Eleven Mega Churches, Thirty-four Parking Lots, Forty-one Walmart Supercenters, Every Church in Fayette County and finally--Residential Facades. Travis Shaffer, a recent MFA graduate from the University of Kentucky, has spent the past two years documenting various aspects of America’s less-than-enthralling architectural landscape and development through his steady production of photographs, books and portfolios. His most recent project, Residential Facades, visually recalls the austere photographs of Bernd and Hilla Becher, but is distinctly local in its treatment of Southern suburban architecture and the unnerving anomaly of street-oriented residential facades without doors or windows.
Shaffer's Residential Facades photographs are painfully flat and devoid of depth, character and richness. The images wholly embrace and intensify the landscape's bleakness and lack of history, favoring sterility and coldness over any suggestion of development or progress. The gallery installation, stark and geometric, resembles an IKEA-sponsored marketing wall for a recently constructed ghost town. The houses, devoid of human or animal life, are accompanied only by anemic trees and well-groomed monochromatic lawns. These structures are very clearly houses, not homes.
In anticipation of the World Equestrian Games, Lexington entered a period of breakneck development and infrastructural improvements that will have long-lasting effects on our community. I was particularly interested in using this installation as a litmus test for the willingness of the community to accept implicit criticism. Shaffer's work paints a sobering picture of unchecked development but is able to disguise its social and conceptual critiques in symmetry, line and form.
-Phillip March Jones