Exhibition // Bettina Pousttchi’s Drive-Thru Museum at The Nasher Sculpture Center

Article by Ester Ippolito in Dallas; Thursday, May 8, 2014

Drive Thru Museum“Drive Thru Museum” by Bettina Pousttchi, Photo courtesy of The Nasher Sculpture Center

With the prevalence of media that showcases the automobile-centric nature of American culture, from movies to social platforms, it is no surprise that most tourists to the United States expect to see an abundance of cars. Cities with suburban sprawls, like many in Texas, amplify this consideration by a great deal. Cars are central to Dallas and although public transportation is enjoying some expansion, the city’s history is steeped in automobile culture due to its vast spatial dimensions. It is this perception that attracted Bettina Pousttchi to create the Drive-Thru Museum for her Sightings exhibition at the Nasher Sculpture Center.

Born and raised in Western Europe, an atmosphere drenched with memories of the past demonstrated by rich, historic architecture, Pousttchi’s work echoes themes of recollection and history. Based in Berlin, German-Iranian artist Pousttchi has an extensive background education from throughout Europe and New York, having studied art history and film theory. She came to prominence in 2001 with a series of works that focus on photography and history. Specifically, Pousttchi uses these themes in her creation of works that intersect the idea of memory and location. In Echo (2009-2010, Berlin) Pousttchi was entrusted with creating a work on a socially-charged site, on which two buildings stood and have been demolished due to political reservations and nostalgia. For the work, the artist created an amalgamated image of actual and fabricated details of the original Palast der Republik and placed the image on the windows of the new building constructed on the site. Although sentiments over the original buildings were mixed, Echo‘s impact was far-reaching.

Drive Thru Museum “Drive Thru Museum” by Bettina Pousttchi, Photo courtesy of The Nasher Sculpture Center

Much like the story behind Echo, Dallas has a history of tearing down antiquated buildings to replace them with modern substitutes. This also occurred on the streets where the Nasher Sculpture Center now resides. Historically, this area of downtown Dallas was once considered Ross Automobile Row. Since 2003 the Nasher Sculpture Center has become a prominent part of the area, now known as the Dallas Arts District. Pousttchi was invited to Dallas to create a work that linked her interest in memory with the Nasher collection, for the Nasher series Sightings, which focuses on site specific installation. It is no surprise that when Pousttchi first came to visit Dallas from Berlin, she was astounded by this car-centric environment. From an outsiders perspective, Dallas can be summed up by it’s expansive size, “bigger is better” tradition and fully permeated drive-thru culture.

For Drive-Thru Museum, the artist “blacktopped” the floor of the gallery to replicate an asphalt street, arranged lanes and directional stripes, and covered the windows with her trademark black and white photographs. Employing brise-soleil photography screens on the glass walls of the gallery, mimicking those found in various parts of Dallas, the viewers access to the interior is limited, creating a dichotomy between the accessibility of the drive-thru and the exclusive nature of scissor gates. Flanking the car lanes in the galleries is a selection of sculptures from the Nasher Collection, chosen by the artist. She selected works that were meaningful to her, and that interacted well with other pieces in the gallery and the general atmosphere of the space. From the south-facing glass wall, the road directs the viewer through the gallery past Pousttchi’s own Double Monument for Tatlin and Flavin (2010).

Another nod to the artist’s interests in history and process, these sculptures draw upon the history of the found object, the drive-thru, and minimalism. The road continues on to a comprehensive overview of the Nasher Collection, passing works by Pablo Picasso, Auguste Rodin, Alexander Calder, Richard Chamberlain, and Naum Gabo, to name a few. Interspersed on the Nasher’s outdoor terrace are Pousttchi’s own personified bollards along with another of Pousttchi’s Double Monuments for Flavin and Tatlin (2010). Both types of works emphasize the artist’s interests in repurposing street blockades, as she incorporates these physical barriers into non-threatening, and in the case of the bollards, somewhat comical works of art.

Drive Thru Museum“Double Monument for Flavin and Tatlin V”, 2010 in “Drive Thru Museum” by Bettina Pousttchi, Photo courtesy of The Nasher Sculpture Center

Melding the artist’s personal interests, while simultaneously assessing a comprehensive observation of the Dallas automobile culture and the Nasher collection, Sightings: Bettina Pousttchi is an powerful presentation of the artist’s process; a focus on history, site and memory.

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Additional Information

NASHER SCULPTURE CENTER
“Drive-Thru Museum” – BETTINA POUSTTCHI
Exhibition: Apr. 12 – Jul. 13, 2014
2001 Flora St.
Dallas, TX
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