Curated by the Queens-based, curatorial practice, Breezeway NYC, for SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2018, Suburban Psalm establishes a sanctuary of fabricated facades within a former executive office space in the heart of Times Square. The installation riffs off of both the corporate architecture of the office, as well as the aspirational messaging of it's former tenant, Condé Nast, to create a contemplative garden just barely protected from the chaotic barrage of advertisements beyond. To meander through Suburban Psalm is to quietly reflect on the subtle distinctions between the real and the artificial, the mundane and the monumental, and to consider the blurry edge between the hideous, the hilarious and the splendid.
According to the most recent census, over half of all Americans live and work in the suburbs. These forms sprouted from our thirst to leave the oppression of the city and forge our own subdivision beyond. Suburbia represents a dream. It promises a personal Eden. Seductive yet repulsive, alien yet familiar, the forms of this strange contemporary landscape present today’s new wilderness—confusing, bewildering, and sometimes downright inhospitable. What are we to make of these modern frontier lands full of homes made for strangers? Can we strangers make this wildness a more human home?
Shane Darwent’s sculptural installations bring us face to face with the vernaculars of suburbia and its sprawling network of commercial thoroughfares. Employing everyday materials like vinyl siding, landscape edging, pea gravel and fluorescent lights, Darwent’s work engages with the physical materials of this untamed suburban landscape to offer a contemplative, if confusing, map for how we might begin to re-approach the seeming lifelessness of commercial thoroughfares and strip malls, and reorganize them - at least metaphorically - into cultivated, imaginative landscapes of our own design.
Can we reconnect with this place? Our mazes of strip malls and roadways, the odd ordinariness of cookie-cutter shrubs and parking lots. Is it possible to commune with those asphalt expanses as today’s version of Walden Pond? Can the rapid-fab forms of fast-food missions and barns be rediscovered as the tranquil escapes of French Baroque gardens? Can the curb-divided terrain of our commercial thoroughfares in fact be the twisting meditation paths once suggested by immaculately pruned labyrinths? Darwent’s work asks such potentially ridiculous questions in an earnest, if desperate attempt to seek significance in the amoebic, connective tissue of our suburban American landscapes.