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Michael Upchurch reviews Suburbia: Dream or Nightmare? at Linda Hodges Gallery

Dec 28, 2013


Artists tackle ‘Suburbia: Dream or Nightmare?’ at Linda Hodges

This show at Linda Hodges is a strong exhibit. I'm thrilled with Michael Upchurch's review.

That swimming pool looks inviting. And that garden is impeccable.

But those games of lawn darts?

They may kill you.

“Suburbia: Dream or Nightmare?” — a new group show at Linda Hodges Gallery curated by Dale Cotton — toys with the allure, ennui and angst of the American suburbs, in paintings and photographs that range in mood from the buttoned-down to the downright unhinged.

Reporting from the Seriously Uptight Front is painter Terry Leness, whose hyper-precise oils on canvas come furnished with nicely biting titles. “Buzz Cut” and “Poodle Trees” both portray suburban ranches whose gardens don’t have a leaf or grass-blade out of place. The scenes depicted are so meticulously neat that you almost feel you might shatter them if you were to walk through them.

At the other extreme are Kate Vrijmoet’s gleefully demented takes on suburban pastimes running amok. “Lawn Dart Accident” and “Snow Blower Accident” are splattery latex-on-canvas works, with the paint practically exploding across their surfaces. In both, workaday Joes rather casually meet their demise while lazing on an air mattress (“Lawn Dart Accident”) or fixing a snowblower (the fact that the guy is out in the cold naked only adds to the wacky flavor of his bloodbath).

The remainder of the show strikes tones somewhere between the ironic finickiness of Leness and gory delirium of Vrijmoet.

Ryan Molenkamp’s black-and-white paintings of suburban “little boxes” stretching to the horizon use a childlike sense of perspective to evoke a cookie-cutter sense of claustrophobia. Tucked into each of them is a low-key anomaly: a mama bear teaching her cub to scavenge through dumpsters (“The Lesson”), an eagle observing the neighborhood (“The Watcher”) and a small grove of tall, spindly trees providing some relief from the repetitious tract housing (“The Refuge”). Each has both a little dream and a little nightmare to it.

Read the rest of the review here

Here's some of my artist's statement for the exhibit:

Suburban Pitfalls

The myth of the suburban [class] is a paradox. It’s about comfort and security, however it has created more discomfort and insecurity than imaginable. Suburbia is a place to avoid the challenges of both the crowded dangerous urban and difficult rural life. But what emerges in place of those challenges is the competitive social behavior of keeping up perceptions with the neighbors. 

Suburbia produces unexpected kinds of one-upmanship in which symbols like cars, snow blowers and lawn games represent an intense yearning for status. But most of us seek a fulfillment that evades us, even while we live in the midst of an abundant America. Our primal selves are appeased with things. This primal gratification abates the loneliness produced in this country’s anonymous, sprawling suburbs.

Once thought of as the perfect place to live - a utopia in which to thrive, with the promise of an escape from city life — a new way of life — the suburbs now represent disturbia.

Category: Press
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