Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The City in Miniature: Alan Wolfson's New York

One of the joys of the internet these days is the site or blog that basically rebroadcasts images from elsewhere on the web. I'm sure there's a word for it, but I don't know what it is. Anyway there's one listed in my Other Voices which is called The Track North and I love it. Another variant is Things Magazine, which rounds up vast amounts of material, and it was there I spotted these extraordinary sculptures.

Alan Wolfson, Hopp's Luncheonette (2008)
Alan Wolfson is a New York artist who has been making miniature versions of real and imaginary buildings and businesses since the 1970s, capturing the Times Square area during its seedy heyday/nadir (delete according to taste). His sculptures, which are usually around a couple of feet square and a foot high, are both fantastically detailed and wonderfully atmospheric.

Alan Wolfson, Hopp's (interior)
He doesn't just show the exteriors of hotels, stores, diners and strip joints, he also shows the interiors, some of which are so vivid you can smell them...

Alan Wolfson, St George Hotel, interior (1994)
In one piece he manages to squeeze in both street and subway levels, giving an unusual view of the relationship between different parts of the city...

Alan Wolfson, Canal Street subway (2010)
His latest piece - after fifty years of work - is a tribute to the famous New York institution Katz's Delicatessen. In his notes, the artist writes, 'Katz’s Delicatessen is one of those legendary New York locations. It’s been in business on the lower east side of Manhattan since 1888, and is New York’s oldest deli. Telling someone to “meet me at Katz’s..,” is almost the same as telling them to meet you under the clock in Grand Central - everyone knows where it is.'

Alan Wolfson, Katz's Delicatessen (2012)
He adds: 'Part of the challenge in building this piece was to come up with a narrative that was believable. Since I don’t put miniature people in my pieces how could I justify that a restaurant that is always crowded had no customers lining up for their world famous pastrami sandwiches? I decided to create a scene that takes place right after closing time, during the cleanup. Dirty plates are waiting to be removed, chairs are stacked on the tables and mops and buckets are at the ready.

'Since most of my work is staged in the 1970s and 80s I was able to create an homage, on the exterior wall, to the rock groups and punk rockers that were so prevalent on the Lower East Side during that time.'

Alan Wolfson, Katz's interior (2012)
Alan Wolfson is one of the artists featured in the wonderful-sounding show 'Otherworldly, Des Mondes Irreels' at MUba, a museum near Lille, France. If you love New York, check out his website.


  1. Quite incredible, thankyou.

  2. James -- I run The Track North, referred to in this post. Thank you very much for your kind words.

    I forget now how I came across your own blog and thereby the work of Ravilious, but I'm delighted that it happened. As you will no doubt be aware I've used a number of Ravilious images on TTN and it is perfectly possible that one or two other pictures from here may also make the grade in the not too distant future! It's always good news when I notice in my RSS reader a new post from you; hopefully you'll be pleased to hear that a month or so ago I bought a copy of Country Life 3 as a birthday present for my father, which I understand has been eagerly devoured.

    One of the interesting things about running a kind of curatorial catch-all site like TTN is that you learn a lot about your own taste and aesthetic sense. More than that, you learn about connections -- not only between people working in different periods but also in different media. The English landscape recorded and celebrated by Ravilious' work is a theme addressed in the work of a number of current musicians whose work I've occasionally presented on TTN.

    For instance, July Skies -- the nom de plume of a West Midlands-based artist called Antony Harding -- is hugely influenced by the kind of English country views portrayed by Ravilious and other artists, as well as various aspects of the period in which Ravilious was working. In fact Antony is something of a Ravilious fan and his 2008 album The Weather Clock features a track called Song For Nash, in homage to Paul. It goes without saying that his work is thoroughly recommended!

  3. Thanks Peter and Track North... Yes, these are incredible aren't they?

    I will check out Antony Harding/July Skies. I think the point about connections is spot on; in looking at paintings and photos I enjoy seeing very different work which shares a similar spirit.

    What I like most about sites like TTN, though, is the way they open up new avenues, new ways of looking...

  4. By the way, there's an interesting illustrated catalogue to Otherworldly, which you can download - in English! - from the MUba website.

  5. Oh wow, I love both the scale and how much they bring my mind back to NYC. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Thanks for visiting, Linnea - I'm impressed by your website... must learn to do some digital design.