LUTON OVERLAY | JAMES SMITH
November 2012 – March 2013
Post war modernist architecture, which was originally ‘imported’ to the UK by European architects escaping tyranny and war on the continent, is currently undergoing something of a critical re-assessment. After World War II, in the most ambitious public building programme the UK has ever seen, modernism was substantially ‘Anglicised’ – integrated with the landscape – and ‘regionalised’ using local techniques and materials to create different regional variations.
British modernism and particularly developments like the New Towns, although much discussed abroad fell into disrepute as the initial surge of optimism, which had seen the foundation of the new towns in the late 1940s gave way to a collective despondency in the 1960s and 70s. Fascinated as much by the architectural vision of the past as how today’s Lutonians fit in to and use the cityscape James Smith has picked out Luton’s often unnoticed or unseen architectural details producing a panorama which is at turns angular, elegant and even sculptural.
Commissioned by Departure Lounge and University of Hertfordshire Galleries (UH Galleries), the artist has been closely observing and photographing Luton over recent months producing a picture of Luton which will be unfamiliar even to people who have lived in the town all their lives.
Luton Overlay is part of London Overspill a touring exhibition organised by UH Galleries. Having launched in Hatfield in September, Departure Lounge is the exhibition’s second venue. The tour will continue to Stevenage and Peterborough in 2013 compiling a comprehensive survey of the region’s post war architectural typologies.