Despite the beauty that urban architectural decay evokes, the histories and narratives that surround their destruction are often tragic tales of cultural extinction. In his subset of pieces titled Dwellings, artist Drew Conrad replicates architecture withering into derelict structures by using brand new materials. The effect eliminates any sense of inherent emotional loss. The Cold Wake, Conrad’s solo show at Kustera Projects, consists of the Dwelling installations, alongside a smaller-scale buoy sculpture and found photography.
Red Hook serves as the point of inspiration for The Cold Wake. The Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood is both where Kustera Projects is located and is also the subject of H.P. Lovecraft’s The Horror of Red Hook, a tale where “an abandoned building acts as a portal to hell,” Conrad tells The Creators Project. “This began my interest in an object that was sinking into some kind of void, abyss, or hell. I ended up designing a structure as sinking downward while also being tethered from the opposite side, referencing Lovecraft’s portal to Hell in an abstract way.”
Conrad’s Dwelling, No. 11 does indeed have a series of contradictions that extend beyond the replication of architectural destruction. The building corner depicted in the sculpture jumps out of the white gallery floor, as if forced upwards by some kind of earthquake or natural disaster. A series of cinderblocks are chained to the structure while a rope ladder connects the top to a gaping space in the ceiling, suggesting a forceful pulling into a deep escape outside of the exhibition.
"[For the Dwelling] I thought of opposing forces in a state of equilibrium. I ended up designing a structure sinking downwards while also tethered from the opposite side,” Conrad elaborates. “I created a rope ladder ascending upwards, referencing Jacob’s Ladder, the biblical ladder to heaven. So Lovecraft’s Brooklyn is in the sculpture, but hidden below the surface.”
Human eyes can neither peer into the deep abyss below the Dwelling, nor the world above it. Heaven and hell are both kept secret to viewers of The Cold Wake. The derelict structure becomes the only visible indication of reality, representing the world we live and breathe in. For the ideological framework around it, it's up to our imagination.