Magazine article Artforum International

James Casebere: Galerie Daniel Templon

Magazine article Artforum International

James Casebere: Galerie Daniel Templon

Article excerpt

James Casebere

GALERIE DANIEL TEMPLON

There's a golden yet unspoken rule in architectural training and practice that scale models should be neither too realistic nor too detailed. Thus, trees and human figurines are just tolerable, but curtains, furniture, and other everyday features are questionable, if not prohibited. A model needs to retain a relative degree of abstraction as a material object to accomplish its conjectural quality--that is, to exemplify the project to which it gives scalar form. One of the most intriguing qualities of the architectural model is therefore how it balances materializing abstract plans with telling particular stories. This might explain its appeal to artists in the post-Conceptual era, as it allows for a material negotiation between idea and image, concept and object.

Over the past four decades, American artist James Casebere has built scale models, but only to photograph them. For him they serve as mere devices to make pictures. From the very start of his practice, in the mid-1970s, as he declared in a recent interview, the reproduction had to be the work itself. His interest in architecture derived from its capacity to deliver imagery for photography to capture. Modeling and then photographing the built environment allowed Casebere to address his social context and to trace both its historical and ideological formation. Domestic interiors and American vernacular architecture came first, followed by edifices of power and control, carceral structures, flooded interiors, world heritage sites (mostly Islamic), and lately, suburban environments. Whereas his early models often remained rather rough and schematic, the recent work has become ever more detailed and particular.

Landscape with Houses (Dutchess County, NY) # 9 Credit, Faith, Trust, 2010-11, depicts a neat set of colorful single-family homes, systematically distributed on a hilly setting around an empty athletic field. The prototypical yellow school buses and even bicycles are present, but no people. And this speciously charming scenery has fallen victim to fire--arson, maybe? Emblematizing, perhaps, the subprime mortgage crisis and the disastrous ecological effects of suburban housing schemes, this miniature exemplification of the American dream is up in flames. …

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