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Abstract Cityscapes Made of Reclaimed Wood Symbolize an Ever-Changing Urban Landscape

Carved Wood Art by James McNabb

Philadelphia-based artist James McNabb captures the essence of urban architecture through his sculptural wood art. Often, his abstract designs take the form of large circles and other geometric shapes that are composed of many elongated elements resembling narrow skyscrapers. The collections of buildings are fused together and collectively point towards empty centers. Devoid of backgrounds, there are secondary images formed by these negative spaces that feels similar to the Rubin’s Vase optical illusion.

McNabb designs his small architectural features to resemble any city. Rather that look like New York or Tokyo, he uses the structures a symbols to represent the “sociological concepts” concerning these types of locales—particularly “their beauty, uniqueness, and over-development.” By using these broad emblems, McNabb is challenging us to imbue the work with our own meaning and feelings about urban landscapes.

We have admired McNabb’s carved wood art for years, especially his technique of “sketching with a band saw” that reveals stunning intricate details on the hard surface. This striking and unique approach has only garnered him more attention since; McNabb is currently gearing up for his first international solo exhibition. Called Structure, it will feature his most recent sculptures at the Magda Danysz Gallery in Paris. If you’re local, check out the show from September 2 to September 24, 2017.

Using reclaimed wood and an expert knowledge of the construction, artist James McNabb creates carved wood art that's inspired by the essence of cities around the world.

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Check out McNabb's work in progress—including a peek into his studio.

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A post shared by James McNabb (@mcnabbstudio) on

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James McNabb: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to use images by James McNabb.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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