Rendered obsessively in pencil, Mall is part of Noble’s magnum opus—the fictitious city of Nobson Newtown. Nobson is “a town of outskirts” built on a decaying wasteland. It includes housing projects, a hospital, factories, and a shopping mall situated in the city center.
This large drawing reads like an old architectural plan, illustrating the monolithic mall, unpopulated, from an aerial perspective. Noble begins his drawings with illuminated letters he calls “Nobfont,” centering groups of three-dimensional characters on the paper. Here the word “mall” becomes part of the structure of the building, just as, Noble suggests, the mall itself is integral to a city where there is no town hall, house of worship, theater, or restaurant. A close look at the ornamentation of the facade and minarets reveals a chaotic maelstrom of figures engaging in corrupt behavior, as well as imagery from the Old Testament. This mall, once a synagogue, has become a center for commercial consumption.
Noble was inspired by his experiences living on “the dole” and witnessing protests against urban planning projects in his east London community. With biting humor he portrays a distorted utopia, reflecting the ways postindustrial urban societies build, consume, and neglect their community infrastructure.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art , p. 223.