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Joe Neill’s chimeric cathedrals

Artist Joe Neill in front of his work at his exhibition at the American University of Paris. Photo credit: ARETE / Simone Suzanne Kussatz
Artist Joe Neill in front of his work at his exhibition at the American University of Paris. Photo credit: ARETE / Simone Suzanne Kussatz

Last Wednesday, I attended the vernissage of Joe Neill’s latest exhibition, “Drawings, Something Old, Something New,” at the American University of Paris, where he has been teaching art since 1999.

Joe Neill’s art is characterized by intricate representations of industrial decay and imaginative reconstructions of spaces, exploring the intersections between art, science, and the human experience. Hailing from New Eagle, Pennsylvania, his work blends reality with imagination to evoke nostalgia, psychological trauma, and reflection on changing cityscapes and the passage of time. Influenced by his experiences in Pennsylvania’s rustbelt, Neill’s exploration of space mirrors the complexities of finding one’s place in an ever-changing world.

The industrial context of Neill’s childhood shaped his earliest memories, surrounded by well-running factories that supported livelihoods. The later dismantling of these factories left a void and profound impact on him and others who lived through this transformation. Neill’s work captures the essence of the rise and fall of these industrial complexes, highlighting their beauty in functionality and design, but also their vulnerability to becoming irrelevant if not properly maintained and adapted.

Using 3D design software, Neill creates unique drawings that evoke industrial cathedrals, sometimes transforming them into sculptures. His work blends reality with poetic imagination, serving as a testament to the impact of his experiences while also honoring the industrial heritage. Small painted spheres or cylinders in his drawings create a sense of perspective, playing with the idea of relativity and other scientific concepts, as well as spirituality, as if viewed from a sublime otherness. He uses conceptual ideas to create his surreal architectural spaces, inviting viewers to see the world in a different light, but also to honor something that has received little honoring.

As Neill said in our interview last year, “In my sculptures, I aim to capture the essence of the rise and fall of industrial complexes, highlighting the beauty in their functionality and design, but also their vulnerability to becoming irrelevant if not properly maintained and adapted.”

If you find yourself in town, you have an opportunity to see his work in the university’s gallery on 6 Rue du Colonel Combs, 75007 Paris. His exhibition, “Drawings, Something Old, Something New,” at the American University of Paris will be on view until September 1, 2024. Note that registration is required to enter the building.

https://www.aup.edu/news-events/event/2024-05-22/vernissage-drawings-something-old-something-new-joe-neill

For deeper insights into Joe Neill’s artistic journey, you can read my interview with him, or visit his website.

www.joeneill.com

UNVEILING ALTERNATE REALITIES

Photo of Joe Neill's exhibition at the American University of Paris. Photo credit: ARETE / Simone Suzanne Kussatz
Photo from Joe Neill's exhibition at the American University of Paris. This is a shot from the left side from the main exhibition hall. Photo credit: ARETE / Simone Suzanne Kussatz
Friends of Joe Neill at his exhibition at the American University of Paris. Photo credit: ARETE / Simone Suzanne Kussatz
Photo of Joe Neill's exhibition at the American University of Paris. Photo credit: ARETE / Simone Suzanne Kussatz
About the Author
Simone Suzanne Kussatz was born in Germany, lived in the US for 25 years, spent a year in China, and currently resides in France. Educated at Santa Monica College, UCLA, and the Free University of Berlin, she interned at the American Academy in Berlin. Holding a Master's in American Studies, journalism, and psychology, she worked as a freelance art critic in Los Angeles. World War II history fascinates her, influenced by her displaced grandparents and her father's childhood in Berlin during the war, and his escape from East Berlin in 1955. Her brother's intellectual disabilities and epilepsy added a unique perspective to her life.
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