Olivia Erlanger: Split-level Paradise

709 N. Hill St. inside Asian Center upstairs suite #105 Los Angeles, CA 90012 USA
Jan 25, 7 PM - 10 PM — ends Mar 07, 2020
Through her sculpture, writing, and filmmaking, Olivia Erlanger examines how architecture frames American dreams and delusions.

Her exhibition of three new sculptures, Split-level Paradise, reflects upon the infatuation with home ownership in the US. The title refers to a style of home with staggered floor levels, which gained popularity in the years following World War II as suburbs expanded. Drawing from a wide breadth of research, Erlanger sees the marketed dream of homeownership as inextricably linked to the gender oppression of the “housewife” and a geographical pattern of racial discrimination otherwise known as red-lining. She also points to the economic crash of 2007-08, when a trillion dollars of dud mortgages blew up the financial system, and the hopes of the so-called American middle class. Erlanger’s latest body of work asks if the dream is coming to an end; moreover, was it ever real to begin with?

For this exhibition Erlanger takes inspiration from appearances of snow globes in cinema––citing references from Citizen Kane (1941) to Falling Down (1993)––to show the dream out-of-reach but also to create a liminal barrier between illusion and reality. In the free-standing sculptures, plexiglass spheres encapsulate three-dimensional models of typical suburban houses surrounded by muddy lawns. Erlanger deftly uses the snow globe form to magnify the contradictions of the elusive American dream: While the model houses in plexiglass cases adopt strategies of commercial display designed to generate desire, the buildings themselves are deliberately drab. The homes both construct and are victim to their environments. Flurries of artificial snow appear to swirl upward and "melt" under an equally artificial light. The tempestuous man-made weather within this internal system becomes a metaphor for entrapment and the desire to escape illusion.