Picking up the pieces at Atlantic Yards

for The Brooklyn Paper
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The massive Atlantic Yards development project inspires rage in some and hope in others — but in Guy Ambrosino, it inspires a twisted art installment.

The Prospect Heights-based artist found twisted strips of discarded steel at Bruce Ratner’s demolition site — and turned those strips into an installation that opened Feb. 28 at the Soapbox Gallery on Dean Street, across the street from the Yards site.

The exhibit, called “What Was,” is meant to “document the memory of what was there using the material from the site,” said Ambrosino, an artist and photographer who works out of his Bergen Street studio.

His art also addresses the tense debate between Ratner and residents, who claim that the developer’s plan for a massive complex of skyscrapers, housing and office units and a basketball arena has caused the very urban blight that the project was supposed to cure.

“Steel is a rigid material that serves as a metaphor for how developers work, how difficult they can be,” said Ambrosino. “But when the steel is broken down into these long, flowing arcs, they become something beautiful, something positive and hopeful.”

Giving a whole new meaning to the expression, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” Ambrosino originally planned to use construction garbage like pieces of cement to create the installment, but when he saw the gleaming pile of twisted steel that had been removed from the site of the former Ward Bakery, he knew he had to get his hands on them.

He slashed through red tape along the way, but was eventually given permission by Ratner’s company to collect the strips about two months ago.

That’s when the real work began. Ambrosino banged the steel into thin, wavy, haphazard-looking strips that stretch out fluidly in different directions. They look as if they were just pulled from the construction site, but in reality, Ambrosino took time to arrange them purposefully.

Art fans said Ambrosino has made something from Ratner’s nothing.

“I appreciate the piece conceptual­ly,” said Tamara Iwaseczko, an architect who saw the piece on opening night. “It was created from literally salvaged material, material that was violently removed from its purpose, and it has been transformed into something elegant and delicate.”

Guy Ambrosino’s “What Was” will be on display through March 14 at the Soapbox Gallery (636 Dean Street, between Vanderbilt and Carlton avenues).

Updated 5:11 pm, July 9, 2018
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