece begins with a handful of visits to a given building, where Mesich photographs and surveys the glass giants until he settles on an angle. From there, he isolates a pattern in the building and digitally tweaks and repeats it along the length of the image. The process of surveying and printing takes about two months, but results in an awe-inspiring view, as if someone were staring up from the base of the building, said Mesich.

“It’s meant to be as if you were standing on the street, with your head cocked up, looking at the building,” he said. “The angle gives them some of the weight and gravity that they have in person and really brings the scale home.”

The series zeroes in on three buildings that have pierced the borough’s height records: The 531-foot 111 Lawrence St., which was then beat out by the 590-footer 388 Bridge St., and lastly 100 Willoughby St., which topped out at 596 feet — beating its predecessor by a mere six feet.

Now 333 Schermerhorn St. lays claim to the title of Brooklyn’s tallest building at a whopping 610 feet. Mesich has not yet added it to the series, but said that he plans to keep plans to keep pace with the Downtown developers.

“I didn’t have a limit on how many I’d do when I conceived of it,” he said. “I was anticipating there might be a revision to this rezoning. But I plan to keep going.”

The “Reconstruct” show, which is visible from the sidewalk outside the gallery, also features a variety of other works about urban life, including a sprawling landscape made of trash, a collage that focus on decay and reconstruction, and fabrics printed with images of the changing city.

“Reconstruct” at Long Island University’s Salena Gallery [1 University Plaza between Fleet Street and DeKalb Avenue Downtown. (718) 488–1198]. Opening reception April 4, 6–8 pm. On display April 3–28. Free.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at cspivack@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Getting high: Lawrence Mesich’s images of Downtown skyscrapers stand more than 10 feet tall in order to convey the size of the original buildings.
Lawrence Mesich