Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Suburban Landscapes: The Worlds Away show

Not in Dayton. In Pittsburgh.

This excellent show dovetails nicely into Daytonologys new focus on suburban studies. Organized by the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis a version of the show travelled to the Carnegie in Pittsburgh, where yer humble host spent some time getting inspired and challenged.

Minnesota Public Radio reports:

The Walker is billing "Worlds Away" as the first major museum exhibition examining art and architecture in the contemporary American suburb.

More than 30 artists, architects and designers supply a critique and an appreciation of suburbs, while trying to imagine their future. Despite its overwelming presence, Walker curator Andrew Blauvelt says suburbia is a cultural blindspot, especially when it comes to academic inspection.

"On one hand, it's everywhere and seemingly all over," Blauvelt says. "But from an intellectual standpoint, there's very little engagement. It's mostly very biased notions, intellectual notions against the suburbs that kept academics from researching it."

The "catalogue" is worth the buy as it is not just reproductions of the art but also very good collection of essays:

Since this in unavailable at local bookstores and it's unlikely the show will travel to the area (well, maybe to the Wexner) you can visit online by surfing into the Walkers' website:

Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes

Examples of some of some of the art. The upper one was a gian wall-sized painting that operates almost as a mandela, but a bit of quattrocento there, too, in the coloration and perspective:

The lower one was a photo of a conceptual art piece by a farmer/artist near Phoenix, who cut a house plan into his alfalfa fied.

But there also was film, models, animations, photography.

What I like about this show was that it took suburbia serioulsy. There was ironic comment in some of the aesthetic intentions, but no New Urbanist nostalgia or Kunstlerseque nihilism.

Of the more interesting exhibits was INTERBORO's In the Meantime: Life With Landbanking, on the Dutchess County Mall north of NYC, just a fascinating mix of narration and audiovisuals, projected onto a cardstock model of said mall and wall surface behind it.

Closer to home Lateral Architectures Flatspace series reinterpreted big box landscapes outside of Columbus via models and computer animatios and flyovers. This is moving more into the arena of landscape urbanism and spatial pratice, away from traditional "planning" and landscape architecutre.

Worlds Away occasionaly had a social and political subtext, but the intention was primarily aesthetic. Suburban studies, particularly the "New Suburban History", deals with social history and politics a bit more, and is a fairly new discipline qua discipline.

Expect continued suburban blogging from Daytonology, as Dayton is arguably the most suburban city in Ohio. Yes, in some ways even more than Columbus.

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