Ever since the term became popularised in the 1950s, the concept of ‘suburbia’ has led something of a double-life in popular culture. Suburban stereotypes have ranged from the desirable and glamorous to the safe and somewhat sedate. It has also become a metaphor for a specific breed of insidious darkness, of the secrecy and threat that can lie underneath a sunny exterior. This particular metaphor has long provided fertile ground for artistic exploration, especially in film.
This Side of Paradise: Narrative, Cinema and Suburbia in the Work of Miles Aldridge and Todd Hido was a 2018 exhibition at Huxley-Parlour gallery that bought together works by two contemporary artists, Miles Aldridge and Todd Hido, illuminating the affinities between the two artist’s distinct yet complementary bodies of work.
Both Aldridge and Hido look to subvert the traditional American suburban fantasy, presenting the anxieties and alienation that suburbia has now come to embody in popular culture. Their aesthetics draw on the influence of Hollywood cinema and directors Alfred Hitchcock and David Lynch. Using their own conceptual strategies, the artists present a version of suburbia that is at once alluring and unsettling.
Both artists are known for their cinematic colour palette, lighting and compositions, and each of their works has multitudes of narrative possibilities and emotive readings. Whereas Hido presents a shadowy, empty, exterior suburban world, Aldridge presents the viewer with brightly lit, garish interiors that focus on the imagined lives of the women who inhabit them.
Todd Hido’s photographs depict isolated suburban homes, and are replete with implied narrative. Hido is interested in exploring themes of urban isolation and interior lives, lived separately from outward appearances. Compositions are often bereft of human presence, although a singular lit window or an empty car become, for Hido, signifiers of stories left untold. Each composition is lit with an eerie cinematic, halogen glow.
Miles Aldridge’s work focuses on depictions of women in highly stylised, constructed interiors. He depicts intimate dramas that revolve around these isolated female figures in stifling domestic settings. Aldridge’s fastidiously constructed tableaus are charged with psychological tension and narrative ambiguity. The often-surreal imagery is heightened by his use of vibrant, richly saturated, acid tones. Aldridge’s suburbia is a psychedelic reimagining of a mid-century, gendered space.
This Side of Paradise presented photographs by each artist that demonstrate their understanding of implied narrative and visual suspense, and revealed the subtly unsettling undercurrents woven throughout each artist’s work. Each work by Aldridge and by Hido is carefully crafted to transform the everyday, and invert the familiar
(By Thea Gregory)