"Roadside Souvenirs"



Sunday, November 23, 2008 

'Roadside' takes a nostalgic drive 

By Wesley Pulkka

For the Albuquerque Journal


 Tim Prythero's "Roadside Souvenirs" eight-piece solo show at Exhibit 208 is a new chapter in his long-running narrative on life in New Mexico. Prythero creates three-dimensional still-life miniatures of street corners, cafes, cars and trucks that each represent a snippet of his travels and life experiences. 

   His focus on vehicles from the early 1950s could be read as a longing for a simpler time or the recognition that these vehicles can still be seen rolling down country roads or parked in yards in our enchanted land. 

    Prythero is part of the pop-art tradition as well as the much longer fine-crafts tradition of miniatures made of theater sets, model railroads, great pieces of architecture, scientific dioramas and models used for city planning. His sensibility echoes parts of Andy Warhol, HC Westerman and Joseph Cornell. 

    Prythero depicts a scene from childhood in America in "Truck and Tree" that could have appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, though Norman Rockwell would have made Prythero's real slice of life seem cute by cleaning it up. In Prythero's Americana the poorly constructed tree fort, complete with tire swing, hovers precariously over an early 1950s GMC truck that has seen better days. 

   The tools on the Gimmy's right front fender indicate the hope for a second chance may be at hand. Please note, however, that with front wheels missing and the brake drums supported by concrete blocks, the truck's restoration is still a long way from the highway. 

   Details abound in Prythero's truck and tree vignette. The mismatched driver's door, extra engine for some other vehicle in the wooden floored cargo box and the sun-baked and well-worn paint are all nice touches. But the cloth tied around the tire on the swing brings the scene to life. Those tire beads tended to dig into the posterior on long fantasy rides so the cloth cushions what is an otherwise uncomfortable swing seat. 

    That touch of comfort may also indicate that a girl may be a member of the tree fort gang. 

     The cracked sidewalk and Superman-size phone booth in "Street Corner" reach back to another era. The aging phone booth is just the sort sought by Clark Kent in an emergency so he could doff his reporter's suit at super speed to reveal his cape and tights, ready to save the day. 

    The Tastee-Freez soft ice cream sign in the background reminds us how corporate advertising may be responsible for some children's failure to learn to spell correctly. 

    Two other architecture-based pieces, "Café #6" and "Fireworks," symbolize the character of small business in America. The highly detailed café offers gasoline, ice and soft drinks to passing travelers as well as coffee and steak for those with time enough to stay a while. 

     The fireworks stand with hastily patched roof, peeling paint and faded flags tells the tale of a long-standing building that sits idle for 11 months a year. 

     In "Sedan and Shasta," Prythero captures a salmon pink 1950 General Motors car, a cross between a Chevy and an Oldsmobile sedan, pulling a "canned-ham" style Shasta trailer. The trailer has an inner screen door and wood-paneled outer door complete with porthole-style window. 

    The well-worn and sun-faded paint and the missing front hubcap indicate the rig's fall from a life of leisure summer vacation grace to the rather shabby current home of the driver. The misaligned driver's door and the generous use of seam sealant on the trailer's roof underline the down trodden nature of the scene. 

    Prythero's "Mr. Softee" truck well represents the good old days of home delivery of most commodities including home visits from the doctor. 

    For this show Prythero built a billboard and photographed it in the real world. The resulting postcard and poster show how well he embraces the full-scale world. The photo on the card looks very lifelike despite is diminutive size. 

    Prythero has created a niche for himself with great skill and few if any rivals. He is an easy-to-enjoy artist who offers us balm for our otherwise hand-wringing times.