I Shop

David Hlynsky

Between 1986 and 1990, Canadian-American artist David Hlynsky made four photography trips to regions still within the Soviet sphere of influence. During these final years of the Cold War, he sought to document the similarities between people living under powerful yet opposing political ideologies.

If we believe only the propaganda produced by Washington, Hollywood, and Moscow, the Cold War was a battle over fundamental freedoms and the rational distribution of wealth. In Hlynsky’s view, the battle was also about differing versions of our human connection to the material world. The images featured in I Shop trace how diverse market strategies produce distinct possibilities for consumption, reflecting on the Cold War as a contest between the Communist, no-name marketplace and the Capitalist, fantasy-branded mega-mall.

This exhibition illustrates a lost alternative to the unfettered marketplace. Depicting stripped-down window displays and simple graphics, the advertising photographed by Hlynsky uses a visual language reduced to its most bare function: the labelling of merchandise for its utility. We gaze at these images with a fascination that reaffirms our basic material needs. Hlynsky’s photographs depict a stark contrast to Western advertising strategies, which portray unattainable fantasies and invite consumers to express their taste using their credit cards.