Travis Shaffer

Residential Facades: Volume Two, 2010, Silver gelatin prints in IKEA Ribbed Frames, 9 x 9 inches.

Travis Shaffer: Residential Facades

August 12 - September 5, 2010

Travis Shaffer, an MFA graduate of the University of Kentucky, has been documenting the architecture of the American suburbs for years. Influenced by artists such as Ed Ruscha, he has produced a steady stream of portfolios and small books that document commercial and religious properties: mega-churches, parking lots, and Wal-Mart shopping centers. For his exhibition at Institute 193, Residential Facades, Shaffer turned his lens on structures built for shelter.

Shaffer’s project is distinctly local; the buildings featured in these pictures are from specific suburban developments in Kentucky. However, each structure is so bland, so generic, they could be from any community in the United States. This spirit of sterile anonymity was reinforced by the gallery installation—each photograph was printed to fit inside mass-produced IKEA frames and arranged in stark grids.

Shaffer captures each house from one dimension, usually choosing to focus on street-oriented edifices with no doors or windows. Devoid of human or animal life, Shaffer presents these structures as houses—not homes. Though his project makes a deliberate reference to Industrial Facades, a series by the German photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher, Shaffer’s aim is not to seek out overlooked beauty. On the contrary, these photographs are a critique of mindless consumerism and unplanned, unchecked development.

Residential Facades was timed to coincide with the 2010 World Equestrian Games. As host city, Lexington, Kentucky, entered a period of hurried infrastructural expansion to prepare for an influx of international visitors. Shaffer’s exhibition is a poignant reminder of the implications of unbridled sprawl. 

 

Residential Facades: Volume Two, 2010, Silver gelatin prints in IKEA Ribbed Frames, 9 x 9 inches.

Residential Facades: Volume Two, 2010, Silver gelatin prints in IKEA Ribbed Frames, 9 x 9 inches.

Residential Facades: Volume Two, 2010, Silver gelatin prints in IKEA Ribbed Frames, 9 x 9 inches.

Residential Facades: Volume Two, 2010, Silver gelatin prints in IKEA Ribbed Frames, 9 x 9 inches.

Residential Facades: Volume Two, 2010, Silver gelatin prints in IKEA Ribbed Frames, 9 x 9 inches.


Installation view

About the Artist:

Travis Shaffer (born1983, Pennsylvania, United States) is an artist, a book maker, an educator, and a photographer—of sorts. Though trained as a photographer, Shaffer's work evades disciplinary boundaries.

Embedded in his practice is a curiosity about the ontology of photography. Specifically, this results in a particular interest in the visual and structural language of both vernacular photographs and those found within the broad spectrum of artistic practice. As an extension of his interest in photographic communication and image function, Shaffer's work deals heavily with the ‘use’ of the photographic image and relationships between image and text.

Shaffer has produced a growing international record of research: including a recent solo exhibition at DEMO Projects; publication in Elephant and Photoworks magazines; participation in the 2014 Brighton Photo Biennial, inclusion in an MIT Press publication titled Various Small Books—the acting catalogue for a 2013 exhibition titled Ed Ruscha: Books & Co. which was exhibited at Gagosian Gallery—Uptown and Museum Brandhorst, and active membership in an international artists’ book cooperative [ABC]. 

Currently Travis is based in Columbia, MO, where he is an Assistant Teaching Professor in Art at the University of Missouri.