Crisp and Clear

Must-see exhibitions this September

Nic Clear's The Post Singularity City at the Royal Academy of Art's What Is Radical? exhibit (Courtesy Royal Academy)

At a loss for all the architecture and design shows on view this fall? AN has rounded up a quick list of must-see exhibitions this month from New York to Chicago, London, and Switzerland.

Check them out below and head to one near you:

What is radical today? 40 positions on architecture

Two people on a yellow background with a machine

The Re-Education of Gournay Court by Sam Jacob, part of the Royal Academy of Art exhibition, What is Radical Today? (Courtesy Royal Academy)

Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House, Piccadilly, Mayfair, London W1J 0BD, U.K.
September 6 through November 7, 2019

Spanning the decades between the social uprisings of the 1960s to the present, this free display of boundary-pushing architectural work at the Royal Academy in London brings together 40 architects and collectives, then and now, in a powerful exhibition. The show comments on how architecture can alter lives in times of upheaval and turbulence—as pressures of climate change, violence and complicity continue to permeate the individual existence in society.

From groundbreaking 20th-century groups like Archigram to contemporary practitioners like Francis Kéré, the proposed spaces surpass any assumptions of ageism and leave echoes of optimism to face the times.

Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors 

A woman playing an upright bass

Ragnar Kjartansson: The Visitors film still, on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Courtesy MFA, Houston)

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1001 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas 77005
July 20 through September 22, 2019

On the heels of the Finnish artist’s acceptance of the 2019 Ars Fennica Prize, Kjartansson’s immersive video exhibition The Visitors has landed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The nine-screen video installation is spread throughout several galleries, with each screen centering on an individual musician playing for the camera in a room of the Astor family’s Rokeby Farm House in Hudson, New York. The house, built in 1815, is a fitting backdrop for the artists’ admiration for nostalgia and romanticism in his works and adds a drama and grandeur to the audio and visual experience. 

Filmed in one take, the musicians all play individual portions of the same song, but in disparate rooms where they are unable to hear one another. As a viewer in the MFA Houston, one becomes a ‘visitor’ to the house, a witness to a performance that occurs, in totality, only for them. 

Chairs Beyond Right & Wrong

Two melting chairs

Chairs Beyond Right & Wrong at R & Company (Courtesy R & Company)

R & Company
64 White Street New York NY 10013
September 10 through October 19, 2019

This September, both floors of R & Company’s White Street gallery will be encompassed by a retrospective of the chair: a formal object, a consumer product, a springboard for creativity. The assumptions that accompany our idea of what a chair is, or what it can be, are challenged by a group of 50 international artists and designers. 

Some of the objects in the show have been created specifically for this exhibition while some were chosen by curator Raquel Cayre for their unique ability to move away from preexisting notions of function and form. “Chairs no longer gravitate toward a table;” said Cayre, “they take on their own meaning.”

Alan Karchmer: The Architect’s Photographer

Photo of a swooping white building on the water

Auditorio de Tenerife by Santiago Calatrava. Photograph by Alan Karchmer (Courtesy National Building Museum)

The National Building Museum
401 F Street NW Washington, D.C 20001
Opening November 9, 2019

Buildings, like art, are mostly experienced today via their photographs and digital media, as location inhibits in-person interaction for most. The way a photographer captures a building, its angles and elevations, therefore has a profound effect on how the building is seen by the world—and often if it’s seen at all. Sometimes certain images of a building can even become icons in themselves, and people begin to conceptualize of a space in the way the photograph they’ve seen suggests, often surprising visitors when and if they see it in person. 

Alan Karchmer has made a name for himself for his ability to capture the essence of a building, the way the architect intended. Working the full spectrum of architectural styles, from soaring works by Calatrava to the quietudes of Tadao Ando, this mid-career exhibition shows us how an artist’s eye can enhance our experience of some of the world’s best spaces.

Christian Marclay: 48 War Movies and Screams

Still of a video showing multiple overlapping rectangular frames

Still from 48 War Movies, Christian Marclay. (Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York)

Paula Cooper Gallery 
524 W. 26th Street, New York NY 10001
September 12 through October 19, 2019

Renowned video artist Christian Marclay brings his newest film, 48 War Movies, to America following its debut at the Venice Biennale. On display at Paula Cooper Gallery, the video is a collage of gruesome war footage from the Civil War to Iraq, a cacophony of violence and sound that, when installed at the Biennale, literally bled into adjoining rooms. 

The narratives are presented simultaneously through the lens of concentric rectangles on screen. The unflinching presentation of this raw violence sheds new light on how society conventionally handles trauma: the pasted-on smile, the cool facade. Marclay instead offers a continuous scream, an externalization of emotion, and a way of facing our history rather than hiding from it. 

All That Is Solid 

Packed walls of styrofoam

Installation view of All That Is Solid by Ang Li (Courtesy Space p11)

Chicago Pedway (Chicago Architecture Biennial)
August 28 through October 11, 2019

This site-specific intervention by architect and professor Ang Li encourages passersby to reflect on the afterlives of materials. Cubes of expanded polystyrene foam (EPS) that were cleaned and diverted from landfill stand sculpturally arranged, like windows with our everyday disposable food containers pressed up to the panes. 

This artificial and hyper-modern material is the tool of choice for the exhibition, as it encourages pedestrians to engage in a series of building experiments. Inspired by industrial inventory-taking practices, the installation offers a reflection on our culture of single-use disposables as well as a more sustainable future. 

The Art of Waiting: Gianni Berengo Gardin Photographs Renzo Piano

Poster that says: Gianni Berengo Gardin, The Art of Waiting

Gianni Berengo Gardin, The Art of Waiting explores the artistic collaboration between Gardin and architect Renzo Piano (Courtesy Instituto Italiano di Cultura, New York)

The Italian Cultural Institute New York
686 Park Avenue New York, NY
September 10 through October 10, 2019

Italian artist Gianni Berengo Gardin is not an architectural photographer, but his 20-year collaborative effort with renowned architect Renzo Piano has resulted in over 10,000 images that document the progress and process of Piano’s best buildings. Working in a signature slow style, often observing a construction site from morning until night, the collection that has resulted is one that shows the life and building blocks of Renzo’s forms, rather than the limelight of the finished product. 

“Gardin has always managed to see and preserve these magical moments that vanish if you don’t capture them,” said Piano. Photographs included in this exhibition have been selected by Gardin himself, a narrative of building evolutions rarely seen by the public. 

Topiary Tango 

Looking out of a window clad in fake grass

Topiary Tango installation view at the Center for Architecture (Samuel Lahoz/Courtesy Center for Architecture)

Center for Architecture
536 LaGuardia Place, New York, NY 10012
July 11 through September 14, 2019

In rooms filled with live plants and carpets of green, Stewardson Keefe LeBrun Travel Grant recipient Mark Zlotsky curates a show around the art of sculptural plant trimming, also known as topiary. Inspired by travels through the great gardens of western Europe, Topiary Tango explores the relationship between topiary and architecture, and how the plantings can be seen not as pithy ornamentation, but as a building material. 

In this playful yet academically rigorous installation, Zlotsky proposes an architecture that responds to ever-changing contexts and offers a creative solution to enlivening static structures. 

Swissness Applied

A skyline composed of white models

Swissness Applied model skyline of new Swiss-style architectural themes for New Glarus, Wisconsin. (Alaina Marra/Courtesy Architecture Office)

Kunsthaus Glarus Güterschuppen
Im Volksgarten, 8750 Glarus, Switzerland
September 21 through November 10, 2019

Cofounder of Architecture Office Nicole McIntosh takes cues from her home country of Switzerland in her traveling exhibition Swissness Applied. An examination of the architectural codification of European immigrant town New Glarus, Wisconsin, McIntosh shows drawings and models of the quintessentially “Swiss” styles of architecture that the town grew from, and eventually exploited for touristic gain when facing economic depression in the 50s.

Now a thriving tourist attraction, New Glarus instituted rules regarding architectural building in the 90s to maintain its unique aesthetic and appeal, but McIntosh proposes new opportunities within the building code to connect modern forms to their integral “Swissness.” Her playful models will be exhibited in celebration of the reopening of the Kunsthaus.

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