Writing Archive

Little pink houses: Rick Newton's Cul-de-Sac Utopia captures the beauty - and dangers - of the suburban landscape

Street Miami, June 10, 2004

Summer is here, and appropriately, so is the work of Palm Beach artist Rick Newton at Ingalls and Associates. Life in the heat of South Florida is the subject of his exhibition Cul-de-sac Utopia which addresses not just the attraction of suburban living, but also the impact of nearly unregulated growth on the local landscape.

Sprawl and drought worry the artist, and while ostensibly the work reflects these issues, it generally looks too friendly to make a heavy statement. But the pieces do succeed at abstracting the South Florida look, the natural and the phony, with canny choices of colors and materials.

In Suburban Siamese Twins, an inflatable vinyl pillow is outfitted with two sprinkler heads, facing each other as if in conversation. One is joined to a green ball connected to two smaller yellow balls by little sticks, like an elementary-school model of H2O. They suggest an inviting, clean version of nature. They also suggest toxicity -- Kryptonite, or a cartoon version of nuclear waste. Suburban Siamese Twins could be a sociable robot built to convey water, but might blow itself up and poison everyone around in the process.

Plot seems to be an aerial view of dark soil with an incursion of green paint, framed in cheery yellow. Pins have been sunk into the soil and connected with thread, like a constellation, invoking, literally, a vision of heaven on earth.

Other works incorporate glass and inflatable toys. The result is a show that poetically distills the flavor of this green, paved-over land.

Word count: 254

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