Chris Soria: Manufacturing Seasons (2004-2006) and Antiquated Giant (2009)

Chris Soria’s Manufacturing Seasons series is a documentation of the last days of Greenpoint Terminal Market, an industrial complex in Brooklyn, NY. Closed down decades ago, it just stood there for years, subjected to weather and the use as a temporary shelter for the homeless. In May 2006, one entire part of the complex burned down in a ten-alarm fire. The factory stands symbolic in its own way for the slow decay of a mechanic industrial world. Left behind after being stripped of its original use, it was reinterpreted as a home for those who fall through the grid.

In a series of almost documentary works, Chris Soria used hundreds of photographs to rebuild the Market. He took the photographs before the fire, and this makes the works a historical record of what the complex used to be. Especially with the outlook of the factory being destroyed and the space it takes now being reused for a different purpose, Manufacturing Seasons is a reminder of the futility of human achievement and at the same time an hommage to the beauty of its remnants which experiences its climax in a giant mural Antiquated Giant.

The complex itself is a literal compilation of the most different materials. Some of the materials stem from the structure itself, some of them were carried there, by the sea or by the interim inhabitants. They all form a total of what the complex now is. Soria, on one hand, manages to reference this chaotic order by means of style and media. But in a remarkable and astonishing way, he also results in pointing out the true character of the ruins by ever changing the materials he uses, as if he wanted to use every single constituent of his model.

The Antiquated Giant mural, then, is painted on a wall which will be torn down. And it is a combination of elements from all works of Manufacturing Seasons. This is what makes it a real finale, a quintessence of materials, symbols, ideas and media.

Photograph by Monica Müller. All rights reserved.

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Photograph by Monica Müller. All rights reserved.
Photograph by Monica Müller. All rights reserved.

Dead Bridges
2004
Photomontage, Acrylic and Collage on Canvas
48’’ x 48’’

Dead Bridges is the beginning of the series. It shows the industrial canyon formed by the two main buildings of the complex. Three bridges remain, connecting the two buildings. Soria reconstructs the complex from hundreds of photographs, which he shot himself in days of wandering around the site. Some of the photographs used are not even visible anymore, being buried under layers and layers of other photographs. Soria plays with perspective here, and with distance. Some details are displayed as close-ups, some are shots taken from far away. This makes the viewer constantly wander forward and backward, in space and in time. As all photographs are taken at different moments and make use of different light situations, the overall composition unites a whole period in the life of the factory to one single piece.

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Photograph by Monica Müller. All rights reserved.

Deceased Vein
2006
Photomontage on panel
86’’ x 42’’

“The rooftop was a complex itself”, Soria states, and if it hadn’t been previously, he definitely makes it one. Here we see the working with perspective, already emerging in Dead Bridges, brought to almost a climactic point. The interplay of details and overall shots lets him create perspectives which cannot exist in this way. Still he manages to keep the original perspectives, and he creates a vision of the Deceased Vein, which is highly precise and holistic at the same time. Foreground and background are co-existing in a way they could never do without Soria’s intervention. We are literally thrown into different standpoints as our eyes wander Deceased Vein.

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Photograph by Monica Müller. All rights reserved.

Seminary
2006
Collage and acrylic on canvas

Seminary highlights the seafront of the complex. Soria manages to provide a brilliantly accurate image of litter and debris which dominate this part of the site. By cutting up and rearranging the detail views, he creates an atmosphere of motley and happenstance.

The display of the sea makes clear how Soria plays with the temporal element in this work: different tides, wave patterns and sunlight reflections are conglomerated to form a seemingly chaotic experience of a sea surface which is constantly moving and changing. The building, in this context, makes the impression of a tombstone, solid as a rock against an antagonizing and at the same time caressing sea.

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Photograph by Monica Müller. All rights reserved.
Photograph by Monica Müller. All rights reserved.

Soria / Evans
Learning to Fly
2006
Sculpted photomontage acrylic foam wire
60’’ x 60’’ x 60’’

The collaboration with Marc Evan transforms Seminary into Learning to Fly and from a collage to a sculpture. The demonstration of destruction and decay, by the addition of Evan’s sculpted figure, is suddenly filled with life and hope. Pigeons flying up from the site inspire to fly away with them. It seems as if the souls captured in the complex have found a way to escape. The sculpted man in the foreground, spreading his arms filled with the want to fly away with them seems like the complex itself: a human relic, stripped of its use and its role as a center of interaction and tied to the ground where it stands. It is remarkable how the three-dimensional sculpture fits into the neighboring elements: as if either everything was a sculpture or everything was painted. Although the light is brighter here than in Seminary, Learning to Fly has a certain melancholy to it, triggered by this release and the juxtaposition of life and decay.

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Photograph by Monica Müller. All rights reserved.

Broken Nest
2006
Photomontage Collage
60’’ x 60’’

Broken Nest, as a composition, shows a cruder style than the other works of the series. The red and rust color tones give way to the white and light grey of the debris in the foreground and the light, cloudy blue of a wide, overarching sky. The work shows the backside of the complex, where chaotic piles of waste dominate the view. The Greenpoint Terminal Market complex, in Broken Nest, is arena and background at the same time. Broken Nest demonstrates the effects of time, the exposure to corrosion and sunlight bleaching the remainders of the complex like bare bones and flotsam on a beach. The enormous pile of waste becomes a wave pouring into the site, becomes a tidal movement itself.

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Photograph by Monica Müller. All rights reserved.

Antiquated Giant is the great finale of the series, in several ways. For one, Soria takes up elements previously elaborated in the collages, which now become a kind of sketchbook, a resource of studies, each a complete masterpiece in itself. On the other hand, the mural is the consequence and final piece of the series, painted as a part of India Street Mural Project initiated by Brooklyn Public Art Coalition on a wall nearby the original Greenpoint Terminal Market site. Like the complex itself, Antiquated Giant is condemned to be destroyed as the wall it is painted on will be torn down.

In a gigantic mural painting, Soria draws all sorts of conclusions from the series. The layout of the whole bases on Dead Bridges, with the three passageways in the center of the composition. The bridgeheads, however, seem inverted: they are not there anymore, Soria places them as mere shadows of what they used to be. A flight of empty windows illusively re-creates the central vanishing point, but the windows are not placed in buildings. Here they seem to penetrate the wall itself and open to a blue sky.

The two buildings which, in Dead Bridges, have framed the canyon that is overarched by the passageways is replaced by the carcass of a giant sea turtle. Although the bones serve partly as a projection screen which sets the canvas for the actual walls of the former canyon, the passageways are disconnected from it and seem to stand out of the overall painting. The composition rests on two huge mosaiqueesque circular formations, seemingly interlocked somewhere in the background and overlayed by the central bridge motif.

Soria proves the fantastic imagination of a Dali, the structural complexity of an Escher and the ability to astound of a Magritte. Antiquated Giant tells a multilayered story of beauty and decay, of technology and decadence, and Soria manages to do this in such an elegant way that the spectator can’t help but stand in awe to marvel this incredibly hallucinating work. It is a historical documentation of what was there before the fire. It’s a futile projection of a small moment in time which has turned into a memory. And it will become a memory itself. Like a photograph which fades, Antiquated Giant is the last and just a momentary glimpse of Greenpoint Terminal Market.

Antiquated Giant can be seen at 1 India Street, between West Street and the East River in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Nobody, not even Soria knows for how long.

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All artworks by Chris Soria

All texts by Michael Schär, writeronart

All photographs by Monica Müller / monicamuller.com / monica.rs.muller@gmail.com

All rights reserved. No publication without prior consent.

For a complete PDF copy please contact michael.schaer@esense.ch.

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