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Photographer turns Gowanus slime into abstract art

Written by
Howard Halle

Everybody's favorite fetid waterway seems to be turning up in a lot of area galleries these days. Well, okay, not a lot, but in at least two: Miska Draskoczy has been showing his photos of wildlife around the Gowanus Canal at night at the Ground Floor Gallery in Park Slope. And now Lilac Gallery in the Flatiron District is hosting photographer Steven Hirsch “Gowanus: Off the Water’s Surface,” which takes a more abstract approach to the subject. The images feature tight, flattened crops of the various toxic and bio-hazardous wastes fouling the canal, but in his hands they become shimmering colorfield compositions of swirls, wisps and eddies in eerie, electric shades of emerald, yellow, purple and blue. While they wouldn't have made Jackson Pollock green with envy (speaking of toxic), they are compelling in their own radioactive way.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to Gowanus, Brooklyn

One image, for example, resembles one of Monet's Lily Pads by way of Chernobyl. Another looks like a thinly-sliced cross-section of some kind of rock or gemstone, flecked with iridescent minerals. Still another recalls an aerial view of ice floes on an extraterrestrial sea.

What they don't look like, in others words, is anything like plain old H20. And while Hirsch's photos may seem to suggest an aesthetic upside to man's deleterious impact on the environment, they are also a clear reminder that the water is not fine.

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