Smack Mellon is pleased to present Ellen Driscoll’s installation FASTFORWARDFOSSIL: Part 2 and Fernando Souto’s photographic series The End of the Trail. The two concurrent solo exhibitions compress layers of time to explore industries and lifestyles that go beyond geographic borders. Composed of thousands of discarded plastic bottles collected by Ellen Driscoll, FASTFORWARDFOSSIL: Part 2 takes a critical look at the environmental and human damage inflicted by the oil and water industries in the last two centuries on regions as diverse as Nigeria and the United States. During extended trips to cattle ranches in the American West, Australia, and Uruguay, Fernando Souto photographed the fading culture of ranchers, creating black-and-white environmental portraits in the tradition of iconic photographers such as Walker Evans and Robert Frank. Both Driscoll and Souto are intimately tied to their craft—painstakingly cutting up salvaged bottles and printing large-scale silver gelatin photographs—asserting a tactile personal connection in their work.


Untitled from Smack Mellon on Vimeo.

Ellen Driscoll

“This installation is a continuation of a multi-year series which explores the dynamics of resource harvesting and consumption. This part of the series focuses on oil and water. Rising at 5:30 AM, I harvest #2 plastic bottles from the recycling bags put out for collection on the streets of Brooklyn. For one hour, one day at a time, I immerse myself in the tidal wave of plastic that engulfs us by collecting as many bottles as I can carry. The sculptural installation for Smack Mellon comprises 2600 bottles transformed into a 28 foot landscape. Constructed solely of harvested #2 plastic, the sculpture collapses three centuries into a ghostly translucent visual fugue in which a nineteenth century trestle bridge plays host to an eighteenth century water-powered mill which spills a twenty-first century flood from its structure. The flow contains North American, Middle Eastern, and African landmasses (sites of oil harvesting and their consumer destination) buoyed by a sea of plastic water molecules. The piece looks back to eighteenth century American industry powered by water, and forward to the oil refineries of the Niger Delta, site of prolonged guerilla warfare against oil corporations and the source of over fifty percent of crude oil for the United States—the oil that produces the plastic within which our privatized water is currently bought and sold.

The wall drawings in the exhibition are based on a close study of the inner workings of an oil refinery. By using huge shifts of scale between the macro and the micro, they depict a dystopic future based on rampant oil consumption. An oil rig shares the horizon with ocean fires and garbage scows, mega shopping malls are abandoned to spontaneous communities of slums, and a refugee camp is inundated by the waters of a melting glacier. The worlds in the drawings are drained of color, but filled with the flux and spillage of a potentially chaotic future.” 

Ellen Driscoll is a sculptor whose work includes FASTFORWARDFOSSIL: Part 1 at Frederieke Taylor Gallery, Revenant and Phantom Limb for Nippon Ginko, Hiroshima, Japan, The Loophole of Retreat at the Whitney Museum, Phillip Morris, As Above, So Below for Grand Central Terminal (a suite of 20 mosaic and glass images for the tunnels at 45th, 47th, and 48th Streets), Catching the Drift, a restroom for the Smith College Museum of Art, and Wingspun for the International Arrivals Terminal at Raleigh-Durham airport. Ms. Driscoll has been awarded fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bunting Institute at Harvard University, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, the LEF Foundation, and Anonymous Was a Woman. Her work is included in major public and private collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of Art. She is a Professor of Sculpture at Rhode Island School of Design.


Fernando Souto from Smack Mellon on Vimeo.

Fernando Souto
The End of the Trail

“My parents emigrated from Uruguay to Australia when I was eighteen months old. With my extended family still in Uruguay, I never had the opportunity to really know my relatives, particularly my grandmother, who always seemed to be really old to me. The brief, scrambled, international phone calls throughout my childhood did little for me to understand who I was and where I had come from.

In 2002, my grandmother turned one hundred years old and I got a brief opportunity to spend some time with her. Looking at family photographs and listening to the stories of her childhood inspired me to start this photographic project titled, The End of the Trail. During my stay in Uruguay, I set out to photograph the essence of her stories and to gain a greater understanding of my heritage. My thoughts of ranch life were mostly filled with romantic ideals of freedom and independence. I had no concept of the harsh environment that the ranchers lived and worked in, and how the intense solitude defines them. At that moment, I decided to immerse myself in their day-to-day lives, pulling from these experiences to create a unique perspective of their fading culture.

From my initial trip to Uruguay in 2002, my interest in this project evolved, and I decided to expand into other countries where ranching had a significant presence in the culture and traditional working techniques still existed. Through extensive research I decided upon seven countries that had adapted the original working techniques of the Spanish Conquistadors and established a ranching heritage that spanned centuries. Those countries include Spain, Mexico, the United States, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Australia.

To date, I have covered cattle ranches in central Australia, Uruguay, Montana, Nevada and Wyoming. My plan is to complete this photographic series, which would include south Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Mexico and two additional regions in the United States. I had never intended for this documentary to be a weightless visual record, but an enduring photographic series that is told on the faces of the people that live and work in this unique global culture.”

Fernando Souto currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Born in Montevideo, Uruguay in1972, Souto immigrated with his family to Sydney, Australia in 1974. Before studying photography at The Fashion Institute of Technology in 1994, he apprenticed with a Sydney-based photographer specializing in black & white printing. Originally planning on becoming a commercial photographer, he pursued assisting work with location-based portrait photographers throughout the late nineties. In 2002 Souto began his long-term project titled The End of the Trail, a humanistic story of the contemporary cowboy that spans seven countries. This series is shot on film and printed using traditional black and white gelatin papers. In 2008 Souto was chosen to attend the Review Santa Fe and exhibited his work at the Michael Mazzeo Gallery (NYC). Recently Souto was granted an emerging artists award from Photo District News for his work on The End of the Trail.


This exhibition is made possible with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, a state agency, and with generous support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Greenwall Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Eve Sussman and Smack Mellon’s Members. Smack Mellon also receives generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, City Council Member David Yassky and the New York City Council, Bloomberg, Brooklyn Arts Council JPMorgan Chase Regrant Program, Fifth Floor Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Goldman, Sachs & Co., The Greenwich Collection Ltd., Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro, Independence Community Foundation, Jean and Louis Dreyfus Foundation, Inc., Judith and Donald Rechler Foundation Inc., Lily Auchincloss Foundation Inc., Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation Inc., The New York Community Trust, The Pinkerton Foundation, The Robert Lehman Foundation, Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, Inc., The Starry Night Fund of Tides Foundation, The Roy and Niuta Titus Foundation, Inc., and William Talbott Hillman Foundation.


FASTFORWARDFOSSIL: Part 2 was funded in part by LEF Foundation, the Rhode Island School of Design Professional Development Fund, and the Sirius Art Centre. Special thanks to Golnar Adili, Beth Letain, Alan Carroll, Devin McDonough, Rachel Shim, Christine McMillan