Ed Rath's METROPOLIS
by Dale Kaplan
by Dale Kaplan
Thank you Joey Ice, Dumbo’s famous ice sculptor, for introducing me to artist Ed Rath. Although I had seen and heard his name for over two decades we never met until a few months ago. His work is amazing. He might be my new favorite artist.
Obviously fascinated with architectural details and the industrial buildings found in Dumbo and elsewhere in New York, Ed has been living and working in Dumbo since 1981. At that time over 500 artists lived in huge Dumbo lofts at very cheap rents. “You had to be a romantic with a passion for creating big paintings or sculptures in order to survive in those types of conditions” states Ed. “There was no heat or hot water and the roof was always leaking. You had to fix everything yourself.” The majestic beauty of the industrial architecture and the magnificent details also played a huge factor in sustaining Rath. These structures supplied the artist with a lifetime of inspiration as well as a visual vocabulary that has influenced his work throughout his career. This is clearly evident in Rath’s current show METROPOLIS.
Architectural elements have a life of their own in Ed’s urban landscapes which document an architectural style that no longer exists. Animated elements of nature coupled with the absence of a specific vanishing point renders these works energetic and engaging on so many levels. The striking color combinations, architectural elements and humorous cartoonish people add a distinct humanity to his paintings. Experiencing METROPOLIS makes you feel better about life itself and the incredible city and neighborhood in which we Dumboites reside.
One of my favorite pieces is Diego’s Bridge. This painting is a view of the foundation of the Manhattan Bridge from the vantage point of the walkway in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The black animated cobblestones are embellished with a reflective puddle which Rath states has been there for over a decade. In reality this puddle is on John Street as Rath likes to mix things up. The randomness of the visual world is expressed through a small vignette representing 2 people posing in front of a heavy wood door. This tiny image, torn from Diego Velasquez’s masterpiece, Las Meninas, adds a welcomed element of surprise to an already successful piece of art. The randomness concept is also present in his piece entitled “Scaffold” as a wrapper from a Snickers bar gracefully floats through the air.
If you are a regular at Brooklyn Roasting Company, you will certainly recognize the corner of that interior space representing Jay and John streets. Once again he mixes up the elements as the brick pattern is taken from another local building and the columns, faithfully rendered from Brooklyn Roasting’s white-painted columns, are patterned in raw wood grain, complete with metal cornices. When we sat at Brooklyn Roasting tables for the interview, Rath pointed out that the beams that supported the ceiling and the floor were cut from gigantic trees. “You don’t see that anymore” added the artist.
When it comes to architectural details from the industrial era, Ed knows his stuff. His original point of view adds incredible interest and beauty to the subject matter. When he is not painting Rath holds a position as a Project Manager in the field of construction.