Randy Hage's Manhattan Wonder Cabinet


Nick's Luncheonette
Randy Hage

Via the eye-candy blog How to Be a Retronaut (thanks Miles for first sending me a link there), the painstakingly accurate miniature Manhattan streetscapes of LA artist Randy Hage are half-toy, half-historical document - a wonder cabinet of urban curiosities.

Hage's overarching goal is to preserve rapidly disappearing streetscapes. As he told Jeremiah Moss at Vanishing New York,

I remember one instance in particular that prompted me to seriously focus on this project. I was on my way to revisit a Brooklyn donut shop that I had photographed a year earlier. I thought that I was in the right location but could not find it. I did a GPS location check on my iPhone and realized that I was standing right in front of it. The storefront was gone. It had been replaced by a generic, forgettable façade. (source)

If documentation is his goal, he's doing an amazing job. Check out this detail of one of his miniatures:

Nick's Luncheonette (detail)

I've seen a lot of scale models, but rarely have I seen any so convincing, right down to their rusted patina and vintage typescripts. Because of the realism, the slight awareness of disproportion that creeps in occasionally is dreamlike (New York has an Uncanny Valley!). I'm reminded a little of Edward Hopper's Early Sunday Morning: grungy reality through a lens of nostalgia.

Although Hage seems to be going for more documentary realism than Hopper, like a botanical or biological illustrator, he can't help but be an artist as well as a documentarian. What we see is Hage's perception of Manhattan, not Manhattan itself - and I would never have expected an LA artist's work to resonate with so much love for the Big Apple.


Artist Randy Hage with one of his creations. All photos in this post are Randy Hage's, lifted from his website.


An article by Jill Colvin at dnainfo.com
Randy Hage on Flickr
a post at Vanishing New York

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