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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!
Make Art Great Again
Artists push back against Christoph Büchel’s border wall project
Artist Michelangelo Pistoletto brings his famous Walking Sculpture to Cold Spring
The burgeoning art scene along Mission Road continues with a new space by New York gallerist Michele Maccarone. Located in a converted warehouse factory building at 300 South Mission Road, Maccarone Los Angeles is down the block from Laura Owens’ 356 South Mission warehouse, an outpost of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise New York gallery, and Hauser & Wirth plans to open a multi-building compound in Downtown L.A.’s Arts District March 2016.
Designed by Los Angeles–based Standard Architecture, the 50,000-square-foot gallery is minimalist: With the exception of the polished concrete floor, every surface, from the reception desk to the warehouse trusses, is white. The architects restored existing skylights, which now wash the gallery with natural California light. A single white wall splits the space into two distinct viewing areas.
Maccarone’s venue hosts studio space for artists Alex Hubbard and Oscar Tuazon. Soon, a raw, 15,000-square-foot courtyard will display Tuazon’s artworks— often unusual assemblies of ordinary construction materials.
Standard Architecture founder Jeffrey Allsbrook created a multi-layered steel gate to secure the sculpture courtyard from the still-gritty Mission Road. “The gallery is counterpoint to my more Brutalist NYC space and an opportunity to mount different kinds of shows,” she said. “This is a quintessential California space that maximizes the environmental resonances of Los Angeles.”