The development of the suburbs changed the social, political, and environmental landscape of America forever. The postwar exodus to a growing suburbia signified possibilities and prosperity, which is far different from our view of the suburbs now. Artists have been examining the conventions of suburban life since the first white picket fence appeared. While we anticipate the Mad Men season finale airing tonight — a series that knows a thing or two about suburban development and the hopes and fears of a country facing great change — let’s take a look at ten artworks that interpret the spirit of the suburbs.
For many, tract houses, or “cookie cutter homes,” are a smothering symbol of everything wrong with America. They signify a detestable cheaper/faster/more mentality. Designer Chad Wright, who we learned about on Phaidon, grew up in a sprawling suburb of California. For his three-part installation series Master Plan, Wright looked to his childhood memories for inspiration, “conflating a child’s sandcastle with architecture typifying postwar American suburbia.” For part one of the series, Wright created L-shaped suburban homes out of sand, installed them along the shore, and documented their destruction by the waves — perhaps reflecting the recent United States housing bubble.