Artists Take On Detroit - Projects for The Tricentennial
Lorella Di Cintio and Jonsara Ruth



Traces of Then and Now

Di Cintio and Ruth refer to themselves as "architectural archaeologists" because they uncover unnoticed or hidden architectural detail. They literally excavate walls, floors, and ceilings to show evidence of the transformation of spaces over time. In this installation, the DIA’s original 1927 building became the excavation site. The artists explore the relationship among structure, decoration, and use by displaying construction materials extracted in the museum alongside those from a modest east Detroit house.

Di Cintio and Ruth altered two spaces in the DIA. In the loft above the vaulted ceiling of the Great Hall they have positioned a camera, presenting the live-feed video image of the structural supports on a monitor below. This image is juxtaposed with a sample of humble building materials—including gypsum, plaster, and wire mesh—used to create the ceiling: materials that are remarkably similar to those recovered in the working-class house.

In the sixteenth-century Italian gallery, the viewer’s experience is recontextualized through the manipulation of light. The artists introduce a projected image of Tintoretto’s painting The Dreams of Men in the ceiling space originally designed for it. They lowered the light levels on the paintings below and hung red velvet curtains in the doorways. In display cases, paint samples from the Detroit residence draw attention to the use of color or paint in the gallery’s ornate decoration.

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Lorella Di Cintio and Jonsara Ruth
Traces of Then and Now
Installation, 2001

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> Artist’s Biography/Lorella Di Cintio

> Artist’s Biography/Jonsara Ruth