Duke Riley explores forgotten and unclaimed waterfront spaces—the peripheries of urban life—where he discovers the strangely autonomous communities that populate his work. Known for exploring the strength and marginalization of America, Riley was a strong candidate for the FOCUS: USA section of the Armory Show; when commissioned for a solo booth at Magnan Metz Gallery, he quickly obliged.
“When I found out the location of the fair, I wanted to do something to acknowledge the fact that we are actually standing above water right now,” he said from his booth on Pier 94, built upon the Hudson River. Beneath his feet, Riley has installed a wooden floor—much like the planks of a pier—using wreckage he salvaged post-Hurricane Sandy. Within the boards, an inscribed slab of granite invites visitors of the booth to make their own stone rubbings (see image, at right) that recall the history of the pier.
The slab depicts the Huck Finn-like story of a kid who ran away from home and stowed away on a boat. “It was definitely keeping with the general theme of my work and the relationship with transgressive behavior and waterfront communities,” Riley said.