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Suburbia: a Model Life (Photographs 1970-1980s)

The term suburbia means “under the city” meaning not just ‘away’ or ‘apart’ from an urban core but also of being subjected to the city itself: affected by ‘the model life’ of 20th century urbanity. Grid-style urban plans in post-war business districts and the search for more space pushed mid-century residents to the suburbs and to mobile home communities on the periphery of the municipality. Photography from the late 1970s to mid-1980s reflects the image of this life that is separate yet always connected to the city, referencing the aesthetics of movie snapshots, early 1980s documentary photography as well as corporate advertising.

With images taken across North America, Suburbia: a Model Life represents the suburbs and modern urban design strategies, presented in the idealized aesthetics indicative of this era. The photographs depict the corporate core of the booming early 1980s grid-city and the calm 1970s mobile homes and new residential developments of bedroom communities, as well as indicators of modern middle-class modern social and family life – images from office interiors and trade displays to backyard patios and parking lots.

Suburbia: a Model Life is presented with a series of works by American-born photographer Hubert Hohn. His photographic series, The Project: Suburban Landscapes, are black and white archetypal studies of early suburban neighbourhoods. In addition, a contemporary representation of suburban planning documents will be presented by Toronto-based artist An Te Liu. As a case study in local urban planning, this exhibition includes the original linen, mylar and Completed Registered Plans from one of Edmonton’s largest suburbs: Mill Woods.

This exhibition features photographs that are part of the Art Gallery of Alberta’s collection. Linen, mylar, and Completed Registered Plans are courtesy of Alberta Land Titles and the Province of Alberta Archives. Sincere thanks to Merlyn Cajindos and Alberta Land Titles, the City of Edmonton and Stantec Consulting Ltd. for research assistance.

Kristy Trinier

Kristy Trinier is the former Director of Visual, Digital and Media Arts at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Previously, as the Curator at the Art Gallery of Alberta, Trinier curated Future Station: 2015 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art, as well as exhibitions at the AGA and Enterprise Square Galleries. Her previous roles include Public Art Director at the Edmonton Arts Council, where she managed the City of Edmonton’s Public Art Collection, related exhibitions and public art programs and Grant Writer at Banff Centre. Trinier has written for Canadian Art, Momus and other arts publications. She holds a Bachelors degree in Visual Art and English from the University of Victoria, and a Masters degree in Public Art from the Dutch Art Institute (DAI, ArtEZ Hogeschool voor de Kunsten) as a Huygens scholar in The Netherlands.

Organized by
  • Art Gallery of Alberta


Monday: closed
Tuesday: closed
Wednesday: closed
Thursday: 11am-7pm
Friday: 11am-5pm
Saturday: 11am-5pm
Sunday: closed


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2 Sir Winston Churchill Square
Edmonton, Alberta
Canada T5J 2C1