Image credit: Nigel Green
This exhibition of sculpture and drawings on paper is based on Forster’s 18-month study of Levittown, the 1947 suburban housing project in New York state, USA. The exhibition questions how an architectural environment impacts on developing culture and sense of memory.
Levittown comprised over 15,000 homes in Long Island aimed to meet the aspirations of a modern age, providing families, including those of returning WW2 heroes, with the domestic equivalent of the American dream. Formulaic in its approach, each of these mass-produced houses came with built-in TV and hi-fi, took under 20 minutes to erect and cost just $7,990 which could be bought with a 5% down payment, opening home-ownership to thousands. This visionary idea was counter-balanced by its detractors who decried the crushing uniformity of the town and the psychological effects such conformity could have on the hopes and dreams of people living and growing up in the suburbs.
Central to the exhibition are installations of four nine-part colour drawings and four-part neon signs partially inspired by the folk song ‘Little Boxes’, originally written by Malvina Reynolds and made famous by Peter Seeger in 1963. The song satirised suburban housing projects such as Levittown as “little boxes” of different colours “all made out of ticky-tacky”, and which “all look just the same.”
Divided views on Levittown run parallel to those on Modernism, revealing complicated relationships between hope and failure, vision and compromise, individualism and socialism. These are the very arguments that have followed the story of the De La Warr Pavilion since its inception in 1933.
Richard Forster (b.1970, Saltburn-by-the – Sea, UK) draws from photographs rather than from life – either using his own snapshots, or images found in magazines, books, or on the internet. At a glance his choice of subject can seem quite diverse but they are brought together by his extraordinary technique and by an underlying interest in measuring his experience of the world. Common to them all is a sense of the place of the individual within the collective: the private within the public. Forster lives and works in Darlington and is represented by Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh.