The city. Gondola’s, stepped gables, hot-dog sellers. Subway sounds, a dilapidated porch, the smell of a pretzel. The bakery’s orange awning, the wintry limetrees on the square, the neighbor’s morning song. None of these things matter to the city map which shows street patterns, not traffic, monuments, not history, squares, not seasons. The map merely points the way by capturing the city in a relentless grid. Fortuyn/O’Brien takes this grid as the basis for exploring the city.

The artist seeks all intersecting points on the horizontal and vertical lines on the grid, locates the corresponding real places and makes at each of them a photograph in the four wind directions. The pictures are presented in a slideshow accompanied by citysongs, a mix of sounds recorded at the photographed locations.

Witte de With’s extensive exhibition of Fortuyn/O’Brien’s recent work features four of these cityscapes: London, Paris, Rotterdam, and Valenciennes. The cityscapes illustrate the paradox that extreme realism leads to the unfamiliar. They are composed of common things, streetcorners, houses, traffic, pedestrians, the river. Yet, they are unrecognizable. They lack the story of the viewer, the tourist, flaneur or resident.

The cityscapes are complemented by a series of beautifully crafted interiors. These works originate not from the strict hand of the cartographer, but from the luxurious taste of a designer who explores the boundaries of nature decoration. Dancing threads, bronze trees, and flamboyant flower carpets tempt the eye. Here too, however, the familiar is estranged, turning initial awe into unease. Icy silence envelopes the trees, knots grow rampant above the carpets, ferns form living paintings and a pair of ceramic dogs stares out of the window.

The Rotterdam work made especially for this exhibition crowns the artist’s exploration of the relationships between culture and nature, inside and outside. In this work, an intriguing scape of the harbor city finds its counterpart in airy rooms where reflections of daylight and views of red geraniums on the horizon merge vista and interior. The work makes it seem as if the city were breathing through the spaces of Witte de With. The sum of these exhibited works evoke only vague memories of existing cities and interiors. Their familiar images, smells and sounds form rather new configurations which, each with its characteristic architecture, ecology, and esthetics, lead their own peculiar still lives.