Sean Hemmerle: Brutal Legacy

Front Room Gallery

Sep. 5, 2024 - Oct. 5, 2014

147 Roebling Street
Brooklyn, New York 11211

Front Room Gallery is proud to present Brutal Legacy, a solo exhibition of photographs by Brooklyn based artist Sean Hemmerle. In this recent series of photographs, Hemmerle shows images of an imperiled Brutalist masterwork, The Orange County Government Center in Goshen, NY.

For the past three years, Hemmerle and designer William Watson have collaborated to produce an archive of photographs and research about Paul Rudolph’s extraordinary Government Center. At this critical juncture, their project aims to understand the structure through the materials and disposition that will bring about its preservation, or its demise, and to illuminate the moment at which a building and an architectural style face proscription.

The Orange County Government Center has been the focus of an ongoing public debate concerning the viability and relevance of Brutalist architecture. Built in 1967, the Center opened in 1971, at a time of civic optimism, but the building was quickly beset by recessions, political reversals, and negligent maintenance, leaving it damaged and unpopular. Forty years later, local politicians, who considered the complex an economic and visual burden, forced the building’s evacuation and continue to lobby for its full or partial demolition.

The Orange County Government Center is an important example of Paul Rudolph’s sculptural, multi-leveled Brutalist designs, which play with concepts of volume, texture and light; this building is considered one of his finest remaining structures. This series of photographs by Sean Hemmerle embraces the often illusive, experiential quality of the architectural components that make up this unique design.

Sean Hemmerle’s photographs depict the the Government Center’s cavernous spaces, its volumes capped with more than eighty individual rooves. Hemmerle’s rigid and direct photographs reveal the underlying harmony of Rudolph’s genius. Within Hemmerle’s photographs the viewer can slip inside the Government Center, illuminated indirectly from periscopic openings and uniquely fitted windows. One can palpably sense Rudolph’s brilliance expressed in the silent concrete chambers accented in hues of aubergine and ochre.

Sometimes I think we build too many goldfish bowls and not enough caves.–Paul Rudolph.

This series strives to aid in the preservation the Government Center by recording it before it is demolished, blighted by neglect, or altered significantly. Sean Hemmerle and William Watson were awarded a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in Fine Arts in 2013 to continue their efforts. This marks Hemmerle’s fifth solo show with the gallery.

Return to list of all exhibitions