Review: The Compelling Photographs of Linda Kuehne
 
By Laura G. Einstein
Former Director, Center for Contemporary Printmaking
 
That Linda Kuehne is a painterly photographer is evident in her exhibition of pigment prints called Suburban Landscapes: The Architecture of Nowhere on exhibition until January 4, 2014.  It is on view at A.I.R, 111 Front Street in Brooklyn, New York.  Kuehne is influenced by artists such as Edward Hopper whose paintings are noted by their application of rich colors including red, ochre, brown and green, exaggerated angles, and strong direct light that emanates from, perhaps, a bare light bulb shining down on the lonely figures snacking in a diner late at night.  For Kuehne, Hopper, among others like Ed Ruscha, has been an influence and she similarly illuminates her empty retail stores and buildings with a consistent midmorning or late afternoon ray of sunlight.  Although Kuehne’s subject matter is different from Edward Hopper’s, her dilapidated commercial buildings are as lonely as any human sitting alone in a Hopper diner. 
 
Kuehne focuses on the inherent diagonals, horizontals, and basic geometric shapes of squares and rectangles to create a modernistic interpretation of simple architectural structures that are more about efficiency and cost effectiveness than to any aesthetic values.  Rather than social isolation, however, it is Kuehne’s thoughts on consumerism in the late 20th century whose strip malls offered opportunities to retail enterprises at the expense of any aesthetic appeal to the people who live around them. 
 
In her pigment prints -- each uniformly 24 x 34” and framed in simple white wood frames -- she captures American culture and our fascination with commerce and consumerism.  America, as a land of opportunity is dotted with individual businesses creating suburban landscapes of shopping malls, and numerous other commercial enterprises.  The simplicity of their shapes and materials provides a compelling interplay of angles that are sharpened by an exquisitely timed midmorning or late afternoon ray of sunlight.  The buildings, whose placement is just off center of the picture plane, become iconic images reflecting the ephemeral nature of commercial enterprises.  Kuehne’s depiction of these scenes is masterful as is her slight manipulation of color raising the value of oil stains in parking lots and other detritus that would otherwise obscure her images.  It is the crimson lettering of a Carvel sign in Bedford Hills, New York, or the exaggerated oblique angle of an abandoned Honda dealership in Yorktown Heights, New York, whose red, unidentified building in the background emphasizes the precarious angle of the foreground dealership. Kuehne locates an arrow directing traffic at the front of the parking lot.  This image heightens the disparity between richness and degradation.
 
Linda Kuehne states, “My work is inspired by the romantic realism of American landscape painters of the 19th century, American abstract painters of the early 20th century and pop art. My work explores the idea of the sublime as it does or doesn’t exist today, given the state of the world.”  Kuehne’s narrative is rich and compelling, conveying a message of urban waste that is as beautiful as it is sad and ironic.  Her subtle technique is finely orchestrated to create an impressive portrayal of the American landscape that becomes more about her mind’s eye than the decay of a suburban landscape in the 21st century.
 

 The Architecture of Nowhere  The Architecture of Nowhere  The Architecture of Nowhere
 The Architecture of Nowhere  The Architecture of Nowhere  The Architecture of Nowhere
 The Architecture of Nowhere  The Architecture of Nowhere  The Architecture of Nowhere
 The Architecture of Nowhere  The Architecture of Nowhere  The Architecture of Nowhere
 The Architecture of Nowhere  The Architecture of Nowhere  The Architecture of Nowhere
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