Farm to Market

Exhibition: Oct 28, 2004 – Jan 23, 2005

Traveling from country to city, any driver of American roads has no doubt passed a sign reading FM—Farm to Market. Such fluid paths between rural and urban space serve as the departure for this exhibition. It presents recent works by three Texans—Robert Pruitt, Chris Sauter, and Allison Wiese—who alternately employ sculpture, collage, photography, and architectural interventions to explore similarities and mythic differences between the two locales these roads connect.

Robert Pruitt uses found objects and materials—Norman Rockwell prints, crack vials, hair extensions—to question the perceived gap between suburban and urban culture. Through insertions, deletions, and juxtapositions, he rewrites traditional notions of our past and present landscape.

Included in this exhibition are examples from Pruitt’s series reworking Norman Rockwell’s ubiquitous depictions of a culturally and spatially divided society. In New Kiddz in the Hood the artist toys with the classic image of just-moved-in African-American youngsters warily meeting their new white neighbors. Using digital manipulation, Pruitt graffities the moving van with REVOLT and places the album Fear of a Black Planet on a nearby chair. As in other works, such as his ante-bellum Chandelier, fashioned out of crack vials, Pruitt’s gesture of dislocation powerfully alters the expected scenario and puts pressure on the cultural disparity tethered to geographic boundaries.

Chris Sauter is known for reconfiguring suburban furniture into landscapes (a recliner turned mountain) and excising galleries to create ghostly Americana (dry wall turned
farmer’s plow). Sauter explores the relationship between nature and culture— two realms often locked into rural and urban domains.

Sauter continues to question the connection, literally and figuratively, between country and city with Power Lines, a scaled-down series of electrical towers constructed of shafts of wheat. Another work locates a volcano, grain silos, a construction site, and city skyline all in a single plane. Sauter collides disparate worlds to suggest that technology/culture is built upon land/nature, and that the two must partner in order to coexist.

Similarly, Allison Wiese inserts elements traditionally associated with country living into metropolitan spaces. She has built an old-fashioned portico onto the façade of a modernist building and brought a flock of sheep to graze in the city. Wiese’s works propose that rural and urban, often seen as opposing, have essential common denominators and are closer than frequently believed.

In Fort two picnic tables, a quintessential urban-meets-rural signifier, are propped up to create impromptu protection, as well as a pine cone-strewn social space. The sight recalls picnics past but not those in the wilderness. These lunches were in city parks or at roadside rest stops—places neither entirely rural nor urban. Coupled with Wiese’s large-scale photo of a paintball in an exurban field and her homemade whisky still made out of superstore parts, the piece reminds that there is no clear boundary dividing rural/nature from urban/culture, but rather pockets of in-between and mingling.

The works by Robert Pruitt, Chris Sauter, and Allison Wiese in Farm to Market describe the interlinked spheres of rural and urban space. The artists challenge the assumed dichotomy between country and city, thereby romanticizing neither and acknowledging the complicated exchange of ideas and identities between the two.