Marshall Gallery: Robert G. Achtel: The City of Namara

Marshall Gallery presents an exhibition of works by the German artist and designer Robert G. Achtel. This is Achtel’s second presentation with the gallery and the first full exhibition of his suite of nine works by Namara townincluding the launch of three new pieces from the multi-year project.

Namara town by Robert G. Achtel presents an American city that exists somewhere between fact and fiction through nine original composites meticulously created from the artist’s photographs and drawings. The citizens are nowhere to be found, but it is the implicit human drama presented in each play that draws the viewer into a gripping tale of excess and despair. Ostensibly, the series alludes to a period of architectural upheaval where the norms of modernism were challenged, even rejected, by a new school of designers. At the end of the 1960s, the truth became almost relative and this new age is inscribed in architecture through irony, seduction and profitability.

In 2008, among the outskirts of “Old Vegas” away from the Strip, Achtel found a dubious but magical place where the disappearance of modernist ideals and the rise of postmodern concepts still lingered in the desert air. After closely studying the work of architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Achtel found a creative trail to pursue, a larger story about society and modern life, reflected in American Roadside; “Glass facades reflect the opposite side of the street, but they also reflect the hopes and fears of the society from which they emerged.”

Through his inventive architecture, the artist subtly reflects on existential human themes such as love, loss, sexuality and addiction. The city Achtel imagined is a place of contradictions where the promises of post-war America still resonate, but at the same time the realities of postmodern life take center stage, isolation and emptiness being a dominant theme. It’s no coincidence, as his earliest photography took place during the 2009 recession, when countless commercial buildings were left derelict. The viewer discovers this conceptual duality in the rooms through neighboring structures such as the “Relapse” nightclub near its psychedelic pharmacy or the contradictory messages of the neon sign, as in the “Lost Lovers” facade which incites to forgive and forget, but at the same time offers you to “win them back”.

To create this perpetually sunny yet sardonic memory of late 20th century America, Achtel pioneered a truly unique digital process, composing thousands of his reference images shot in Nevada, Florida and La California. From these disparate and extremely complex elements, he arranged light, shadow, texture and color with pinpoint precision. In each work, a harmony of bright hues reminiscent of the first chromatic films saturates the scene, perhaps as a metaphor for the energetic and uninhibited ambitions of the time. Therefore, Namara townlike the surroundings of these urban oases from which its components come, appears both real and artificial, oscillating between optimism and cynical jokes.

Robert G. Achtel (b. 1980) lives and works in Wiesbaden, Germany. Coming from a prolific and award-winning training as a graphic designer, it is easy to recognize the influence of Achtel’s craftsmanship in his artistic practice. For this presentation, the artist shares for the first time many of the source photographs used to construct each piece, providing an entertaining insight into his working process and vision.

Robert G. Achtel: The City of Namara
July 9 – August 20, 2022
Marshall Gallery
2525 Michigan Ave #A6
Santa Monica, California 90404

About James K. Bonnette

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