The crowd was the veil from behind which the familiar city as phantasmagoria beckoned to the flâneur. In it, the city was now landscape, now a room.
—Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project
From midtown’s corporate atriums of the 1970s and 80s to today’s High Line Park in Chelsea, the presence of nature in the contemporary city speaks to a need to beautify as well as an urge to cleanse the complex social organism that is the urban environment. Drawing on pastoral imagery of natural innocence found in Arcadian myths of a pre-civilization harmony between humanity and nature, parks and gardens in the city center offer a picturesque remove, providing an imaginary alternative to the despoiling effects of civilization.
Despite the near universal appeal of nature, it is rarely evenly dispersed within the urban environment. Providing an amenity to enhance neighborhoods (Chelsea’s West Side) or new development (The Hudson Yards), the introduction of “nature in the city” reshapes socio-economic conditions while veiling its effect via nature’s implicit “goodness”, promoting a sense of inevitability of urban growth (and displacement) as a “natural” occurrence.
Working with the themes of nature, urbanism and media, Peter Scott’s exhibition, Arcadias, includes photographs documenting life-size ads found within luxury residential construction sites, which collapse distinctions between public and private realms. Contrasting with the workaday reality of buildings in progress, the illusionistic properties of the oversized ads are sometimes mistaken for reality, as dreams of pastoral urban living overshadow the banal infrastructure that will bring them into being.
Halfway between what was and what will be, Arcadias documents an urbanism in transition, revealing the significance of fantasy and display in the ongoing reshaping of the city’s neighborhoods. Conveying disorienting qualities of a mediated urban space where images of nature are invoked to help authenticate an urban lifestyle that's increasingly theatrical, Arcadias engages with an urban image world where “trusted" signs of nature sometimes distort or conflict with the reality of the world around us.
Arcadias continues in the downstairs gallery with a group exhibition featuring works by Ethan Breckenridge, Francis Cape, Vija Celmins, Barbara Ess, Jeff Gibson, Dan Graham and Robin Hurst, Neil Jenney, and Virginia Inés Vergara which address issues of nature and simulation, power relations within landscape conventions, and the re-presentation of “the natural” within an urban setting.
Peter Scott is an artist, writer, curator, and director of the non-profit gallery carriage trade. He has exhibited his artwork internationally at institutions such as Société, Brussels, Belgium; Pavillon de l'Arsenal, Paris, France; Galerie Sophie Scheidecker, Paris, France; ZKM | Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe, Germany; Art Pavilion, Zagreb, Croatia; and Kunstbunker, Nuremburg, Germany. His work has been exhibited in New York at White Columns, The Brooklyn Museum, The Emily Harvey Foundation, Koenig & Clinton Gallery, Marianne Boesky Gallery, Martos Gallery, 3A Gallery, Momenta Art, among other venues, and is currently included in the exhibition White Covers at Frederic de Goldschmidt’s collection in Brussels. His writing on art and culture has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Art Monthly, Artscribe, Art US, artnet, and The Architect's Newspaper, as well as several exhibition catalogs. His projects have been featured in Time Magazine, The New Yorker, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, The Observer, The Village Voice, The Boston Globe, Frieze, Hyperallergic, artnet magazine, among other publications.