Adam McEwen / Bill Owens / Steven Shearer / Banks Violette
3 March – 23 April, 2005
Galerie Lisa Ruyter’s Project Space
Waaggasse 5/First Floor/Top 6, A-1040 Wien
“I am more at home in Vienna generally than I am in Upper Austria, which I prescribed for myself as a survival therapy sixteen years ago, though I have never been able to regard it as my home. This is no doubt because right from the beginning I isolated myself far too much in Nathal and not only did nothing to counter this isolation but actually promoted it, consciously or unconsciously, to the point of utter despair. After all, I have always been a townsman, therefore not without reason that once I am in Vienna, I find that I can breathe freely again. On the other hand, after a few days in Vienna I have to flee to Nathal to avoid suffocating in the loathsome Viennese air. Hence, in recent years I have made a habit of switching between Vienna and Nathal at least every other week. Every other week I flee from Nathal to Vienna and then from Vienna to Nathal, with the result that I have become a restless character who is driven back and forth between Vienna and Nathal in order to survive, whose very existence depends on this strictly imposed rhythm — coming to Nathal to recover from Vienna, and going to Vienna to recuperate from Nathal.” – Thomas Bernhard (from Wittgenstein’s Nephew)
Suburbia is defined as a space between urban and rural, yet it is also a space that tends to have none of the qualities of either, no culture as in the urban and no nature as in the rural. The suburbs of America are especially quite famous, and there is not really such a thing to be found in Austria. Yet, the concept of Suburbia is a well-understood term. In a way it has become an elemental part of the culture that America exports, as well as a description of a suspended or compromised state of being.
This show here begins with Bill Owens, who has documented a very specific moment in the evolution of the term. Bill Owens presents barbecues, garage sales, daily domestic life, prayer groups, ribbon cuttings. In a Bill Owens photograph, an alternative lifestyle, dysfunctional family or XXX is first flattened by the concept of ‘suburbia’ into a mold of the generic. Stylistically the work differs from his contemporaries because of this particular message or emphasis. In the work of Owen’s contemporaries, the formal elements of suburban life are romanticized through craft to take on a Hopper-esque aestheticism. Owen’s work, when compared to his contemporaries, seems to embrace diversity, despite a technique which renders it generic or ‘suburban.’
As a counterpoint, we present three of the best young artists getting attention at the moment, who are working through many of the issues of identification alluded to in Bill Owens’ photographs.
Adam McEwen presents a series of obituaries of celebrities who are not yet dead, and sandwich board sign sculptures. Steven Shearer presents an installation of posters on the ceiling, with a mattress for the viewer. Banks Violette’s blank sign makes sculpture out of the suburban structures in Owen’s work.
Bill Owens (USA)
Adam McEwen (UK)
Steven Shearer (CAN)
Banks Violette (USA) was featured in the most recent Whitney Biennial and will open a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in May.