Benjamin Edwards, "Convergence," Sept. 7-Oct. 6, 2001, at Artemis Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, 730 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10019.
In a much-noted scene in Terry Zwigoff's recent film Ghost World, teenagers Thora Birch and Scarlett Johanssen wander silhouetted against a choking gray autoscape of telephone wires, fast food joints, dirt and soot that appears to be Fresno, Ca.
Al Gore's ill-starred presidential campaign began with a speech on "suburban sprawl," and the nightly news regularly runs features about hellish two-hour commutes into Houston or Atlanta.
There's something happening here, America's landscape ain't exactly clear, but nobody's doing anything about choking car culture, especially George "Double Pew" Bush, who lusts only for oil.
Unfortunately, young Bush is just a heartbeat away from the presidency.
Enter Benjamin Edwards. This rigorous RISD alumnus launched two gruesome expeditions into the veldt of American consumerism, and the extraordinarily painted results are on view at Artemis Greenberg Van Doren, opening Sept. 8, 2001.
"Convergence" is the mot juste Edwards chooses to describe demand-side America. Or, as Rem Koolhaas infelicitously describes it in the show's catalogue, "Junkspace is like being condemned to a perpetual Jacuzzi with millions of your friends."
Right, Remmo, Jacuzzi for you, junkyard for us.
Let's not slight the marathon stamina of Mr. Edwards -- he photographed over 1,000 shopping sites in suburban Maryland and Virginia, and after waiting to exhale 1,000 cubic feet of car exhaust, photographed 400 office parks and chain stores encircling Los Angeles.
The resulting paintings look like reams of Ashley Bickerton's pioneering corporate logos from the early '90s filtering through a hundred internet sites stacked on top of each other.
More subtly, Edwards' pulsing overlays put the lie to the grand pretensions of architects like Frank Gehry or Koolhaas himself.
The anonymous builders of Mall America are the statement makers, according to Edwards. Looking at "Convergence" is a throbbing, tortuous but necessary view, too disturbing to be called beautiful.
Yet, apparently Katy Grannan's recent photographs of bleak Russian life in the New York Times Sunday Magazine were too grim for Artemis' Jeannie Greenberg Rohatyn.
Eagle-eyed Jeannie has reportedly nixed the snaps for Grannan's next exhibition -- Katy's requisite sexiness must be included for her collectors, apparently.