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Fly Away, named for the perennially reinterpreted gospel “I’ll Fly Away,” is a collection of paintings and sculptures by Rashid Johnson at New York’s Hauser & Wirth gallery. Johnson’s work has been referred to as “post-black,” and often deals with the African-American experience in a range of media, from photographs to music. Following the theme of last year’s Rashid Johnson: Anxious Men at the Drawing Center, the artist uses black soap and wax as materials in Fly Away. Inhabiting one room of the exhibition is “Within Our Gates,” a collection of black metal shelving populated by objects like live plants, books, and shea butter.
According to Hauser & Wirth, the enclosed objects are signifiers inspired by the African diaspora. The room also contains an upright piano that will be played in drop-in performances by Antoine “Audio BLK” Baldwin, a New York–based piano player and music producer. Baldwin will play original jazz compositions during the first week of the exhibition, with periodical unannounced visits afterward. Johnson’s work will also be featured in an exhibition at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, early next year.
Rashid Johnson: Fly Away Hauser & Wirth 511 West 18th Street New York September 8–October 22, 2016
Like so many things in Los Angeles right now, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel’s new West Coast outpost, housed in the sprawling former corporate offices and industrial facilities for Globe Mills flour, is a work in progress. As L.A. leapfrogs from midcentury suburban dust bowl to a Hausmannian tapestry of midrise, mixed-use apartment blocks, the space by Hauser Wirth & Schimmel and Creative Space L.A. is perhaps an apt bridge between the shifting of Angeleno identity, cautiously mining its past to inspire visions of the future. Though technically a commercial art gallery, Hauser Wirth & Schimmel feels much more like a traditional European Kunsthalle, with publicly-minded spaces featuring rotating, curated exhibitions. It’s an incredible breath of fresh air in a city with a few too many private collections that have become civic monuments.
Its inaugural collection, Revolution in the Making, was curated by Jenni Sorkin, an assistant professor of contemporary art history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Paul Schimmel, a cofounder of Hauser Wirth & Schimmel. The show pays homage to the cobbled-together nature of the building’s historical spaces and the architects’ restrained renovation, showcasing a wide array of transgenerational feminist sculpture, most of it made from ephemeral, translucent, or flexible materials.
Pristine artworks like Ruth Asawa’s untitled lobed sculptures hang in the grand hall along East Third Street. Phyllida Barlow’s massive and colorfully riotous Untitled:GIG is installed, almost on its own, in a large, plain brick-walled room, while Shinique Smith’s Forgiving Strands (in progress) watches over the adjacent covered breezeway. A tertiary gallery, also flanking the breezeway, provides a more typical "white box" setting with white walls and discreet wall text, showcasing the amazing milled-cedar array of Untitled (Nine Cones) by Ursula von Rydingsvard. A central 5,000-square-foot courtyard recreates Jackie Winsor’s 30 to 1 Bound Trees installation. The future Manuela restaurant project of Texas chef Wes Whitsell promises to bring pared-down Southern cooking to the complex this summer. And Skuta Helgason’s third ARTBOOK shop occupies a storefront at the entrance of the building, enticing neighborhood visitors and residents to walk through the complex’s arterial passage. The designers’ light touch and reverence for the existing building make the new architectural aspects of the institution feel slight.
Creative Space L.A. and Selldorf Architects have managed to make an art gallery out of humble materials that actually feels more like a public art museum, upending expectations and suggesting that Los Angeles can have grand, urban gestures delineated by the particularities of its own histories and proclivities—something critical for both the museum’s resident neighborhood as well as the city as a whole.
Designed by founder Skuta Helgason within Selldorf Architects’ and Creative Space’s larger complex, the newly dedicated ARTBOOK storefront in the Hauser Wirth & Schimmel building is bringing books to L.A.’s Arts District.
The bookshop, carved out from a warehouse space, features the detritus of historical artifacts in an otherwise spartan interior, giving the store simultaneous programmatic flexibility and rich texture.
The hangar’s blue-gray stucco exterior downplays the treasures held within. Buff concrete walls along the street side are punctuated by large, metal-frame windows. A central line of refurbished heavy timber columns hold up overstructured wood framing, while piping and ducts crisscross the exposed ceiling with the mixed rigor and abandon only possible in adaptive reuse projects. A pair of perpendicular exposed-brick walls showcase embedded relieving arches, with contrast provided by new seafoam- and banana-colored walls holding blond wood bookshelves. A central kiosk contains a payment station as well as mounds of books.
ARTBOOK’s extensive collection plans to change in conjunction with the exhibition schedule. Currently, the space is showing a sprawling survey of transgenerational feminist art, and that is reflected in the more than 500 monographs featuring woman artists on offer at the new store.
SMMoA is now ICA LA
L.A.’s Westside loses its Santa Monica Museum of Art
I grew up surrounded by the quotidian environment of Los Angeles’s working-class San Fernando Valley. The endless tract homes, parking lots, and freeways felt incongruous with the diversity of cultures and people otherwise present. When I became inspired to study architecture, it was mostly so I could travel, see the rest of the world, and live as others do. I moved back to Los Angeles last year to find my hometown completely in the grips of massive change. As I settle into my new position as the west editor of The Architect’s Newspaper, I finally have occasion to stop and consider the nature of that change in the context of the West, overall.
In my time away, I realized that L.A. and the West have never really revolved around architecture. We have immersive landscapes, massive skies, idyllic weather, and lower economic barriers to cross than some of our East Coast counterparts, but lifestyles guide what and how people do things here, not necessarily buildings.
Partially as a result of this prevailing mindset, serious issues like prolonged drought, economic disparity, and access to housing plague the West’s urban regions. You could say these are problems in every major American city—and you would be right—but in the West, sprawl and natural resources collide in particular, peculiar ways, of which, Los Angeles is emblematic. However, a growing sense of urban, civic, and personal awareness is beginning to lead toward collective action aimed at solving some these issues.
For example, in November 2008, nearly 68 percent of Los Angeles County residents voted in favor of Measure R, which increased the county sales tax to fund new transit projects region wide. Two light rail lines have been added to the existing system since then and two more are on the way. In May, the second and final phase of the Metro’s Expo Line will be complete, finally connecting Downtown to the beach at Santa Monica. Along with the physical transit increase, Measure R has also ushered in a new mindset for Angelenos, causing our expectations of this place and ourselves to shift. People are now willing to pay for a more geographically inclusive and connected region. As a result, transit-oriented development has become de rigueur and the city is quickly hybridizing its outdated suburban sprawl with high-density, urban-oriented infrastructure.
A reinvigorated youth-fueled art culture takes advantage of these new transportation options: Weekends in the city are becoming endurance events where traveling via multimodal transit is the new norm. Established art repositories like LACMA and MOCA have expanded. The Broad and Hauser Wirth & Schimmel have finally opened. And the burgeoning design scenes in Downtown’s Arts District, Hollywood, and Culver City have merged with an array of DIY art spaces to create a true creative network.
A flourishing urban ecosystem is collaborative. Ridesharing is making living here without a car possible while putting more people in the unusual position of having to share a car with strangers—perhaps decreasing the amount of personal space we all feel we need. Commuters on the metro might not know which side of the escalator to stand on yet, but it is undeniable that what is happening in the popular Los Angeles imaginary is a transition from that of me and you to a nascent form of us.
Whether you consider the skyline, the metro, or so many of the neighborhoods surrounding downtown, much in L.A. is a work in progress. It is incredibly educational and exciting to have the opportunity to cover this transformation via The Architect’s Newspaper and to do so also with an eye toward how that transformation plays out across the West overall. In taking up this new endeavor, I hope to track how the changing nature of West Coast urbanism impacts design and vice versa. It might be too early to celebrate the new West, but it is always a good time to feel hopeful. It’s good to be home!
The Museum of Trans Hirstory & Art (MOTHA) queers monument design
The Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art (MOTHA) is dedicated to moving the hirstory and art of transgender people to the center of public life. The Museum insists on an expansive and unstable definition of transgender, one that is able to encompass all transgender and gender-nonconforming art and artists. MOTHA is committed to developing a robust exhibition and programming schedule that will enrich the transgender mythos by exhibiting works by living artists and honoring the hiroes and transcestors who have come before. Despite being forever under construction, MOTHA is already the preeminent institution of its kind.The artists participating in The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project take MOTHA’s subversive wit into the contemporary political climate, one in which trans communities are again both under attack and fighting back. President Trump recently announced that he is considering reversing rules protecting the 1.4 million Americans who identify as transgender, while at the same time a historic amount of LGBTQ candidates are running for office and are poised to hold greater political power. Trans entertainers and performers are achieving recognition even as transgender people in the U.S. are being killed in record numbers. “There were always limitations in accepting and inclusion," Vargas said. “This political moment has highlighted the limitations.” Monuments have become a particular flashpoint in the U.S.'s fraught political climate, and Vargas says that he began the Stonewall project questioning the role of monuments. "I went into it with a real critical lens, but to be honest, I’ve become more understanding of the importance they play…There’s a way they can evolve over time." Vargas cited the influence of the work of the artist Isa Genzken, whose Ground Zero sculpture series imagined for the World Trade Center site in New York City a series of kaleidoscopic churches and discos instead of drab office towers. Like Genzken's sculptures, the Stonewall proposals embrace messy emotionality and exuberant vitality over orderly construction. The carnivalesque approach reflects the overall strategy for MOTHA, a roving institution that Vargas says will never have a permanent physical home. “At the heart of my approach to this project is an acknowledgment that once you start you canonizing, once you start making an official history, you have to start policing boundaries of what is or isn't considered transgender, and I don't think the identity category lends itself to that approach." Vargas added, "I don’t think it makes sense to have a traditional institution…It makes sense to have it exist as an evolving parasitic entity.” Which is not to say that Vargas wouldn’t want architects to imagine what a home for MOTHA could look like. “It’s been a dream of mine to have an architectural design competition for the institution,” Vargas said. Architects, take note. Consciousness Razing—The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project will be on view at the New Museum in New York City through February 3, 2019.