On Art and Aesthetics

‘Urban blight’, ‘the pre-programmed American urban ghetto’ and ‘how people persevere in the face of what is often called willful neglect’ are the main subjects of Brooklyn-based artist Jack DeMartino. Executed mostly in shades of thick brown, red, yellow and purple, the paintings present to us visions of New York neighbourhoods hit by foreclosure, arson and abandonment. The scenes speak of loss and poverty but manage to remain alive with an energetic, almost comic-book glow. There is a deep story behind these artworks, one that includes instances of racial discrimination and substance abuse.

My paintings are based on the experience of living and working in transitional neighbourhoods beginning in the mid-1970s up to the present day,” writes Jack. “As a child growing up in a part of Manhattan where the city used ‘slum clearance’ to reduce crime and chaos by forcibly removing close to 7,000 mostly Black and Puerto…

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