False Fronts

The work of Steve Payne consistently engages with the idiosyncrasies of vernacular architecture, including its geographical settings and social spheres. Payne has long been drawn to architecture that speaks to the identity of a people and to the culture and history of a place, particularly that of his native Newfoundland. He is keenly aware that often, with the evolution of a people and a culture, comes significant change and that, with this change, architectural forms that were previously valued fall into danger of disappearing. His notable earlier works include Last Stands, completed in 1988, which documents the small, independent taxi stands that once littered downtown St. John’s and were ultimately supplanted by larger corporations, and Motels, completed in 2006, which documents the fading motor inns of Toronto’s suburban lakeshore that were subsequently demolished to make way for high-rise condominium developments.

False Fronts is Payne’s most ambitious work to date, a series that took several years and countless treks across Newfoundland to complete. In this series, he documents the false fronts, or western façades, of mercantile buildings. 


Co-presented with Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art
The artist gratefully acknowledges the assistance of the Ontario Arts Council