What is Rubble Without Applause?
Rubble Without Applause is the name given to a project whose foundation is an archive of photographs taken over an eight year period, all of which focus on the overlooked art of anonymous stone carvers in New York City. It is the story of a photographer who spent countless days slowly winding his way through neighborhoods across the city, block by block, seeking out “the faces people pass every day and do not notice.” His chosen subjects were the recognizably human faces created by immigrant stone carvers over a century ago, all of which can be found publicly adorning the facades of the city’s oldest residential buildings. Once intended to beautify structures viewed as plain at the time of their construction due to their lack of ornamentation, these stone sculptures are survivors from an earlier architectural era, and remnants of an artistic discipline (and method of construction) considered impractical in modern times.
As part of the same project, a proposed book has been assembled that features a selection of these photographs, supplemented by explanations of what these sculptures are, who made them, and where they can be found. The book seeks to replicate the author’s own experience of learning about these stone faces over the years these photographs were taken, and the daily conversations he would have with passersby who would stop and ask “What are you shooting?” The main body of text features substantial interviews with four individuals who help to put a human face on the related subjects of stone carving, salvage, preservation, and ephemeral art.
Ivan Karp (art dealer, gallerist and prolific NYC salvager, founder of the “Anonymous Arts Recovery Society”)
Chris Pellettieri (former Stone Carver in Residence at St. John The Divine in NYC)
G Augustine Lynas (named “The King of Ephemera” by The New York Times, adds clay sculptures to his own building)
Randall Dana (as a young man he worked alone, obsessively salvaging sculptures from NYC buildings in the 70’s)
The photographic archive and the proposed book are designed to work in tandem, or independently, allowing for purely visual presentations (such as gallery exhibition) or a more detailed examination, supplemented by valuable insights and personal stories from four men who help to humanize the subject and illustrate the appreciation the photographer gained for these stone carvings during the years these pictures were taken.
Some day, hopefully not too soon, some of the stone faces documented for this archive will no longer live together in the same neighborhoods, in the same city where you can see them as part of their original, broad canvas. Some have disappeared from the public gallery during the years these photographs were taken. Countless others were gone long before the project even began, lost during decades of demolition. In years to come, more of these sculptures will be scattered among the salvagers, museums, private residences and rubble piles of the world. They will no longer be witnesses to life on the streets in New York City, and they will no longer be there for you to see them in person, free of charge, any day of the year.
Rubble Without Applause is a comprehensive photographic examination of Manhattan’s residential cityscape as it existed between 2007 and 2014, and its intent is to strike a balance between a traditional attitude of preservation, which seeks to conserve these sculptures for future viewing, and one that embraces their ephemeral nature and welcomes the additional character added to these works of art by the elements and the passage of time. It is a celebration of the work these unknown stone carvers created, and the lives these sculptures have endured for over a century as underappreciated residents of New York City.
Most of all, Rubble Without Applause seeks to raise awareness and appreciation for those sculptures which still remain today as part of the city’s public canvas.
Photographs and Content by Alan Bazin © 2017