THE SECRET LIVES OF BUILDINGS
– PABLO PICASSO
Andrea B. Stone’s explorations of contemporary cityscapes do just that. She turns modernist structures into glowing, beckoning organisms, each one pulsating with light and color. Her study of reflections invites us to consider how buildings converse with each other, and how they see us, rather than how we see them. She looks past the rigidity and solitude of urban architectural forms to discover their fluid and intimate geometries.
Most of all, Stone’s photographs explore the boundary between stillness and movement, line and curve, real and surreal. Each work takes us on a journey, as we encounter the unexpected dynamism of glass, steel and stone.
Take The Fin. Shot in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, the photograph records the brilliant hues of a late twentieth-century skyscraper. Our eyes roam over the radiant grid, taking in the rich, autumnal colors of tangerine and peach. Suddenly, we notice a surprising architectural element. Perched below a robin’s-egg window, a mysterious fin reaches skyward. Its graceful, organic curve contrasts with the building’s tight, rational design. Soon, we feel gravity being suspended. Horizontal lines no longer appear horizontal. The entire façade seems to arch and bend, poised for takeoff. With its fin gently outstretched, Stone’s building tests the breeze, dreaming of flight.
Glass Curtain I takes us on a similar journey, this time in the heart of London. The photograph lingers on the multiple scenes reflected in the exterior glass wall of a modern office building. Gradually, a diorama of shapes and stories opens up before us, like images in a slow-motion film. Mondrian-colored patches of brilliant glass drift in and out of canyon-like streets, and hover by a silently cascading escalator. A stately neoclassical dome floats overhead, crowning the lobby’s bright Legoland décor. The more we look, the more we are transfixed by these hypnotic, parallel worlds. Here, as in Berlin, Stone has once again ushered us through her own special Looking Glass, into a city humming with light and movement.
In her Barcelona series, The Wall, Stone embarks on an even more dramatic visual adventure. Here, she probes the pockmarked, metallic cladding of Barcelona’s waterfront science museum. In one of these photographs, The Wall: Polychrome Swirls I, Stone captures the reflection of a museum sign in the wall’s rugged surface. Viewers can just make out the name of the building in Catalan, written in black letters on pale yellow. We watch in amazement as the sign oozes and dissolves, like a rainbow lollipop melting on a sidewalk. Once again, Stone records the transformation of an ordinary object into something magical and abstract. As the sign fractures into a frieze of color and shapes, the familiar takes on a life of its own.
While deeply engaged with the modern, these works are those of a disciplined, classical artist. Stone’s exquisite technique make these photographs feel like Renaissance portraits. Many have an uncanny, almost biological precision. Still, each one is imbued with affection and wit. In her gaze, buildings feel at once glamorous and wistful, solid and evanescent. Like live models, they stand stock-still, while engaged in watchful dialogue with the world around them. Stone’s masterly precision and extraordinary focus make every detail stand out.
Ultimately, Stone’s portraits summon us into a new closeness with the urban landscapes we so often take for granted. Her portraits inspire fascination — even tenderness — for her subjects, as she invites us to witness the secret lives of buildings.
– Krystyna von Henneberg, Ph.D.