The City Beneath the Sky by Marc Yankus

Issue 109

When I was a boy growing up in New York City, my alcoholic stepfather would regularly tell me to “go out and play in traffic.” Needless to say, this didn’t make me feel welcome at home. I would wander the Manhattan streets instead and often walked to the Metropolitan Museum to lose myself in art.

On my way to the museum one day, I was horrified to see wrecking crews knocking down one of my favorite buildings, a beaux-arts apartment building on 79th Street. In the months that followed, a monstrosity of a tower rose in its place. And while that eyesore is still standing today, the lost building – gone now for 40 years – endures in my memory, a fading, elegiacal postcard of a lost time and place.

In my current artwork, I seek to document New York’s iconic, lost and forgotten architecture, from humble small buildings to soaring skyscrapers through a form of surreal architectural photography. Through a unique form of digital collage, I attempt to mute some of the visual noise that can distract viewers from their essential beauty, and in the process help them see their city anew.

This work presents a subtle, surrealistic alteration of the architectural landscape found in New York City, where imagination and documentation meet. Some building portraits are more detailed and others more abstract, but all serve to rebuild and honor the buildings while making a statement about altered perception, reality, and past preservation. 

In this series, select historical buildings are portrayed in altered cityscapes and invented spaces that evoke the experience of memory, imagination and dream states playing out in a magical place. Strangely familiar, the buildings are elevated in a fictional composition that appears to tell a story or reflect a past history, but their power resides more in the realm of sensation than explicit narrative.

While I can never hope to capture all of the city’s 1,053,000-odd buildings, I hope to bring dozens of the very finest to life – even if they are among the most forgotten, frayed or overlooked. Through this, more people just might see an alternate universe right in front of them, one that is very beautiful and otherworldly.

Marc Yankus lives and works in New York, New York.
To view more of Marc's work, please visit his website.

 Active Driveway, South Bronx

Active Driveway, South Bronx

 
 Badlands, West Village, Manhattan

Badlands, West Village, Manhattan

 
 Bank by Sheridan Square, West Village, Manhattan

Bank by Sheridan Square, West Village, Manhattan

 
 Bank on Eighth, West Village, Manhattan

Bank on Eighth, West Village, Manhattan

 
 Barber Shop, West Village, Manhattan

Barber Shop, West Village, Manhattan

 
 Bronx County Building, Grand Concourse, Bronx

Bronx County Building, Grand Concourse, Bronx

 
 Call in Brush, South Bronx

Call in Brush, South Bronx

 
 Fence in Greenpoint, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Fence in Greenpoint, Greenpoint, Brooklyn

 
 Flatiron Building, Flatiron District, Manhattan

Flatiron Building, Flatiron District, Manhattan

 
 Four Buildings, West Village, Manhattan

Four Buildings, West Village, Manhattan

 
 Four Gems on East 38th Street, Murray Hill, Manhattan

Four Gems on East 38th Street, Murray Hill, Manhattan

 
 Green House in Brooklyn, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn

Green House in Brooklyn, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn

 
 Green House with Red Stairs, Red Hook, Brooklyn

Green House with Red Stairs, Red Hook, Brooklyn

 
 Green House with White Fence, Broad Channel, Queens

Green House with White Fence, Broad Channel, Queens

 
 House by Itself, Broad Channel, Queens

House by Itself, Broad Channel, Queens

 
 House on Clay Avenue, South Bronx

House on Clay Avenue, South Bronx

 
 One Short, One Tall, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn

One Short, One Tall, Brooklyn Heights, Brooklyn

 
 The Ansonia, Upper West Side, Manhattan

The Ansonia, Upper West Side, Manhattan

 
 The Morgan House, Murray Hill, Manhattan

The Morgan House, Murray Hill, Manhattan

 
 White House with Shrubbery, Forest Hill Gardens, Queens

White House with Shrubbery, Forest Hill Gardens, Queens