|Capitalism gone wrong: Photographer Gregor Turk's "Blank Billboard Series" explores weathered, derelict and abandoned road signs along a fictitious "Interstate 50."|
For anyone with a car, billboards are an unavoidable constant. Their huge ads lord over our urban and rural landscapes, unless the signs are empty, offering neither excuse or clue about how they got that way.
Gregor Turk's photographic series explores the surfaces and contexts of blank billboards in a journey across the country along fictitious Intestates 50. His poster-size photos focus as much on each unused billboard as on the environment, leaving the viewer to speculate about its condition, value and origin.
Turk has assembled a beautiful cross section of places and ideas. Many of the best images pay homage to the great minimalist painters. "I-50:SD 01" features an iced-over South Dakota billboard for a gas station, its whitewashed face complete with a Dairy Queen symbol. The weathered facade seems to echo the white-on-white canvases of abstract painter Robert Ryman, bringing a loop between artistic and historic influences.
Besides the art references (inferences?), Turk's billboards are about the sociopolitical implications of capitalism gone wrong. Most likely, some are in places that had a population now in decline, and others were always located in the "wrong place" or were put there by someone who has s business.
On the whole, "Interstate 50" is a very good show; it's only weakness is the postcardish look of the scenes taken out West, suggesting fields of amber grain or tranquil sunsets over purple mountains. If Turk continues in this area he should be wary of such melodrama.
E-mail to Gregor Turk