Press Release

Locks Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by Tim Portlock (b. 1969).

“NICKELS FROM HEAVEN,” the artist's latest series of digitally-rendered cityscapes, portrays disquieting narratives of destruction and construction — pitting shiny new skyscrapers against piles of rubble, soaring rooftop gardens amid landscapes of broken concrete. Some of the buildings are based on St. Louis, where Portlock teaches at Washington University. Specific buildings are rendered after photographs and drone images taken by the artist during his research and others are from 3-D models made by developers, architects, and other sources on the web. Trained as a painter, Portlock received an MFA from the Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois, Chicago, in 2003. There he studied early virtual reality systems and 3-D modeling software used to construct immersive digital environments. “The thing that’s most interesting to me about the technology is its capacity to build narratives of national identity through realistic images, not unlike the way artists of the Hudson River School fabricated representational scenes in the service of Manifest Destiny two hundred years ago,” Portlock says.

In these images of semi-fictional cities, Portlock plays with notions of “above” and “below”— creating tensions between utopian urban ideals and the realities on the ground. He says, “Drones have enabled me to capture a different perspective. And I’ve started focusing on this highly reflective style of architecture that’s increasingly pervasive. I think that seeing prismatic skies in the reflections of those buildings says something about how we’re now experiencing the sublime.”


Portlock’s new work was shown in State of the Art 2020 at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR, as well as the Great Rivers Biennial 2020 at the Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis, MO. Currently, his work is on view in Through the Lens: Modern Photography in the Delaware Valley at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA, from February 5 through August 15, 2021, and will be exhibited in an upcoming group show, New Grit: Art & Philly Now, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, from May 7 through August 22, 2021.

Tim Portlock lives and works in St. Louis and Philadelphia and is Chair of Undergraduate Art at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art at Washington University. His solo exhibitions include C.A$H_4_GOLD at the Robert and Frances Fullerton Museum of Art in San Bernadino (2015); Digital Cities at Georgetown University, Washington D.C. (2015); and 11th_street_city_symphony.mp4 at Vox Populi Gallery, Philadelphia (2013). Portlock has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including Ruffneck Constructivists, curated by Kara Walker, at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia (2014); Here at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (2011); and No Soul For Sale at the Tate Modern (2011). He has also exhibited in Japan, Italy, Argentina and Austria. He is a recipient of a Pew Fellowship (2011) and prior to his position at Washington University, Portlock worked at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne within the Anglophone studies department and taught at Hunter College in New York City.

The exhibition will be on view from April 7 - May 7, 2021. For the month of April, the gallery is open by appointment only. Please email to schedule an appointment.

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