“Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above, don’t fence me in. Let me ride through the wide open country that I love. Don’t fence me in.” – “Don’t Fence Me In,” Cole Porter, 1934
As life in America continues to distance itself from the countryside, vacations and travel are a time to reintroduce the self to nature. As summer approaches in America, this idolized time of year brings thoughts of travel, escape, and road trips. With individual freeways that stretch over 3,000 miles, taking the car across country reveals America’s boundless diverse landscapes, as travelers immerse themselves in America’s ever changing personality.
Opening June 9, Joshua Liner Gallery presents Land Escapes, a curated group show of 18 artists celebrating this time of year. Land Escapes focuses on contemporary definitions of “landscape” using varied and fresh perspectives of both emerging and established artists.
The “landscape” painting is a long-standing tradition in Western art. The artists of Land Escapes work from within this tradition to redefine the genre with varied mediums ranging from photography, to mixed media, to painting. This collection of artists not only break apart the tradition of landscape art, but rebuild and redefine its possibilities, offering compelling ways of capturing America’s multiple identities. Land Escapes focuses and contextualizes these ideas within the framework of summer’s habitual relationship with travel, and natural beauty. With each work carrying with it a sense of freedom, the artists pay homage to the landscape tradition in personal ways.
The fantasy of the “road trip” characterizes a sense of boundlessness and strength, often with the car as the focal point of this freedom. However, this liberation conversely carries a sense of loneliness and solitude, as exemplified in Jim Mangan’s aerial photograph of the single car amid the vast landscape. Further exploring this idea of travel and solitude, Alec Soth’s 2010 "Broken Manual" series, shot over four years and 20,000 miles, documents a culture of those living off the grid, by their own rules. Utah (2008), from that series, captures a home built within the landscape, here miniaturized by the boundless land and sky. With their landscape contributions, Evan Hecox and Alison Elizabeth Taylor too explore this element of quiet isolation. Like Soth, Taylor’s Monkey Wrench (2015) carries a sense of solitude with two disconnected figures against a vast, desert backdrop, with her wood veneer collaged figure creating a natural attachment to the land. Justine Kurland’s Construction, Disputes, Training (2014) is pulled from her "Sincere Auto Care" series. Shot over the course of three years traveling on the road with her young son, the artist chronicled the remnants of America’s shrinking muscle car sub-culture, while Cheryl Kelley incorporates and even celebrates this culture into her landscape contribution. As seen from the car, America’s landscapes are filtered through the moving windshield creating abstracted interpretations of their horizons. Eileen Quinlan, Mark Innerst, Ed Ruscha, and Sam Friedman all use abstract elements to reduce and convey this sentiment. From her most recent body of work, photographer Eileen Quinlan uses flat bed scanners, and mirrored reflections to manipulate light, resulting in abstracted forms that convey motion and speed, while painter Mark Innerst’s Industrial Landscape with Rain (2014) skillfully blends a representational industrial vista, with abstract colors and form to create velocity with his diagonal “rain.” In line with these abstracted works, the palate of David Ellis’ Bird Pyramid (2016), evokes the sun setting in the western sky.
Other artists demonstrate their respect the to landscape genre by reinventing the tradition with innovative techniques. Brea Souders’ photograph of film slivers, depicts a miniature narrative of the outdoors, created from these temporary sculptures accidentally configured with the use of static electricity, resulting in a whisper of someone’s weekend. James Hoff’s arboreal copper etchings on fiberglass are reminiscent of a ghostly landscape at dusk, while Penelope Umbrico’s photographic appropriations of mountains, capture a digital landscape, reducing their grandeur to televised forms and color. Matthew Brandt’s inclusion physically engages the landscape by using the photographed trees to make both the paper and the ink for these silk screen prints. Meanwhile, Letha Wilson questions the success of any landscape representation. As photographs remove spatial dynamics, Wilson attempts to address this fault by incorporating objects and structure into her landscapes to physically engage the viewer.
Lastly, artists Wayne White, and William Wegman both tackle a more direct reinterpretation on tradition and history. Both White and Wegman transform old prints into new, contemporary works. Using found, framed landscape prints, Wayne White transforms these traditional images by overlaying the prints with text, re-engaging with the vintage backdrop. Alternatively, William Wegman’s Three and a Halfsome (2012) is a landscape painting created and inspired by the vintage postcard in the center. Wegman pulls postcards from his extensive vintage collection, which he then mounts to board, where they to serve as the starting point for his elaborate oil paintings.
Land Escapes will open June 9 and run through July 8, 2016. The exhibition includes work from Alec Soth, Alison Elizabeth Taylor, Brea Souders, Cheryl Kelley, David Ellis, Ed Ruscha, Eileen Quinlan, Evan Hecox, James Hoff, Jim Mangan, Justine Kurland, Letha Wilson, Mark Innerst, Matthew Brandt, Penelope Umbrico, Sam Friedman, Wayne White, and William Wegman. There will be an opening reception Thursday, June 9, 6-8pm.
Opening Photos: Land Escapes (June 14, 2016)