Originally published April 26, 2012.
As an artist who makes both paintings and prints, effortlessly whittling complex 3D structures into minimal, elegant 2D pictures, William Steiger has been on our 20x200 dream list of artists to work with for a while. Silvercup, Long Island City is one of a few new works created just for us, Steiger’s iconic language translating elegantly in our archival pigment prints.
In his works, Steiger is known for stripping down Ferris wheels, Zeppelins, bridges, train cars, water towers and other machines—both functional and fun or fanciful—to their visual bones. On paper, canvas and linen, he draws, paints and cuts hard edges and outlines, giving us just enough to see what he is looking at, but leaving out just enough for us to construct our own narratives around what he has created.
The story for Silvercup, Long Island City unfolds non-linearly, moving backwards and forwards at once. In the background below the looming Silvercup Studios sign, the grids of Manhattan and Brooklyn manifest on a vintage map. These most basic, graphic elements of urban planning themselves are a fit subject for Steiger’s work—minimal but essential—and from them, the triumphs of our past ring clear and true. Street by street, we flattened and forged this space, creating an entirely new (and so far, mostly, enduring) topography of brick and steel.
But for all the glimmering futures that this territory may hold on its sturdy, once oyster-strewn cement and tar streets, it is in the outskirts, in Queens, at Silvercup Studios, where new dreams are spun. The space, previously a bakery, now single-handedly serves as a Hollywood of the East, housing the production of shows like The Sopranos, Sex in the City and, now, Girls, as well as films The Savages and The Devil Wears Prada—furthering the lore (for better or for worse) of the city—what it means to live, to love, to build and otherwise make it here. The studio and its sign, like William’s works, nods not only to what we have done, but what we might—filling in not only what was, but also what will be.