Over the past few years, many photographers have tried to frame the home foreclosure epidemic in a meaningful, visceral way. They’ve tried to capture the empty bedrooms and abandoned lots of an over-mortgaged, hollowed out, defaulted-on American Dream.
Ben Grasso, an oil painter based in Cleveland—a city no stranger to foreclosure—has a different method of baring America’s suburban emptiness: blowing up houses. Not literally, of course, but artistically. Ka-boom!
“Grasso takes a modern American painterly tradition and mixes it with contemporary cinematic spectacle,” comments Architizer’s Kelly Chan. “In his subject matter and painting style,”
he overtly borrows the visual vocabulary forged by hallmark painters of modern American life. His thick brushwork and rich, opaque colors find resonance with works by artists like Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler, Georgia O’Keefe. However, his in-your-face spontaneous combustions recast images of the American dream as volatile fantasies. In these paintings, pristine homes are desecrated, caught in the path of an apocalyptic disaster fit for a summer blockbuster movie.
I’ll add that Grasso’s disassembled homes echo the modern architectural principle of materialistic “honesty,” or being very up front about how the building materials used relate to the structure’s design. (Yes I’m grossly oversimplifying that idea.) Every plank and pipe, every concrete pylon and whitewashed windowpane is exposed in schematic isolation. The homes in Grasso’s painting are frozen between a blueprint and a scrapheap—similar, you might say, to the lives of many middle class Americans today.