"Like the interstate highway system, the lawn has served to unify the American landscape." – Michael Pollan
The American Lawn: Surface of Everyday Life reveals the lawn as a domestic symbol, civic showplace, economic force, and national icon. Bungalows in tract developments, suburban corporate headquarters, and the White House are all alike in that they sit behind a lawn: a carefully contrived patch of “nature” that lies open to the sky and to a multitude of uses and meanings.
Among the objects and documents displayed in the exhibition are Space Age lawnmowers, lawn ornaments, stereoscopic photographs of the “border crossings” between lawns, excerpts from the cinema of the lawn (such as Blue Velvet), vintage television footage of protests on the Washington Mall, sports shoes with high-tech cleats and patented grass.
The American Lawn is the fifth and final exhibition in the exhibition series The American Century, which seeks to cast a fresh eye on critical aspects of modern America’s architectural culture – its promises and disappointments, its roots and offshoots, its unparalleled worldwide impact. Other exhibitions include Scenes of the World to Come: European Architecture and the American Challenge, 1893–1960 (1995); Frank Lloyd Wright: Designs for an American Landscape, 1922–1932 (1996); Viewing Olmsted: Photographs by Robert Burley, Lee Friedlander, and Geoffrey James (1996); and The Architecture of Reassurance: Designing the Disney Theme Parks (1997).
Designed by Diller + Scofidio, Architects (New York), the exhibition is curated by Beatriz Colomina, Elizabeth Diller, Alessandra Ponte, Ricardo Scofidio, Georges Teyssot and Mark Wigley with Mark Wasiuta and Gwynne Keathly.
A 202-page English publication accompanies the exhibition, edited by Georges Teyssot. It includes essays by Teyssot, Monique Mosser, Thérèse O’Malley, Alessandra Ponte, Virginia Scott Jenkins, Beatriz Colomina, Mark Wigley, and a text and graphics project by Diller + Scofidio.
The American Lawn travelled to the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (4 April 1999 to 7 June 1999) and to the Museum of Art, Fort Lauderdale (3 September 1999 to 2 January 2000).