In Pennsylvania painter Jeff Bye’s new exhibition, Urban Exploration, the painter examines buildings—interiors and exteriors—that time has forgotten, buildings that have ceded control from their human caretakers to nature’s unrelenting, but painfully slow, grasp. His works of dusty interiors with cracked wood flooring and empty buildings with ominously empty windows evoke a sense of the post-apocalypse, but also of simple urban decay in which humans haven’t disappeared as much as just moved on to other locations, maybe even just down the street—they traded their brick and wood buildings for ones made of steel and glass. Bye says he discovered this “urban exploration” genre while traveling in Europe, where he would see old empty buildings in a range of cities and countries. “The places I was seeing had a grittiness to them, character and a lot of history. I started exploring them and realizing how much was there to discover,” he says. “It escalated, especially when I lived in New York City, there there are so many buildings like that. I would explore buildings all around the five boroughs. I was fascinated.”

Many of the buildings Bye and other urban explorers visit are often dangerous due to years of neglect and disrepair, and others warn against trespassing. For his own safeguard, the artist takes precautions. “Asbestos is always a risk in old buildings, so I bring a respirator and the right clothes. I also always tend to go with people…just in case. You don’t want to be alone in these places in case anything happens,” he says. “But I also work with historical societies as well. Some of them give tours inside of these buildings to teach about art, history or architecture. I’m getting older so I’m not trying not to crawl through buildings as much or doing things that are illegal.”

Phun Factory depicts a Queens, New York, factory ravaged by time and the weather. The factory, a cultural epicenter for hip hop and graffiti, is widely known by its nickname, “5 Pointz.” It was torn down in 2014. “I was there in the early ’90s shooting it and I saw it at its best,” Bye says. “I later went back in 2007 and it was a tourist stop and had lost its edge.” His attention turns to an interior for Three, which depicts a South Philadelphia building as light streams through unseen windows bathing dirty and fading columns in a soft glow. “It was a beautiful space,” he says. “The light filtering through on the left side just reminded me of so many places. It was incredible. Without any sort of climate control, the hardwood floors were all popping up and warping.”

Bye not only paints these subjects because they interest him, but also because they deserve some kind of preservation, if not in life, then in paint. “The Phun Factory was torn down two years ago and will be replaced with high-rise condos with no character. The environment is being changed in a very big way and it will never be the same,” he says. “This work is a motivator for me to capture these places before they’re torn down and forgotten