My work depicts the ubiquitous built environments found near the highways and interstates that surround and interconnect our cities. These places are the commercial landscapes and sprawl that seem to dominate an ever growing part of our landscape in North America. They depict the clutter of things that keeps the infrastructure in serviceable operation, the industries that sustain our lifestyles and the businesses and shopping complexes found repeatedly throughout and around our cities. They are environments that I pass through and rely on, but ones I also find distressing. I endure them as much as I reject them. They are environments shaped by a dependence on automobiles, consumer habits, and globalized production. To me they represent excess and wastefulness, the difficulty of implementing different paradigms for living, and the blinding presence of corporate capitalism.
I work primarily with printmaking, which both parallels, and conflicts with my subject matter. This process allows me to emphasize the role technology plays in our lives, and mimic the production that occurs at many of the places I depict. Just as prints exist as multiples, so do the places and objects I choose to document, which are typically mass produced and pervasive. The contradiction between the handmade, and the mass produced is an enduring conundrum for me that I find within the processes of printmaking.
Although I begin with photographs and video, the images I create are typically hand drawn and hand printed in their finished form. To capture the video and photos I use for my work, I simply set up a camera on a small flexible tripod on the dashboard of my car, and head out onto the highways and roads while it records what I pass by. These images are then used to produce the drawings for the prints. For me this process mirrors the dilemma that is central to my relationship to these places. Although I can choose how to draw these places, my hand is still directed by them as I trace over their image.
It is this missing sense of individual agency that compels me to create this work. I am afforded some amount of control over these places by the way in which I choose to depict them. I reduce these multicolored commercial landscapes to a range of grays and remove the names of the businesses from the signs in an attempt to cease their incessant advertising. These places may then appear abandoned and allude to the economic cycles of boom and bust. They may also offer a glimpse of a future when these places may be distant memories and our built environment is very different from what is currently accepted. Although the work captures my own conflicting and often ambivalent feelings, I hope that it can in some way add to a dialogue about issues related to the quality of our built environment, how we live our lives, and how much of our lives are dominated by systems far beyond our control.
Kevin Haas grew up in the rust belt of the Midwest, inspired by the abandoned industrial areas of St Louis, Chicago, and Gary, IN. He earned his BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a MFA from Indiana University where he studied printmaking and digital media. He is currently a Professor at Washington State University where he coordinates the printmaking area. Since 1995 his work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions across the US and in Canada. He has been included in exhibits at OHGE Ltd. and Davidson Galleries in Seattle, the Jundt Museum in Spokane and Deluge Contemporary Art in Victoria, BC.. He is a recipient of both the Artist Trust Fellowship and GAP grants, and was an artist in residence at the Frans Masereel Center in Belgium in 2010 and 2012.
Professor & Printmaking Area Coordinator Department of Fine Art Washington State University
27.08.2012 - 21.09.2012