Art & Design Magazine

9-11 Up-Close and Far Away

By Americanart

Thomas Ruff photograph

Thomas Ruff's jpeg d01

Growing up in New York when the Twin Towers were being built makes me think we were raised at about the same time. They became a part of the landscape and my friends and I marveled at their growth, their prominence in the city, and how they helped to make history, especially the following year, when Philippe Petit decided to walk an aerial between the two buildings. So many wonderful things you could see just by looking up! When the towers came down on September 11, 2001, the absence was so strong, the eye kept conjuring them up each time I turned a familiar street.

Two works of art that resonate with the 9-11 anniversary--one deliberately, and one as a silent witness to the events of ten years ago--can be seen at American Art. Roy Lichtenstein's Modern Head was installed in Lower Manhattan in 1996, just blocks away from the World Trade Center. It survived 9-11 in tact, with some minor scratches here and there, looking like a monument to reason in an unknowable world. Photos taken after the attacks show it as a message center for the FBI, with ash on its surface, in front of buildings whose windows had been blown out. The sculpture was removed later that year. In 2010, Modern Head was acquired by American Art and now keeps watch at the corner of 9th and F St. NW.

Thomas Ruff's photo jpeg de01 is oversized, and its depiction of the remains of a smoldering tower remind me of drawings of classical ruins. Ruff found his image online, blew it up until it pixilated. Unless you stand back at quite a distance it's hard to focus--the closer you get the more blurred it becomes, less identifiable. Strange things, time and distance. Ruff's photo is not just black-and-white, there's a bit of color to it, some slight reds and bruise blue.

Architects shape buildings and in their own way, buildings come to shape us. The towers are gone but their absence still leaves a hole in our world.

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