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Dittmar Gallery Exhibition Explores Meaning of Abandoned Places

May 4, 2009 | by Judy Moore
EVANSTON, Ill. --- A collection of photographs by Matt Friel of abandoned buildings across America will be showcased at Northwestern University's Dittmar Memorial Gallery from June 25 to Aug. 12.

The summer 2009 exhibition and a gallery reception for the artist from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 25, are free and open to the public.

The Dittmar Gallery is located on the first floor of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive, on the University's Evanston campus.

Friel's "Abandoned Archives" exhibition depicts the interiors of neglected industrial facilities and institutions, including factories, power plants, asylums, hospitals and schools. Comprised of 26 mostly black-and-white photographs taken during the past six years, the dark and lonely images are both haunting and vibrant and present a contemporary narrative of what society has vacated.

Friel's "Cloak," a photograph of an old barber's chair draped in cloth amid rubble and decay, was taken in a vacant tuberculosis asylum in New York. Another photo, "One Rotted Note," captures the subtle emotion of neglect conveyed by the rotting keys of an upturned piano that he photographed in an asylum in New Jersey. "Benevolent," one of Friel's few color images, focuses on a dusty hair dryer chair set against the backdrop of a flaking and cracked blue painted wall. It was among the leftover items he discovered in an abandoned asylum in upstate New York last year.

Friel, who lives in Chattanooga, Tenn., has been photographing abandoned buildings since 2001. He began his "Abandoned Archives" project as part of a collaboration with choreographer Wayne Burritt in the design and production of the multimedia piece, "Illumination," presented by the Millennium Dance Syndicate in South Florida. Burritt is the artistic director of a cutting-edge modern dance and contemporary ballet company in Ashville, N.C. Friel gained access to an abandoned steel mill outside of Pittsburgh where for two days, he filmed and photographed machines and other artifacts left behind.

"While these industrial remains have a history of more than 100 years, I discovered that their stories resonate in the here and now, sparking my fascination with the forsaken structures that form the basis of my work," Friel said.

For more information on the artist and his works, visit http://www.abandonedarchives.com/.

This summer, the Dittmar Gallery will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday. For more information, call the gallery at (847) 491-2348 or Norris University Center at (847) 491-2300, e-mail dittmargallery@northwestern.edu or go to the Dittmar Web site at http://www.dittmar.northwestern.edu.
Topics: Campus Life