Jennifer Riley’s and Emily Kennerk’s “Big Bright Steel,” a series of laser-cut, colorful steel plates made from repurposed auto parts, is an homage to the area that once held blocks of car dealerships, famously known as Automobile Row. In the 1940s, Automobile Row was where GI’s would sell their cars before going to war overseas and where, as a result, dealers from all over the country came to buy cars and ship them back to their dealerships. Automobile Row was also known for its lavish showrooms, a few of which were designed by famous architects.
Automobile Row, which stretched along Broadway from the West 50s to the 70s, started in the 1910’s when car dealerships began replacing the area’s many horse-drawn carriage shops. The neighborhood remained an important automobile hub until the mid 1980s, when what used to be inexpensive real estate began to skyrocket. Dealerships began moving to 11th Avenue, creating what many call “the new Automobile Row.” Mercedes-Benz and BMW are now the only dealerships left in the area.
Big Bright Steel is located on the ground floor of the Mercedes House apartment complex.