David Linneweh
David Linneweh paints unpeopled, architectural landscapes always carefully rendered on bare wood supports. Sometimes the buildings are taken apart and reassembled – fractured almost beyond recognition. Other landscapes are left incomplete with empty spaces that demand completion in viewers’ minds. What could this mean in early 21st century America? They bring to mind Ed Ruscha’s slick, modern gas stations in the 1950s and 60s. It was boom time for Americans – unprecedented growth and prosperity particularly for the middle class after years of war. The scenes Ruscha captures are from the vantage point of a car. New highways, hotels, gas stations led to rapidly built suburban landscapes. The overall feeling was of optimism and faith in progress in the thick of the “American Century.”

What are we to make of Linneweh’s fractured or incomplete landscapes then? They are careful formal meditations, but they also speak of the past. The subject is similar to Rushcha’s and many before him – the American scene. Ruscha was capturing the modern by choosing to depict new gas stations with their primary colors and gleaming metal. The buildings that populate Linneweh’s landscapes were built decades ago . . . houses from the 40s, centers of once thriving Midwestern towns. If the structures are contemporary, then they are of the mass produced variety like the Burger Kings that populate banal suburban feeder roads. There is a sense of nostalgia and maybe a hint of pessimism (represented in the fracturing of the scene) in Linneweh’s American landscapes. They remind us we are no longer in the midst of the “American Century” but embroiled in an endgame of sorts. All the progress of the 20th century appears to have fallen off the 21st century cliff. The middle class that experienced unprecedented growth in the 50s and 60s is shrinking. The effectiveness of democracy, a system that was celebrated for overturning fascism in World War II, is being questioned. So instead of Ruscha’s nice, neat, monumental temples of consumer culture, we have Linneweh imploding the monuments as well as looking back to the time in which the monuments were erected.

-Angela Reinoehl, Senior Lecturer in Art History at SIUC-