Featured Artist Barton Lewis

Barton Lewis’ digital photography captures the raw abstract beauty of urban art. Follow the artist’s journey by visiting his website.

 

“Construction Fence, Spring and Thompson Sts., New York City” Digital Photograph, 53” x 41”

“Construction Fence, Spring and Thompson Sts., New York City” Digital Photograph, 53” x 41”

 

I grew up in a family of teachers and artist and from a young age, knew I wanted to be an artist. When I was about ten, my parents gave me a Super 8mm movie camera, and I made films with my friends in middle and junior high school.

 

“The Pollution, Greenpoint Ave., IND Crosstown Line” Digital Photograph, 19” x 29”

“The Pollution, Greenpoint Ave., IND Crosstown Line” Digital Photograph, 19” x 29”

 

Several years after graduating from college in New York City, I bought a 16 mm movie camera, and began making short experimental films about natural light and the urban landscape.

 

“270-129, 46th St., IND Queens Blvd. Line” Digital Photograph, 49” x 46”

“270-129, 46th St., IND Queens Blvd. Line” Digital Photograph, 49” x 46”

 

At a showing of one of my films in 2017, a collector expressed interest in having an image from the film as a large format print to hang in her home, and this spurred my interest in photography. The film was about the wall cuts in the New York City transit system–panels where print advertising is displayed and then removed.

 

“Coors Light, 135th St., IND Eighth Ave. Line” Digital Photograph, 61” x 46”

 

Sometimes “subway artists” peel back layers of paper to achieve collage-like effects; sometimes the posters are removed entirely and the underlying surface, with flecks of paper and paint covering bare cement, creates an arresting image on its own.

 

“162-373, 50th St., IND Eighth Ave. Line” Digital Photograph, 61” x 44”

 

I went through the entire subway system and captured the best of these panels, shooting them in sections so they could be stitched together to form large, pixel-dense images with great detail and resolution, capable of being printed at, or near, their actual size.

 

“265-049 – 265-051, Grand Ave./Newtown, IND Queens Blvd. Line” Digital Photograph, 100” x 55”

“265-049 – 265-051, Grand Ave./Newtown, IND Queens Blvd. Line” Digital Photograph, 100” x 55”

 

I am continually amazed at the beauty and variety of these panels. Some evoke Abstract-Expressionist or color field paintings, while others resemble collage or found object art. Delicate, layered effects combine with bold, striking gestures and vivid colors to create a wide range of effects.

 

“Door, Crosby and Jersey Sts., New York City” Digital Photograph, 28” x 56”

“Door, Crosby and Jersey Sts., New York City” Digital Photograph, 28” x 56”

 

Shooting the wall cuts made me appreciate the power of the photographic image, and I began to read about photography, its history and practice and attend photography exhibits.

 

“209 Elizabeth Street, New York City” Digital Photograph, 89” x 61”

“209 Elizabeth Street, New York City” Digital Photograph, 89” x 61”

 

I also became interested in shooting on the street, and this led to my other project, “urban topographies,” consisting of images of building facades, construction fences, doors and mailboxes.

 

“Garage Door, Chinatown, New York City” Digital Photograph, 73” x 68”

“Garage Door, Chinatown, New York City” Digital Photograph, 73” x 68”

 

Each of these surfaces serve as “canvases” for people to express themselves in some way, whether by marking, painting, writing or tearing paper to create collage-like effects, as with the wall cuts, or applying decals and stickers. I find these images fascinating for their cultural, political and social messages, aesthetic appeal and the fact that they are the product of multiple participants.

 

“US Postal Relay-Storage Box, No. 30, New York City” Digital Photograph, 28” x 46”

“US Postal Relay-Storage Box, No. 30, New York City” Digital Photograph, 28” x 46”

 

These pieces embody a particular kind of public art, one defined by the circumstances of both its creation and its display.

 

“US Postal Relay-Storage Box No. 7, New York City, Digital Photograph, 26” x 44”

“US Postal Relay-Storage Box No. 7, New York City, Digital Photograph, 26” x 44”

 

At this time, I am equally interested in making films and photographs that document facets of urban life, finding beauty in the commonplace, or subjects we may not notice or take for granted because they are so woven into the fabric of everyday life.

 

Artist Barton Lewis invites you to follow him on Instagram.

 

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Comments

  1. Fascinating photographs!

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