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Lynne Cohen, Pool and Patio Show, Lansdowne Park, Ottawa

Lynne Cohen, Pool and Patio Show, Lansdowne Park, Ottawa (1976), silver gelatin
photograph on paper [Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton AB, Dec 6-Mar 1] Art Gallery of Alberta Collection

Suburbia: A Model Life (Photographs 1970s-1980s)

Art Gallery of Alberta
Edmonton AB – Dec 6, 2014-Mar 1, 2015

Suburban life has its roots in antiquity, when Roman patricians (the suburbani, as Cicero called them) occupied spacious villas at the outskirts of the congested city of Rome. But the suburbs of post-war North America are a different story: a dream that once had middle-class families fleeing the unpredictability of the urban core for the peace and stability associated with pre-fabricated houses, tucked-in lawns and cul-de-sacs. Today when the suburbs are talked about, it is often to point at them as places of poverty, violence and failure.

The focus of this AGA exhibition is on those decades when the promise of suburbia began to wane.

Curated by Kristy Trinier, the show draws heavily on the gallery’s collection of pictures that feature the suburbs both in their idealized form and as places of malaise for those who grew up amid their right-angled rhetoric and monochromatic fields. Displayed alongside these works are selections from Hubert Hohn’s black-and-white photographic series The Project: Suburban Landscapes, which was first mounted at the gallery in 1975 – when suburbia was no longer an aspiration but, to quote novelist Henry Miller, an “air-conditioned nightmare.”

Michael Turner

 Sun, Nov 9, 2014