Sep 9th 2021

Porcelain Utopia: Mid-Century Lustron homes in Illinois and Beyond
Photographs by Dirk Fletcher
In conjunction with the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial
Riverside Town Hall: 27 Riverside Road, Riverside, IL 60546
Exhibition dates: September 9-December 31, 2021

Monday-Thursday 9-4
Friday 9-3
Closed Saturday & Sunday

Masks and social distancing are required.

From the artist’s statement:
“It is the end of the 1940s and GIs are returning from the war to find a housing shortage. Industrialist and entrepreneur Carl Strandlund recognized this opportunity and retooled his fledgling porcelain enameled stainless steel gas station and hamburger stand business into a promise for these GIs.

Just three years after the company’s first house rolled off its Henry Ford style production line, the Lustron Corporation declared bankruptcy. Before shuttering the factory, over 2500 homes had been delivered. According to the Whitehall Historical Society, approximately 1800 homes are still standing today.

It is the success or failure of this American Dream that intrigues me. Over the last three years, I have photographed over three hundred and fifty Lustron Homes. While only subtle changes determine the model, every home shares the same 2×2 porcelain building blocks, differing only in color. While sharing the same DNA, it is surprising that not a single home looks the same as the next. Regardless of geographic location, one would assume the homes were built in similar socioeconomic regions. A 1200 square foot house is going to be built in a neighborhood of similar homes.

I have seen impeccably restored homes in the same town as homes that paint a picture of poverty and daily struggles of its occupants. I cannot get out of my head that 70 years ago, kids were playing in these yards and driveways while parents celebrated similar goals, wishes and dreams that come with first time home ownership.

Now in my 50s, I’ve begun to worry about my family and my legacy. For the first time in my life, I’m cognizant of what I’m leaving behind for my children. Am I leaving a better world for them and their future families? Have I even tried? Having a front row seat to what 70 years can do to a community gives me pause to the choices that I have made.”

Image: Dirk Fletcher, Rockford, Illinois, 2020

Other exhibitions and events at RAC:
Opening Reception: September 12, 3-6pm

Guest Curated by Jay Wolke
In conjunction with the Filter Photo Festival
Riverside Arts Center, Freeark Gallery
Exhibition dates: September 9-October 16, 2021
Filter Photo Festival artist talk with Jonathan Castillo: Sunday, September 26th at 2pm
Panel discussion with artists and curator: Saturday, October 16th at 2pm

Proposals and Speculations: Shir Ende and Lancer Livermont
Guest Curated by Camille Silverman
In conjunction with the 2021 Chicago Architecture Biennial
Riverside Arts Center, FlexSpace Gallery
Exhibition dates: September 9-October 16, 2021
Artists’ talk: Saturday, October 9th at 2pm

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