The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Apr 25, 2013

Victoria Lucas and empty stairs at Grizzly Grizzly

Posted by CSchwartz

Artist Victoria Lucas steps into the Grizzly Grizzly space from England this month for her solo show, “Interruptions.” The focus of her camera's lens are the many empty staircases in subways – areas typically viewed while brimming with travelers – which seem to lose something of themselves in the interludes between commutes.

A pair of empty staircase photos by Victoria Lucas. Photo by Jaime Alvarez

One easy initial way to describe the scenes shot by Lucas is eerie. Depopulated stairs and escalators carrying nobody call to mind what could be and what was. Clearly these structures are created by and for people, so in their silence, they evoke an uneasiness as well as a certain degree of introspection. These existential concerns are laid out before the viewer in polished metal surfaces, glossy tiles, boxy, uniform steps and cylindrical railings. These fixtures come together to form scenes that many of us rush through on a regular basis, intent mostly on reaching our destination.

Signs and orange tiles in two images by Victoria Lucas. Photo by Jaime Alvarez Signs and orange tiles in two images by Victoria Lucas. Photo by Jaime Alvarez

Lucas began her project by photographing the subways of Berlin but has since moved onto the nether regions of Philadelphia's SEPTA transportation system to capture her images of halls without faces and stairs without feet. It could easily be a post-apocalyptic world that the artist portrays if not for the hints that maintenance and use are still occurring: the light bulbs are still glowing, and so are the exit signs, and occasionally pieces of trash sit in the far corners of the frames, as if freshly discarded by some thoughtless commuter.

Another install shot of "Interruptions" by Victoria Lucas. Photo by Jaime Alvarez Another install shot of "Interruptions" by Victoria Lucas. Photo by Jaime Alvarez

While in some ways these examples of underground passage seem mundane in their simplicity, they manage also to counter the ennui of the daily grind by presenting pictures of settings we rarely pause to study. The straight lines, the orderly placement of paint and ceramic squares, the parts and pieces built by the hands of strangers – all so we can quickly get from one side of the city to another. In a way, Lucas opens our eyes to a certain degree of gratefulness for these facilities that we never had before. In Philly this is particularly useful since, despite it all, SEPTA is often (perhaps sometimes rightfully) the brunt of jokes and criticisms... but it still gets us where we need to go.

The Grizzly show will be up through April 27 and is supplemented by a publication of the Berlin and Philadelphia series, accompanied by an essay by Dr. Mat Gregory and an introduction by Jacque Liu.

Grizzly Grizzly is located at 319 N 11th St., Philadelphia, on the second floor;;

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