Dino Kužnik – Shaped by the West
Production: Gallery Photon
In the series Shaped by the West, created between 2016 and 2019 on his several solo road trips through the country, Dino Kužnik (1986, Slovenia) portrays some of the most iconic symbols of the American West; the car, the gas station, the road and the landscape. Conceptually, the series is stems from the artist’s experience of the westernization of Slovenia during the transition from socialism to capitalism, after its independence in the 1990s. This shifting atmosphere led to confusion over what was archetypally Slovenian, which was, according to the artist, felt most strongly by the young generation he was a part of. It was easier to identify with established, westernized realms, especially in popular culture. He grew up with American imagery and values conveyed through television and film, with the “great American spirit” communicated through visually established symbols of the “most powerful country in the world.” These, among other influences, had a significant impact on his goals and aspirations as an adult goals and, more importantly, on his artistic endeavours.
Shaped by the West is thus a personal and artistic exploration of the emblematic symbols of Americana from his youth in contrast to his adult identity. The narrative revolves around the artist’s desire to move to the States and a nostalgic vision of the American dream from his childhood, contrasted with his reality of actually living there and applying for an artist’s visa. Living in the US since 2013, Dino traveled throughout Arizona, California, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada in search of his artistic expression. In his work, the iconic landscape becomes a captivating backdrop for an exploration of his unique cultural position within it. Dino’s photographs offer a highly aestheticized portrayal of what he finds most familiar, in what is actually an unknown landscape to him, which acts as a contrast to his conflicted identity. Photographing the familiar in the new speaks of a need for a utopian vision, at the same time alluding to a generational sentiment of longing for an uncomplicated childhood in highly unpredictable times. The latter is evident in the characteristic visual tendencies and in the choice of soft colours that this generation opts for, depicting the world as colourful, innocent, and beautiful. It is also evident in the choice of colour palette and style in which Dino’s subject matter is depicted in the series Shaped by the West. Yet through the apparent softness and innocence of his photography, Dino skillfully communicates the solitude of his own position and the reality of his own American dream, revealed in the cracks of this idealized Americana.