All posts in On View
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.
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.
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.
Because I'm Happy
Studio Cadena's shimmery holiday installation takes over Flatiron Plaza
Studio Cadena’s ultra-bright holiday sculpture in Flatiron Plaza made its debut during New York’s first snowfall of the season. Though it was officially unveiled last night, Happy was set up late last week and photography captured the flurry of moments when it was first discovered by the public. Happy is the winner of the fifth annual Flatiron Public Plaza Holiday Competition, a partnership between the New York Department of Transportation Art, Van Alen Institute, and the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership Business Improvement District. Its installation signals the start of programming for BID’s “23 Days of Flatiron Cheer.” The project was created by Studio Cadena, a Brooklyn-based firm that was chosen out of seven other invited design teams. Their winning proposal features a series of translucent yellow screens draped from an open frame that are meant to add a spark of joy to everyone who passes by. It also doubles as a filter for people to see the city in a different light, according to Benjamin Cadena, Studio Cadena’s founder and principal.
David van der Leer, exiting director of Van Alen Institute, noted the impact that Happy could have on people's’ daily lives during a cold and colorless time of year. “By expressing a positive emotion in a public space, Studio Cadena’s delightful installation invites people to take a moment to consider the joy of being in the big, busy city during the holiday season.” Happy was selected by a jury of experts in design and public art including the Corcoran Group’s Nick Athanail, Michael Bierut, partner at Pentagram, Emily Colasacco, event director of NYC Summer Streets, as well as V. Mitch McEwan, partner at A(n) Office, and Aleksey Lukyanov-Cherny of SITU Studio. The installation will be on view through January 1, 2019.
From Paris to Colorado
OMA designs sinuous Dior show at the Denver Art Museum
American lovers of both fashion and architecture can get their fix in one hit this winter. OMA has designed an exhibition now open at the Denver Art Museum chronicling the history of French fashion house Dior. From Paris to the World winds a sinuous path through a floor of the angular Daniel Libeskind–designed building, "as a nod to Christian Dior’s obsession for his Granville garden," and the meandering path that runs through it, according to a statement from OMA. The path takes visitors through a timeline of the label's work, and its history with various high profile designers, including Yves Saint Laurent, John Galliano, Raf Simons, and its current creative director, Maria Grazia Chiuri. OMA designed the exhibition to conceptually bridge Dior's clothing with Libeskind's building. The design is built around aluminum surfaces, a reference to the museum's titanium cladding, but the metal in the exhibition comes in curvilinear forms that relate to the flowing couture garments on display. The aluminum begins as a wavy backdrop for the displays that wend through Anschutz Gallery where the metal takes a variety of treatments to match the evolution of the clothing line over time. In the Martin and McCormick Gallery, the metal is used in a series of petal-shaped pedestals that create a valley-like space that displays the fashion house's global inspirations. Dior: From Paris to the World is on display now through March 3 at the Denver Art Museum.
Spotlight on the City
National Building Museum chronicles Baltimore's urban history through movie theaters
A new exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., chronicles the stunning and somewhat sad history of cinema houses in America’s Charm City. Flickering Treasures: Rediscovering Baltimore’s Forgotten Movie Theaters opens tomorrow, November 17, showcasing the work of award-winning Baltimore Sun photographer Amy Davis. The show is based on Davis’s year-old book of the same name, which features 72 Baltimore buildings photographed from 1896 to today. Collected over a decade, her colorful documentary photography pits the current state of these once-opulent downtown theaters and modest neighborhood cinema houses with vintage black-and-white photos of the structures in their heyday. Curator Deborah Sorensen worked with Davis to collect over 100 architectural fragments and pieces of theater ephemera to populate the exhibition, each adding a layer of tangibility to the buildings detailed in the book. Along with these elements, personal stories unveiled through text illuminate both the local story of Baltimore’s own 20th-century urbanization, segregation, and suburban sprawl, as well as the national trends in theater design and the ever-evolving movie-going experience. “Baltimore was already a mid-size city at the turn-of-the-century,” said Sorensen. “As a case study, it mirrors the development of the film industry and how it shaped cities across America. Movie palaces were being built to reflect local civic pride and the power of movies. If you look at when cities really started booming, it’s when these structures were coming online.” Davis’s photographs not only unveil the architectural history of movie theaters, but track these shifts in local population, land use, and urban history in Baltimore. In the early 1900s, famous architects were called upon to design grand cinema houses for downtown commercial districts. Many sported shiny, stand-out marquees and seated up to 2,000 people. Post-World War II, the city had 119 theaters of varying sizes and designs, but due to the introduction of television and mega-malls, the way people consumed films dramatically changed, as well as the way theaters were constructed. Davis conducted 300 interviews with movie exhibitors, theater employees, property owners, and filmgoers to get at the heart of these theaters and their surrounding locales. She photographed the buildings as they stand today—some revitalized as performing arts centers, churches, or concert venues, others still derelict and falling apart, and some completely demolished. Their successful, or in some cases poor, evolutions point to local investment in preservation and development over time. “We’re looking at the rise of movie-going and the decline of downtowns through the lens of this particular place,” said Sorenson. “It’s a reality that many American cities have faced and are trying to recover from." Since the first movie theater opened its doors in the late 19th century, Baltimore has been home to a total of 240 cinemas. Today, it has only five functioning theaters, not including the homogenous AMC or Regal theaters common today. Two outstanding examples include the legendary Hippodrome, built in 1914, and Parkway, built in 1915. Both came back to life after multi-million dollar restoration and expansion projects. Not all movie theaters across the country have been so lucky. Flickering Treasures gives visitors an in-depth look at Baltimore’s former movie palaces and neighborhood film houses, as well as notable architects and industry entrepreneurs through poignant case studies and enlightening biographies. With photographs of rarely-seen interiors and much-need information on the history of these unique facades, Davis shines a spotlight on over a century of change in one American city. Flickering Treasures is open through October 14, 2019. For a sneak peek of the show, visit Davis's Flickering Treasures on Facebook.
An ambitious exhibition at London's Wellcome Collection highlights the long and complex relationship between design and public health. Titled Living with Buildings, the show explores more than 150 years of thinking about how the built environment impacts social well-being. Ranging across eras and topics from Garden City idealism and 1930s modernist hospitals and health centers to 1960s high-rise housing projects, this beautiful and thought-provoking exhibition reveals how design in the built environment has the potential to be a powerful agent of change, both of healing and of harm. The broad overview is illustrated by a wealth of period artifacts, artworks, and historical documents, beginning with Charles Booth's powerful cartographic depictions of London's Victorian-era slums, which first identified the connections between poverty, illness, and poor-quality housing. Other highlights include original architectural drawings by Erno Goldfinger, Berthold Lubetkin, Le Corbusier, and Alvar Aalto, all of whom designed pioneering public housing and health centers during the 1930s. Architectural sketches, renderings, and pieces of custom-designed furniture are displayed alongside photographs and video essays by artists including Rachel Whiteread, Andreas Gursky, and Martha Rosler that document the challenges of preserving and maintaining egalitarian social services in the face of declining public and governmental support. A last section of Living With Buildings is dedicated to high-profile, health-conscious contemporary architecture, showcasing the healing environments of Maggie's Centres cancer support charity, and a portable hospital intended for use in disaster relief situations, designed and engineered by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and Buro Happold. The free Living with Buildings exhibition will be up until March 3, 2019, at the Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Road in central London. More information is available here.
Modernizing the Middle East
Fikra converts abandoned bank into ground-breaking graphic design event
The inaugural Fikra Graphic Design Biennial, the first biennial on the topic in the Middle East, is currently being held in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. The event showcases the collaborative work of hundreds of designers, industry leaders, and institutions from over 20 countries that provide visitors with a glimpse of some of the most inventive and revolutionary graphic design projects in the Middle East. The event space is in the historic Bank of Sharjah building located in a well-known modernist block in Sharjah that was built in the 1970s. Dubai-based T.ZED Architects was commissioned to renovate multiple floors of the block’s long-abandoned bank in order to house the Biennial. The architectural firm preserved and restored many of the antiquated features and remains of the bank through the process, contributing to the exhibition’s unconventional approach. Despite the recent face-lift, the Ministry of Graphic Design will be the building’s last tenant before it is demolished in the coming months. The event is organized by Fikra, the Sharjah-founded graphic design studio that acts as a global stage for artists, architects, and designers in the Middle East, encouraging them to join the global design conversation, collaborate with one another, and analyze the ways in which graphic design transforms the rapidly evolving world of the 21st century. The exhibition’s artistic directors, Na Kim, Prem Krishnamurthy, and Emily Smith, developed a fictitious organization dubbed the Ministry of Graphic Design to structure the show. They describe the Ministry as a “playfully formulated but serious-minded pop-up institution" dedicated to promoting dialogue, research, and understanding within the local, regional, and international graphic design community. Mirroring the hierarchical governmental structure of the United Arab Emirates, the Ministry is composed of six different departments, each one touching on a different feature of historic or modern graphic design. The departments are headed by a diverse team of curators, and each leader is accountable for the content and contributions of its exhibitions. Among them are the Department of Mapping Margins, the Department of Graphic Optimism, the Department of Non-Binaries, the Department of Flying Saucers, the Department of Dematerializing Language, and the Office of the Archive. The Fikra Graphic Design Biennial is open now through November 30.
Watch out for glowing black trucks this World AIDS Day
In honor of World AIDS Day, renowned conceptual artist Jenny Holzer will release a mobile exhibition that will shine a light on the history and current impact of the AIDS epidemic. This December 1, a fleet of five, pitch black trucks featuring LED signs will embark on a journey around the city, showcasing quotes by poets, artists, educators, activists, and people living with HIV and AIDS. The installation, #LightTheFight, is curated by Holzer in partnership with the NYC AIDS Memorial, a project she completed in 2016 that features a series of granite paving stones engraved with Walt Whitman’s 1855 poem Song of Myself. Studio AI designed a white, angular pavilion to house the memorial. The roving billboard project, another text-based artwork by Holzer, signals the launch of the memorial’s Arts and Education Initiative which will bring immersive programming to the city. “It’s crucial to maintain awareness that the AIDS epidemic is live, in New York and around the world,” said Holzer in a statement. “The messages on the trucks’ screens, contributed by feeling people, could comfort those affected by AIDS and reignite fires in bellies to end AIDS forever.” After an interactive ceremony and performance at the memorial site, the trucks will drive up and down Manhattan, animating the special words in black and white with an occasional burst of color to stress the messages on screen. Holzer told The New York Times that the texts will feature a variety of sentiments from tenderness to grief. Throughout the night, the trucks will make pit stops at historically significant locations and sites such as the LGBT Community Center, Times Square, Hudson River Piers near Christopher Street, and the Meatpacking District. At each location, signature condoms designed by Ms. Holzer will be distributed along with educational material on HIV, AIDS, and LGBT rights. #LightTheFight isn’t the first motor vehicle-based installation Holzer has created. IT IS GUNS debuted earlier this year in New York and Washington, D.C., in protest of gun violence. Leading up to the midterm elections this week, Holzer put together a series of tourist buses in Los Angeles, encouraging people to vote. Learn more about #LightTheFight here.
Earlier this year, when architect Dong-Ping Wong branched out to start his own firm, he found himself going through name after name but none seemed to have the right ring. Finally, the word “food” occurred to him. Ridiculous at first, it wouldn’t leave his head, and so it stuck. Food, the firm, was born. Food, said Wong, is “something that everyone has an association with and a relationship to.” It is something people “can come together around.” Food as an architecture firm name, he points out, is unfortunately also very hard to Google. But that hasn't stopped them from working on projects for clients ranging from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to Kanye and Kim Kardashian West. But it's their most recent project, Office Hours, where the name's magnanimous universalism really shines through. For Office Hours, Food has taken over a storefront on East Broadway in New York’s Chinatown for three weeks of programming centered around an online radio station (to be distributed in more permanent format later) as well as various community projects and events. All manner of creative people, like chef Angela Dimayuga, artist Jon Wang, designers Chen Chen and Kai Williams, SO-IL partner Jing Liu, DJ Venus X, and creative director Heron Preston have come through and spoken on the air. As the website for Office Hours notes, the events, like actual office hours, also serve as an “open invitation.” People can come in and listen, and youth are particularly encouraged. In fact, Food members have stopped by the public library on more than one occasion to invite kids and teens in and people have come in off the street to do work or check out the "reading room." Office Hours is committed to promoting people of color and those who live in the largely-immigrant neighborhood. As the project description notes, “In New York City, one in four Asian Americans live below the poverty line…Unsurprisingly, many young people that grow up in this environment self-limit what they see themselves being able to do.” The purpose of Office Hours, in part, is to expand this range of vision and imagination by introducing youth to the whole array of future possibilities for themselves. The space, which is laid out with some wiggly custom-made gray plywood tables held up by Ikea desk legs, has hosted happenings for all ages—from drawing lessons to impromptu happy hours. Office Hours continues through November 16 and all are invited to intend. The schedule and the live stream are available on Food's website.
Design on the Street
The Istanbul Design Biennial explores safe spaces vs. spaces of security
Unlike the previous Istanbul design biennials, which were located in the Galata Greek School, the current one is distributed in different galleries along a pedestrian corridor of the city. This was a curatorial decision and raises the question: what are spaces of education and how do they relate to other spaces? To put it more broadly: how are institutional spaces defined? What are their boundaries and how do they relate to what is outside them—recurring questions that gain special attention today due to the decline of public space and the privatization of institutions. Jan Boelen, the biennial's curator, repeated the phrase “safe spaces” during his introductory talk, a phrase that resonates strongly. But what is a safe space? Of course, security checks are always there, at the entrance to every gallery space of the Biennial. But there is a different premise in distributing the spaces of the biennial along the most populated pedestrian corridor of Istanbul. One can consider this distributed network in contrast to an example from New York: the recently completed Fulton Street Subway station in Manhattan brings together different subway lines and facilitates the control of a transit space. Its beautiful dome also embodies the kind of invisible centralization belonging to a state of security and control. Safe space, though, is not the same as space of security and control. Indeed, this is why the spaces of the biennial are distributed throughout a main pedestrian street in Istanbul, corresponding to the vision of an institution that is networked and additive. Each location is different and has different characteristics. The galleries themselves are very different, some in basements turned in on themselves and some with panoramic views of the city. Some of the exhibitions are co-curated and reflect very different sensibilities. In locations that don’t reproduce each other, there is diversity and difference. If one contrast could be established with traditional institutions, another one could be made with movements that aim to do away with institutions altogether. “Deinstitutionalization," a diverse movement across Europe in the 1960s, was a critique of the way institutions produced hierarchies and reproduced subjectivity. Often, critique began by challenging the boundaries of institutions, for example by dismantling the clear cut borders of a hospital. What we see in the biennial, though, is not deinstitutionalization: the art gallery is very much still a gallery. The question is, rather, how boundaries become permeable and institutions avoid doctrines. One answer may be through the structure of networks that connect things and people but do not override them. Hierarchies are established, but they are temporary. One sees this sensibility for example in Ebru Kurbak’s Infrequently Asked Questions, a work that involves refugee women who are asked which skills they could teach to the women in the society where they arrive at, and in Judith Seng’s School of Fluid Measures, which underscores the relational and performative aspects of measurements and values. We can be going through spaces of security forever but unremitting surveillance doesn’t make spaces safe. It creates ceaseless records of what we do, where we go, what we buy, but not necessarily how we live and die. Education, if it is to return to its core, needs safe spaces more than security. Safety is more physical and elementary, but also more conceptual. It is about having the space to think and be different, and about being able to dissent and at the same time, cooperate. It’s about vulnerability as much as strength, and about being able to fail, as this is the only way to learn. Indeed, failure is one of the best things one can see in a design context, and it is very much part of the process. Rather than emphasizing creative thinking that has by now become a technique employed by corporations in the form of brainstorming, the biennial asks us if we can learn differently. The move between different galleries and the urban space is critical for this kind of learning. Mark Wigley said in one of the roundtables that perhaps we need design to deal with reality—reality without design is too brutal and we need design’s optimism. In the 4th Istanbul Biennial, A School of Schools, the optimism of design is the possibility to learn differently.
Spain’s explosive building industry was hit hard by the economic crisis of 2008, resulting in an incredible number of unfinished and abandoned construction projects. Photographs documenting these “modern ruins” hang over the center of Unfinished, a new installation at the Spitzer School of Architecture at the City College of New York. Though it details derelict buildings, the exhibition isn’t all financial doom and architectural gloom. The main body of the show highlights 55 extraordinary projects from the last few years that explore new strategies for adapting these neglected structures and building with limited resources. For the designers of these projects, who have learned hard lessons, architecture is something that remains unfinished. Their buildings are designed to evolve and adapt to future uses. They embrace the visible passing of time, rather than building over it. Cleverly adapted from the multi-room Spanish pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale, the installation has a spare design and straightforward construction that reflects the resourcefulness of the projects on display. Although the content focuses on Spanish structures, the issues explored in Unfinished are as universal as the installation. As politicians and businesses around the world inevitably repeat the same mistakes that lead to the last crisis, architects will have to more seriously consider how they build and what they build. Ultimately, Unfinished demonstrates the resilience of the discipline. It is, as the curators write, "a validation of innovative and engaged practices that have parsed through the wreckage to find a voice.” Unfinished will be on view until February 8, 2019.