All posts in On View

Placeholder Alt Text

The Site of Memory

Heidi Bucher's latex casts of spaces are coming to New York
What if instead of photographing your home to remember its significance in your life, you recreated its walls, windows, and doors by casting them in liquid latex? That’s quite the committed way of capturing the space of life, but one that could also produce a more tangible record of space. The seminal Swiss sculptor and performance artist Heidi Bucher did just that in the mid-1970s and '80s. Late in her career, she discovered a new, experimental artform of  “skinning” spaces by pressing gauze against the surface of a building or object, spreading latex on top of it, and then peeling off the cast with all her might. A survey of these monumental pieces, which have been pristinely kept by her family, will be on view in the new exhibition, Heidi Bucher: The Site of Memory, at the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York from April 29 to June 15. Viewers will be able to see up-close and personal the details and textures that Bucher was able to capture. Featuring Bucher’s most iconic sculptures, like Borg from 1976, a piece molded on the entire cellar of her studio, the exhibition will provide insights into the artist’s intensive latex casting method and the lengths that she would go to record spaces. Also included will be works shown for the first time in the United States like Untitled (Door to the Herrenzimmer) from 1978, a sculpture that, like much of Bucher’s work, takes on an ethereal quality thanks to the mother-of-pearl she pasted over her pieces to create an iridescent sheen. Though her projects have naturally browned over time, such touches gave helped them maintain an aura of elusive depth. “I don’t think she was trying to be super precious with these materials,” said Anna Stothart, curatorial director of Lehmann Maupin. “For her, these skins had certain layers of beauty but were also meant to express the specific personal, social, and historic memories held in these architectural spaces. You can even see the residue of the paint pulled from the surface of whatever she was casting.” Bucher’s work was clearly indicative of a literal place and time in her own life, but it also had a larger, cultural meaning. According to Stothart, she was investigating the physical boundaries between the human body and the domestic environments in which women, in particular, were often confined to. The pieces shown in the exhibition center around the period when Bucher returned to a politically-charged Zurich after living in more progressive cities within the U.S. and Canada with her husband, who was a more traditional sculptor. After divorcing him, she began exploring more abstract forms of sculpture as well as feminist ideas like what it means to “take up space,” both in public and in private, as a Swiss woman. She primarily molded women’s clothing at first, which according to the exhibition description “both signified her interest in metamorphosis and served as a critical response to the rigid gender restrictions she experienced growing up.” By the time she started casting large-scale architectural structures, such as entire rooms, the concept turned into a personal and cultural commentary on removing oneself from the patriarchal past. “She would literally pull the molds off the wall using her whole body,” said Stothart. “The material is strong and she wasn’t worried about the end result being perfect, or even conserving it. I’d say she didn’t want a piece to be an exact replica of space, but the memory of it, a ghost of it.”  Heidi Bucher: The Site of Memory opens at Lehmann Maupin at 501 West 24th Street, New York on April 29. A series of videos filmed by Bucher and her sons, Mayo and Indigo Bucher, will accompany the work, unveiling the poetic ways in which the artist spoke about her process and works.
Placeholder Alt Text

Big Dreams, Small Buildings

National Building Museum receives gift of tiny souvenirs
From precious lockets concealing portraits of distant lovers to souvenir Statue of Liberty pencil sharpeners, miniatures have long been associated with memory. More potent than postcards or photographs, there’s a weight—real and figurative—to novelty architectural objects that you can hold in the palm of your hand and proudly display on your bookshelf or mantle—perhaps as a welcome reminder, after a long day of corporate drudgery, that you were once someplace genuinely spectacular. The National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., recently announced the donation of more than 3,000 of these tiny totems from the collection of architect David Weingarten. The 20th Century Souvenir Buildings Collection represents more than 40 years of travel across 60 countries. What prompted Weingarten’s passion for collection? His first object, a miniature version of the Speyer Cathedral, was purchased in 1976 during a trip to Germany with his uncle, the architect Charles Moore who was known for his appreciation of place and memory. Moore purchased a larger representation of the cathedral, and both objects are now part of the Building Musem’s permanent collection. In addition to historic cathedrals, the collection includes anonymous American banks—perhaps given away with a free checking account—and iconic landmarks like the Tower of Pisa. Many of these souvenirs are solid casts made from metal, wax, or rubber; others conceal unexpected functions, like the Tower of Pisa lipstick case, which houses a striking red shade that promises to make your lips look leaner as you wistfully recall that magical summer in Tuscany. “Among the surprising truths of souvenir buildings is that they almost never cause us to recall just buildings,” said Weingarten in a statement. “Rather, we think of the place and its setting, ourselves and those with whom we visited, of the day or night, the time of year, moments momentous and everyday—that universe of reflection we associate with memorable places. Inevitably and ironically, for each of us, the identical souvenir building arouses extravagantly varied reminiscences.” Items from the collection are already on display at the National Building Museum, inviting visitors to recall their own “moments momentous and everyday,” and perhaps this collection will inspire others to go someplace genuinely spectacular.
Placeholder Alt Text

RBM at NYBG

Roberto Burle Marx show coming to New York Botanical Garden
This summer, the New York Botanical Garden celebrates Roberto Burle Marx, the modernist landscape architect who worked with Lúcio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer. Roberto Burle Marx’s path to becoming one of the most celebrated landscape architects of the 20th century was about as direct as his sinuous garden designs. Raised in Rio de Janeiro, he moved to Berlin to study painting and found inspiration in the city’s Dahlem Botanical Garden. When he returned to Rio to continue his education, he still considered himself a painter but began to experiment with a new medium: native plants. His work was noticed by architect and urban planner Lúcio Costa, who asked Burle Marx to design a garden. The painter-turned-landscape architect became dedicated to expanding his horticultural palette, and commissions from other architects, including Oscar Niemeyer, followed. Burle Marx developed a joyful style defined by large groupings of plants employed like swaths of color on a canvas. His gardens were structured around around bold architectural forms and features, and bolder plants like the explosively colorful bromeliad and the sculptural leaves of the elephant’s ear. Favoring neither common nor exotic plants, Burle Marx was instead fascinated by the effects of plants. He collected, studied, and propagated native Brazilian species—dozens that he discovered bear his name—and he became a passionate environmentalist and advocate for the conservation of the rainforest and the native landscape. The exhibition will feature a garden designed by landscape architect and Burle Marx–protege Raymond Jungles in the spirit of Burle Marx’s work, as well as a gallery of the landscape architect’s original paintings, prints, drawings, and textiles. “From children’s playgrounds, to art, to sculptural vine trellises, to murals, to incredible gardens, you [can] see his passion in everything that he did,” said Jungles. “He was always creating; that’s what gave him joy.” The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx opens June 8 at the New York Botanical Garden and will be on view until September 29.
Placeholder Alt Text

Eternal Gradient

Chicago's Graham Foundation spotlights Arakawa and Madeline Gins

Over 40 drawings and decades of archival materials from the late artist-architects Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins have arrived in Chicago, documenting an early period in their practice that would later go on to influence their architectural projects—buildings designed to reverse aging. Geometric line art, cages, architectural models, and section drawings all break down the evolution of “Reversible Destiny,” the concept that the built environment is able to influence human physiology. Architecture was the starting point and inspiration for a body of work that included traditional art as well as sculpture and poetry. The duo would later go on to form the Reversible Destiny Foundation, which partnered with the Estate of Madeline Gins to make the show possible. Eternal Gradient originally ran at Columbia University’s Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery in 2018 before moving to its current home at the Graham Foundation. Chicago and New Orleans–based practice Norman Kelley was responsible for the exhibition design.

Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient Graham Foundation Madlener House, 4 West Burton Place Chicago Through May 4
Placeholder Alt Text

Architectural Atrocity Tourism

The Cursed Architecture Twitter feed showcases the best of the worst
What drives the internet’s (perhaps morbid) obsession with bad design? Strange angles, melting paint, oddly-placed and vaguely threatening toilets, signage that hinders rather than helps, stairs to nowhere, and misplaced windows have all caused digital rubbernecking. Whether it’s critiquing the bric-a-brac nature of suburban homes assembled by the nouveau-riche in McMansion Hell, or posting abject failures in the 1.5-million-member-strong r/CrappyDesign subreddit, the demand for “bad design” to critique seems bottomless. The worst offenders are frequently aggregated on Instagram, meme-y Facebook pages, Twitter, and listicles, repackaged and reshared failures of design for new audiences. Enter the Cursed Architecture Twitter account, which has been posting baffling, incomplete, and/or possibly haunted buildings since September of last year. When asked about where they compile their material from and why they think it has such an enduring appeal, the owner of Cursed Architecture had this to say: "I started collecting the images a couple of years ago because I thought they were funny, and later on made the account for my own entertainment. I never expected it to be so popular—or popular at all. I’m a little stunned by it, honestly. The images come from all over the Internet: house listings, DIY forums, and so on. Some are submitted to me. "We live in a very planned, sanitary, squared-off world. I think that’s why the failures are so funny, and why they resonate. So much current architecture is totally impersonal, but a bizarre mistake is the opposite. It invites the question of who did it, and why, and who thought three urinals crowded into a corner or a staircase to nowhere was a good idea. There’s something very human about that." Perhaps the collective fascination with such failures stems from the internet’s ability to give would-be critics a seat at the table, allowing anyone to weigh in. It’s also possible that when faced with overwhelmingly terrible design that fails at a basic level, everyone can put aside their quibbles and unite to make fun of it, together.
Placeholder Alt Text

Italian Impressions

Four standout installations from Milan Design Week 2019
A series of unusual and experimental architectural installations at Milan Design Week 2019 and Salone del Mobile allows visitors the chance to get inside the minds of radical architects, designers, and artists from around the world. These pieces, made in collaboration with prominent Italian brands and historic venues, showcase not only great work by emerging design professionals and veteran acts, but also give attention to pressing themes facing humanity today, such as climate change and life in the ever-evolving digital age. Some of the projects simply bring beauty to the forefront, reminding visitors to look for inspiration in eclectic design. Check out some of AN's favorite installations from the massive design event on AN Interior  
Placeholder Alt Text

Moving Parts

Performa 19 probes the Bauhaus's legacies in performance and architecture
For its eighth iteration, the Performa Biennial (Performa 19) will be embodying the radical spirit of the Bauhaus, which celebrates its centennial this year, with performances across New York City. Investigating the confluence of artistic, technological, and political events that birthed the interdisciplinary school in its own day, Performa 19 reframes the 1923 exhibition Art and Technology; The New Unity to consider “what is the art school of the 21st century?” Taking place over the course of three and a half weeks in November, the biennial will include commissions from global artists including Korakrit Arunanondchai, Ed Atkins, Nairy Baghramian, Tarik Kiswanson, Paul Pfeiffer, and Samson Young. There will also be partnerships with numerous other institutions in the collaborative, multidisciplinary spirit of the Bauhaus. “One of Performa’s important roles is to provide critical historical background and context for today’s performances by visual artists,” explained RoseLee Goldberg, founding director and chief curator of Performa. And history, power, and architecture will be taken up by many of the artists. Baghramian, for example, will use dance and theater to investigate the role of the body and gender in architecture and domestic space, while Arunanondchai will create a musical that draws from the Thai tradition of Ghost Cinemas, outdoor movie screenings that began after the Vietnam War as a way for the living and dead to commune among one another. In addition to these new commissions, legendary dancer and choreographer Yvonne Rainer and dance scholar Emily Coates will reconstruct Rainer’s 1965 piece Parts of Some Sextets from materials held at the Getty archives. While we often think of the Bauhaus as a school of architecture and design, Goldberg pointed out that the architecture department was itself slow to launch, yet “a theater department was there at the beginning. [It] took the form of a centralized workshop for exploring cross-disciplinary projects; the drawing department used it to examine movements of the body in space, visual artists and photographers to explore lighting design, and performers and designers to construe fabulous parties, such as the Metal Party.” Drawing upon the department and school's inventive legacy, as well as engaging publications like The Bauhaus Stage, Performa 19 will exhibit how theater at the Bauhaus, and performance more broadly, bridge disciplines and connect bodies and spaces through time. Performa 19 will run from November 1 to November 24, 2019, in New York City.
Placeholder Alt Text

Arch Zoo

KooZA/rch and (ab)Normal put inspiration on a pedestal at Salone del Mobile
Online architecture representation platform KooZA/rch and multidisciplinary collective (ab)Normal put together a colorful installation at the 2019 Salone del Mobile in Milan. Titled MICRO TOOLS: THE INVISIBLE SYNAPSE, the micro-exhibition asked a bunch of designers to display a compact set of objects or memory "tools" that inspired them. Read the full article with all the images on aninteriormag.com.
Placeholder Alt Text

NSFW

The Cruising Pavilion, New York maps queer pasts and futures
On the blacked-out front door of Ludlow 38, the Goethe Institute’s downtown outpost, is a plaque. In simple, sans serif, white letters it says: "THIS GALLERY CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGERY. PARENT/ADULT DISCRETION IS ADVISED." Open the door and even before you cross the threshold you’ll hear moaning. Or at least I did. I suppose timing matters—not every moment of what turns out to be Shu Lea Cheang’s 2001 video I.K.U. - I robosex has moaning. Inside, with the windows blacked out and the overhead lamps turned off, purple LED strips hidden behind walls provide the only light in the gallery, and it’s hard to make things out clearly. It hardly feels like an art exhibition but there is still a gallery attendant at the front desk, which reminds you that you do have to behave. This is Cruising Pavilion, New York, the second of three iterations of the architectural exploration of gay sex and cruising originally presented to coincide with the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale and created and curated by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos, Rasmus Myrup, Octave Perrault, and Charles Teyssou, and produced along with the Ludlow 38 curator, Franziska Sophie Wildförster. The third, and perhaps final, Cruising Pavilion will go up in Stockholm this fall. A friend and I often remark that there are no real gay bars on the east side below Delancey—or even below Houston, really—where we actually live and spend most of our time. The area is not and has never really been known as an epicenter of gay culture, the way the Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and, as unbelievable as it may be now, Times Square have been. As far as I know, there are no regularly operating backrooms, like those you can still find in the East Village, though I’m sure there are some private spaces where people have their share of fun. Even still, those rooms-behind-the-curtain have diminished—along with the theaters, the bathhouses, and certainly the piers—all things well before my time, my time being mostly post-Grindr and long after the first rounds of the mass sanitation of New York City. The powerwashing of our streets with money and moralism continues, as if there were anything less pornographic than New York’s extravagantly boring displays of wealth. There are few things more obscene and less stimulating than the recently opened Hudson Yards. Financial hedonism rarely breeds originality, and if cash is what gets you off, it’s probably because you’re bad in bed. At the opening, the exhibition did remind me a bit of moving about backrooms—bodies bouncing like so many pinballs, everything homogenizing into a swarm—but here I was less drunk and more clothed, and, of course, there was the fear, my fear, of damaging the art (some were less cautious—outside the show someone told me a bit of plexiglass had fallen victim to an errant elbow). Inside, I saw friends, former lovers, and former one night stands. Somebody told me there were poppers in the fog machine. I’m not sure if that’s true, nor if that’s safe, but either way the impression that there could’ve been some speaks to a sense of sensuality, danger, and seediness rarely seen in architecture exhibition. Like museums and galleries, sex and chemicals promise a trip to somewhere else. Perhaps the fog should remind us of the steam of the Continental Baths, long gone, which the curators cite in their release. The Cruising Pavilion highlights the historical entanglements of what the curators call "conflictual architectures." It mines the ineluctably intertwined histories of policing, neoliberalization, right-wing moralism, homonormalization, gentrification, the AIDS crisis, and so on, to map the real past and the gaps of the present, acting as a cartography of possibilities for the queer (mis)use of space. The exhibition is a blueprint towards performances of sexual dissidence, exposing the erotic potentials lurking in hidden dark corners, or maybe even out in the open, should you only try to catch someone—or be caught—in the act. A radical reframing of the notion of "architecture," Cruising Pavilion and the artists and architects it features interrogate sex and sexuality as a way of re- and dis-figuring buildings and cities the world over. Cruising, beyond being a sexual practice, is a spatial one—a phenomenological perversion that uses vision and touch to establish a set of relationships not just between individuals, but between individuals and the spaces they move through. Queer space is produced by its users as much if not more so than by its owners and architects. Sexuality is not just decoration, though it is that too, but, as Cruising Pavilion proposes, sex is a constitutive act of architecture. Museums and galleries make themselves by making rules. They regulate where bodies go, how close and how far from objects you can get, what you can and can’t touch (in general, you can’t touch much of anything). At the Cruising Pavilion it still probably isn’t advisable to touch (it is, after all, an art show) and I doubt getting it on is officially condoned. But for those compelled by the at-once exhibitionist and elusive acts of public sex or furtive hookups, isn’t breaking the rules part of the fun? But the fog and the psychedelic lush of lights evoke another space: The club. Of course, the club, too, can be sanitized and the curators point out the “de-sexualization of disco and house music and their mutations into the official anthem of ‘happy globalization.’” The neoliberal city, like Epcot, sounds better with a soundtrack. The point of the club was and is being together, increasingly important in the AirPod era. It’s hard not to think of the recent closing of the Dreamhouse, itself a veritable ad hoc architectural carnival, home to artist studios and to Spectrum, the favorite after-hours haunt of New York City’s artists, designers, DJs—weirdos and queerdos who came together to dance and talk and screw well past sunrise. One could presumably go to the gallery on drugs, but you’d still have to watch how you acted, lest you be kicked out. Perhaps the biggest queering of space is the simultaneous sensory overload and denial, the ocular S&M that plays out, at once enticing you and denying you. You can’t touch and you can’t see, but boy do you want to. This exhibition’s a tease, which is to say, it—like all art—is about desire and discipline. Cruising Pavilion Ludlow 38 New York, New York Through April 7
Placeholder Alt Text

Seas are a-risin’

Brooks+Scarpa explore “Salty Urbanism” in latest exhibition at USC
New research by Los Angeles-based architects Brooks+Scarpa is currently on view at the Verle Annis Gallery at the University of Southern California School of Architecture in L.A. The exhibition, Salty Urbanism, presents a case study approach for how two communities—the North Beach Village neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Venice in Los Angeles—can plan and respond to the increasingly present dangers of sea level rise and global climate change. According to the architects, nearly 50% of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of a coastline, a fact that is increasingly relevant as hurricanes, tidal floods, drought, and other climate change-related events associated with changing sea levels begin to increase in frequency. For this reason, Brooks+Scarpa argue, the time is right for designers to begin to put into practice “best management approaches” that had previously been considered largely on a theoretical basis. The exhibition collects speculative proposals as well as pedagogical perspectives for how architects might work through interdisciplinary means as part of a wider effort to stem the negative impacts of sea level rise on the built environment. They address the expected loss of water storage capacity for urban soils, as well as propose interventions to ease the future burden of legacy stormwater infrastructure systems. The exhibition highlights low-impact development, green infrastructure, and other alternative concepts as possible approaches for mitigating the damaging effects of climate instability in urban areas through a series of speculative proposals that include renderings, diagrams, and other visuals.

The exhibition is on view through Friday, April 19, 2019, and will be accompanied by a lecture given by Angela Brooks and Larry Scarpa at USC on Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 6 pm. For more information, see the USC website.

Placeholder Alt Text

Tilted Stage

Show at New York's Abrons Arts Center combines performance and construction
A live “performance/construction site,” called TILT, at New York City's Abrons Arts Center’s Experimental Theater combines dance and architecture in the close of a trilogy from Racoco Productions. The performance’s action is triggered by the first of three balls rolling down a chute in a primitive Rube Goldberg–like pinball machine, hitting metal chimes then bouncing down a “staircase.” The set is filled with sticks and pieces of wood at first tumbling out of the second-floor door of a shed, which houses a tap dancer in a skirt. The inventive costumes are largely made of wood panel overlays and flexible triangles that are either puppets mimicking the dance or sheaths that articulate movement. Choreography by Rachel Cohen, who stars along with tap dancer Heather Cornell, with live music by Lynn Wright, shows “fantastic excavations of everyday things…quixotic choreography, absurdist visuals, and raw materials”—and even a windmill constructed by four Noh-like dancers in a nod to Don Quixote. In the lobby are elements from the production—a build your own “throne,” pinball machine, ropes, chairs, costumes, Jacob’s Ladders, building blocks—and from the first two parts of the show’s trilogy, I would and Construct, which used the same raw materials as well as dance movements. For TILT, the final chapter, designer-carpenter Bill Kennedy was brought in to re-envision and expand the set pieces. The staccato and swirling movements perfectly mesh with the construction-site aesthetic of TILT.
Placeholder Alt Text

Magical Thinking

Follow This Line blends Iranian sculpture and architecture at the Met Breuer
Sixty years of art from the Iranian-born artist Siah Armajani are now on display at the Met Breuer, highlighting nearly 100 pieces of quietly revolutionary collage and architectural models. Exile, the refugee crisis, and the role of public art are all addressed overtly, but not directly, in Follow This Line. The show charts Armajani’s trajectory as an artist throughout the 1960s and ’70s and his use of magic spells, propaganda speeches, public art installations, computer-generated graphics, and other ephemera to create a “language of exile.” Of particular note are the models from the 1974-75 series Dictionary for Building, of which only 150 pieces remain from what was originally thousands of compartmentalized building details that sought to create a visual vocabulary of architecture through strange, nonsensical combinations of features. Follow This Line is a phrase that constantly reappears in Armajani's work and evokes the public nature and "claiming" of urban space—it refers to the way children walking home from school would drag their pencils across walls on the way. Running concurrently with Follow This Line is an installation of Bridge Over Tree in Brooklyn Bridge Park on the Empire Fulton Ferry lawn, the first staging of that piece since 1970. That example of built infrastructure deferring to nature will remain on display and open to the public until September 29, 2019.