The paintings of German artist Stefan Kürten depict the environments we create in our tenacious attempt to make life perfect.

Chic mid-century homes, picturesque bungalows, meticulously manicured landscapes and resort architecture evidence the dazzling promise of economic prosperity in the post-World War II West. These are bright, clean, thoughtfully-designed places. Safe and happy places. The imagery is fabricated from Kürten's own snapshots of California and Northern Europe or from ubiquitous "shelter porn." The scenes seem to glow with a soft, golden, interior light - an effect achieved through the use of metallic gold pigment in the foundational layers of the paintings - that adds to their sense of harmony and richness.

Kürten's is a perfect world - almost. Beautiful as these images are, they're unsettling - often for no reason you can quite name. Idyllic scenes are rendered uncanny by indeterminate sources of light that cast improbable shadows. Strangely-colored skies threaten an oncoming thunderstorm or recall a light-damaged image from the early days of color photography. Trash collects in the bottom of an empty swimming pool. Walls are defaced with graffiti. Decay, it seems, lies just beneath the surface.

City of Refuge, 2006

Clouds, 2006

The Light That Will Cease to Fail, 2008

Blue Reversed, 2013

Ashes Everywhere, 2013

Erscheinung, 2013

Borders, 2008

Falls, 2009

Stars, 2009

Dream (Close Up), 2003

Tomorrow Never Knows, 2010

Will you still love me tomorrow, 2009

Velvet Illusions, 2009

Isla Morada Blues, 2009