Its hard to drive past a Target roadside box today without remembering James Wines/SITE Architects’ magical 1970’s Best Store projects—and everything they revealed about consumerism in America. These designs are also remembered for their formal invention and early support of environmental thinking, but Carriage Trade, the tiny but always smart art gallery on Tribeca’s Walker Street, reminds us in their exhibit, Cutting Through the Suburbs, how radical they were at the time of their design.
Peter Scott, the director of Carriage Trade, pairs the Best Store’s with a Bill Owens’ 1970s photographs of a California suburb “from within” his own community. Owens is able to visually describe his neighbors without the disdain many artists had for suburbanites at the time, and together these two works present a moment that Scott believes American car oriented suburban life was at its most confident peak.
Both artists, he reminds us, were “part of a moment when conformity and the established order were being called into question on a mass scale” by the counter culture movement of the sixties. The Best Stores are also featured-along with the fabricators and workers of the projects in a revealing film of the period by Howard Silver. Stay long enough in the gallery to watch the entire film and be transported back the counter culture of the 1960s.
The exhibit closes this Sunday, May 25 and the gallery is located at 62 Walker Street.