Con/Text: The Souvenir Series

Gregor Turk
Artist's Statement
For the Exhibition in Atlanta
December 17, 1998 - January 23, 1999

     In 1995, I began making rubbings of plaques during an artist's residency at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center in up-state Minnesota. Itasca State Park, where the head waters of the Mississippi are located, has all sorts of cast plaques and historical markers. The general viewpoint of these markers, along with the excessive use of superlatives found in their text, affected my perspective and experience of the corresponding landscape. During another residency in 1997 at the Ucross Foundation in northeastern Wyoming, I continued to explore the connection between a sanctioned narrative and place. The Con/Text exhibition was a result of these two residencies. However, the bulk of the work in the exhibition related to my home environs- Atlanta. Atlanta Marker
A Typical State Historical Marker
Atlanta, Ga.
Atlanta Marker
The Healey Building
Imperial Post Card
Atlanta, Ga.
     Unlike Interstate 50, a previous exhibition of photographs of blank billboards, Con/Text: The Souvenir Series embraced the written word in a variety of forms. The series utilized text acquired on location from plaques through wax-oil rubbings. The text was often combined with images appropriated from vintage postcards depicting Atlanta's landmark buildings.
     Many of the postcards produced early in the century were altered photographs. Not just the color was added. Since long exposures were normal, the blurred street activity found in the foreground had to be re-created. Most of the photographic work was done in Germany and the altered images often reflected that culture: pedestrians were dressed in European garb and cars were distinctively German. Fluttering flags were redrawn: ridiculously oversized and perfectly centered for the given vantage point.
Atlanta Marker
Detail of the Piedmont Hotel
Imperial Post Card
Atlanta, Ga.
Atlanta Marker
The Hurt and Candler Buildings
     For this body of work, the postcard images were stripped of their color and enlarged to poster size. Multi-colored wax-oil rubbings were then applied to the silkscreen prints using the raised text of corresponding historical plaques and markers found on location. Landmarks include the built (The Hurt Building), the razed (The Piedmont Hotel), the presently renovated (The Biltmore), and the historically fabricated (Riverside). The text corresponded to the images in various ways: to validate, complement, or contradict the image.
     Three works in the Con/Text exhibition related to Riverside by Post, a "new-urbanism" development located on Northside Parkway at the Chattahoochee in Altanta. The work was a humorous response to the faux history used by Post Properties in its promotional packages. For more information please see the February 18, 1998 article from the Wall Street Journal by Ann Carrns entitled "How a Brand-New Development Came by Its Rich History."
Riverside Realted Works
Riverside Related Works
     The exhibition included a pair of scrolls which served to map the two main axes of Atlanta, north-south (Peachtree St./Whitehall St.) and west-east (Marietta St./Decatur St./Dekalb Ave). Text from a variety of plaques found along these corridors was utilized. Anything "important" enough to be cast with raised text was eligible. Size and accessibility were determining factors. But when it came right down to it, my own whims and desires prevailed, like any good mapmaker- agenda was paramount.

The Con/Text exhibition was supported in part by the City of Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs and the Swan Coach House Gallery which is administered by the Forward Arts Foundation, Inc. The exhibition curator was Trinkett Clark.

Other Destinations:


Interstate 50 
Urban Tablets 


All images © 1998 Gregor Turk