The Future is Always Tomorrow in Micah Ganske’s Cityscapes

Ganske’s process for making 2D works—projecting Google satellite images onto muslin, tracing segments with pen and pencil, filling in parts selectively with washes of paint—is involved and painstaking. His meticulous rendering of city blocks, tree clusterings, and convergent roads take on subtle shifts of color with each turn; if not for certain artistic liberties, his work might read like an architectural blueprint, drawn up for simple functionality. 
But with each shadowy encroachment of a satellite or plane—what Ganske calls “aspirational technologies”—he asserts himself as more than a documentarian, but as a critical commentator. Some works may seem to protest the government’s use of surveillance and military technologies, but Ganske does not speak directly to this and instead maintains an ambivalent, perhaps optimistic, tone.
With Centralia Habitat: Up (2014), faded rainbow colors give way to an otherwise dystopic scene. Sandwiched between two towering, glowing buildings, is a strip of land laden with suburban houses that seems to curl at its edges—at once concave and convex. Perhaps there is no beginning or end to the city’s borders and this is is just one particular cross section that was brought into view. The landscape’s odd curvilinear shape is further emphasized by a set of shadowy projections coming from skyscraper windows: neat squares become parallelograms and trapezoids, and all seems to devolve into a funny game of tangrams. The effect is disorienting.
A tension is found in Ganske’s work between urban and rural spaces, between constructed environments and neglected wastelands. The shortcomings of American cityscapes—pollution, gentrification, industrial waste—are layered against his hope that science and technology can redeem us from a dystopic fate.
The Future is Always Tomorrow” is on view at 101/Exhibit, Los Angeles, Jan. 17–Mar. 7, 2015.