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Rob Carter’s images combine lush beauty with striking complexity and multilayered cultural references. Working at the intersection of photography and living sculpture – and even animation, video, and sound – Carter expands the notion of what contemporary photographic work can be. His imagery is rich in both formal expression and cultural content, and seamlessly brings together threads that comment on history and politics in a voice that is the artist’s own. The series Union Territory centers on a symbolic garden where Carter planted seeds and placed models made of collaged and cutout photographic images of John Nash’s Royal Pavilion in Brighton, England, and Le Corbusier’s Assembly Building in Chandigarh, India. As the seeds – mostly generic British plants and Indian Marigolds – grew over several months, they invaded the fragile structures, resulting in the many spectacular and colorful scenes that Carter captured with his camera.

The meeting here of two seemingly disparate buildings, whose destiny is literally intertwined, comments on architecture as both dreamscape and symbol of power. The Swiss architect’s modernist intervention in Chandigarh signaled democracy and the end of British colonial rule, while Nash’s Orientalist Indo-Gothic fantasy was built as an opulent folly for the future King George IV during the height of colonialism. Both complexes are stylistically disconnected from their surroundings and stand in splendid, decontextualized isolation. In Carter’s ecologically determined juxtaposition, the growing plants force the geographically and culturally contrasting buildings together for a brief period of time before the vigorous growth takes over and ultimately causes the destruction of the buildings.

Patrick Amsellem

Curator at Brooklyn Museum and currently Director of Skissernas Museum, Sweden

This text was written to accompany the Silverstein Photography Annual, Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York, March 27, 2010 - May 08, 2010