after architecture

Susan Monserud
Gerald Saladyga
Pamela J. Wallace

April 2 – April 24 2016

A lot of my work is about questioning the stability and permanence of architecture, and, in turn, the stability of society."

—Lebbeus Woods

After Architecture is an exploration of the symbiotic relationship between man-made and natural environments, and their impacts on our experience of Earth. The exhibition takes as its point of departure the biological concept of symbiosis: any association between two species that live together, whether the species benefit, harm, or have no effect on one another. From three artists come three points of view: that of landscape in constant change (Gerald Saladyga); nature reasserting itself into abandoned architectural spaces (Pamela J. Wallace); and line as an everywhere experience (Susan Monserud). Inviting us to question the very nature of the civilization that shapes our (human) world, After Architecture opens on April 2 from 5-8pm and runs through April 24.

Gerald Saladyga is an ultramodern landscape painter, unwilling to omit the entire cosmological, political and cultural context he perceives from all peripheries. He considers his objective “to re-define how landscape could artistically be presented. Viewers can contemplate a beautiful meadow colored with wildflowers, but if they gaze to the right or left there are high-tension wires cutting across their field of vision. Autumn forests that are photographed and painted omit the highways that pass through the middle of them, the clear-cut side of the mountain or the unseen pollution that seeps through it all. What is often really seen is edited and what is presented is an 18th or 19th century romantic view.” Saladyga views his work a continuation of the landscape painting genre, while also serving as a political, environmental and social statement. “For me, the natural landscape no longer survives. It has been bulldozed, dynamited, clear-cut, polluted, war-ravaged, tunneled…then left alone or re-thought, re-invented, re-imagined, or re-built in never ending cycles.”

Pamela J. Wallace spends a lot of time looking at abandoned factories and empty buildings. She studies the patterns of weeds in cracks of concrete, the forms of rusting industrial machinery, vines growing on buildings where siding boards warp and twist in the weather. “These spaces,” she writes, “are rich sources of imagery. These are the remnants of a society undergoing a sea change. My work is a response to this strange interval between a nearly forgotten culture founded on the manufacture of physical objects, and one based in the cerebral manipulation of information.” When she’s not in the studio, laying out parts like “specimens in a natural history museum or trays of parts on an assembly line,” she teaches art to maximum security prisoners twice a week through the Bard College Prison Initiative. “I notice order and repetition in our architectural styles, and in the natural forms of weeds and plants. It often seems as though industrial processes mimic the order and efficiency of nature; both strive for an elegant economy of production.”

Susan Monserud approaches art from the other side of the drafting table. A retired architect, she spent the greater part of her career building no-frills utilitarian structures like hospitals and clinics in various climates and cultures in the developing world. Now she is free to work entirely from her imagination. “Line has always been compelling to me,” she writes. “Its qualities are aesthetic, informational, ambiguous and surprising. Line is an everywhere experience: you look and see, listen and hear, perceive and sense regardless of place and time.” Susan’s work references elements of the natural world as well as built structures both recalled and imagined. A common theme is expressing through a small detail the essence of the whole. “Mine is a journey of exploration, abstraction, accumulation, expansion, permutation, discovery, uncertainty, transformation. I am intrigued by ambiguity of image. I often don’t know where I am going, but as I work, I know when I get there.”

After Architecture depicts a world both real and abandoned, predicted and perceived, in order to diffuse the laws of nature in situ with the world of human debris. Focusing intently on the sprawling patterns of our human impact on the planet—and on ourselves—and their reverberations back at us, Gerald Saladyga, Susan Monserud and Pamela J. Wallace create both artifacts of human experience and imprints of natural selection, in a dizzying array of media, color, subject and dimension. “But in truth architecture never ends,” Saladyga adds. “People always need shelter and community.” All are our truths, and all are our relations, just like the Earth we call our home.