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A Lament for Lost Dreams

Fabricated, The latest Tremaine Gallery show at The Hotchkiss School, explores, through photography, the power of manmade structures, how they can shape or reflect our values and, in deterioration, become metaphors for lost hopes and failed dreams. The show is about fact, fiction and symbols; and about where the descriptive and artistic aspects of photography merge. The first image in the show establishes its tone: Jeff Brouws’s full-color shot of abandoned public housing in Cleveland. The small red brick shell seems sound, yet windows are boarded up and mounds of detritus fill the yard. Melancholy lies beneath the color, a depressing reminder of the American habit of building and abandoning, of leaving derelict relics behind as our interests and policies move on. Next come two wonderful images from Livia Corona’s portfolio, “Two Million Homes for Mexico,” in which she has captured the Mexican government’s efforts to sponsor new housing for a growing middle class. “Progressive Development, 2009” shows a horizontal row of connected houses interrupted and punctuated by a three-story, blocky tower of three apartments. The colors are dusky. Security gates of Mexican wrought iron cover the windows, and TV antennas on roofs stand askew. The buildings may be new, but the feeling is Old Mexico. Corona’s astonishing “47,526 Homes for Mexico, 2009” is altogether different. From a high vantage point, she has captured the regular, geometric sprawl of thousands of identical, small, two-story houses of pale yellow-gold with red- tiled roofs stretching away toward distant mountains. In the forefront is a line of market stalls under tenting and bus stops. The image is beautiful; the sameness stultifying. Randy Fox’s three pictures from his “Storefront Churches” series are poignant reminders of the persistence of hope and ingenuity in the midst of poverty. Then there are three fabricated photographs from Leigh Merrill. In each, houses — seemingly similar, yet quite different from each other on close viewing, selected from thousands of Merrill’s shots — are combined wall-to-wall in a fantastical, horizontal neighborhood. Richard Edelman’s images of an abandoned grain silo with birds flying by and the long, low facade of an abandoned factory with its regular row of windows carefully bricked in are memorable. Susan Wiles challenges the notion of a bucolic Hudson River Valley in “GM Site, Sleepy Hollow, 2009” with its abandoned expanse, fenced and overgrown, strewn with garbage, against the glorious blue of the river, a small lighthouse on its bank. Then there are 12 small, square shots of Walmart Supercenters in various cities by Travis Shaffer. Riffing on Ed Ruscha’s famous “Thirtyfour (Empty) Parking Lots in Los Angeles,” Shaffer appropriates satellite imagery that focuses on white parking structures in each shopping center. The 12 photographs, hung in a square, are powerful comments on the sameness and banality of American cities and suburbs today. Finally, Wendy Burton’s two elegiac shots of ruined, abandoned buildings close the show. In gorgeous color and light, the shots are laments for a society that rushes from dream to dream leaving hopes, and lives, behind. “Fabricated,” curated by Melissa Stafford, continues at the Hotchkiss Tremaine Gallery through March 2. For information, call 860-435-3663 or go to www.hotchkiss.org/arts.

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