Detroit Disassembled: Photographs by Andrew Moore at the Akron Art Museum

Akron, Ohio, – What happens when a city collapses and nature takes over? The majesty and tragedy of Detroit are displayed in Detroit Disassembled: Photographs by Andrew Moore, organized by the Akron Art Museum and making its world debut in Akron June 5 – October 10, 2010.

“Moore’s photographs of the Motor City are sublime – beautiful, operatic in scale and drama, tragic yet offering a glimmer of hope,” says the museum’s Director of Curatorial Affairs Barbara Tannenbaum, who organized the exhibition. “Although it is hard to believe that his post-apocalyptic scenes reflect present day America, the artist has been scrupulously honest.”

Andrew Moore, Rolling hall, Ford Motor Company, River Rouge Complex, Dearborn, 2008, digital chromogenic print scanned from film negative, 62 x 78 in., Collection of Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell

Detroit, once the nation’s fourth largest city and the epitome of our industrial wealth and might, has been in decline for almost a half-century. The city is now one-third empty land – more abandoned property than any American city except post-Katrina New Orleans. As Americans travel to Europe and Mexico to view the remains of long-gone civilizations, Europeans have in turn started visiting Detroit to see its ruins.

The exhibition, which features 30 photographs taken between 2008 and 2009, showcases numerous structures from ornate public buildings to humble homes. Moore’s images, printed on the scale of epic history paintings, belong to an artistic tradition that began in the 17th century. Numerous artists have used ruins to remind their viewers of the collapse of past civilizations, and to warn that contemporary empires risk the same fate. Soaring scenes of Detroit’s rusting factory halls and disintegrating theaters share the monumentality of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s 18th century engravings of the crumbling civic monuments of ancient Rome and Greece. Moore’s photographs of skeletal houses and collapsed churches carry forward the Romantic tone and rich hues of Caspar David Friedrich’s 19th century paintings of fallen medieval cathedrals and castles.

“People who don’t know Detroit think it’s scary, yet despite its reputation, the citizens are remarkably friendly, resilient and resourceful people,” says Moore. “They are proud of what this city has contributed to America and continue to believe in their city. But no one can be sure of what the future has in store for Detroit, because few cities of its scale have ever faced its ongoing dilemma: how to refocus its urban core while making meaningful use of empty land that pockmarks its urban fabric.”

In spite of the human neglect that has overwhelmed the cityscape, the “true engineer” (as Moore calls it) of Detroit’s current condition is nature itself. A vandal may break out a window, but it is the rain and ice that will eventually collapse the building’s structure. However, nature’s cycle involves not just decay but also growth. On the top floor of a former warehouse, for example, a dense matting of decayed and burned books has given birth to a grove of birch trees that feed on rotting words. The tree trunks rise straight up into the open sky through crooked I-beams and collapsing concrete slabs. To Moore, Detroit is a definitive demonstration of nature’s power to devour and through destruction, to renew.

About the Artist
Born in Old Greenwich, Connecticut in 1957, Moore currently lives in New York. His large format photography has been widely exhibited and is represented in numerous museum collections including the Whitney Museum of American Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Canadian Centre for Architecture and Israel Museum. He has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, New York State Council on the Arts and Judith Rothschild Foundation. His film How to Draw a Bunny won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Moore’s previous books include “Inside Havana” (2002), “Governors Island” (2005) and “Russia: Beyond Utopia” (2005).

This exhibition is organized by the Akron Art Museum and made possible by a major gift from Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell with additional support from the John A. McAlonan Fund of Akron Community Foundation.

Exhibition Catalogue
Accompanying the exhibition is a large format 128-page hardcover book, “Detroit Disassembled,” co-published by the Akron Art Museum and Damiani Editore (Italy).

In addition to 74 luscious full-page and double-spread plates, the volume contains an artist’s statement and an essay by poet Philip Levine, a Detroit native and winner of a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Critics Circle Award and two National Book Awards. Distributed internationally, the book retails for $50 and may be purchased in the Museum Store or online at

This publication is made possible by a major gift from Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell with additional support from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.

Exhibition Related Events

“Urban/Arctic: Choose Your Adventure” Opening Party
Friday, June 4, 7 – 9 pm
Mark your calendar to attend the opening party for both the Detroit Disassembled: Photographs by Andrew Moore and Arctic Re-visions: Isaace Julien’s True North exhibitions. Local sensation DJ Moose Malloy will spin Motown favorites while you enjoy foods with a Detroit flavor and chill down with snowcones in both regular and “adult” flavors. Cash bar offered. Free for members. Tickets available at the door: $10 for non-members, $6 for Western Reserve PBS members. For more information call 330.376.9186 x222. The Opening Party is supported by a generous gift from Mr. and Mrs. Robert Weisberger.

[email protected]: 7:30 – 7:45 pm (during [email protected])
Free in the museum’s Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium

• Thursday, June 24 – The Accidental Aesthetics of Urban Decline
Terry Schwarz, interim director of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative and founder of Pop Up City Cleveland
• Thursday, July 1 – Ruined Nation: Photographing Abandoned Buildings in Northeast Ohio
Carissa Russell, graphic designer and photographer
• Thursday, July 8 – Living with Detroit: An All-Purpose Guide to American Forgetting
Jerry Herron, Dean of Irvin D. Reid Honors College, Wayne State University
• Thursday, July 15 – Loveland: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Detroit Micro Real Estate…But Were too Afraid to Ask
Jerry Paffendorf, Loveland CEO
• Thursday, July 22 – Can Art Save Detroit?
Barbara Tannenbaum, director of curatorial affairs at the Akron Art Museum

Artist Talk: Andrew Moore
Thursday, September 16, 6:30 pm
Moore will give a free lecture about his decorated career and recent Detroit photographs during this free lecture in the Akron Art Museum’s Charles and Jane Lehner Auditorium on Thursday, September 16 at 6:30 pm. Seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information call 330.376.9186 x230.

Community Related Events

Less and More: Improvisational Strategies for Older Industrial Cities: Akron Roundtable featuring Interim Director of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative Terry Schwarz
Thursday, June 17 at Quaker Square; doors open at 11:45 am
Terry Schwarz, interim director of the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, will talk about work that is currently underway to re-imagine Cleveland for the 21st century as a beautiful, equitable and sustainable city. The roundtable discussion will focus on large-scale planning initiatives and grassroots efforts to reclaim the city through the restoration of urban ecosystems and the temporary re-use of vacant and underutilized properties.

For more information or to reserve a space at this Akron Roundtable event, visit or call 330.247.8682 by June 14, 2010.

Museum Information
Address: One South High, Akron, OH 44308
Tel: 330.376.9185
Fax: 330.376.1180

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