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Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts

Today is the opening of a group exhibit at the Florida State U Museum (The 24th Annual Tallahassee International) featuring two pieces from my Alley series. Unfortunately I won’t be there for the opening reception, which is August 28 from 5-8pm. If you live in or near Tallahassee, the show runs through September 27.

My contribution is Alley #100, Ghost Story and Alley #102, Goast Pier


Taking out the Acme Banana

Continuing with my unplanned series of updates to my Alley images, apparently the Acme Banana Co. in Pittsburgh is slated for demolition and retail redevelopment. Of course, plans are easy and follow-up is not, so who knows what will occur. The building and the surrounding real estate is being woefully underutilized, and is largely abandoned. A few blocks away, however, is the popular Strip District along the Allegheny River, which has developed into a hip, historic market district (restaurants, shops, bars) and which of course they’d love to tap into. A note to the developers: the Strip’s charm is due fundamentally to the historic nature of the architecture!! I found this daytime shot of the Acme Banana building:


Needle in a Chicago haystack

For the 2nd time in a month, I stumbled across the once unknown (and mostly hidden) location of one of my Chicago images. This time it was Alley 77, Trains and Buses. In the years since shooting this bus, I’ve learned it’s a service bus used to repair the underbelly of a section of the L-Train. A worker stands on the bus as it moves slowly under the tracks while they look for problems to repair. This would be a sight in itself!

The bus was madmax’d (with a grill on the windshield and the sealing up of the side windows) to withstand regular nightly assaults.

Its not the exact location of my shot, however, since the bus moves, but its in the neighborhood (this time around it was at West Armitage and N Milwaukee Ave). With the new flat tire, I don’t know if its still in operation.

I found this bus in 2005, while alone and searching for an image. To get this shot, I needed to light underneath the tracks, which were dark. I sometimes marvel at my insanity, because I did this by leaving my camera on a tripod and firing my hand-held flash (with a green gel on it) 25-30 times, alerting any one nearby that I was there. Being alone, this meant leaving my camera during the long exposure, and walking far away – many of the distant green specks are from my flash.

Here are some pictures from the recent re-discovery.

  1. joe kotas 9.28.09 / 5pm

hey xavier, i remember you shot a photo in gary, IN of a michael jackson show on a marquee. did it turn out alright ? do you have it on your web site?


Alley 94, Hallmark

Yesterday while driving in Chicago, I stumbled upon the site of Alley 94, Hallmark. I had no idea where I was when I shot it three years ago and it was a thrill to find it and explore the area during the day. I immediately went to see if there were signs of the homeless man, Tyler, who lived in this alley with his beloved wife, but I saw no trace. The whole area (near W Fulton St and N Damen Ave) has changed substantially. The big, looming structure is now owned by Bark Avenue Playcare – a doggy daycare. Yesterday the alley was filled with sounds of barking pooches, but on the night I shot this the area was dead silent. On that night, the building was owned by a company that made wooden toys. The owner of Bark says he’s never figured out what the structure was, but has heard it might have been an old brewery. This is what I’ve been told too. Its another stark example of the passage of time… its amazing that a prominent structure like this, and whatever it produced and represented, and the many people who worked in it, could become so thoroughly forgotten. On the right side, the huge weeds are gone, and the old buildings were torn down. In their place is a massive concrete behemoth. The building belongs to Schawk an international graphics and marketing company. I took several pictures:


“Beautiful, beautiful! Magnificent desolation”

I was in Seattle this weekend as part of the Bellevue Art Museum art festival. Its very beautiful in this corner of the country, but of course as usual I paid extra attention to the less-than-pretty locations. I went shooting Sunday night with Cara Skillingstead and Blake Johnson who patiently explored with me until after 2am. Here’s the polaroid I shot before shooting the film. As usual, the polaroid was just a rough tool for me to figure out where to go with the final shot, so its just a sketch. The scratches are from looking at the fresh and moist polaroid through a loupe magnifier.

In the words of Buzz Aldrin, while standing on the moon and looking at the expanse : “Beautiful, beautiful! Magnificent desolation”


Urban Art

Art Business News did a profile of currents trends in urban art which appears in this month’s issue. Its a good article, by Daniel Mullen, which covers the various aspects of urban art, from graffiti art to urban photography. I was interviewed for the story, and it features a nice little profile of me:

  1. Tatjana 7.20.09 / 2am

LOVE IT. The articles about you are always the coolest, I swear. Haha.

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