New works by Ron Copeland. Painting, installation and lighting inspired by and made up of signage from times past.
Ron Copeland is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Pittsburgh. His interests in recent years have focused on exploring abandoned spaces of the city. Taking fragments of what remains of houses or buildings, he recreates the space of a life left behind, using remnants of human activity in areas now fallen into decay.
Copeland started visiting and documenting these sites with his camera, but instead of using traditional photography, he shares his experience with the viewer by recreating the atmosphere of the space, using discarded materials such as plywood boards, pieces of tapestry, old frames. Found objects become symbolic of what society deems useless of saving. What once constituted a shelter, a home, a lifestyle, is now reduced to its bare elements: wood, metal, paper. The artist recycles them in an attempt to reconstruct the memories they carry.
Ron’s pieces embrace a collective memory about a place, a time, a community. The piece “In a Moment” (2011) epitomizes this idea. Using details of advertisements from the 1940’s and 1950’s, the work is a chaotic amalgam of clean, flat images, and coarse, manufactured elements. This vintage-looking snapshot is a collage of ephemeral moments. Each piece is taken out of its original context, creating an ambiguity in the interpretation of the details. The original purpose of each material is defeated: the wood that once built a house becomes a painting surface; the commercial value of an advertisement that originally promoted a product has been removed… In what ways can these things be perceived when their original existence has been taken away?
The artist also raises the issue of the modern suburban lifestyle, which condemns the old and cherishes the new at the expense of quality, style and charm. What are we leaving behind when we escape the city, and how does that exodus affect it? The city of Steel feels like an appropriate place for such concerns. With its rich industrial past, Pittsburgh has gone through migrations of people with the downfall of these glorious times, leaving many buildings abandoned in and out of the city. Barricaded windows, condemned stairways, weakened infrastructure, even ghost streets can be seen in many neighborhoods; houses that once belonged to middle-class families have been left behind, unsold and unused through the decades. The face of the city might have changed, but its structures remain as strong as before. How can they exist again under a new look?