Living for the City

Eleven artists meditate on urban life

Based in communities ranging from Beijing to Berlin, the 11 artists invited by MOCA associate curator Megan Lykins Reich to take part in the show There Goes the Neighborhood deal in one way or another with the transformations and transitions of living space in the contemporary world.

Often deriving his tentative scenes from collages of construction-site photos, Matthew Kolodziej uses squeeze bottles filled with acrylic paint and gel to flesh out and further distort already confusing imagery. Places that are being built or torn down are already hard to get a handle on, and Kolodziej doggedly makes the situation much worse. The intense energy of change is Kolodziej's real subject. His paintings ebb and eddy, part birthday cake, part traffic jam.

Tremont dweller Amy Casey's abandoned factories and Ohio City-style shotgun houses are also in motion, but evoke suspense rather than energy. They're stuck on a forest of poles, mashed together into mock towers or roped together like flies in a spider web. The fairy tale they were part of has been indefinitely postponed.

Clevelander Kristin Bly's installation "Sparrow," conceived and designed by Bly and constructed with the support of Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity Re-Store, is a ghost house — or the front porch of one. It stands in for the history and dignity of lives forgotten in hard times. Visitors are invited to mount the steps and take in the "view," a video loop of sights and sounds recorded on abandoned porches of foreclosed dwellings all over town. The knocker on the front door, opening only to the past, is made of two heads, joined in a kiss with each rap.

Much of the rest of the show also deals with the impact of neglect and disaster on the living conditions of populations around the world. New Orleans artist Willie Birch shows strong acrylic and charcoal drawings of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath, while Brazilian photographer Dionisio Gonzàlez displays altered large-scale c-prints of Sao Paolo shantytowns and a rural Vietnamese village. German filmmaker Clemens von Wedemeyer explores facets of an abandoned East German housing project and a construction site for new homes.

After spending time in Barcelona, Brooklyn-based artist Eva Struble made several large-scale, wall-mounted constructions from cut paper dealing with Romani cultural defiance in a changing neighborhood in that Spanish city. Brooklynites Leslie Grant and Nina Pessin-Whedbee stay closer to home, documenting different dimensions of the history and present of the Domino Sugar Refinery, a Brooklyn feature since about 1850, slated for large-scale renovation. London's Catherine Yass shows a video of a barge at Three Gorges Dam in China, moving slowly through gargantuan locks; somewhere beneath the waters lie hundreds of drowned villages. Since 2007, Beijing's Cao Fei has used the cyberspace role-playing game Second Life to build an island city, home to her avatar China Tracy. If our daily world runs out of love or jobs or room, limitless digital realms still beckon to the infinite human imagination.

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