• Rh2

    Randy Hage: Donuts (detail)

  • Rh3

    Randy Hage: Nicks (detail)

  • Rh4

    Randy Hage: Sandwich Shop

  • Rh6

    Randy Hage: Brick Storefront

  • Rh7

    Randy Hage: Brick Storefront

  • Rh5

    Randy Hage: Brick Storefront (detail)

  • Rh1

    Randy Hage: Ideal Hosiery

Art

Randy Hage: New York Storefronts

Posted by Rob Alderson,

New York is constantly changing and there’s arguments to be made for that both as a positive and a negative. Visual artist Randy Hage has spent years recreating miniature models of storefronts and other areas of the city which are disappearing due to the relentless march of so-called progress. Having painstakingly recreated seven shops he hopes to create enough for a show in due course, and we caught up with him to find out more.

Hi Randy – tell us about how this project came about…

I have always been fascinated by the character and often overlooked beauty of old structures. In the late ‘90s, I was spending much of my time photographing the cast iron facades in the SoHo area but I soon found that I was much more interested in the street level, mom-and-pop storefronts. 

Hand painted signs, layers of architecture, and wonderful patinas create a colorful mosaic which is amazing to me.  Not only do they convey a wealth of visual interest and character, but there is also a social and community component which gives them a sort of soul.

These neighborhood storefronts were closing at an alarming rate, falling victim to large scale redevelopment that was visibly exceeding the normal pace of neighborhood change.  My storefront project reflects a love for these iconic structures as well as my passionate interest in the communities that they serve.

Why do you feel it’s so important to document their disappearance?

Documenting these iconic New York storefronts is my way of preserving the past and calling attention to the unique qualities that they possess.  The loss of a local business is like losing part of what defines “home” in New York.  These shops are places that we rely upon and many of these shops have served area families for generations. 

While the loss of these businesses is indeed unfortunate, the greater concern is the parallel loss of the established and diverse communities that they serve. 

We are experiencing a period in time when the old is easily discarded for the new.  My work isolates and highlights the value and importance of these beautiful and iconic structures.  We live in a disposable society and I fear that in time, society itself may become disposable.

What are the biggest challenges in recreating the stores?

The biggest challenge is creating photorealistic works that are truly indistinguishable from the real structures.  Success is dependent on making sure that I have not left any visual clues which might destroy the illusion.  This sets the bar very high for detail and complexity.  The security gate on Nick’s Luncheonette is comprised of over 500 pieces.  The brick storefront contains over 1,000 bricks and its cornice is made up of  90 individually carved parts. 

Where do you see this project going?

This project is a rewarding labor of love and I believe that I will continue to work through my list of storefronts for quite some time.  I’m really enjoying the creative elements of this project, and I am also thankful for the chance to learn more about community, culture, and the complex nature of political/social dynamics.

How quickly is NYC changing?

New York has always been a city of change and progress, but the rate of change over the past decade has been astounding. Some changes have been beneficial and others have not.  Over the past 10 years, I have photographed about 450 storefronts, and in that time more than 60% of them have closed or been torn down. Many of these shops had been around for 30 years or more. 
 
My friends Karla and James Murray have been photographing New York storefronts as long as I have and I would consider their book Store Front – The Disappearing Face of New York to be the most compelling and complete record on this topic.

Ra

Posted by Rob Alderson

Editor-in-Chief Rob oversees editorial across all three It’s Nice That platforms; online, print and events. He has a background in newspaper journalism and a particular interest in art, advertising and photography. He is the main host of the Studio Audience podcast.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. List

    Have you ever wondered what the world might have looked like after the great Old Testament flood? What bizarre events might have followed such a freak occurrence in weather? Me neither. It’s honestly never crossed my mind. But illustrator Samuel Branton has been fixating on the idea, imagining the strange fusion of land and sea that a tumultuous rise in water levels might effect. He’s gone one step further and illustrated these fictional scenarios in miniature, taking this Regency medium and making it weird. Witness crabs beating up a wild boar, monkeys tossing an elephant in the air and a sad old sperm whale incapacitated in a tree. And Deluge is available in book form too!

  2. Aakash-itsnicethat-list

    When we last wrote about Aakash Nihalani we described his practice as a series of interventions, and now that he has graduated from playful street art compositions to full blown technological mind-blowers, that vaguery seems even more apt. His newest piece sees him create a series of interactive installations which respond to the movements of the subject stood in front of them. The video demonstrates it better than I could ever hope to, so wrap your eyes around it and try to keep your jaw off the floor. Aakash is entering a new age, people; just imagine the possibilities!

  3. Ines-longevial-itsnicethat-list

    Inès Longevial is an art director and illustrator based in Paris, whose beautiful paintings of intertwined bodies are likely to have you looking twice. She breaks up the human figure into segments in a fashion Picasso himself would admire, rendering different parts in contrasting but muted colour palettes to disguise the physicality of her subjects. The effect is quite beguiling; hands play across hips and colour distinctions hint at the seams of clothes, but nothing is clear cut. It’s a geometric play on anatomy, and it has clients including fashion brand Amélie Pichard and sportswear giants Nike coming back for more.

  4. Hannahwaldron-itsnicethat-list

    “I wish I knew how to weave,” I found myself sighing longingly while clicking through Hannah Waldron’s portfolio. The UK-based multi-disciplinary artist and designer has transitioned seamlessly from grid-based image-making to create works in textile form since completing an MFA in Textiles at Konstfack, Sweden, and it looks like she’s well at home in the medium. Map Tapestries is a series of woven works inspired by various city scenes – Kreuzberg, NYC and Venice, for example – in bright colours, evocative shapes and simple geometric forms, and it’s wonderful.

  5. Jen-stark-whirl-side-int-10

    If it isn’t broke then there’s absolutely no need to even think about fixing it, as artist Jen Stark is fully aware, and there’s nothing broken about her geometric papercut sculptures. The LA-based artist has been making such work for literally as long as It’s Nice That has been running – here’s the first time we ever posted about her, back in 2007 – and although her work continues to grow in intricacy, she’s stayed true to her roots. These days her sculptures are made more and more often inside huge, unassuming black and white boxes, recreating the feeling that you’re a child about to unbundle a giant parcel of joy on Christmas morning, and they’re still as impressive as they were eight years ago.

  6. Everybody-razzle-dazzle-1-photo-mark-mcnulty-int-list

    Sir Peter Blake has designed this fabulous dazzle ship, a Mersey Ferry that will carry commuter passengers for the next two years. Named Everybody Razzle Dazzle, Sir Peter says it’s his “largest artwork to date,” and that he was “honoured and excited to have been asked to design a dazzle image for the iconic Mersey Ferry.”

  7. Boyocollage-int-list

    Some budding young design talents fresh out of university might harbour resentment about being thrust into a new job at a design studio as a “photocopier boy” (his words), but Patrick Waugh is not one of them. Instead he took full advantage of the rich archive at his disposal in his earliest and most junior jobs to make copies. Lots of them. And then took a scalpel and some masking tape to them, and transformed them into something altogether more exciting.

  8. Stephenabela-int-main

    At first, Stephen Abela’s images are all glorious bronzed bodies, sun-drenched beaches and hazy holiday reveries. But beneath the heat, there’s something else at play too, which feels a little more disquieting. In that oft-cited Edward Hopper thing: even in the densely populated scenes there feels like there’s a loneliness. Even the speech bubbles are lonely – in fact, they’re vacant – suggesting that for all the beautiful scenery, the folk that populate it aren’t quite sure what to say or what to do. There’s a joy there, for sure, but the great thing about Stephen’s work is this complexity, and the sense that all isn’t necessarily as it seems.

  9. Int-list-carsten-holler-pic

    Merging the fun of the playground with the beauty and cerebral qualities of art, a slide will transport visitors to the Hayward Gallery entrance this summer thanks to the forthcoming Carsten Höller show, Decision.

  10. Traceyemin-mybed-int-

    Sometimes I don’t really “get” modern art, but I get Tracey Emin’s My Bed. She displayed it as a piece of art in 1998 after practically living in it for about a month following a bad breakup. Back then she was rake-thin and impish with an appetite for booze and fags, in that odd age where you’re left to fend for yourself but are not perhaps quite ready.

  11. Serenmorganjones-int-list

    With the centenary of British women receiving the partial vote coming up shortly, artist Seren Morgan Jones decided it was time to focus on the Welsh suffragists who helped to make it happen. “I think it is important to show that there is more to Wales and its history than coal mining, rugby and men,” she explains, “and to draw people’s attention to the fact Welsh women were so involved in the fight for women’s rights.”

  12. List-welcome_to_neu_friedenwald_by-laura-jung

    To say that the announcement from David Lynch that Twin Peaks was returning was met with excitement is something of an understatement. It was, as is to be expected, met with rabid levels of hysteria – or at least as rabid as those cool enough to adore the show would willingly articulate – and we’re still a good year away from seeing it on screen. This year is the show’s 25-year anniversary, and to mark the occasion, something very special is afoot in Berlin.

  13. Samchirnside-int-list

    I don’t know what it is about seeing colours up close that’s so mesmerising, but Sam Chirnside is all over it. The Melbourne and New York-based artist works predominantly with oil paints to create strangely beautiful distortions, which work best when overlaid with a band logo to create album artwork, or cut out in geometric shapes. His works resemble planetary compositions straight out of a senior school physics textbook or a happy spillage in an art classroom, and we can’t get enough of them.