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Tabula Rasa

Valentin Loellmann's first New York solo show is an exercise in restrained artisanal experimentation
The careful fusing of natural wood and cast bronze produces a happenstance burnt-finish that craft-led designer Valentin Loellmann embraces when creating bespoke furniture pieces. In fact, the Maastricht-based German artisan rarely begins a new piece based on preliminary sketches. Rather, he allows the material and a bit of experience-driven technical expertise to drive his process. Though Loellmann composes sculptural works with a tabula rasa approach, they often take on the shape and reference of furniture archetypes: a Shaker-style chaise-lounge, airplane-wing-like bench, monolithic table, towering armoire, amoebic ladder, strategically-jointed chair, and even a semi-circular staircase. Currently on view at New York’s Twenty First Gallery, in partnership with Paris-based collectible design purveyor Galerie Gosserez, Loellmann’s first solo show in this city, presents a robust selection of monumental pieces, all somehow coated in a layer of iridescent copper or cast bronze. Patinated surfaces and marble slabs are encapsulated in organically-carved yet suggestively-angular dark wooden frames. Read the full story on our interiors and design site, aninteriormag.com.  
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And I Feel Fine

The 2019 Venice Art Biennale asks us to ponder our “interesting times”
Political chaos is spreading, and climate change is upon us. Meanwhile, populist leaders throughout the world are scapegoating immigrants, trashing environmental regulations and spreading blatant lies. But at the 2019 Venice Art Biennale, one of the world’s most important art exhibitions, artists are fighting back in what may be the largest exhibition of politically subversive art ever shown. Ralph Rugoff, curator of this year’s Biennale, titled the show “May You Live in Interesting Times,” after an apocryphal Chinese “curse” pertaining to periods of danger and uncertainty, which has been cited by politicians ranging from British imperialist Joseph Chamberlain to Hilary Rodham Clinton. In his essay for the exhibition, Rugoff writes that “art can give us tools to reimagine the possibilities of these ‘interesting times’ and so transform this phrase from a curse into a challenge that we can enthusiastically embrace.” Rugoff’s revolutionary agenda is conspicuous for an art exhibition, where the official opening in May also featured glittering parties in Venetian palazzos and a legion of plutocrats and oligarchs. The contrast was especially striking at the Biennale’s main exhibition space, a cavernous brick building known as the Arsenale, in which almost every other artwork appears to be about poverty, sexism, environmental degradation, racism, or political violence. Indeed, at this year’s Biennale, the only thing holding an otherwise disparate show together is the focus on the ills of our time. The main exhibition features the work of 79 artists from around the world and includes sculptures of the growing homeless population in Athens, videos showing Palestinian protestors trying to breach the border in the Golan Heights, and paintings of verdant landscapes that include images of political violence in Kenya. One series of photographs shows half-finished housing developments and piles of garbage outside of Rome. Another series is about the fallout from aspirational housing developments gone bust in India, which according to an accompanying text is linked to, “developers hoardings peddling unattainable dreams.” Capitalism’s failures are rife. One of the first exhibits is a salvo of harrowing nocturnal photographs from the series titled Angst by Soham Gupta, showing disheveled street people in Kolkata, India, whom, as an accompanying text informs us, have suffered “abuse and abandonment.” Their faces display expressions of pain, madness or lust. They are posed embracing one another, dancing wildly, lurching towards the camera or simply sitting quietly in abject loneliness. Gupta gets up close with his camera and shows these spectral characters in a soft light against a black backdrop, revealing a humanity within that you might not otherwise notice. It might be overly ambitious to think that art can help make society more just and compassionate. However, Rugoff is expecting between 180,000 to 600,000 visitors to his show, which runs through November 11th, 2019, and is hoping that it will help change the conversation. He maintains that artists have a unique role in combatting the conspiracy theories and narrow nationalistic messages on social media that increasingly are shaping political discourse. He says that art can reveal hidden or unfamiliar truths in profoundly different ways than can journalism or historical reporting. “We [the public] don’t see things in the same ways that artists do,” Rugoff told me. “They are asking us to hold different images in our minds at one time.” Plato warned about art’s ability to present alternative realities to the body politic, and it seems axiomatic that the more repressive a society is, the more threated it is by artists. Edouard Manet’s painting, Execution of Maximillian, was censored by the French government shortly after it was painted in 1867 because it portrayed the French puppet emperor being shot by a firing squad of Mexican revolutionaries. Fascist regimes and dictators are notoriously fearful of abstract art. Considering that China censored images of Winnie the Pooh because bloggers were comparing the cartoon character’s appearance to Chinese President Xi Jinping, it is understandable that much of the artwork currently being produced in that country is not overtly critical of the regime. But in totalitarian societies, art is politicized even it doesn’t convey a literal political message. “If you are an artist in China today, you are dealing with political import,” Rugoff told me, giving as an example an art installation at the Biennale’s Central Pavilion titled Can’t Help Myself by Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, in which an enormous robot with a mop at the end of its arm moves with terrifying jerks as it repeatedly attempts to control a flowing red substance that looks like blood. Currently, in most parts of the world, artists can more directly challenge the system. Several of the most political pieces in the show had their roots in Marcel Duchamp’s ready-mades, found objects that take on new meanings when signed by an artist and displayed in a museum or a gallery. One is Teresa Margolles’ meditation on the violence engulfing parts of Mexico, which consists of a 39-foot-long cinderblock wall, pockmarked with bullet holes and crested with barbed wire that the artist transported to Venice from the city of Juarez. And just when one is hoping for visual relief from this compelling but disturbing show, one’s view of the canal outside the Arsenale is obstructed by the actual boat from the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwreck, on which between 700 and 1,100 Syrian refugees went missing. The artist Christoph Büechel transported the rusted wreck, which has a large gaping hole in its side, from Sicily to Venice and titled it Barca Nostra. An accompanying wall text refers to the ship as a “monument to contemporary migration” and as “representing the collective policies and politics that create these kinds of disasters.” A series of prints from the Body En Thrall series by transgender Latina artist Martine Gutierrez shows the artist nude in a series of staged erotic encounters with clothed mannequins, such as one where she is draped across the lap of a figure dressed in a tuxedo with a come-hither expression on her face. Calling to mind Edouard Manet’s notorious Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe in which a naked woman picnics with two clothed men, the prints raise questions of power in regard to Eurocentric standards of beauty, gender identity, consumerism, and a host of other issues that are au courant in cultural studies classes at elite universities throughout the West. The coming apocalypse is also a popular topic at this year’s Biennale. One example is the enormous Eskalation by the German artist Alexandra Birc ken, which is ominously suspended overhead. Here, forty figurines fashioned from black calico and latex look as they are out of one of Dante’s circles of hell—they are shown climbing and hanging off of ladders that ascend towards the vertiginous ceiling of the Arsenale. Wherever they are trying to get to, it doesn’t look good. Another work in the "end of civilization vein" is a sculptural series of large menacing mammals on the verge of extinction by the American artist, Jimmie Durham, who connects human waste with environmental degradation. Durham’s animals look angry and tortured. Their jaws are agape, and teeth bared; wires, cables and dark metal define their forms. They are constructed from contemporary civilization’s detritus, used clothes, discarded furniture, and machine parts. May You Live in Interesting Times is intended to be aggressive and disturbing. We already are living in a post-truth age in which leaders such as U.S president Donald Trump and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro are denying climate change and sanctioning political violence as a justifiable campaign tactic. Rugoff clearly wants his exhibition to make us think harder about our fast-changing world. “Ultimately, what is most important about an exhibition is not what happens inside a gallery,” he writes in his essay for the exhibition, “but how audiences use their experiences afterward to reimagine everyday realities from expanded perspectives.”
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Sarah Myerscough Gallery

A new gallery dedicated to craft opens in West London
When a fire rages through a forest, it carves the opportunity for a fresh start. There was no fire at the Sarah Myerscough Gallery, but the inaugural exhibition, Scorched, signals a new life for the former Boathouse in Barnes, West London. The exhibition showcases an array of artists, designers, and makers who all work with wood—in this case, scorched wood. The exhibition was originally commissioned by the London Craft Week 2019 for the Fitzrovia Chapel (Central London) but has now moved to the Western banks of the River Thames, where gallerist Sarah Myerscough’s new permanent space can be found. “We want to show people the relevance of contemporary, craft, art, and design in the UK,” Myerscough told AN. “Putting on curated shows like this, it’s quite fitting to bring [Scorched] here to show how it's possible to curate something which allows us to look at individual artists, their unique skills, their innovative approaches, processes involved in making like lathe work, carving and CNC cutting. Designers David Gates and Helen Carnac have produced the most architectural piece, of which there are 17. Using elm, ash, quilted maple, cedar wood from Lebanon, and vitreous enamel on mild steel, the Gates and Carnac have created a cabinet that riffs on the industrial landscapes they draw inspiration from; particularly the former, now-derelict Tate & Lyle factory in East London’s docks. Rust has been used to form decorative patterns while the structural elements, the joints and drawer mechanism, of the cabinet are celebrated and made very apparent. If Lebbeus Woods were to design a cabinet, this is what it would look like. With a background in fine art, Myerscough founded her own gallery in 1998, setting up shop in Mayfair on London’s West End. “All the rents went astronomical,” she explained. “We had to decide to do exhibitions of fares. We chose fares so we could go out and reach our audience.” Then came the opportunity to do both, in Barnes. Supported by the landlord, Myerscough has renovated a former boathouse. Timber beams have been exposed, wood flooring has been put in, and the brick walls were painted white. On the Friday before the gallery opened on June 10, the smell of fresh paint still lingered in the air. “When we first got it, it was like a 1960s office space,” said Myerscough. “It's changed completely.” Where the opening for boats to come and go once was, is now a window which looks out onto the street. Today it advertises the contents of the gallery, offering a view into the relatively small, linear space. “We wanted to bring back its character and the original state of the place. Everything you are shown is full of character, narrative.” Despite being outside of Central London, Myerscough isn’t worried about a drop in visitor numbers. “It's probably more modest in the West End, but I don’t think that really matters, it's more what you do in the space,” she said. “I think we were slightly shackled by place. People say, 'Oh you're a West End gallery' and you immediately have this kind of profile. I don't think it should be like that; what you do in the space should determine how successful you are as a gallerist.” "In the art world, you need to have a specialization to be noticed. But it won't just be timber on display here. There are so much more exciting things going on — with organic materials, sustainability." Scorched runs through August 18, 2019. Other artists featured include Max Bainbridge, Alison Crowther, Christopher Kurtz, Eleanor Lakelin, Malcolm Martin and Gaynor Dowling, Gareth Neal, Jim Partridge & Liz Walmsley, Benjamin Planitzer, Marc Ricourt, Wycliffe Stutchbury and Nic Webb.
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Our (Enclosed) Town

Carney Logan Burke Architects drops mutable performance pavilion in Jackson Hole
Carney Logan Burke Architects (CLB) has dropped an all-in-one performance venue, sculpture, and gathering space for the public in front of the Center for the Arts in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The austere Town Enclosure, installed on June 27, 2018, was designed to have a minimalist footprint and will be repurposed for installation elsewhere (to be decided) by the end of October. The airy enclosure was the winning entry in a 2018 competition to design a pavilion for the Jackson Hole Public Art and Center for the Arts’ 2018 Creative in Residence program. CLB was selected from a pool of local artists and architects. Rather than an enclosed space, as one might expect from the name, Town Enclosure was built as a porous circle. Sustainably sourced timber panels were arranged four feet apart from each other and angled towards the center of the circular base to form the “walls” of Town Enclosure, with one side of each panel left raw and the other painted black. The openness of the pavilion is thus dictated by the viewer’s angle. Approaching the structure parallelly, from the Center and the adjacent Snow King Mountain, makes it appear totally porous, but approaching from a perpendicular angle gives the impression of a solid, closed design. Although the pavilion is simple, the movement of the sun across the slabs creates dynamic shadows over the course of the day, and as the seasons change. Even the base was intended to have a minimal impact. Instead of using concrete for the foundation, CLB opted to anchor the pavilion with reusable steel panels covered by gravel. Besides improving the installation’s portability and minimizing the impact to the site’s grounds, the base references local fencing and corrals from the surrounding mountains. Town Enclosure is also first and foremost a performance venue for the Center’s residents, and talks, classes, dance and music performances, and visual art shows from the Center and community groups have all been staged there.
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Ever Resourceful

Artist Simon Denny explores the effects of digital and physical mining
Artist Simon Denny is digging into data as a landscape, unearthing the possibilities of extracting material both physical and informational in Mine, a show at the Australian museum Mona. The show has found itself a fitting setting at Tasmania’s iconoclastic museum, the privately-run brainchild of entrepreneur David Walsh, that is itself a winding maze of darkened corridors partially carved into the Triassic sandstone of the Berriedale peninsula. The mine-shaft feeling is only increased by the museum's new Nonda Katsalidis and Falk Peuser–designed underground extension—a level of subterranean spaces connected by circular stone tunnels with metal ribs that they’re calling Siloam.  Denny, whose previous work has fixated on cryptocurrency, the dissolution of borders, and other complications of our increasingly computerized world, works in the space between the two meanings of mine—both the extraction of physical material, like rare earth metals and lithium necessary for our devices, and the data mining and mining for bitcoins which has increasingly clear environmental impact in the form of outsize carbon emissions and land use. Mine looks at technological shifts and their impact on the IRL environment, as well as the entanglements of colonization and economics that have propelled resource extraction and all its environmental impacts. Instead of a canary in a coal mine, Mine will feature an augmented reality version of the nearly-extinct King Island brown thornbill, which researchers have recently discovered in Tasmania outside of its normal habitat, living inside a 3D version of a patent diagram of an Amazon warehouse cage that’s in actuality been designed for the company’s notoriously overworked and underpaid human workers. On the walls, the bird is overlaid onto pages of the patent and the AR bird, whose habitat has been all but destroyed by industry, flits throughout the exhibition on visitors’ phones or on "The O,” the museum’s unusual electronic guide. The exhibition has been designed as a trade show-cum-board game, where various devices that extract resources from the land and from human labor are displayed on a giant version of Squatter, a classic Monopoly-style Australian board game about raising sheep. Another board game, called "Extractor," will act as exhibition catalogue. Figurative work from other artists who investigate work and automation will be displayed, including Li Lao’s 2012 Consumption, which recalls the artist’s own experience working for the manufacturer Foxconn, and Patricia Piccinini’s 2002 Game Boys Advanced. The curators Jarrod Rawlins and Emma Pike hope, taken together, these sculptures will evince a “metaphorical workforce.” Mine is on view through April 13, 2020.
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lolart

Artists turn cable trays into snaking installation
The New York–based artists Eva and Franco Mattes have a practice that focuses exclusively on the effect that the internet has on our daily life. They claim to devote “their waking hours almost exclusively to exploring this platform —its possibilities, pitfalls, and implications for the creation and dissemination of content and data.” In their current exhibition Data Doubles at the Team (Bungalow) Gallery in Venice, California, the duo has spatialized or, in their words, “concretized” the physical infrastructure of the internet by installing a network of cable trays or “exostructure” throughout the gallery house. These modular units of lightweight sheet steel are traditionally joined together and hung from a ceiling to join or hide the cacophony of wires that otherwise snake across desks and avenues of travel in an office workspace. Here they are in our face at eye level and below, circumnavigating the indoor and outdoor spaces of the site. A cute addition to the exhibit is a taxidermy cat peeking through a hole in the ceiling, a direct interpretation of the meme Ceiling Cat, which surged in popularity from 2006 onwards concomitant with the lolcat phenomenon. We are being watched or even monitored! The installation makes clear, if it were not already, how powerful our lived space merges today with the virtual space of technology and the internet. Finally, is it really important to actually visit the gallery or is it enough to simply see it in this review? I am writing this review from New York without actually visiting the gallery. But the images are so seductive they take me there via the internet to the Venice bungalow. Data Doubles Eva & Franco Mattes Team Gallery May 12 – June 23, 2019 306 Windward Avenue, Venice, California
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Clubcraft

You can now tour Berghain, Berlin's decadent techno club, in Minecraft
Many consider Berghain, a nightclub in a former East Berlin power plant, to be one of the world's best clubs, but despite its reputation, few images of the interior are available online. That's thanks in part to a strict no-photos policy, which allows Berghain patrons to enjoy a weekly 36-hour techno sound bath in whatever state of sobriety or undress feels most comfortable. Another reason for Berghain's mystique? It can be really hard to get in. The club (actually a few venues in one) has a more-or-less inscrutable door policy; there are multiple online forums that give first-timers tips on how to not get rejected. Fortunately for the curious, Reddit user throwawayforlewdstuf has created a pretty accurate five-minute Berghain walkthrough in the popular PC game Minecraft. Check it out: The clip starts with the approach, a long gravel path off the main road. It moves through the door, coat check, and onto the ground floor, then up the stairs to the main dance floor. The first-person walker creeps up to Panorama Bar, the house-focused club within Berghain. The IRL interiors feature photos by Wolfgang Tillmans, a cafe that serves delicious banana ice cream, and ravers wearing mostly black. The space was designed by Berlin's studio karhard in 2004. While the walkthrough feels thorough, it doesn't capture the dancers, lights, music, or energy that makes the club—any club—worth visiting. This is far from the only time a notable space has been reconstituted in Minecraft. In November, users created a tour of Microsoft's Redmond, Washington, headquarters. Before that, the entire country of Denmark, Westeros from Game of Thrones, and Palladio’s Villa Rotonda were constructed virtually in the game. h/t Resident Advisor
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Tonya Harding & House Music

Gen X design surveyed at New York's Friedman Benda gallery
What do the Rick Roll and Boris Yeltsin have in common? The cultural phenomenon and political figure were both fixtures of the late 20th and early 21st-century cultural zeitgeist, a time heavily defined by Generation X. Separate from the populous Baby Boomers and their Millennial offspring, this segment of western society was born between the late 1960s and early '80s. X-ers lived in a pre and postdigital world and were witness to how technology transformed culture. Coming of age just before the turn of the century, this generation experienced the growth of globalization and a collective loss of innocence. Currently on view at New York's Friedman Benda gallery, An Accelerated Culture—closing on June 8—is a unique group exhibition that seeks to survey rather than typecast design from this period. Read the full story on our design and interiors site, aninteriormag.com.
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Détails d'Architecture

New York gallery displays hand-drafted architecture drawings
For those of you who still cherish "hand-made" architectural drawings, there is a small jewel of an exhibition to be enjoyed at the Victoria Munroe Fine Art gallery on view through July 12. The show spans a broad range of studies, plans, and designs as well as land surveys from the 18th through the 20th century. The majority of the drawings of gardens are elegant Italianate designs primarily by French hands. One Hugh Ferris study of the Scientific American building (24W 40th Street) is a standout, looking positively expressionist next to the crisp detailing of the earlier works. Perhaps the most beautiful are the engineering plan details, by Jules-Germain Olivier. In his "Details de la Ferme" (1905) executed in watercolor, the disposition of the parts across the page, delicately rendered, makes the drawing seem contemporary, resembling a Walter Pichler in its minimal descriptive sensibility. His Racetrack Field House presents a more traditional 19th-century rendering of a classical plan with a nod to Chinese detail. Set against the more sophisticated images is the Lyver Land Survey from 1779, map-like in its structure but with a flair for the decorative. Architecture & Gardens: 18th, 19th and Early 20th Century Works on Paper May 7–July 12, 2019 Victoria Munroe Fine Art 67 East 80th Street #2 New York, NY 10075
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Gluten Intake

Urs Fischer presents a dark domestic fairy tale at the Brant Foundation
The Swiss artist Urs Fischer has returned to The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, which first presented a solo show of his work in 2010, with ERROR, a surreal landscape of sculptures, paintings, and a full-scale cabin—partially made of slowly molding bread. Bread House had originally been staged in 2004 and has been reconstructed this time with (thankfully) new bread, which will again decay and rot and stink. The life-size alpine cabin is lined with rugs and is held together with the help of expanding foam and wood. (In some past iterations the house has been populated by young parakeets, which feed off the bread.) Other fairy-tale-esque domestic fixtures are also on display, though not within the walls of the yeasty home, including bed sculptures, like Kratz (2011), a bed collapsing under the weight of a pile of concrete, and Untitled (2011), a bed seemingly collapsing under the ghostly weight of nothing. Stranger still perhaps, there is Horse/Bed (2013), a deconstructed hospital bed merged with an aluminum horse, like some sort of sick harness. To create this eerie form, Fischer blended 3-D scans of a taxidermied workhorse and a hospital bed. There is, of course, seating too, like You Can Not Win (2003), a falling over plain plaster chair that’s been impaled by an over-four-foot-tall white BIC lighter. That might be comical, but more jarring is a fountain-cum-chair draped with a skeleton, pietà-style, called Invisible Mother (2015). All of these works—along with other sculptures, paintings, and mixed media objects—create a dreamlike (or nightmare-like, depending on your disposition) environment that overwhelms and confuses to giddying effect. URS FISCHER: ERROR The Brant Art Foundation Study Center Greenwich, CT Through October 14
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Design for Extremes

Milan shows examine design in the face of disaster
The much anticipated Museo del Design Italiano opened its doors to the public in the same week in April as the Salone del Mobile.Milano. Housed in the storied Milan Triennale, this carefully assembled selection of design artifacts is curated by Joseph Grima, who began his tenure as the museum’s first director. This collection, housed in the Italian Design Museum, is a preeminent example, according to the Triennale Foundation’s president Stefano Boeri, of Italy’s rich post-war cultural heritage. Grima’s formula for the permanent exhibition is to parcel the Triennale’s significant archive into limited sets or editions, that he characterizes as “episodes,” with the first episode serving as the premiere event. Episode 1 is a survey of the postwar years between 1948 and 1981 and is housed in the first half of the curved gallery that winds around the ground floor. Each progressive installment will expand deeper into the Triennale’s bowel-like interiors. The ultimate goal for the Design Museum is to expand beyond Giovanni Muzio’s original 1930s architectural masterpiece. The intention, according to Boeri, is for the museum to grow out by dipping below the rear gardens. An international competition for this future wing will soon be in the offing. It should be pointed out, however, that the exhibition on Italian design is concurrent with, if only through a programming coincidence, a major traveling exhibition located on the second floor above: Broken Nature, curated by Paola Antonelli, the highly successful senior curator of architecture and design at MoMA. Subtitled Design Takes on Human Survival (open through September 1, 2019), this detailed survey of critical strategies dealing directly with the plight of the planet and its increasingly fragile ecosystems aims to be the last word on what is possible through human action in the fuzzy realm of the “technosphere,” a term coined by Peter Haff and adopted by Antonelli’s curatorial team. An impressive number of prominent international designers, thinkers, visual artists and craftspeople share the extensive second-floor space in a sprawling display of human invention and earthly ingenuity. The two inadvertently overlapping exhibitions bring up the question of mutual relevancy, precisely because the similarities between these two exhibitions are much more marked than one would first assume. Looking at the two epochs under consideration, one postwar, the other very recent, both shows are reactions to extreme geopolitical contexts. Italy in the immediate postwar period had to overcome severe wartime devastation; while today, we are evidently firsthand witnesses to a ballooning climatic disaster. Why push the comparison? Because Joseph Grima’s vision of the late fifties to the early eighties serendipitously provides us with a collection of object-time-capsules, or packaged narratives, where we come face to face with an Olivetti typewriter, a pair of Moonboots, a miniature Brionvega television set. These items are neatly arranged alongside related prototype wooden models, publications from promotional advertising campaigns, and in some cases original cardboard packaging. True, as Stefano Mirti, the Milanese designer and critic who was one of the earliest to comment on the exhibit over social media, put it, the objects are readied as if for Instagram shots, but Mirti also took great delight in the immediacy and directness with which these objects are allowed to communicate with us. The famed folding clamshell Grillo telephones, designed in 1965 by Marco Zanuso and Richard Sapper, are featured. Pick up the phone, try to remember or guess how to use the dial, and you are connected to the designer’s voice responsible for creating the object in front of you. It’s a pretty direct message, with no middleman. Why is everyone still so mesmerized with this by-now relatively familiar collection of top Italian design objects? The something else that characterizes this permanent collection is the inherent irony, cynicism, and deep criticality that underlies almost each and every one of these impressive designs. What could possibly be the reason we are ensnared by Archizoom’s relatively uncomfortable looking Poltrona Mies chair built by Poltronova in 1969 to take just one example? Most of these pieces, developed with sparse financial support from the manufacturers, represent lengthy developments by trial and error, long personal commitments, and rare commercial successes—at least when they first came on the market. A case in point are the colorful names of these creations, Papillon, Rossocactus, Shanghai, CuccioloTrigger of the SpaceVertebraAtollo, etc. The pieces are much more than merely functional objects; they act as totems for a new society. Behind these designs are a nest of ideological structures that reject standardization, often embrace handcrafts and experimental materials, and evidently abandon the strict tenets of modernist rationalism. The pieces are in turn self-ironic, cynically auto destructive, or perversely inefficient. Enzo Mari is the master of this kind of design game, as so many of his pieces in this collection exemplify, like his Box from 1971 for Anonima Castelli, a chair that is its own carrying case, or his Modelli in scala Serie Proposta per autoprogettazione (Scale models for self-design Proposta series), 1973, for Simon International, conceived to empower the user to rethink one’s own domestic environment. The transition from postwar reconstruction to the threat of nuclear annihilation remains all the while a running subtext among these objects. Looking at Broken Nature, one could only hope that there would be an equivalent level of meta-awareness. To be honest, several of the featured designers and creative thinkers in this exhibit do reach these heights, but they are drowned out by the sheer volume of participants. There are the overarching (or overreaching) categories, including “A Changed Climate,” “Complex Environments,” “Made and Unmade,” “More of the Times,” and “Bridges,” and some truly great projects for sure: beginning with the exhibition’s graphic icons, designed by Anna Kulachek. There are many impressive designs, fluent in the parametric, the biomimetic, the diagram, the transgenderative, the playful, but at the end of the day, what can you take away from all these projects, besides a deeply unrequited experience? This is not to slight the many amazing designs featured in Broken Nature, but it calls to question the primary curatorial position, which attempts to be so all-inclusive that there remains little room for personal absorption or reflection on the part of the viewer. There is no way to digest all this comprehensive information into a personal action, or to urge us on as individuals to become more aware or rebellious. The lack of self-reflection, self-criticism, or even some kind of cynical self-abdication leaves the viewer with simply too much useful information to process. Broken Nature is not the only one among these hugely impressive, uber-intelligent, mega-exhibits to come on the circuit in these recent years. But I fear the effects are ultimately counterproductive. In a way, we become frustrated in our attempts to make sense of these works. Go downstairs, to the Museo del Design Italiano, to experience how irony, satire, and self-deprecation draw your curiosity and fuel your imagination. This is what we need more of today.
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Flat Earth

Artist explores ideology of California's built environment
Working between Los Angeles and Joshua Tree, California, artist Aili Schmeltz culls from a wide array of architectural and design iconographies, reducing and remixing them in paintings and sculptures, to question their ideological underpinnings. In A Future Perfect, her solo show on display now at the Los Angeles gallery Edward Cella Art & Architecture, Schmeltz toys with art deco and modernist visual languages that compose so much of the built landscape of Southern California. She pushes motifs from both styles into abstraction in order to trouble the “utopian” ideologies underpinning both the modernist architectural project and the United States’ westward expansion. The work in A Future Perfect was in part inspired by another, large-scale undertaking of Schmeltz's. According to the gallery, she had been working to turn “a homesteader cabin near Joshua Tree into an exhibition space and live-in gallery called Outpost Projects.” While painting the walls gallery-white, she “noticed an optical effect of the surrounding landscape shifting forward spatially through the windows while the walls receded into background.” This strange visual experience compelled her to play with flatness and three-dimensional architectonic forms with her paintings and sculptures designed to be interpreted as “both objects and windows.” It also pushed her to investigate the legacy of artists, architects, homesteaders, and others who have shaped the perception of our world, particularly of the post-colonial Western United States. Schmeltz is thinking through history and ideology not just with visual motifs, but also with ways of seeing. With references as wide-ranging as Louise Nevelson, Donald Judd, Le Corbusier, John Lautner, Richard Neutra, Hilma af Klint, and Frank Lloyd Wright, Schmeltz’s painted de- and re-constructions (all part of a series titled Object/Window/Both/Neither) challenge us in their total flatness, while the cinder block plinths that the sculptural forms sit on evoke the very fundamentals of the act of building, turning architectural decoration into strange objects. Schmeltz's geometric abstractions, in their obvious constructedness, toy with the artificiality of our own contemporary “landscapes,” universes that have been built and shaped by human action and that carry so many hidden meanings and histories. Aili Schmeltz: A Future Perfect Edward Cella Art & Architecture May 11 through June 22, 2019