Alerted by a post on the always marvelous BLDGBLOG, I visited the website of Alan Wolfson. In about 1978, he began making miniature interiors, starting with a subway car interior and a seedy hotel room.
This subject matter -- nighttime tableaux in decaying urban environments devoid of people -- dominates his work. They seem like three-dimensional versions of Hopper's "Nighthawks," with the customers gone and the workers in a back room. His pieces are often based on a real location, but mixed with memories of other places and fictional addenda that feel right.
His latest work is his most elaborate. Canal St. Cross-Section shows three levels of a Manhattan street, with two subway stations (a favorite scene of his) and street-level views of a pizza place, a foam rubber store, and more. Windows cut into either side allow views the reveal the detailed finery of his work.
Wolfson makes everything himself, using plastic, cardboard, metal, various lighting, and whatever else is needed. Though it's roughly two feet square, it took 18 months to complete (more than twice as long as most other pieces he's made). It's a remarkable accomplishment, and I'm sorry I won't be in New York to see it on display at Museum of Arts and Design, which has a whole show of miniatures and dioramas coming up.