Exposing a consumerist society is at the heart of a Bottle Works exhibition.
“For Your Consumption,” featuring the work of married couple Alva Cado and Nathan Heuer, is on display through Aug. 11 at the art gallery located at 411 Third Ave. in the Cambria City section of Johnstown.
Both artists use watercolor and graphite and the works share a technical connection.
Less obvious, but still present, is the conceptual connection that binds the two artists’ work.
Consumerism dominates contemporary western culture, and the two bodies of work reach back to the capitalistic origins of this phenomena.
Cado’s figurative drawings approach a broader theme through the critique of food advertising and consumption, paired with issues of gender commodification.
Heuer’s architectural drawings render in minute detail the artifacts of an aggressively consumerist society.
Collectively, the drawings explore the pervasiveness of this consumerism, inviting the viewer to consider the submerged, yet ever-present influence of advertising, media and bottom-line economics in everyday life.
Heuer said his work is concerned with the role of architecture in society as a symbol of cultural values and history.
“The American landscape is full of contemporary ruins of factories, hotels, schools and other architecture that has fallen by the wayside in an aggressively consumerist society,” he said.
“Each of these abandoned structures forms the nucleus of a small narrative, often one of lost likelihoods, budgetary cuts and dying industries.”
Heuer said he chooses to decontextualize the subject of each drawing, removing the structure from its surroundings and isolating it on a white ground.
“This aesthetic decision is intended to echo the fragmentary picture of history that we are presented with in a museum, where isolated artifacts are meant to tell us the story of an unfamiliar culture,” he said. “I use mechanical perspective as a means of meditating on the design process that went into the commonplace structures that I depict.”
Cado said her series “Meat Market” tackles themes of femininity, masculinity and consumerism in contemporary culture.
“This form of aggressive consumerism, which began after World War II, transcends traditional notions of the manufactured object and transforms even the human figure into an object for unabashed consumption,” she said. “The pieces create satirical scenarios, calling into question the validity of traditional gender roles and how those roles are commodified in our modern consumerist culture.”
Market-style cuts of raw meat traditionally associated with masculinity and hunting are paired with the exaggerated femininity of historical female pin-up imagery from the post-war era.
“Alternatively, male beefcake and cowboy imagery is paired with fruits and vegetables that have come to be identified with femininity and gathering,” Cado said. “Such juxtapositions call into question the realities of contemporary marketing and advertising, which continually mirror back our simplistic notions of femininity and masculinity in an effort to sell consumables.”
An ArtBites luncheon and discussion with Cado and Heuer will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
Cost is $10 for members and $12 for the public in advance and $15 at the door.
Reservations can be made by calling 535-2020 or visit www.bottleworks.org.
Kelly Urban is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5073. Follow her on Twitter @KellyUrban25.