Now Those Days Are Gone
From the Press Release: Magnan Metz presented Now Those Days Are Gone, an exhibition by Brooklyn-based artist Duke Riley. The show was both an homage to and extension of Riley's critically acclaimed public artwork Fly by Night (2016), commissioned by Creative Time and the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and is comprised of actual elements from that project as well as new work inspired by it. The exhibition was on view September 27 - October 21, 2017 at 524 West 26th Street, an expansive temporary space in the former Robert Miller Gallery.
Now Those Days Are Gone includes a series of large-scale photographs, with technical support by Randy Harris, each measuring 71 1/2 x 107 1/2 inches, taken during Fly by Night. The images document the flight patterns of thousands of pigeons carrying tiny LED lights that were released at dusk from a historic boat docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, once home to the country's biggest naval fleet of pigeon carriers. The suite of photographs captures the pigeons' luminous and elegant paths above New York's East River; the long exposure shots create abstract images, drawings etched out of the night sky by the pigeons themselves. Creative Time stated: "Riley's Fly by Night (is) a tribute to the beautiful, diverse and fascinating histories of pigeon flying and New York City."
The show also featured 1,000 individual, hand-painted and embroidered portraits of pigeons from the Fly by Night fleet installed around the circumference of the gallery's sky lit walls. Each canvas depicts a single pigeon with its moniker and the name of its loft and crew embroidered beneath it. This information is typically found on a bird's leg band and is a nod to a tradition deeply rooted in New York City pigeon keeping culture. In some instances, the different types of breeds inform the pigeons' assigned names and make related references. For example, two Egyptian Swifts are named Cleopatra and Nefertiti, one Damascene bird, Nassrin Abdallah, is named after a Commander in the Syrian Women’s Protection Unit, and New York Flight pigeons are named after New York streets such as Jackie Robinson, Schermerhorn and Myrtle. Lastly, personality, physical traits and the artist's own sense of humor determined the naming of pigeons like Luke Floorwalker, Foghorn Leghorn and Quilty.
A portion of the façade from one of the shipboard coops collaboratively designed by Duke Riley and Olson Kundig Architects for Fly by Night was also be on view. The facade features a large mural painting and references Cobb Dock, a manmade island in Brooklyn’s Wallabout Bay, which housed the Navy’s first and largest messenger pigeon fleet in operation from the late 1860s until 1901.
Additionally, Now Those Days Are Gone includes three wall-based mosaic pieces: a monumental 3 1/2 x 14 foot work meticulously comprised of seashells and two 6 x 6 foot square format mosaics each depicting a falcon attacking a pigeon with taloned feet. The creation of Riley's "Death From Above" series was in direct response to the post-2016 U.S. election turmoil, the timing of which also coincided with the winter season when hawks most aggressively prey on New York City's pigeons. Hawks have been a long-standing symbol of fascist power, and just as all pigeon fanciers are forced to remain helpless amidst the destruction of their most beloved from above, Riley simultaneously grappled with the notions of fear, paralysis and resistance in the face of the country's charged political climate.