Susan Hamburger ‘Zone B’ — May 2015

Susan Hamburger  “Zone B”

Auxiliary Projects is privileged to present “Zone B,” an installation by Susan Hamburger, from May 22nd through June 28, 2015. There will be an opening reception on Friday, May 22nd, from 6-8pm. The gallery is open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-6pm and by appointment.

Over the past 15 years Susan Hamburger has placed ‘the decorative’ at the center of her conceptual focus, using ornamental forms and objects as metaphors and vessels to consider power, history and class. “Zone B” divides the diminutive gallery into two rooms: the rear room is hung with original watercolor paintings like a traditional old-fashioned gallery and the front room is modeled after an even more old-fashioned 18th century ‘print room.’ Primarily a 19th century British phenomenon, the print room is one in a series of ways the habits of the post-industrial affluent have been mimicked by the merely comfortable. While the ‘great rooms’ of the Regency Period boasted original fine art paintings and sculptures harvested on the grand tours of wealthy young men, the print rooms of more modest families featured printed or engraved versions of similar works pasted directly onto the wall in salon style. Print rooms were women’s endeavors, and the ladies of the 18th and 19th century often expressed their personal interests through wall decorations on a single theme such as landscapes. For this exhibition Hamburger has transformed the front half of the gallery into a lovely and festive print room themed on the environmental degradation occasioned by cynical capitalism.

Framed within Hamburger’s decorative swags and cartouches are paintings of the CEOs of polluting industries and the politicians and scientists who support their endeavors. These sepia portraits of the likes of the Koch brothers are surrounded by motifs representing energy, wildlife and natural disasters. “Zone B” follows Hamburger’s previous series “Green Men” (2010-2011), addressing the Gulf Oil spill; and “Creeping Ornamentalism” (2012), an installation responding to Hurricane Irene that was exhibited during Hurricane Sandy. Like these past projects, “Zone B” mines connections between politics, industry, and science in relation to climate change denial.

Hamburger’s installation materials are a contemporary update on printed engravings: the original watercolor paintings on view in the back gallery have been reprinted onto the removable vinyl adhesive decals common in upper middle class design porn magazines and pasted directly on the wall in the front print room. The architectural details of the room such as cornices, moldings and wainscoting have been hand-carved out of light and thrifty sheets of foam core. A grimy flood tide line rings the room 12” above the ground warning us that the gallery resides in the City of New York’s Hurricane Zone ‘B,’ and that our own comfortable existence in this neighborhood, city and planet should hardly be taken for granted. Cheers!

About this work: Cultural Politics, March 2016