Austin Irving sees meanings where none exist. The artist carves out existential purposes out of unassuming architectural labyrinths. Documented on large format 4 by 5 films and blown up uniformly to 48 inches in width for display, the captured mazes are enthrallingly painterly. The skewed perspective is unreservedly gorgeous.
In the show titled Not an Exit at Wilding Cran Gallery, the photographs hang low, hovering not far off the gallery floor. They are mesmerizingly inviting, as if we could leave the three dimensional reality behind and step into the flat realm. The visual effect is not, however, some optical illusion trickeries. The experience is more akin to discovering the portal to Platform 9 and Three Quarters at Kings Cross Station. Of course, as Muggles, we can only transport to the eerily dimension vicariously through the eyes of Irving.
The series was photographed during the artist’s travel over the past several years, dotting a few spots across America, Netherlands, and in the Pacific, including Singapore and Malaysia. Seeing the faceless, strangely universal architectural non-details is a bit like browsing through an Airbnb listing —the mystery of an unknown destination excites. The difference is the absence of romance in Irving’s documentation. The cold, uninhabitable scenes feel forgotten or seedy at best. But come to think of it, we may actually have been to one of these locations and walked through its solitary corridor; tight budget family vacations ring a bell, and so do cheap business trips.
The power of Irving’s photographs derives from their nondescript nature, robbing the images of cultural signifiers and social cues. The resulting proposal is a bland vision of a globally universal utopia that looks quite dystopian. We must find an exit and escape, but one is nowhere to be found. Irving has trapped us deep inside her labyrinths.
Austin Irving’s Not an Exit is on view through June 27, 2015 at Wilding Cran Gallery. It’s a FLY-THERE-IF-YOU-MUST.
All images by author for editorial purposes only.