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The American suburbs are already surreal places, perfectly planned roads dotted with identical homes infinitely replicated across the country. In his two-year Suburban project, Australian artist Ian Strange radically transformed these places into something even more otherworldly with paint and flames.
Strange, also known as Kid Zoom from his roots in street art, is opening an exhibition of the completed project this month at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. Ian Strange: Suburban will include not just the photographs and film of the eight site-specific interventions that he executed on eight different houses, but also remains of some of the houses and sound from their destruction. The paint-swathed houses really look like optical illusions, totally taking them out of their time and place, and the fires in the middle of the orderly neighborhoods feel like apocalyptic nightmares. The Brooklyn-based artist stated that the project is a continuation of his HOME installation from 2011 where he constructed a full-scale replica of his own childhood house in Sydney’s Turbine Hall, that looks at the suburban home as an icon to disrupt.
As Strange explained to Hyperallergic: “I think the American suburbs resonate locally as well as internationally. The postwar American suburban ideal is something that traveled the world with American film and TV, so it has a distant familiarity. The houses I chose to work on were selected because they were all unremarkable. I wanted them to have that same distant familiarity, so the works can play against the icon of the home and not necessarily be specific to that house or location.”
The painted and burned homes stretch from Ohio to Detroit to Alabama to New Jersey, camoflauging and transforming them into one unexpected narrative on the created space that is suburbia. It’s the artist’s largest and most ambitious project yet, requiring him to work with fire departments, neighborhood groups, and film crews, and from the video preview below you can glimpse into this startling radicalization of suburbia.
Ian Strange: Suburban runs July 27 to September 15 at the National Gallery of Victoria (180 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Australia).