Lori Nix/Kathleen Gerber, “Empire”
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Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber photograph a post-apocalyptic world, but their lush images of crumbling cities, ruined freeway overpasses and degraded Western landscapes actually picture meticulously contrived models that the artists painstakingly set up in their Brooklyn studio. The pair apparently took four years to construct the dioramas for nine prints in this exhibition. Each lets its artifice shine, creating friction as bleak devastation rubs up against cute miniaturization.
In Sentinel, toy high-rises under lowering clouds simulate downtown Gotham. Gutted newspaper boxes disgorge their contents, including copies of the Daily News bearing the headline gloom, despair, agony, ennui…. Evoking the recurring comic song from the old Hee Haw TV show, this detail inserts a note of retro kitsch into a grim prediction.
Rusted food carts ring a weathered mermaid fountain in an overgrown park in Sirens, while in Arch, a triumphal monument is inscribed with defenders of the empire. It stands against a fiery sunset reflected in a pond bordered by burnt out buildings. Plastic ferns soften the desolation, highlighting the scene’s Hudson River School romanticism.
In these works, neoclassicism makes the future collapse of our civilization echo the fall of empires past, allowing us a pre-emptive pang of nostalgia for our own destruction. Although adding a touch of levity, like Shelley’s Ozymandias, the artists offer a warning: “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!”