Tragic Death of an American Mall

“Mallrat to Snapchat: The End of the Third Place,”

Front Room gallery in New York
November 29th – January 12th, New York, NY 

written by Peter Duhon in New York
New York based photographer Phillip Beuhler’s second solo exhibition at Front Room Gallery in New York’s Lower Eastside in Manhattan titled “Mallrat to Snapchat: The End of the Third Place,”. These photographs document the abandoned and dilapidated Wayne Hills Mall in Wayne, New Jersey. One immediately considers the recent Amazon and Jeff Bezos impact on the retail brick and mortar sector but these photographs also portend to a global crisis as the decline and rot of the American Mall was initiated before the ascent of the Amazonian model.
Much of the instability and protests in the world, as seen in Iraq, Chile, Paris and Lebanon, to name a few, have been initiated by the failed promises and fervor of pro-neoliberal politicians and aloof academics whose policies and ideologies have disproportionately looted the middle class. Interestingly enough, the failure and inability of corporations to adapt to change is on full display. Sam Goody as exhibit A.
One could argue that there’s a correlation between this work and the new mega mall projects, Hudson Yards in Manhattan and the not as yet christened New Jersey 5 billion dollar mall/entertainment complex. However, there exists a monumental difference between the American mall of yesteryear with the aims and objectives which were situated in supplying shopping fodder for an ever expanding middle class and baby boomer generation versus the Hudson Yards mall of today which was designed and built to serve an elite class which has seen enormous growth since the 80s.
This difference and distance in objectives between yesteryear‘s failed spaghetti bowl social mall experiments of everyone getting along and mixing and matching all for the betterment of society at the local mall, and today’s court jester projects designed as a playground for the ultra elite and not the local teenager trying to score his first romantic encounter at a labyrinth mall are stark and brutal.
The vinyl albums and music spinning from the turntable favors a balanced experience in this exhibition for the viewer, dissipating the pessimism displayed on the white walls with a touch of euphoric nostalgia driven by backdrop 80s music.
Beuhler commenced documenting architectural decay back in 1973 under the term “modern ruins,” a neologism he pioneered. He is also well known for his photographs published in “Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty,” having won a number of accolades for documenting the singer/songwriter/activist’s life at Greystone Park Psychiatric.
The exhibition in this intimate gallery is definitely worth a visit as it resuscitates and energizes a topic that at times may be hidden from view.
Photos of exhibition and trailer courtesy of @artcomments
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