Mini Storage (2011), Gary Warren Hubbs. Photo credit: Yvonne Hachkowski.


Scattered on the outskirts of urban and suburban landscapes are self-storage units, filled with stock, sometimes for small businesses, other times for homes in transition, dorm-room furnishings, Christmas decorations, childhood mementos, forgotten collectibles and valuable antiques. These storage units vary in size, price and accessibility but they all contain items that have been deemed valuable enough to keep but not valuable enough to remain in immediate possession.

As our economy struggles with recession, publicly traded self-storage companies have made steady gains for its investors through 2010 and the first quarter of 2011. An industry that once depended solely on things like deaths in a family, separations/divorces and moves, has now become a viable and strategic solution for today’s living conditions where we are expected to obtain beyond our means and needs.

Through photographs and scale models, Hubbs examines the ubiquitous quality of the self-storage unit. Hubbs brings attention to its form, and subsequently its relationship to an international aesthetic for commodity and utility through a further simplification of these seemingly unblemished shapes and surfaces. Corrugated steel walls surround evenly spaced rolling doors, and it becomes familiar. The subject matter sparks an introspective dialogue: what is the purpose of storage, and what do they store? Might it suggest habits of sentimentality, hoarding, or transitional lifestyle?

The photographs readily identify a place of storage, yet the flatness of the architecture doesn’t correlate to the privacy of the contents within. How can one aesthetic quality be expected to represent such an array of possibilities? As with his previous work, the photographs presented in Relative Value investigate factors of typology. Hubbs’ work seeks to further decontextualize the architecture by eliminating any logos or other blemishes. The uniqueness of each particular site is lost within a wider North American colour scheme.