FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
BALTIMORE, MD, June 6th, 2019
Please join AIA Baltimore and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation for the opening reception of Leftovers and Breezeblocks, Suzy Kopf’s solo show at AIA Baltimore June 6, from 5-7pm. The show will be up through August 1st, 2019 from 9-5PM each day and by appointment.
LEFTOVERS: The Last Streetcar Sites (first floor gallery)
This project truly began in the summer of 2014 when the artist moved to Baltimore by way of Brooklyn, NY and San Francisco, CA. Coming from the American west, driving is part of her artistic practice; it’s the way she gets to know a new place, a scavenger hunt she enacts with herself. She tried to make sense of the maze of one-way streets and mixture of architectural styles she had never seen before and noticed she was looking for patterns, connections and systems that would align Baltimore with the other cities she has lived in.
On Kopf’s early Baltimore drives, she was intrigued by odd structures like the Falls Road Waiting Shelter and imposing buildings like Park Terminal that immediately felt like they came out of another time. Baltimore’s unique blend of buildings quickly became one of her favorite things about the city and a focus of her work.
It wasn’t until Kopf began research in the Baltimore Streetcar Museum’s archives in the summer of 2017 that she realized that the system that brought together neighborhoods in the network she was looking for doesn’t exist anymore. Streetcars were taken out of service in Baltimore in the fall of 1963 and the system has been slowly dismantled in the decades since. The remaining thirty-eight sites in this series of watercolor collages are testament to a history that is disappearing.
Nostalgia always rides a fine line, and this project is nostalgic for something that worked that no longer works. Public transportation in Baltimore today is an embarrassment few people will protest. She sees this work as an investigation of the past through today’s remainders: what locations have been preserved so far and which have fallen away and asks us to consider, why?
BREEZEBLOCKS: The Last Levittown (basement gallery)
Between 1947 and the early 1970s real-estate developers the Levitt Brothers built more than 140,000 houses, mostly in the continental United States and then later internationally. At the height of construction, the Levitt brothers built a house every sixteen minutes. These tract housing suburbs represent the first affordable housing option for many GIs returning from WWII and are considered to be a physical embodiment of a version of the American Dream of homeownership for the masses. Kopf’s ongoing body of work, Dream House, draws upon the carefully crafted architectural plans, advertising and design elements the company used in New York, New Jersey and Puerto Rico to establish their brand in the American ethos of attainable, yet aspirational, luxury.
In March of 2017 Kopf traveled to Puerto Rico’s Levittown and documented the well-preserved midcentury homes there. Back in Baltimore working from photographs, she painted the tropical “Last Levittown” (nicknamed such because it was the last town to be built bearing the brothers’ name) as Hurricane Maria ravaged the island. The paintings function as a testament both to the impermanence of the seemingly permanent and to our government’s efforts to conceal unpleasant realities from its citizens. In protest of this, she has been donating the proceeds of sales from this series towards the still on-going relief efforts.
Unable to conclusively find out if the homes she painted still exist or in what condition they are more than eighteen months after the storm, Kopf returned to Levittown in the February of 2019. From that visit, she painted the series of twelve watercolors displayed in the gallery.
Kopf believes the midcentury was the last truly optimistic time in American design history and enjoys looking for the cracks in the seemingly perfect veneer of this time. Examining the midcentury today uncovers scores of problematic scenarios and realities that we must still confront today.
First floor and basement galleries
American Institute of Architects - Baltimore Chapter
11 1/2 W Chase St, #1
Baltimore, MD 21201