Culture

Abstract architecture of superstructures

BEIRUT: Many people are fascinated by the U.S., whether it is by New York’s skyscrapers, the Bronx and Brooklyn Heights, or San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and Las Vegas’ landscapes.

Lebanese photographer Elie Khoury took a new approach to these cities while visiting the U.S., as evidenced by his latest exhibition, “Still Image Creativity of Indefinite Superstructures,” now up at Gemmayzeh’s ArtLab gallery.

Thirty-five photographs taken as Khoury toured the three cities reveal the artist’s focus on architecture and show something of the immense creativity that can be found in building designs, both modern and contemporary.

Khoury’s New York can be separated into two parts: the professional sector, full of skyscrapers designed to house luxurious offices, and a more personal city that shines through in the broad range of residential buildings.

Some viewers may think anyone can take photographs of buildings. They’re not wrong there. However, Khoury differentiates himself from any amateur artist by his creative use of perspective, color and angle. The buildings are not objects relegated to the background of daily life, but have been transformed into the subjects, taking on lives of their own when glimpsed through Khoury’s lenses.

Graffiti – an art form often dismissed as vandalism – forms an integral part of Khoury’s cityscapes, and plays a major role in bringing character to the buildings’ façades.

One of Khoury’s works, an eye-catching base of immaculate white punctuated by strokes of electric blue paint, resembles an abstract painting at first glance. The viewer is reminded of Khoury’s focus on architecture only by the little window just visible in the upper right-hand corner.

Another of his photographs focuses on two parts of the same building. Shot from the bottom up, the curvy architecture of the edifice, captured from Khoury’s cunning perspective, creates the impression that the building is protruding from the flat surface of the photograph.

The images shot in Las Vegas are much more colorful than the others in the exhibition. Bright pinks and blues enliven the paper, as though a painter had incorporated a touch of drama into the landscape. Closer inspection reveals that these shades are merely the reflection of the sunlight on the buildings’ glass façades, astutely emphasized through Khoury’s lens.

The bustling neighborhood full of cosmopolitan locals and tourists is not Khoury’s focus, as it usually is when someone visits America’s party town. Here too, buildings are the photographer’s muses.

Khoury’s photographs are the fruits of an end-of-year project that he completed when studying photography at USEK. Khoury’s refreshing visions invite his viewers to reflect on the architectural structures that surround us all without acknowledgment – whether in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world.

Although traditional houses and buildings around the world are being torn down to make way for contemporary edifices, this process should not always be seen as a catastrophe, Khoury’s photographs seem to say, but as means welcoming and immersing ourselves in the positive aspects of modernization.

The same can be said of his photographs of San Francisco. Buildings are given new meaning and become part of an architectural Renaissance when glimpsed through Khoury’s eyes.

Beauty can be seen in globalization. It can be deciphered in skyscrapers. This is what Khoury is trying to show us in the humorously named “Still Image Creativity of Indefinite Superstructures.”

Elie Khoury’s “Still Image Creativity of Indefinite Superstructures” is on show at Gemmayzeh’s ArtLab gallery until July 26. For more information, please visit www.art-lab.me

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 21, 2014, on page 16.

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