Borna Sammak’s ‘America, Nice Place’ offers an unflattering vision of a nation in distress


If I were to simply list what visitors will see in Borna Sammak’s exhibit at Dallas Contemporary, it might sound like they’re stopping at a gas station in Tallahassee.

“America, Nice Place” is a cheeky collection of art filled with images of cargo shorts, guns, beer, fish, flip flops and cigarettes. But don’t let that put you off. In his first museum exhibition, Sammak’s frenetic and colorful work contains increasingly relevant themes.

Sammak, who lives and works in New York, is one of the artists defining the millennial’s imprint on the visual arts. His first exhibition was at a Best Buy in Manhattan in 2009, when he was a student at New York University.

It delves deeply into what has been described as “trash culture,” that is, the consumerist heap of physical and psychological artifacts floating around in the global air of the times.

Borna Sammak plays a bit of visual trickery with his 2018 work “Not Yet Titled (Couch)”. The large-scale installation includes a black and white sofa that wraps around itself; it’s as if Beetlejuice fell through the mirror and became a piece of furniture.(Nan Coulter / Special Contributor)

Her work explores the unfulfilling realities of many Americans in their thirties who have lived through multiple recessions, a push and pull for gender and LGBTQ+ rights, an endless struggle for racial equality, a global pandemic, and one of the most polarizing presidencies. in history. The American dream, seems to imply Sammak’s art, is dead.

To come to this understanding of the underlying motifs in Sammak’s work, you will have to first look at his art and then look again. In some works, such as Not yet titled (Sofa), the large-scale installation of a black and white sofa that loops back on itself, he plays a bit of visual trickery. Looks like Beetlejuice fell through the mirror and became furniture.

In other works, such as to have (barbecue, beer, freedom)it creates a web that, upon closer inspection, folds into the pocket of cargo shorts.

With works like his 2020 piece "to have (barbecue, beer, freedom)," Borna Sammak looks deep...
With works like his 2020 piece “Must Have (BBQ, Beer, Freedom)”, Borna Sammak takes a deep dive into what has been described as “trash culture”.(Nan Coulter / Special Contributor)

But the most interesting pieces in the exhibit are his collage works, which are hyperactive amalgams of American paraphernalia and bumper sticker messages, which he achieves by heat applying graphics of t- shirt on a canvas. In this way, he employs cultural detritus, the very target of his criticism, in his work.

It is around the corner in the second half of the exhibition that everything falls into place. On a wall canvas, Sammak has reconstructed a landscape that looks quite similar to one of Albert Bierstadt’s paintings of the American West.

Bierstadt, whose work also plays a role in an ongoing exhibit at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, created serene visions of the California landscape that supported the idea of ​​”Manifest Destiny,” which persuaded American pioneers that God had anointed their takeover of Native Americans. lands.

In this case, Sammak filled the serene and beautiful landscape with an array of graphics featuring red, white, and blue skulls and trashy slogans, including “Girls Just Wanna Have Guns.”

In this exhibit, Sammak rendered America as a place overflowing with Florida men, plastics, and toxic masculinity. It’s a deeply disillusioned vision of this country, but it sure is colorful.


Borna Sammak’s “America, Nice Place” runs through August 21 at the Dallas Contemporary, 161 Glass St., Dallas. Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.


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