Photo by Robert Alexander
The image of a romantic New York is instilled in us through countless movies and books. New York artist James Gulliver Hancock tries to create a more realistic version of the city.
Woody Allen has romanticized New York. The classic Manhattan of course, with its luminous black-and-white shots of iconic buildings, but also Annie Hall, Manhattan Murder Mystery and many others in which the city itself receives top billing in the cast. These representations of New York instill a longing for lives unlived.
“What I fell in love with was the density of experience here,” says James Gulliver Hancock, an Australian artist who came to New York three years ago and started drawing the city’s buildings. James readily admits to an early fascination with New York through precisely those images that he now recognizes as romanticized – first Sesame Street as a child, then, later, films like Rear Window and West Side Story that depict the drama of “people living on top of each other” and which are set in versions of old Manhattan.
To a child of the 1980s like James, the cities they show are unreal cities, echoes that New York has shed as it changed, phantoms lost to time. He began to draw buildings in an attempt to make the city his own, to get beyond media representations and understand something of its essence. “New York has been so romanticized that it’s hard to grasp,” he says. “Drawing really made me stop and look at these things and make the city my own.”
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