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Ana Teixeira Pinto on Martha Rosler and documenting gentrification


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Fresh on the frieze d/e blog is Ana Teixeira Pinto on Martha Rosler’s new(ish) work “Greenpoint New Fronts” (2015) and “Greenpoint Project” (2011). Through interviews with locals and documentary photographs of rapidly evolving storefronts, Rosler tracks the gentrification of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This work also brings to mind that of Moyra Davey, who in the 90’s documented newsstands.

Moyra Davey on her Newsstands series (1993-1994): "I became interested in newsstands partly as an extension of a project I undertook while traveling, where I recorded actual newspapers on a daily basis, and partly from looking at and feeling inspired by Atgetʼs photographs of Paris. "As structures, newsstands seem anachronistic in the way that, ninety years before, many of Atgetʼs subjects were also on the verge of disappearing—yet what they dispense is what is most “of the moment” and ephemeral (newspapers, lottery tickets, racing forms, etc.). Newsstands are from the age of paper, soon to be eclipsed by microchip technology, and as I photograph these little dark rooms on the streets I canʼt help but be reminded of, and see the analogy between, other small, dark rooms which also traffic in paper products, and seem equally stranded in the machine age—namely photographersʼ laboratories and darkrooms. “Since undertaking this project I have come to experience the city in odd ways, as though it were a stage, or, the proverbial “scene of a crime,” as Walter Benjamin said of Atgetʼs photographs. Finally, I have become someone who waits and watches, focused on certain choice examples of that which I may not have noticed a year ago but with which I am now obsessed. The documentary ethic can sometimes feel at odds with the growing single-mindedness of the collector, although at their best both may reinvest their objects with a revelatory insight. These, and other ideas constitute a sketch of some of the terms in which this project, still evolving, continues to define itself” (1994).


Moyra Davey; Newsstand No. 1, 1994; C-print; 10 x 10 in / 25 x 25 cm

Here’s Ana Teixeira Pinto on Rosler:

Gentrification and housing have long been concerns of artist Martha Rosler, who tackled the trappings of the ‘creative class’ and how artists can be instrumental for the neo-liberal restructuring of the city in a series of articles published under the title Culture Class: Art, Creativity, Urbanism. Since 2011 the artist has been dutifully documenting the storefronts of her changing neighbourhood of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Once predominantly an immigrant neighborhood, Greenpoint was a site of continued gentrification by affluent young artists and professionals – pushing real-estate prices up while luxury high-rises populate the formerly industrial waterfront and city lofts mushroom next to neglected rowhouses. At Nagel Draxler in Berlin, the resulting photographic survey, Greenpoint New Fronts (2015) hangs on the gallery’s walls. Placed centre-room, meanwhile, showcases containing concise photo reportage, Greenpoint Project, 2011 (2011), detail the information Rosler gathered by interviewing workers and small-shop owners – typically name, origins and personal stories – alongside the large format prints. Most residents were happy to be photographed and to share their stories, though some, like a young Yemeni who works at a corner deli, declined, citing ‘the way things are now’.

The difference between the makeshift looks of Carmine’s Original Italian Pizza, which Carmine Notaro has owned for 30 years and the carefully curated Instagram thread of the newly opened Le Fond French Restaurant couldn’t be more striking. In the exhibition’s ancillary text, which doubles as a press release, the artist tells us that unlike previous generations of shop owners, the well-off newcomers bring with them the rarefied, yet also generic environment of ‘spare décor’ and gritty minimalism, which gestures ‘toward a fetishized urban past (…) that retreats as they advance.’ It is hard not to feel sentimental about this rapidly receding working class cityscape, but Rosler portrays the like of young baristas with equal warmth.

*Image above: Martha Rosler, White Dream, from the series Greenpoint New Fronts, 2015, via frieze d/e