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Artificial Light

Italian artist Matilde Cassani creates a veritable sunset made with glitter
A glittery exhibition at Rome’s new interior design center, Cantiere Galli Design, presents a dreamlike landscape constructed within the confines of a small room. Sunset, designed by up-and-coming Italian artist Matilde Cassani, is a site-specific project that invites visitors to step into another shiny, immersive dimension. The piece is part of an ongoing series set up within the two-year-old show space called A room of one’s own. For her contribution, Cassani placed traditional furniture pieces sparingly within the room while covering the walls with a shimmery gold palette. At the center of the space is a minimalistic table holding up a mirror that reflects a hanging curtain depicting a yellow sun on the back wall. On top of the table are sprinkled shards of vibrantly colored paper that add another layer of pop to space. The whole room, a large abstract setup, is meant to seduce people immediately upon entering. “Visitors, attracted by the sleek, ultra-glossy surfaces, leave a trace when they run their fingers on every smooth texture,” said Cassani. “The sunset is thus ever-changing, transforming daily, as each visitor passes by.” Cassani’s piece is the successor to Andrea Anastasio’s vision for A room of one’s own. Both artists were asked during the 2019 season to design their concepts around the theme of “leaving a trace,” which was chosen by curator Domitilla Dardi. “The spaces we live in are far from being tidy, perfect, and neat like the ones we see on magazines or ads,” he said in a statement. “The spaces we live in are a reflection of our imperfect and of its extraordinary uniqueness. ‘To live means to leave traces’ said Walter Benjamin.” Sunset by Matilde Cassani opened in late November and is on view through April 2019 at Cantiere Galli Design in Rome, Italy.
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Bardi Gang

Lina Bo & Pietro Bardi’s MASP-São Paulo Art Museum turns 50
"Lina Bardi, only today I have been able to visit your museum. It's very beautiful. The best and most beautiful museum I know." Oscar Niemeyer’s letter to Lina, which reminds us that the most renowned Brazilian architect was actually exiled from his own country between 1967 and 1980, was written after he visited MASP for the first time on October 16, 1987, actually nineteen years after the museum opening. Intriguingly enough, this brief letter is a part of a kind of pop-up exhibition at the Instituto Bardi-Casa de Vidro to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the museum. Jointly with the exhibition, a seminar involving several international Lina scholars—including Zeuler R. Lima, Olivia de Oliveira, Barry Bergdoll, and others—as well as Lina’s former collaborators Marcelo Ferraz and Marcelo Suzuki, has been organized by MASP. A holistic outcome of the joint work by architect Lina Bo with her husband, director Pietro Bardi—whom the historiographical recovery is urgent by now on, after the international success finally achieved by sometimes even mythologized Lina—MASP is a masterpiece developed through a series of experimental articulations, starting from the so-called MASP Sete de Abril, installed by Bo & Bardi since 1947 in the Diários Associados newspaper headquarter. Among MASP references, it is worth mentioning the Museums without limits conceptual framework by Pietro (1946), later continued by Lina in 1951. Officially begun in 1957, the MASP project waved up and down through phases across a series of significantly exciting side-works carried on between 1959 to 1964, when Lina met Afro-Brasil in Salvador de Bahia, to finally develop a pioneering research beyond Eurocentric Modernism.   Sponsored by media tycoon Assis Chateaubriand, MASP was conceived to be the most important art museum—for Art to mean Western Art—in Latin America. Within a military-run Brazil, MASP opened on November 7, 1968, by the hands of the greatest heir of colonialism, H.M. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, on the occasion of her official visit to Brasil; this happened in the closest eminence of the dictatorship, for the AI-5 (Institutional Act no.5) issuing several human rights restrictions dating December 13, 1968. Today one can still perceive the strong contrast between the suspended box along the Paulista Avenue—unanimously recognized as an International Modernist legacy—and the immersive interior landscape, for the glass easels' groundbreaking display to mix artworks and visitors into an innovative “democratic” environment. This latter may even evoke the “un-linear timeline” of which Lina wrote, arguably a critical link with artworks belonging to the other side of the Ocean. The remarkable visual connection between the inner museum display and the city outside is one more of Lina’s valuable contributions to shift from the modernist “white box” museum that was starting to be code-designed at that time, and to a new site-specific perspective. Technically, thanks to the collaboration of engineer José Carlos Figueiredo Ferraz, MASP consists of a prestressed (reinforced) concrete structure—as for instance in the Morandi Bridge of Genoa (Italy) but, unlike that, today carefully monitored thanks to the "Keeping It Modern" project granted by Getty Foundation. It is reasonably no coincidence that—behind the title borrowed from a famous song by Gilberto Gil—the exhibition "Infinito vão [Infinite Span] - 90 years of architecture in Brazil" presently at Casa dell'Architettura of Matosinhos in Portugal, today recognizes the MASP public space with a 70-meter span invented by migrants couple Bo & Bardi as a crucial issue belonging to Brazilian architecture DNA. While a new book—actually authored by Daniele Pisani—is announced to unveil some new issues about MASP, it is time to see whether the hope for Brazilian museums to become centers for the promotion of democratic values—according to a written side-thought by curator Fernanda Brenner after visiting a MASP exhibition—will turn real after recent elections brought one more far-right fellow to run the country in Brazil. MASP International Seminar conferences available online:
  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCZ3PRaiGgk
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dT0dYUT3IQ
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6-A-rasvWg
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7nSWSB5BKk
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A Curated Time Capsule

Architectural Effects explores the Bilbao Effect in culture and technology
A new exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao looks back on the historic design and construction of the seminal Spanish museum and its pioneering use of digital technology and avant-garde materials in the field. Architectural Effects, which opened on December 5, details Frank Gehry’s pivotal project while chronicling its influence on contemporary architecture and art. Organized by lead curator Manuel Cirauqui and Troy Conrad Therrien, curator of architecture and digital initiatives at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, the show asks: What makes architecture more than just a building? Through various mediums, the exhibition broadens the understanding of the museum’s initial impact by placing its technological and cultural achievements alongside other 21st-century works.   The exhibition is split into three connected “territories.” In Airlock, the Garden, and the Bubble (a digital dimension available on a free app), visitors can explore both the materials on view as well as the virtual story of architectural advancement visible throughout the show. Airlock, the introductory territory, features major moments in the creation of groundbreaking digital technology, not just in architecture, but also in biology, pop culture, medicine, politics, and more. Video, audio, books, photographs, historic artifacts, and archival material populate this showcase, further explaining how these benchmarks—all made in the year 1997 when Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao was completed—have influenced the world at large. According to a statement, “The Airlock is a representation of the techno-cultural conditions in which the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao was developed to immediately become a global emblem.” Gehry’s vision for the project and the resulting Bilbao Effect are also heavily documented in this section of the exhibit. Garden, the main space in Architectural Effects, highlights post-1997 art and architecture through moving images, prototypes, models, sculptures, and artificial intelligence. It features works by prominent artists and architects over the last 20 years through drawings, animation, and architectural documentation. Three major projects are debuted in this section including El Otro by Frida Escobedo, A Tent without a Signal by MOS Architects, and Float Tank 01 by Leong Leong. Bubble offers visitors an online collection of media that contextualize and further illustrate the works on view. It includes educational materials and readings by influential artists, scholars, and writers like John Mernick, Gordon White, and Venkatesh Rao as well as critical essays by the exhibit’s curators and assistant curator Ashley Mendelsohn. Architectural Effects is on view through April 28, 2019, at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Bilbao, Spain. Several talks, performances, and workshops will coincide with the exhibition. More information is available here.
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Brutalism at Best

Stunning new photos document I.M. Pei's early Brutalist museum
I.M. Pei, legendary designer of cultural and institutional architecture, designed his first-ever museum in downtown Syracuse, New York. Constructed in 1968, the 60,000-square-foot Everson Museum of Art was a brutalist building that broke the mold on traditional museum design. The geometric structure was made out of poured-in-place concrete and local granite, featuring four cantilevered galleries and a dramatic exterior. In the museum’s grand vision, Pei gave the city its first taste of groundbreaking modern architecture, and in turn, launched his own reputation as a world-class cultural architect. He went on to design other iconic museums like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar, the famous glass pyramid at the Louvre, as well as the National Gallery of Art East Wing in Washington, D.C.  On the 50th anniversary of the Everson Museum’s completion, it’s hosting an exhibition on Pei’s design and the institution's history as a “monumental work of abstract sculpture and architecture.” Art Within Art: The Everson at 50, which opened in mid-October, showcases archival materials and never-before-seen plans, photographs, and models of the project.  “For 50 years, our one-of-a-kind arts venue has stood as a work of art to house art,” said Elizabeth Dunbar, director and CEO of the museum. “We are excited to celebrate our facility’s milestone anniversary and bring 50 more years of meaningful encounters with art and architecture to all those that visit the museum.” The Everson is home to over 10,000 pieces of art and features one of the largest collections of international ceramics in the United States. It has hosted the first solo exhibitions of several international artists including Yoko Ono, Bill Viola, and Marilyn Minter.
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High-Design Hanukkah

Two shows explore the art and designs of Elaine Lustig Cohen
Two shows in New York City explore the legacy of 20th-century graphic designer Elaine Lustig Cohen. Though known primarily for her design work, the show at The Institute of Fine Arts at NYU will highlight Lustig Cohen's sculptures, putting them on display in the neoclassical interior of NYU's Duke House. The show at the Jewish Museum focuses on Lustig Cohen's work for the institution, centering around six exhibition catalogs she designed for the museum in the 1960s. The show will also include other work that she designed for the Jewish Museum along with some of her paintings.
 
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Masterpieces & Curiosities: Elaine Lustig Cohen is on view at the Jewish Museum through August 11, 2019.

Graphic Objects: Elaine Lustig Cohen’s Sculptural Works is on view at The Institute of Fine Arts at NYU through February 24, 2019.

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Paper View

Two shows explore Isamu Noguchi's legacy of experimentation with craft
Two shows at the Noguchi Museum in New York City explore the legacy of Isamu Noguchi's Akari "light sculptures" by highlighting classics from the artist and designer's oeuvre alongside more recent work by the French design studio YMER&MALTA. The shows, which were originally scheduled to close in January, have been given an extended run and will be open through May 5, 2019. Fans of Noguchi's work will recognize his signature lamps made of bamboo, wood, and paper that expand on traditional Japanese craftwork. The show focusing on his work, Akari: Sculpture by Other Means, aims to give visitors new perspectives by installing Noguchi's creations in the kind of immersive environments that have been especially popular recently both for their experiential quality and Instagrammable potential. Akari Unfolded: A Collection by YMER&MALTA displays 26 lamps that riff on Akari and Noguchi's work, bringing his spirit of exploration in traditional craft and materials into the 21st century.
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Send in the Clowns

MoMA stages a delirious Bruce Nauman retrospective 50 years in the making
At a panel discussion a week after the October 21 opening of Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts at the Museum of the Modern Art (MoMA), Laurenz Foundation curator and advisor to the director at the MoMA, Kathy Halbreich, discussed how poorly Nauman’s last two retrospectives were received. The first, a major solo show that traveled from the Whitney Museum of American Art to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 1972, was pilloried by the press as vapid. The second, a 1995 exhibition at the MoMA (co-organized by Halbreich) was criticized as overly loud and chaotic. The volume has been turned down for the versatile artist’s third show but his stinging examinations of surveillance, “fake news,” bodies in space, and the ultimate futility of life are more relevant now than ever. The MoMA has pulled out all of the stops for Disappearing Acts, literally in some instances. The walls of MoMA's sixth floor have been cleared so the whole floor can be dedicated to Nauman’s larger, more architectural explorations of space, while the entirety of PS1 in Queens has been handed over to smaller installations. All told, the MoMA has put 165 pieces of sculpture, drawings, video art, neon work, soundscapes, paintings, and more on display, much of it on loan from other institutions and private collectors. In Midtown, visitors are guided through a chronological tour of Nauman’s larger works across the repurposed special exhibition galleries, beginning with his own experiments in using the body as a tool of art. Arms were used as both paintbrushes and hole-punchers in Nauman’s earlier work, and pieces were formed and named according to his own body proportions. Further in, Nauman’s meditations on surveillance in the urban environment become evident; take Going Around the Corner Piece, a “room” with no way to enter, covered in security cameras that relay their feeds to televisions on the ground. Visitors are encouraged to encircle the room as they “chase” the digital reflections ahead of them. The massive Model for Trench and Four Buried Passages has been installed beyond that, placing an “architectural model” of the titular trench, arranged in five circles, on the floor of the museum for 360-degree examination. Behind that, a small monitor sits on the wall displaying Audio-Video Underground Chamber, a live 24-hour feed from inside of a concrete box that’s been buried offsite. Kassel Corridor: Elliptical Space has been erected in the MoMA for the first time since 1972, and although it looks like two unfinished stud-mounted walls facing each other, the “sculpture” actually contains an ultra-narrow room. Only one visitor per hour is allowed inside, where they can wedge themselves inside the seafoam green “viewing chamber.” The audio installation Days occupies the last room. Fourteen super thin speakers have been suspended at head-height in two rows, with each pair featuring a different voice repeating days of the week in a random order. Nauman has carved out audio “corridors” for visitors to wander through, spatializing the installation. Across the river, PS1 is home to Nauman’s more intimate—but more terrifying—pieces. The former classrooms of PS1 have been transformed into private enclaves for his audio-visual pieces. Nauman’s most famous work, the 1987 video Clown Torture (it’s unclear whether the clowns, or the viewer, are being tortured) has been given its own room, though it’s unclear whether any visitor will stick around for its 60-minute runtime. Mapping the Studio II with color shift, flip, flop, & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage), a sped-up surveillance tape covering 24 hours of Nauman’s empty studio, has been given a similar staging. A selection of lithographs, paintings, and smaller neon tube pieces can also be found at the MoMA’s Queens outpost. Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts will be on display at the Manhattan MoMA until February 18, 2019, and at PS1 until February 25, 2019. The museum will also be presenting live performances of the 1965 performance piece Wall/Floor Positions from 12:00 PM through 4:00 PM every Thursday and Sunday, and every Friday and Saturday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM at PS1.
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Ratti's BB

Carlo Ratti among lead curators of the 2019 Shenzhen Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture
Shenzhen’s Urbanism\Architecture Bi-City Biennale (UABB) has selected its curators for its next iteration, which will open in the Chinese city in December of 2019. Italian architect Carlo Ratti, Meng Jianmin of the Chinese Academy of Engineering (CAE), and art critic Fabio Cavallucci will be the show's chief curators. A panoply of other names will hold curator titles, including Sun Yimin and Michele Bonino of the South China-Torino Lab, the Science and Human Imagination Center of Southern University of Science and Technology led by Wu Yan, the Politecnico di Milano led by Adalberto del Bo, along with Daniele Belleri, Edoardo Bruno, Chen Qiufan, Manuela Lietti, Wang Kuan, Xu Haohao, and Zhang Li. The show will focus on smart city and urban surveillance technology, a topic especially relevant in China, where government officials are quickly embracing new technologies for social control. Ratti's goal is "to foster a discussion on this new urban condition," as the architect said in a statement, "so that through examples, visions, and irony we can reflect on what kind of city we really want to build tomorrow." The topic is very close to Ratti's previous work with his firm and with MIT's SENSEable City Lab, of which he is the director. While the curators will invite several participants to exhibit their work, Ratti's office also invited proposals from the public, saying that those interested can submit ideas to uabb2019@carloratti.com.
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Out of This World Design

A bona fide alien abduction monument pops up in Manhattan's Battery Park
A very strange monument has popped up in Manhattan's Battery Park that alludes to a legendary UFO sighting in New York Harbor. Designed by Staten Island–based sculptor Joe Reginella, the curious memorial is dedicated to the six men aboard the tugboat Maria 120, which, according to Reginella, mysteriously vanished in July 1977. Reginella, who The New York Times called “the Banksy of monuments," crafted the NYC Tugboat Abduction monument out of weathered bronze in honor of local lore. Weighing a total of 300 pounds, it depicts a longshoreman kneeling beside an alien figure while looking up at the sky, or rather, an unidentified object flying away.  A plaque covering the pedestal of the four-piece monument tells the story of the long-lost Maria 120 and is “dedicated in their memory by Local 333 and the Honorable Mayor Edward I. Koch.” According to Reginella, the urban legend is that the tugboat and its crew, who were patrolling the waters between Liberty Island and Battery Park one summer night, mysteriously disappeared. The crew saw a streak of light shoot through the night sky before an aircraft of sorts crashed into the harbor. The crew radioed the Coast Guard to let them know they’d try to tow the vessel to shore, but when the backup help arrived, both the Maria 120 and the aircraft they claimed to have seen were gone. This isn’t the first seemingly-sincere memorial Reginella has made to poke fun at New York’s many word-of-mouth myths. He’s also done public art pieces dedicated to the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede and the apparent octopus attack that happened on a ferry near Staten Island. His work isn’t just fun, however—it’s educational. Reginella put together a website, a documentary trailer, and souvenirs to supplement the tugboat abduction story. His logo for the project features the Statue of Liberty with a UFO hovering over it. Interested viewers can even take a Harbor Mystery Cruise to learn more about the oddities that have taken place in New York Harbor. Since Reginella has to pack up and transport The NYC Tugboat Abduction monument every day, it’s periodically on view across from the East Coast Memorial. Catch it before it disappears forever.
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A Lot of Charlotte

Charlotte Perriand furniture on view in New York City
One of the great joys of the New York gallery scene is that we often get museum-quality shows in commercial galleries. This is the case with the current Charlotte Perriand exhibit at the Venus Over Manhattan gallery on Madison Avenue. Created in concert with Laffanour/Gallery Downtown from Paris, it is billed as “the largest exploration of Perriand’s production to be staged in New York,” and includes some 50 works spanning her nearly eight-decade career. The New York exhibit follows a recent exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou’s UAM, Une aventure moderne that included the designer's work, but if you did make the French exhibit this one can stand in as a tour de force of her life’s work. Perriand worked in the shadow of Le Corbusier for 10 years, but her career has been going through a well-deserved reassessment for some time by design historians and curators. This exhibit of her furniture and interior design looks beyond her important work in standardized architectural elements and highlights the influence of Japan, where she lived for six years (and was a design consultant to the Japanese Board of Trade), on her work and her freer form biomorphic designs. The inclusion of bamboo, wood, and rush in her designs and the influence of Japanese wood detailing on her furniture shows her trying to break out of her earlier machine esthetic production. There are three examples of her six-sided table prototypes featured and you can see her seriously trying to create more thoughtful and practical furniture. This show is also a life survey, so it does include some of her “minimum existence designs" including her kitchens and bedrooms mocked up in full-scale models in the gallery. It is perhaps a bit sad that her wood furniture and metal cabinet pieces have been taken out of their original home, but these parts of residences can become dated and in need of restoration, so here they are in mocked up rooms from their French homes. The small bright yellow pass through doors for dairy deliveries takes us to the Unite. Charlotte Perriand at Venus Over Manhattan runs through January 15.
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Arrivederci, Architects

Venice Architecture Biennale closes after banner year
The 16th Venice Architecture Biennale closed its doors on Sunday, November 25, ending a successful year for the prestigious design exhibition. According to a statement from the biennale's organizers, over 275,000 people visited the show and half of those visitors were under the age of 26. The event's curators for 2018, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects, said in a statement that the show left them "with a deep sense of optimism for the future, in the knowledge that within these satellites of cultural energy which each participant represented, there are outstanding architects promoting and producing architecture." This year's theme was FREESPACE, which, according to Farrell and McNamara, was meant to "celebrate the shared culture of architecture, demonstrating how inventive, comforting, exhilarating, modest, heroic architecture can be; how architecture serves the needs of human beings with dignity and respect be it the need for shelter, for water, for protection from flooding; how materials can be transformed into beautiful uplifting spaces; how architecture can bring people together and serve communities; how architecture can transform waste leftover spaces into public space." Seventy-one architects were invited to this year's show, and 63 nations participated, 6 of which (Antigua & Barbuda, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, Lebanon, Pakistan, and the Holy See) did so for the first time. The show takes place every other year in the historic Giardini Pavilions and Arsenale in Venice, Italy.
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Big Deal

Getty Research Institute exhibition explores the meaning of monumentality
MONUMENTality, a forthcoming exhibition organized by the Getty Research Institute (GRI) that aims to consider how the meanings of monuments can change over time and why some monuments endure while others fall, is timely if nothing else. The exhibition is set to open on December 4 and comes amid widespread social upheaval that has questioned the legitimacy of long-standing monuments, historical figures, and works of art in contemporary culture. As long-venerated American heroes like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson see their legacies questioned, prominent entertainers and artists and their works face a reckoning in the #MeToo era, and historical monuments celebrating slavery and the American Confederacy fall across American cities, shockwaves have reverberated through society and the art world as a critical reappraisal takes place. The exhibition, which is curated by Frances Terpak, Maristella Casciato, and Katherine Rochester, seeks to take a more art history-focused approach as its curators analyze wide-reaching trends in monumental art, urban planning, architecture, land art, and other media in their search for answers to these contemporary questions. The wide-ranging exhibition investigates monumentality through several lenses and forms of being, including works generated through “systems of belief and structures of power” by showcasing historical rare books, political ephemera, photographs, and contemporary art from GRI’s collection that depict or have been inspired by monuments from antiquity to present day, according to a press release. The exhibition will feature works from many artists and designers, including: Dennis Adams, Annalisa Alloatti, Lane Barden, Mirella Bentivoglio, Joyce Cutler-Shaw, Tacita Dean, Theaster Gates, Leandro Katz, Michael Light, Benedetta Cappa Marinetti, Edward Ranney, Ed Ruscha, Ursula Schulz-Dornburg, and Lebbeus Woods, among others. Maristella Casciato, curator of architecture at the GRI said, “Monuments, though often meant to stand for eternity, can physically change over time—from erosion, looting, war, or iconoclasm—or they can stay intact but change in their meaning, losing context or relevance, or becoming integrated with daily life in new ways. And monuments can form organically, through the ways that people interact with the built environment.” Casciato added, “MONUMENTality investigates the ways that monuments are necessarily dynamic, ultimately reflecting, through their endurance or failure, the world around them.” The exhibition will be on view through April 21, 2019. For more information, see the exhibition website.