Photographer Brian Ulrich’s decade-long investigation of American consumer culture, Copia, traces a route from the exuberant excess of big-box stores to the bleak suburban landscapes of closed malls and empty shopping centers.
The exhibition is divided into three parts, starting with Retail (2001–2006), in which Ulrich anonymously documented shoppers engrossed in navigating the abundance of goods found in vast enclosed malls and big-box stores. Thrift (2005–2008) focuses on thrift stores, the collecting places for discarded and unwanted consumer products, and its workers, as they tried to bring order to the overwhelming amounts of donated, discarded, and unwanted consumer products. Finally, in Dark Stores (2008–2011), Ulrich explores the impact of the 2008 financial crisis with haunting architectural landscapes of abandoned buildings and empty parking lots that have become commonplace in towns across America. Ulrich’s work invites us to contemplate the broader ecology of consumer culture and the interconnectedness of consumers—what they buy and what they choose to leave behind.
Organized by the Cleveland Museum of Art. This exhibition is made possible by the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation. In Raleigh this exhibition is made possible, in part, by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources; the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc.; and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibitions.