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Reimagining Romantic landscapes in Trump-era America: Lisa Sanditz


Fumigation Tents

Lisa Sanditz | Mud Season
22nd September – 24th October 2020
Huxley-Parlour Gallery
3-5 Swallow Street, London, W1B 4DE


One of the most celebrated landscape painters working in America today, Sanditz’s richly coloured works explore humanity’s impact on the natural world. Sanditz depicts the landscape as a reflection of contemporary cultural values. The eighteen works, made during lockdown in the United States in the spring of 2020, reimagine and rework the tradition of the Romantic landscape in the time of global health pandemics and Trump-era America. 


Sanditz’ landscapes capture the intersection of the natural world and built environments, and its associated effect on food production, consumption, ecology, and the economy. The paintings render prosaic scenes or situations in brilliant and garish colours, capturing, as she describes it, “the ways the marketplace and the wilderness intersect, overlap, and inform each other.” Sanditz’ saturated palette, and her use of industrial materials, reference the impact of plastic and other synthetics on the environment. As the artist states: ‘these new allegorical paintings sparked from distant and recent personal memories, aim to stick joy, remorse, love and sorrow together in sumptuous and scummy surfaces. These paintings are bruised and loved. The colours are lovely, brazen, exhilarating and gross.’ 


The exhibition consists of seven large scale works that form unsettling modern allegories. Fumigation tents spread out across a perfectly Romantic panoramic expanse, and a speeding car, ‘a mid-life joyride’, cuts through a dreamlike, treelined avenue. Grandma unexpectedly points a gun towards the ceiling at the edge of a domestic interior, and a couple feed tropical fish processed cheese from a can in a balmy, exotic sea. Sanditz’ is a master of irony and subversion. Snapshots of a seemingly recognisable life are gently twisted, heightened and upended. 


The exhibition contains a further seven smaller scale works, from the series Upside Down Walks, that alter gravity. Repeated exposure to the phrase ‘Upside down world!’, lead Sanditz to play with the laws of physics, and recreate a new version of reality in her compositions. The small rural roads near Sanditz’ home in upstate New York allowed the artist to find moments of solace and clarity during lockdown. 


The area is noted for its historic links to the Hudson River school style of painting, which Sanditz sees as ‘jammed with squeaky-clean realism, macho colonialism and especially lush views. ’The series ‘leans into this Romantic idea of landscape while pushing against its conventions, trading manifest destiny and patriotism for pain and guilt and uncertainty with a bold sprinkling of joy.’ 


Sanditz makes drawings and takes photographs on site, and on returning to her studio recreates altered versions of the scenes, where spaces are heightened, saturated colours invert and bleed. The effect is one of disorientation and destabilisation.