Friday, July 13, 2007
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In considering Emily Kennerk’s exhibition SuburbanNation at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Forefront Gallery, I find myself dwelling somewhere in the space between the casual art observer who might be challenged by the displacement of suburban facades and the experienced theorist of modern art who can comfortably appreciate the post-minimalist recontextualization of otherwise banal elements of our Nations’ economically-determined sub- and ex-urban homefronts. It is that space in-between, the space of reading, seeing and wondering, where the installations of SuburbanNation reach beyond the utilitarian aesthetics which occupy the Forefront Gallery.
Entering the gallery, we are first confronted with Welcome Home, an installation of iconic red awnings which are singularly beautiful in their tensile form and subtlety. These are the same brightly-colored awnings used as signifiers above residential doors and windows and in the suburban commercial landscape in perpetual competition to distract the eye and loosen the wallet. Yet removed from the frenetic environs of retail America, these objects no longer function as architectural hustlers, cheap ornament, and soulless aberrations. As an architect who frequently designs awnings for commercial buildings, I am jaded and look upon such fixtures with disdain for their inevitability and power to dominate the appearance of a building. But in Welcome Home these same objects, when displaced, possess a peace and strength which is easily overlooked in the context of their common existence.
High Density echoes the insipid reality of the suburban tract home with a common technique used by suburban developers – the mirrored floor plan. Dominated by their garages, (which might truly mean “welcome home” in the burbs), this duo questions scale and relationships among surfaces, tracts and the humans which inhabit the air and ground in between. These constructions linger somewhere between banality and minimalism, in a place familiar yet uncomfortable - both resolved and built, yet seemingly incomplete. Such conceptual gaps are where Emily’s work lives. Sometimes you see just a wee notch to be filled with an idea, but often you feel you are crossing a conceptual chasm.
The third interior installation, Untitled: Porches, feels like a game of line and surface, using the visual textures of siding and pickets and the notion of repetition to create a perspectival illusion of deep space. At the crux of the illusion the vinyl surfaces and porches collide in a simple gesture of constructed disobedience. Here, I am reminded of the work of minimalist sculptors Donald Judd and Sol Lewitt, who might now be rolling in their graves due to Emily’s deft execution in the ho-hum materials of suburban American spec homes.
The final installation, Boundaries, was recently sacrificed for the fantastic cookout and party hosted by the IMA for Emily’s opening. The cookout was complete with dual ice cream trucks sounding off, which was nothing short of a performance in itself. Boundaries explores the tension between neighboring parcels divided by the invisible lot line through the competitive mowing of grass. Look for Boundaries to progress as mowing and rainfall provide. I hear it is best viewed from a third floor window.
No matter where your parcel lies or how many acres you possess, there is much for each of us to consider and consume from SuburbanNation.
Emily Kennerk: SuburbanNation is on view at the Indianapolis Museum of Art from July 13-October 7, 2007