One of four new exhibitions scheduled to open in the month of December, Sullivan Goss presents AGORAPHOBIA: Portraits of American Interiors. AGORAPHOBIA is not an exhibition about a debilitating psychological condition. It is, instead, an exhibition that examines the idea of interior architectural space as portraiture, featuring paintings, photographs, and sculpture by a variety of mostly contemporary artists.
In post-industrialized America, home design offers a format for the expression of self – often an expression of our “aspirational selves” – the vision of self we aspire to become and show others. Home design periodicals have proliferated, even during the paring down of the publishing industry. Home design blogs are myriad. It makes sense. The rise of the internet has enabled Americans to socialize, watch movies, and shop at home. Consequently, people have put more focus on their homes, especially as sites of collection and personal expression.
Against this backdrop, artwork depicting interior space develops a special resonance – that of the portrait. Sometimes, the work might be thought of as a portrait of someone else, as it is in the photographs of Julius Shulman or Richard Ross. Other times, it might be thought of as a self-portrait, as it is in the work of Patssi Valdez and Mark Lozano. To see someone’s personal space implies a certain intimacy, exploited to great effect in this exhibition by the lightbox photographs of Kimberly Hahn. Her “Under the Sheets” series suggests both a private world and the special quality of light that feels like home. Mark Christian Wethli’s image of a staircase at night lit from above carries some of these same connotations. “Come upstairs,” it seems to say.
This light, often coming from either a window or an electric bulb, has its own beautiful qualities, which are captured to particularly spectacular effect in the works of Patricia Chidlaw and Pamela Enticknap. Warmth abides in images like these. Even in paintings without obvious light sources, as in the two works in the exhibition by Anders Aldrin, the feeling of warmth pervades. Whether or not these are selfportraits, they have the same emotional impact.
Some of the paintings in this exhibition, in particular those by Robert Frame and Zack Paul, seem to deal with the window as both a formal structure for dividing space and as a metaphor for separation. Big skies and open spaces are implied by both artists, but it is outdoor space constrained. The outside world is not presented as a scary place, but as one that is just comfortably viewed from indoors. In a town like Santa Barbara, home is partly about the view.
3:41 | Jeremy Tessmer