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A photo diptych of two apparently identical images but with a subtle shift in focus; in one the focus falls on the utopian lines of the 1950s automobile; in the second, the focus lies on the mundane contemporary landscape through which the car is traveling.
18.5 x 25.5 inches
Edition of 100
Courtesy the artist and Murray Guy Gallery
Statement by Matthew Buckingham:
"The city of St. Louis frequently represents itself through narratives of “new beginnings” that tell
of clearing the land to “start over.” These clean-slate stories include the displacement of Native
Americans and the removal of trees to make way for the French colonial city; the destruction of
thousands of Indigenous earthen mounds in the 19th and 20th centuries; the rebuilding that
followed massive fires in 1849 and 1914, and a tornado in 1927; the razing of St. Louis’ oldest
neighborhood in order to build the Gateway Arch and Jefferson Expansion Memorial; and most
recently the reconfiguration of the city’s downtown. The area that is still labeled Mill Creek
Valley on some maps of St. Louis was an African-American neighborhood built in the 19th
century. Scott Joplin lived and worked there. Josephine Baker was born there. By the 1940s, the
St. Louis Planning Commission, made up largely of real estate agents and investors, officially
declared vast regions of the city, including Mill Creek Valley, “obsolete” and “blighted.” The St.
Louis Land Clearance and Redevelopment Authority invoked its power of eminent domain in
1959 and used funding from the Federal Urban Renewal Program to purchase the 465-acre
neighborhood at a fraction of its market value. Twenty thousand residents were evicted. Tenants
were given the equivalent of two months’ rent in cash. Little or no relocation assistance was
offered. A portion of the land was used to extend the Daniel Boone Expressway into the city
center. This was one of the traffic arteries that eventually encouraged 750,000 people (three-quarters
of the city’s population) to relocate to the suburbs outside the St. Louis tax base. The
land around the expressway remained empty for years and was nicknamed “Hiroshima Flats” by
the local tabloid newspapers. In the summer of 1964, the Land Clearance and Redevelopment
Authority, under pressure of investigation, admitted it had “made errors” in Mill Creek Valley.
These photographs of Mill Creek Valley were made forty years later. They were taken from the
interior of an automobile that was manufactured at the time Mill Creek Valley was being torn
down. The car is driving west on Pine Street, one of the few remaining Mill Creek Valley streets."