Carrying on the tradition of showing local artists work, the Akron Art Museum
presents the photography of University of Akron Distinguished Professor Andrew Borowiec in Looking for the American Dream: Andrew Borowiecs Ohio Photographs, on view February 20 May 30, 2010.
Borowiec has been photographing the social landscape of Middle America for over a quarter century. Looking for the American Dream, which focuses on the artists images of Ohio, contrasts his traditional gelatin silver photography from his series Along the Ohio (1980s and 90s) with images from his most recent series, The New Heartland, in which he explores the use of color photography and digital printing.
Having grown up in France, Algeria, Tunisia and Switzerland, Borowiec knew little about the Midwest when he moved to Akron in 1984. He decided to photograph the Ohio River Valley and encountered what was, to him, an alien environment.
Clapboard houses with deep front porches and white picket fences, pickup trucks and enormous sedans, backyards with satellite dishes and barbeque grills made from 55-gallon oil drums all seemed to me both exotic and authentically American, said Borowiec. I thought I had found the ideal world depicted in the Dick and Jane primers
but this place had an unexpected, gritty, industrial flavor.
Borowiecs landscapes focus on environments created by human intervention, said Barbara Tannenbaum, director of curatorial affairs at the Akron Art Museum. In this exhibition, his photographs examine three centuries of Ohio history, traveling from small 19th century agricultural towns to 20th century industrial metropolises to the candy-colored suburbs sprouting up these days on what used to be farmland.
The silhouettes of factories and mills often loom in the background of Borowiecs images of workers houses. These landscapes, mingling dwellings with faltering or failed factories, signaled the end of the great Industrial Age of the Midwest. So, what will the heartland of the 21st century look like? Borowiec observed that the rolling farmlands and idyllic small towns that used to define our heartland are rapidly giving way to vast developments of mini-mansions and shopping villages designed to evoke an imagined era of luxurious consumerism. Those structures may be no more substantial than plastic toys, but they allow everyone the chance to achieve the trappings of the American Dream. Feeling that color was imperative for this subject matter, Borowiec explored film-based color photography, coupling it with large-scale digital printing.
The winner of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Ohio Arts Council, Borowiecs work has been exhibited around the world and is in numerous museum collections including the Akron Art Museum, Art Institute of Chicago, Cleveland Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Princeton University Art Museum and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. In 2006, Borowiec was also awarded the Cleveland Arts Prize.
Borowiec received a B.A. in Russian from Haverford College in 1979 and an M.F.A. in Photography from Yale University in 1982. He has taught photography at Parsons School of Design, the New School for Social Research, Germantown Academy and Oberlin College. Since 1984 he has been a professor at the University of Akron, recently being named a Distinguished Professor of Art.