The first Zaha Hadid-designed building in the United States will host an exhibition that pays homage to the architect’s liberated geometric forms. Later this month, the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) will present its winter exhibition, Props, by mixed-media artist and trained architect Lauren Henkin.

The CAC moved into its current home in 2003, centered around a spacious, multistory atrium that creates a sense of free circulation. In a 1998 profile of the museum as a work-in-progress, the Los Angeles Times remarked that “Hadid is erasing boundaries—between inside and out, between a controlled and private inner world and the chaotic energy of public life.” Hadid herself described the building as a “jigsaw puzzle” of exhibition spaces—connected by zig-zagging skywalk staircases, the CAC’s layout allows for new modes of exhibiting artwork.

Henkin will present a series of eight sculptures scattered throughout the museum, each engaging with site-specific elements of Hadid’s architecture. Props will utilize more than 3,300 cubic feet of “unintended” exhibition space, making use of spaces in the museum which have not been previously used to display artwork.

“Hadid so often blurs the line between architecture, furniture, and landscape,” Henkin explained. “It was important to me to extend that uncertainty by pushing the boundaries of how we engage sculpture, while also upending common perceptions of how to experience art in a museum setting. In many cases, the way the ‘props’ are experienced is atypical, placed purposefully in circulation spaces where one can only see the work from above or below, or while climbing or descending stairs.”

Along with the unconventional use of space, Henkin makes it clear that she does not consider the sculptures to be the main attraction. Rather than to evoke beauty, the sculptures are meant to serve as catalysts to get viewers thinking about Hadid’s built environment and one’s place within it. Additionally, Props will pose important questions about the context of objects displayed in institutional settings, for in addition to the unusual placement of the works, some of which are comprised of objects found in the building’s utility closets.

“We’ve all had the encounter of walking into a contemporary art space and wondering if something that looks ‘half-way’ is intentional art or just a chance clustering of items, a renovation on pause,” said Steven Matijcio, curator of Props. “Lauren mobilizes that idea to loosen the absolutes of Hadid’s geometry and materials, and to amplify to more porous and fluid dimensions of the building’s design.”

Props will be on view from November 22 through March 1, 2020, at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

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