One For The Road explores the mixed blessings of car-dependent America. The exhibition brings together 2 artists whose paintings of charming backroads, urban highway overpasses or merging freeways capture a sense of place, motion and transition. While illustrating a sinister aura of anonymity and monotonous daily grind, the works acknowledge the beauty of this inescapable routine. Referencing Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer’s 1943 hit song One for My Baby (and One More for the Road), the paintings in One For The Road reflect the theme of this wandering song, confronting melancholy and isolation, but at the same time celebrate the glory of ‘the road’, evoking the iconic American road trip as the ultimate example of the journey as the destination.
Brooklyn based Yanik Wagner’s road sceneries capture the mundane and ordinary in an inherently mysterious world. Based on observation and memory, his paintings, titled FDR Drive, Vermont Highway or Roebling are distillations of particular places and events. In the familiarity of the ordinary, the viewer is left with the absurdity of the world that induces a sense of connectedness among us all. The artist paints images of the visible world with the intention of conveying his sense of physical location within it.
Trying to depict the peculiar state of being-in-the-world, Wagner transforms his experience into a painted, two-dimensional analog of that state. The paintings convey the unique experience of being on the road, the thrill that lies in the moving, watching the passing landscape change and pausing spontaneously on impulse. Presenting two distinct series, Edie Nadelhaft’s paintings are based on imagery seen while being on the road, the perspective is that of the traveler in a motor-vehicle. Night Tripper is a series of small oil paintings of seasonally abandoned beach roads depicted just before night falls. Twilight is an ambiguous moment where vision becomes unreliable and safety an issue. But it also is relief; daylight is so demanding! Traveling down that road at night offers protection, a respite, like a spell that conjures a brief suspension of responsibility.
The series Big Country consists of imagery glimpsed in the artist’s rearview mirrors as she travels North America by motorcycle. Many of the mostly circular paintings are tiny and situated within actual motorcycle mirror housings, featuring scenes from that quintessential American rite of passage: the road trip. In a society that has become more reliant on digital cultures and conveniences, the urge to travel and to experience the actual world is diminishing. Nadelhaft not only documents the strange and spectacular places in-between destinations, but the act of visiting, of being on the road, as well. The rearview mirror becomes a metaphor for the road trip itself, as it too recedes into the past.
America is not a place, it is a road.