Referring back to the postmodern reassessment of the “American Dream” is Eric Fischl’s Barbeque, 1982, representing the “reality” as opposed to the dream of suburbia.  Father, mother, daughter, and son enjoy a sunny and warm day by their swimming pool in the back yard of their ranch-style home.

 

Is this a happy, “normal” family life? The father is dressed in office attire. The son is breathing fire as the father looks over in amusement. The mother and daughter are swimming naked in a fragmented pool. Add to those narrative elements the ominous weather and the fact that the family lives in a glass house (Don’t throw stones!).

What is the artist trying to communicate? Perhaps, suburban living is not as perfectly clean and wholesome as imagined. While the family enjoys the pleasures of an upper middle-class lifestyle with its materialist perks, there are obviously psychological and sociological issues bubbling under the surface and waiting to explode (the boy blowing fire and the stormy sky). Was the optimism in the 1950’s model of suburbia misplaced? Fischl, at least, wants us to ask that question and others concerning the quality of life and the “American Dream.” This desire to (re)vision/(re)present America and its hollow stereotypes is fundamental to postmodernism.