The Destruction of the West Side Highway: Portfolio created ca.1983-84 by Robert Bianchi
The destruction began in the early 1980s. To me, it was the death of an old friend. I knew I had to memorialize it. I wanted to photograph it in a way that showed both its dignity and the sadness I felt in its loss.
The Destruction of the West Side Highway portfolio was created ca.1983-84.
I had been visiting it for years, but its destruction began in the early 1980s. To me, it was the death of an old friend. I knew I had to memorialize it. I wanted to photograph it in a way that showed both its dignity and the sadness I felt in its loss.
I moved to Tribeca in 1978 and was always taken by the landscape along the river. The beleaguered metal structure known as the West Side Highway had become a friend to joggers and wayward souls as a place of solitude and recreation.
After trying different approaches, I decided to take the painful and arduous task of split toning all the silver prints in Selenium. I had to use a specific photography paper, warm-toned and high in silver content. It was an almost masochistic approach to the project, as it was difficult and expensive. I usually had to make five prints from the negative in order to get one in which the toner satisfied me. For when you put a print in toner, there is almost an explosion of color within the black and white. Achieving the subtle balance between the black and white and the color was an art form in itself. And that was the magic I wanted. When the metal structures would bleed out the red and blues within the grays of the image, revealing the pain I felt for the structure I knew it was right.
I did not have much money back then, so I decided to try and sell the work as I was creating it. Both the Brooklyn Museum (Barbara Millstein) and the Museum of the City of New York acquired the work. But Steven Miller of the Museum of the City of New York offered continued support. He said to me, “Every time you have some new stuff, bring it to me.” He supported the project for two years, and without his support and encouragement I am not sure it would have been completed, so, thank you, Steven.
The work received much recognition over the years. It was shown at the Alternative Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art, and the Jane Baum Gallery in New York. Dia’ Framma Gallery in Milan showed the work and toured it throughout Europe. And of course, it found its way to the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of the City of New York. It has been widely published.