How an Oklahoma-Born Painter Uses Google Maps to Capture His Hometown

You might not guess it by looking at his stark images of fields, bicycles, and rural power lines, but Joe Andoe’s newest portrayals of his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma weren’t inspired by memory—they’re based on images he found on the internet.

Using Google Maps Street View, the artist went on a virtual journey through a familiar landscape, for his new show at Nathalie Karg Gallery. It might be considered a tech-forward approach to his favorite genre. Andoe has long been, to put it in his own words, “a landscape painter, and a painter of the things that hang around on the landscape.” In his latest work, he employs technology to explore the rural tableaux from afar. It’s fitting, even ironic, that the most significant change he noticed was the presence of telephone lines running parallel above the grassy fields and quiet highways of Middle America.

The choice to use Google Maps for research is a relatable one. After all, Andoe left Oklahoma long ago, settling in New York—it’s a classic all-American story. Have a look at Jubilee City—the artist’s critically acclaimed 2007 memoir, which recounts his often difficult childhood and wild teenage years—and you’ll understand his ongoing fascination with the place and his compulsion to portray it, again and again, from different angles.

In previous eras, he created more straightforward landscape paintings, or focused on particular elements of the landscape, as in his spare images of horses. Lately, he’s interested in technological shifts. But whatever the theme, Andoe’s work is satisfyingly layered. As the art writer Saul Ostrow noted, “Andoe’s paintings…are texts meant to be read and re-read, interpreted and re-interpreted…Andoe is not a landscape or genre painter involved in simple narratives. His images derive their metaphorical content not from the absent objects portrayed, but rather from the very means of their making.”

This month, Nathalie Karg Gallery moves into a new space on the Lower East Side. What better way to inaugurate a new home than with an exhibition by an artist who’s constantly exploring the theme?

Bridget Gleeson

Joe Andoe: Super Highway” is on view at Nathalie Karg Gallery, New York, Mar. 22–Apr. 30, 2015.

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