San Diego Weekly Reader

San Diego Weekly Reader

I'm King of this Alley

Xavier Nuez photographs alleys.

His candy-colored images of urban decay have been exhibited internationally, including here at the San Diego Art Institute, and featured on NPR.

Ruin is his gig. “History,” Nuez says. “Rust, bent metal, all the garbage strewn about.” He scouts locations in cities across North America and shoots alone, at night, in the “shunned places” people avoid even during the day. Recently in an Indianapolis alley he was “almost clobbered by a street gang.” He’s been held at gunpoint more than once.

But something even worse happened to Nuez last spring in Barrio Logan. The alleys were too good, he tells me. Too clean, too new, and too safe.

I’m interviewing him by phone at his home in the Bay Area. Nuez assures me he can find a “dirty corner” in any city, but, he says, “San Diego falls into the not-so-run-down category, which is great for San Diego” and not so great for him.

I can’t hold back. Passion overrides what little journalistic detachment I possess.

It’s because, I tell Nuez, we’re paradise-in-rehab. Our façade is what’s history. Crispy lawns. No jobs. More potholes than tourists. Alleys are where our life is! They’re like the last frontier —

The demilitarized zone in the people’s eternal war against the city —

Maybe even our greatest seminatural resource —

I mean, really, I ask him — Has he ever seen cooler alleys?

On the other end of the phone, there’s dead silence. I’ve totally blown this interview.

Finally, the closest thing to a national authority on the subject of urban alleys as I can find speaks.

“I agree. I think the word ‘cool’ is the right word,” says Xavier Nuez.

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Xavier Nuez

319 N. Albany Ave, Studio 1N5

Chicago, IL 60640

510-648-6810

© Xavier Nuez, 2020