Jen Bekman Projects


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press mentions :: Land Use Survey


"Land Use Survey" The show takes a fresh look at the new American landscape. 


By Anne Wehr


Time Out New York


This armchair traveler’s show, entertaining if seriously overstuffed, attempts a panoramic sampling of American vistas, beginning with a few token images of untouched wildernesses. But these days, the U.S. of A. has ever fewer places where one can tremble before the natural sublime, so “Land Use Survey” offers a proportionate representation of strip malls, tract housing and swaths of paradise blighted and paved over.


Which is just as well, really, since these bleaker works carry the show, assessing modern suburban and exurban realities with a deadpan levity borrowed in part from the New Topographics of the 1970s. Re-inhabited Circle K: Mr. Formal, Phoenix, AZ (2006), a photograph by Paho Mann, and two small canvases by Michelle Muldrow (both 2009) are all severe, frontal views of single-story suburban stores, each grimmer than the last. Other works underscore nature’s diminishment: In Gravel (2006), photographer Beth Dow uses shifting focus and the sensuous subtleties of palladium printing to make falsely romantic mountains out of rubbish-dotted molehills.


Alex MacLean’s terrific—and startlingly pretty—aerial photograph, Housing Development at Different Stages, Las Vegas, NV, March 2005, portrays the birth of a desert neighborhood as a ticky-tacky, color-coded assembly line. More biting is Matthew Moore’s Rotations: Moore Estates #5 (2006), another aerial vista, which depicts a wheat-and-sorghum “earthwork” housing development on his family’s farmland, adjacent to parcels sold to developers in Surprise, Arizona. Moore offers a wry commentary on a place where the rural rubber meets the freshly paved road.