Next year, a solo show on the work of the architect, designer, and inventor Neri Oxman will go on view at the Museum of Modern Art. Neri Oxman: Material Ecology will highlight eight major projects that showcase the evolution of the research and innovative designs Oxman has conducted over the course of her 15-year career. Curated by Paola Antonelli and Anna Burckhardt, the monographic exhibition will shine a spotlight on the expertise Oxman has harnessed as a professor of media arts and sciences at the MIT Media Lab, and founder of the now well-known Mediated Matter Group, a research organization that fabricates nature-inspired design. One of Oxman’s biggest claims to fame is “material ecology,” a term she coined to describe the work process by which she utilizes computational design, digital fabrication technologies, and material science to produce projects that are “informed by the structural, systemic, and aesthetic wisdom of nature.” The American-Israel architect’s self-titled MoMA show will be organized around a site-specific work viewable for the first time. Silk Pavilion II harnesses the strength of 6,500 silkworms to fill in gaps left in a 3D-printed cocoon created from an algorithm that produced the structure from a single, continuous thread. Up close, the object resembles an opaque geodesic dome with patches of thread in varying densities. Aguahoja (2018) will run alongside Silk Pavilion II, which “aims to subvert the industrial cycle of material extraction and obsolescence” by using nature’s abundant biomaterials to create digitally-fabricated structures that are light, flexible, and react to the environment in ways synthetic materials can not. Glass I and II (2015, 2017) will also be displayed along with Totems (2019), a series of columns made from melanin synthesized from mushrooms. A prototype of these was first commissioned for the XXII Triennale de Milano Broken Nature exhibition, also curated by Antonelli. These pieces will feature a range of 3D-printed liquid channels of melanin pigments from different species. Neri Oxman: Material Ecology will be on display at the MoMA from February 22 through May 25, 2020, after the completion of the museum’s high-profile expansion. A video will accompany each of Oxman’s projects to demonstrate the specific science and production processes behind her work.
Posts tagged with "The Museum of Modern Art MoMA":
Surrounds: 11 Installations, an exhibition opening at the Museum of Modern Art this fall, will feature a series of immense, whole-gallery installations, each on view in the museum for the first time. The installations, which MoMA collected over the last two decades, represent watershed moments in the careers of 13 living artists: Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, Sadie Benning, Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Sou Fujimoto, Sheila Hicks, Arthur Jafa, Mark Manders, Rivane Neuenschwander, Dayanita Singh, Hito Steyerl, and Sarah Sze. Among the most memorable works are The Killing Machine, a haunting scene of automated parts, electronic sound effects and flickering screens, and Fault Lines, a mesmerizing live performance by two plainclothes choir boys amid cleaved stone masses. Each installation will be displayed in its own gallery on the sixth floor of the museum, where it can be appreciated as an individual, immersive environment, or as part of a larger exploration of how physical space shapes our experiences. Although they were “conceived out of different individual circumstances,” explained the show’s press release, “the installations are united in their ambition and scope, marking decisive shifts in the careers of their makers and the broader field of contemporary art.” Surrounds: 11 Installations will be on view October 21 through Spring 2020 in the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Center at the Museum for Modern Art. More information on the show is available here.
The Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) and Gensler–led expansion of Manhattan’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is inching closer to completion, and the institution today revealed a suite of new programming that will begin later this year. That is, when it reopens; the museum also announced that it will be shutting down from June 15 through October 21. With 40,000 square feet of new gallery space incoming, the MoMA is hoping to shed its staid institutional status and get back to its experimental roots. A new 53rd Street entrance is on the way, as are ground-floor galleries that will be open to the public, which the museum hopes will more fluidly connect the museum to the street. The westward expansion is building out through the site of the demolished American Folk Art Museum and into the base of the Jean Nouvel–designed condo tower at 53 West 53rd Street. With the expansion comes a reorganization of how MoMA will display its collection; the museum is moving towards a system of modular, rotating galleries with thematic, not material-based, exhibitions. Photography, painting, drawings, and other media will be shown alongside each other The second, fourth, and fifth-floor galleries will still be arranged chronologically but will expand the museum’s Eurocentric focus to include modernist works from all over the world. Beginning on the fifth floor, patrons will find an early history of modernism, followed by mid-twentieth century work on the fourth, and contemporary art on the second floor and beyond. The MoMA is aiming to rotate the gallery spaces on these floors every six-to-nine months. Choreography, performance art, film, and sound works won’t be left in the cold either. The new Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio, a double-height performance space, will open up to both the fourth and fifth floors. Stuart Comer, chief curator of the Department of Media and Performance, has promised that both established and emerging artists will be able to present “collection-responsive programming” therein. On the second floor, the Paula and James Crown Platform will present an experimental place for visitors to collaborate and engage with artists, as well as each other. The museum will offer both in-house and partnered educational experiences daily. When MoMA reopens in October, all of the opening exhibitions will draw from the museum’s existing collection to showcase the diversity of its holdings. According to Glenn Lowry, director of MoMA, the expansion will allow the museum to grow from showing approximately 1,400 or 1,500 pieces at a time to around 2,400. To cope with the constantly changing programming, the museum has promised that it will keep its website up-to-date on what will be on display when and where. MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens, and the Modern will remain open during the summer hiatus. How can the museum cope with four months of lost revenue? A $200 million gift from the estate of David Rockefeller was announced this morning. In recognition of the pledge, the museum’s Board of Trustees has voted to renamed MoMA’s directorship position the “David Rockefeller Director of the Museum of Modern Art.”
A James Turrell installation in Queens, New York, faces an unclear future after visitors began to notice its skyspace has been interrupted by the neighborhood’s newest high-rise. Meeting is a part of the MoMA PS1 campus and was designed by Turrell between 1980 and 1986 with the goal of creating a meditative place where guests would be able to gaze at the sky away from the ebb and flow of the outside world. The piece is a purely white room with a square hole in the ceiling, drawing guests to look up to the deep blue. A series of LED lights undulating in color changes the ways people perceive both the room they are in and the sky above. However, for those who enjoy visiting the piece and watching the New York sky without the interruptions of gentrification on the skyline, this experience may have just come to an end. Last week, visitors to Meeting began taking photos of what appears to be a series of bars and pipes at the lower edge of the piece, and PS1 has temporarily closed the room, according to The New York Times. James Turrell: The Art of Light and Space. He recently told Gothamist any disruptions of the sky “will ruin [the effect]. It won’t work properly if there’s a building with lights up that’s visible.” Fans have also taken to Twitter to express their fears for the exhibit (and their city) by photoshopping the original picture to now depict a sky interrupted by countless advertisements and drones, as well as by some familiar buildings, such as One Times Square, and the infamous 432 Park Avenue and 56 Leonard. The same developer in charge of the intruding high-rise, Jerry Wolkoff, was also responsible for building another luxury residential tower on top of the famous and widely-loved 5pointz, a fortress for graffiti artists whose works lined the walls before they were whitewashed and erased forever in 2013. In 2016, a federal judge ruled Wolkoff pay 21 artists at 5pointz $6.7 million for the damages of the lost art.
Herzog & de Meuron have donated materials representing nine of the firm's built and unbuilt projects from 1994 and 2018 to the Museum of Modern Art. Presented through the firm’s charitable foundation, the Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron Kabinett, the gift will include 23 physical objects, including models, architectural fragments, sketches, and digital assets. In a statement, MoMA said that the nine projects showcase the firm’s three-decades-long work challenging conventions of materiality, structure, and typology. Four projects, in particular, will demonstrate these things: Dominus Winery in Napa Valley, California; 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, Florida; 56 Leonard in New York; and the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Germany. The donation will also highlight collaborations with famous artists. Work with Thomas Ruff on the Eberswalde Technical School Library in Germany, with Michael Craig-Martin on the Laban Dance Centre in London, and with Ai Weiwei on the National Stadium in Beijing will be spotlighted. MoMA’s permanent collection already includes four architectural projects done by the Swiss firm from 1988 to 1997 and one design object from 2002. Martino Stierli, the chief curator of architecture and design at MoMA, said in a statement that the new works will be a key feature of the museum’s newly expanded galleries, opening this spring.
The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1 have announced the five finalists for next year’s 20th annual Young Architects Program (YAP). The finalists are each invited to propose an installation design for PS1’s outdoor courtyard in Long Island City, Queens. The winning proposal will be revealed in early 2019 and installed next summer. The selection below hints at MoMA’s commitment to showcasing forward-thinking architects who use eye-catching design, strategic planning, and social media to garner global influence. Not only do these teams create innovative spaces and experiences, but they incorporate imaginative materials and movement into every project they pursue. Meet the finalists below: Pedro & Juana Ana Paula Ruiz Galindo and Mecky Reuss Mexico City This Mexican design duo has made major splashes in the architecture world since establishing their firm in 2012. Many of their projects feature furniture-driven designs, as seen in their interior public space installation, Dear Rudolph, for the 2015 Chicago Architecture Biennial. The pair met in 2005 while attending SCI-Arc and formed their practice years later. Not only do they design their own furnishings and fixtures for many of their projects, but they incorporate art and whimsy into every piece. For the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, Pedro & Juana created a festive and colorful ceiling full of lanterns and planters within the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Low Design Office (LOWDO) DK Osseo-Asare State College, Pennsylvania DK Osseo-Asare of the Austin, Texas-based firm LOWDO explores the links between sustainability, technology, and geopolitics. Together with his design partner, Ryan Bollom, the young practitioner designs eco-friendly family homes and living systems. In 2017, they created the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP), a transnational project that helps bolster maker ecosystems in Africa by teaching students and young professionals how to reuse recycled materials. One of the firm's biggest projects includes designing and planning the new towns of Koumbi City in Ghana and Anam City in Nigeria. Oana Stanescu & Akane Moriyama New York Romanian architect Oana Stanescu is a founding partner of the New York–based design firm, Family, and cofounder of the Friends of +Pool nonprofit. Her work in architecture features a multidisciplinary approach, which can be seen in the ambitious design of the world’s first floating pool and Family’s 2013 stage design for Kanye West’s Yeezus tour. Stanescu recently stepped out to start a practice under her own name, taking her extensive experience working on exhibition design, public housing, and commercial projects, as well as urban development, with her. She’s has held teaching positions at MIT and Columbia University GSAPP, and served as a critic at Yale and Harvard. Stockholm-based artist and designer Akane Moriyama weaves the fields of architecture and textile together in her work. After studying at both the Kyoto University of Technology in Japan and the Konstfack University College of Arts, Crafts and Design in Sweden, she began incorporating the practices of dying, knitting, sewing, and printing into her projects. In 2013, she won the Center for American Architecture and Design's competition CURTAINS, installing a large-scale prism made of billowy, sheer drapes in a courtyard at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work has been shown widely from Tokyo to Venice. Matter Design Brandon Clifford Boston Matter Design, led by director and cofounder Brandon Clifford, isn't afraid to experiment. The Boston-based design/research studio regularly publishes architectural research into new fabrication techniques but also combines the theoretical with the practical in using those same techniques to create products. This synthesis of research and practice is at the heart of Matter Design; for example, take The Cannibal's Cookbook, a guidebook for constructing walls from interlocking pieces of scrap masonry, and Cyclopean Cannibalism, a real-world realization of a "recipe" from the book. Carving, stacking, and discovering new twists on ancient craft techniques have driven much of Matter Design's research. The studio was also recognized with an Architectural League Prize for Young Architects + Designers in 2013. TO Carlos Facio and Jose G. Amozurrutia Mexico City To TO founders Carlos Facio and Jose G. Amozurrutia, the line between art and architecture was meant to be blurred. TO, a small, three-year-old Mexico City–based practice, regularly blends hand-crafting with architectural ideas. For their 2016 Hermés Pavilion in Milan, the studio collaborated with Taller Mauricio Rocha + Gabriela Carrillo to abstract one element of a typical building—the colonnade—into a spiraling structure made solely of brick piers. The resultant interplay of light and shadow was just as important to the project as the columns themselves, demonstrating the studio's attention to architecture's more ethereal qualities. Past YAP winners include Dream the Combine (2018), Jenny Sabin (2017), and Escobedo Soliz Studio (2016).
At a panel discussion a week after the October 21 opening of Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts at the Museum of the Modern Art (MoMA), Laurenz Foundation curator and advisor to the director at the MoMA, Kathy Halbreich, discussed how poorly Nauman’s last two retrospectives were received. The first, a major solo show that traveled from the Whitney Museum of American Art to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in 1972, was pilloried by the press as vapid. The second, a 1995 exhibition at the MoMA (co-organized by Halbreich) was criticized as overly loud and chaotic. The volume has been turned down for the versatile artist’s third show but his stinging examinations of surveillance, “fake news,” bodies in space, and the ultimate futility of life are more relevant now than ever. The MoMA has pulled out all of the stops for Disappearing Acts, literally in some instances. The walls of MoMA's sixth floor have been cleared so the whole floor can be dedicated to Nauman’s larger, more architectural explorations of space, while the entirety of PS1 in Queens has been handed over to smaller installations. All told, the MoMA has put 165 pieces of sculpture, drawings, video art, neon work, soundscapes, paintings, and more on display, much of it on loan from other institutions and private collectors. In Midtown, visitors are guided through a chronological tour of Nauman’s larger works across the repurposed special exhibition galleries, beginning with his own experiments in using the body as a tool of art. Arms were used as both paintbrushes and hole-punchers in Nauman’s earlier work, and pieces were formed and named according to his own body proportions. Further in, Nauman’s meditations on surveillance in the urban environment become evident; take Going Around the Corner Piece, a “room” with no way to enter, covered in security cameras that relay their feeds to televisions on the ground. Visitors are encouraged to encircle the room as they “chase” the digital reflections ahead of them. The massive Model for Trench and Four Buried Passages has been installed beyond that, placing an “architectural model” of the titular trench, arranged in five circles, on the floor of the museum for 360-degree examination. Behind that, a small monitor sits on the wall displaying Audio-Video Underground Chamber, a live 24-hour feed from inside of a concrete box that’s been buried offsite. Kassel Corridor: Elliptical Space has been erected in the MoMA for the first time since 1972, and although it looks like two unfinished stud-mounted walls facing each other, the “sculpture” actually contains an ultra-narrow room. Only one visitor per hour is allowed inside, where they can wedge themselves inside the seafoam green “viewing chamber.” The audio installation Days occupies the last room. Fourteen super thin speakers have been suspended at head-height in two rows, with each pair featuring a different voice repeating days of the week in a random order. Nauman has carved out audio “corridors” for visitors to wander through, spatializing the installation. Across the river, PS1 is home to Nauman’s more intimate—but more terrifying—pieces. The former classrooms of PS1 have been transformed into private enclaves for his audio-visual pieces. Nauman’s most famous work, the 1987 video Clown Torture (it’s unclear whether the clowns, or the viewer, are being tortured) has been given its own room, though it’s unclear whether any visitor will stick around for its 60-minute runtime. Mapping the Studio II with color shift, flip, flop, & flip/flop (Fat Chance John Cage), a sped-up surveillance tape covering 24 hours of Nauman’s empty studio, has been given a similar staging. A selection of lithographs, paintings, and smaller neon tube pieces can also be found at the MoMA’s Queens outpost. Bruce Nauman: Disappearing Acts will be on display at the Manhattan MoMA until February 18, 2019, and at PS1 until February 25, 2019. The museum will also be presenting live performances of the 1965 performance piece Wall/Floor Positions from 12:00 PM through 4:00 PM every Thursday and Sunday, and every Friday and Saturday from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM at PS1.
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.
The Nature Lab at RISD is pleased to announce Biodesign: From Inspiration to Integration, an exhibition curated in collaboration with William Myers that marks the culmination of Nature Lab's 80th anniversary celebrations. The exhibition runs from Aug 25—Sept 27 and showcases recent examples of design and art that inform our complex relationship with nature and help us decipher how it may evolve in the future. Major themes of the exhibition will be collaboration and co-creativity, presenting the best practices for working with living materials and with experts across fields. It will aim to inspire, surprise and inform the public, especially in light of the urgent need to make design less destructive to our shared environment. The exhibition of approximately 20 projects will be accompanied by programming including: workshops on building with mushrooms; biotextiles; microscopic silkworm poetry as well as lectures on biodesign, coral reef restoration, the future of food, and more. To launch the exhibition Nature Lab will be hosting a half-day symposium that brings together international artists, designers, scientists and educators for talks, discussions and presentations on topics such as valuing non-human forms of life as collaborators, artistic and scientific modes of inquiry, and ethical considerations in bioart and biodesign practices. The opening of the exhibition also marks the release of the 2018 edition of Biodesign: Nature + Science + Creativity (MoMA). Half-Day Symposium + Opening Reception August 24 Woods-Gerry Gallery Rhode Island School of Design The exhibition features the following works Hy-Fi and Bio-processing Software—David Benjamin / The Living Mycelium architecture, made in collaboration with Ecovative and 3M. Zoa—Natalia Krasnodebska / Modern Meadow Leather grown using yeasts that secrete collagen, and grown completely without animal derivatives. The Built Environment Microbiome, Jessica Green / BioBE Center The BioBE conducts research into the built environment microbiome, mapping the indoor microbiome, with an eye towards pro-biotic architecture. Zea Mays / Cultivar Series—Uli Westphal Newly commissioned corn study, this project highlights maize’s evolution through interaction with humans. Harvest / Interwoven—Diana Scherer Artist coaxes root systems plant root systems into patterns. Fifty Sisters & Morphogenesis—Jon McCormack Artist algorithmically generates images that mimic evolutionary growth, but tweaks them to include aesthetics of the logos of global petroleum producing corporations. Organ on a Chip—Wyss Institute Wyss Institute creates microchips that recapitulate the functions of living human organs, offering a potential alternative to animal testing. AgroDerivatives: Permutations on Generative Citizenship—Mae-Ling Lokko This project proposes labor, production criteria and circulation of capital within agrowaste/bioadhesive upcycling ecosystems. New Experiments in Mycelium—Ecovative Ecovative makes prototypes of mycelium items such as insulation, soundproofing tiles, surfboards, lampshades. Bistro in Vitro—Next Nature Network Performance with speculative future foods samples. The installation will include video screens and a cookbook on a table display. Raw Earth Construction—Miguel Ferreira Mendes This project highlights an ancient technique that uses soil, focusing on how soil is living. Burial Globes: Rat Models—Kathy High This project presents glass globes that hold the ashes of the five HLA-B27 transgenic rats, each one named and remembered: Echo, Flowers, Tara, Matilda, Star. To Flavour Our Tears—Center for Genomic Gastronomy Set up as an experimental restaurant, this project places humans back into the foodchain — investigating the human body as a food source for other species. Blood Related—Basse Stittgen A series of compressed blood objects—inspired by Hemacite objects made from blood/sawdust compressed in a process invented in the late 19th century—highlights bloodwaste in the slaughterhouse industry. Silk Poems—Jen Bervin A poem made from a six-character chain represents the DNA structure of silk, it refers to the silkworm's con-structure of a cocoon, and addresses the ability of silk to be used as a bio sensor, implanted under people's skin. Zoe: A Living Sea Sculpture—Colleen Flanigan Zoe is an underwater structure, part of coral restoration research, that regenerates corals in areas highly impacted by hurricanes, human activity and pollution. Aquatic Life Forms—Mikhail Mansion Computationally animated lifeform works change and evolve based on live data from environments they represent. Algae Powered Digital Clock—Fabienne Felder By turning electrons produced during photosynthesis and bacterial digestion into electricity, algae will be used to power a small digital clock. A Place for Plastics—Megan Valanidas This designer presents a new process of making bioplastics that are bio-based, biodegradable AND compostable Data Veins & Flesh Voxels—Ani Liu This project explores how technology influences our notion of being human from different points of view, with a focus on exploring the relationship between our bodies as matter and as data. Pink Chicken Project—Studio (Non)human (Non)sense/ Leo Fidjeland & Linnea Våglund By changing the color of chickens to pink, this project rejects the current violence inflicted upon the non-human world and poses questions of the impact and power of synthetic biology. Click here to visit RISD Nature Lab. About Rhode Island School of Design Known as the leading college of art and design in the US, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) is ranked #1 in Business Insider’s survey of The World’s 25 Best Design Schools. Approximately 2,450 students from around the world are enrolled in full-time bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in a choice of 19 majors. Students value RISD’s accomplished faculty of artists and designers, the breadth of its specialized facilities and its hands-on approach to studio-based learning. Required courses in the liberal arts enrich the studio experience, equipping graduates to make meaningful contributions to their communities. Through their creative thinking and problem solving in a broad range of fields, RISD’s 26,000 alumni exemplify the vital role artists and designers play in fueling global innovation. Founded in 1877, RISD (pronounced “RIZ-dee”) and the RISD Museum help make Providence, RI among the most culturally active and creative cities in the region. For more information, visit risd.edu and our.risd.
About Nature Lab
Founded in 1937 by RISD graduate and long-time faculty member Edna Lawrence, the Nature Labprovides students and faculty with an engaging space for exploring the forms, patterns and processes in nature as well as an understanding of our place within the living world. The Lab is a forum, sustained by resources and expertise that inspires countless art and design projects throughout RISD. With more than 80,000 preserved natural science specimens, microscopy and micro-imaging systems unparalleled in an art and design school, as well as aquatic systems and lab equipment for maintaining and studying a variety of living and non-living specimens, the Nature Lab is a unique environment for investigating the myriad connections between art, design and science.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City is hosting an extraordinary exhibition surveying late modern architecture from a country that no longer exists: Yugoslavia. Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948–1980 is on view now through January 13, 2019. Approximately six hundred items are on display in salon style across MoMA’s galleries including original drawings, newly crafted scale models, and a series of commissioned photographs by a Swiss photographer Valentin Jeck. The material is not presented chronologically but rather arranged spatially as a series of sequential topics ranging from Global Networks to Everyday Life and Identities, each branching into sub-topics. Distinct rooms are reserved for individual architects that the curators have highlighted as key thinkers in the spatialization of the Yugoslav socialist identity, including Bogdan Bogdanović, Juraj Neidhardt, Vjenceslav Richter, and Edvard Ravnikar. An entire gallery is devoted to the brutalist reconstruction of Skopje featuring the work of Kenzo Tange with Janko Konstantinov, a graduate of Yale. While female architects like Milica Šterić, Melanija Marušić, and Svetlana Kana Radević did not get a separate booth, they were largely present in galleries and through an essay on gender in Yugoslav architecture published in the exhibition catalog, written by curatorial assistant Anna Kats and Theodossis Issaias. The show's curators, MoMA’s Martino Stierli and guest curator Vladimir Kulić, begin the show by asserting that this exhibition is a survey of architecture that has been all but absent from modern history. They also make clear that Yugoslavia was expelled from the Soviet bloc in 1948, removing it from Stalin’s grip on spatial esthetics. The country had a need to search for its collective identity elsewhere. As Vladimir Kulić states, the architecture from Yugoslav socialism is an adaptation rather than copy, giving the work a quality of enhanced interpretation. The work exhibited draws a range of inspiration from U.S. postwar corporate architecture, brutalism on the global stage, most notably from Paul Rudolph and Kenzo Tange, Scandinavia’s organic volumetrics, Alvar Aalto’s sensibility towards nature, and playful forms in concrete relating to Oscar Niemeyer’s Brazilian freeing of form to allow expression of permeability and elegance. MoMA’s exhibit suggests that socialist architecture in Yugoslavia was a success of its own time. Its unique adaptation of late modernism was complementary with other grand narratives of modern architecture worldwide. To someone like me who lived in the architecture of Yugoslavia on display at MoMA, the success of the exhibit is two-fold. First, thanks to daring curatorial decisions to organize the material in topics rather than chronologically or as a fixed narrative, the exhibit avoids the nostalgia that surrounds avant-garde Soviet architecture. And second, these Yugoslav examples are cast as success stories from the recent socialist past, with a post-avant-garde afterlife increasingly relevant to contemporary times. As Stierli points out, a majority of the architecture presented in the exhibition is still in use today. Included in the exhibit are two outstanding works, namely the excerpts from Mila Turajlić’s video arrangement Living Space/Loving Space (2018), and Jasmina Čibić’s mesmerizing video entitled Nada: Act 1 (2016), which turned Richter’s model for the Yugoslav Pavilion at Expo 1958 in Brussels into a string musical instrument. At the entrance to the galleries, visitors will find a legendary pan-Yugoslav kiosk K67 by Saša Mächtig of Slovenia doing precisely what the kiosk was meant for: providing information. Barry Bergdoll noted in a follow-up event at the AIA Center for Architecture that this exhibition celebrates an architecture that came out of a now superseded political system, and the show suggests that Yugoslavia's socialism was perhaps not that nefarious after all. Toward a Concrete Utopia is an extraordinary exhibition that is opening doors for research on the subject. Expanding scholarship was reportedly an ambition of Stierli from the beginning of planning for the exhibit. This widening will help bring to view Yugoslav architecture beyond MoMA’s selection. According to the warm reception, architecture from socialist Yugoslavia is on its way to being secured in the legacy of global modernism. Including a single shelf with topical books published thus far would have helped augment the high quality of the exhibition. Such an insertion would have also offset possible critiques of a neo-colonial approach, seemingly the only possible approach while addressing the highly diverse modern design heritage of today’s balkanized countries as a single Yugoslavia, under the roof of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Hidden no more. Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss, PhD grew up in socialist Yugoslavia and is now a research architect based in New York. He is the author of Socialist Architecture: The Vanishing Act (JRP Ringier, Zuerich) and Socialist Architecture: The Reappearing Act. He is currently faculty at CUNY’s CCNY Spitzer School of Architecture and founder of NAO.NYC.
This summer, New York City is launching a new program to explore the city and save money. If you are a Brooklyn, New York, or Queens Public Library Cardholder aged 13 or older, you can reserve a Culture Pass to gain free access to more than 30 cultural institutions, including “museums, historical societies, heritage centers, public gardens and more.” Reservations should be made ahead of time, and a limited number of passes are available on each date. Here is a list of participating organizations: Brooklyn: Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn Historical Society, Brooklyn Museum, New York Transit Museum Manhattan: Children’s Museum of the Arts, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, The Drawing Center, The Frick Collection, Historic Richmond Town, International Center of Photography, Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, The Jewish Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Morgan Library & Museum, Museum of the City of New York, Museum of Chinese in America, Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, Museum of Modern Art, Rubin Museum of Art, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Society of Illustrators, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling, Whitney Museum of American Art Bronx: Wave Hill Queens: Louis Armstrong House, Noguchi Museum, Queens Historical Society, Queens Museum, SculptureCenter Staten Island: Historic Richmond Town, Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art Check out this link for more details.
Upon arriving at the Congolese artist Bodys Isek Kingelez’s City Dreams retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)—the first full retrospective for him or any other African artist at the museum—there is a feeling of ascension. Having climbed many floors to get here, one reaches a room where humans hover over the cities and look down, not up, into the buildings, windows and boulevards. The viewers look like gods around a creation, but Kingelez’s work decidedly belongs in the kingdom of this earth. His “extreme maquettes,” as he referred to the ornate buildings and cities he constructed, are all units of a larger project that demonstrates the desire for a harmonious future among all peoples; beauty and grace as a reflection of this harmony; and a rejection of the violence commonplace in the immediate post-colonial era, a legacy of the country’s rule under the brutal Kingdom of Belgium. “I’m dreaming cities of peace,” he explained. “I’d like to help the earth above all.” In his Project Pour le Kinshasa du Troisième Millénaire, a re-envisioning of Kinshasa, “police and prisons do not exist.” It was, in essence, the cosmopolitan post-independence vision of the era. Kingelez’s, however, extended beyond dreams of self-rule, asserting a seat at the table for the African imagination of what was possible in the new, truly free world. Bodys Isek Kingelez was born Jean Baptiste on August 27, 1948 in the town of Kimbembele Ihunga in what was then the Belgian Congo. At the age of 22, after receiving his high school diploma, he left for Kinshasa, the capital city. There, he studied economics and an assortment of other subjects like industrial design at the University of Lovanium (now Kinshasa). “I came from a traditional village where everyday I used to watch the men making masks or working at the forge,” Kingelez explained of the mysterious origins of his craftsmanship. “There was no need to learn, then, what I used to see all the time.” Remarkably, he didn't travel outside Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) until 1989, and so had never interacted up close with architectural design in other countries. Undoubtedly, however, the colonial Belgian Art Deco buildings that lined the streets of Kinshasa and the eccentric palaces (including a pagoda) constructed around the country by ruler Mobutu Sese Seko indubitably seeped into his sense of aesthetics. His first maquette, he recalls, came to him in a dream one night. Feeling “compelled” by the revelation, he made the work under its direction. Throughout his life, his process was similar. First the title came to him. Then the vision to make it, which “gives me all I need, even the shape and colors.” On one such instance, in 1978, he showed the result of his work, Musee National, made from simple tools like paper, glue, scissors, and razors, to the Institut des Musées Nationaux du Zaire. The museum staffers doubted Kingelez could build a work of such sophistication and challenged him to make another work on site, leading to his Commissariat Atomique. The impressed museum hired him to become a “technicien restaurateur” of historical artifacts. The experience of working with invaluable abstract art traditional sculptures left a mark on Kingelez, who confessed “the ruined statues led me to the pinnacle of my skills” Like these African masks of old, the maquettes aim not to depict reality but act as a record of a time and the ideas and the imagination that marked that time. In Kinshasa, Kingelez absorbed elements of the national movement for African authenticity. It is under the aegis of this movement that we see Leopoldville become Kinshasa, the Congo river and the nation, Zaire. As a former Commissioner of National Orientation put it, it was a movement based on reaching into the past to find traditional elements “which adapt themselves well to modern life, those which encourage progress, and those which create a way of life and thought which are essentially ours.” A self-described “favored poet of his traditional sources,” one can imagine very clearly the figure of Kingelez hidden away in his studio in Kinshasa, hovering over a project with tweezers in hand, moving the hitherto possible around and making way for the impossible. But, like his previous work in the museums on African masks of old, Kingelez’s project was a restorative one. Having himself traveled from the village to the city and later the metropole, his work rejected hierarchies and the geographic isolation of the human experience. Instead, it collapsed the time between an African past and a future where no societies were more advanced than others. His 1994 work Kimbembele Ihunga, a reimagining of his home village, represented a “concrete imaginative leap” and “a real bridge between world civilizations of the past, present and future.” Filled with skyscrapers and tree-lined streets, the boulevards provide “pleasant, easy access to all parts of the town.” A stadium named after himself, “Stade Kingelez,” sits in one corner of the town, and in front of the town center stands a monument of a man holding a book who “simply represents the intellectual heritage of common sense and good manners which belongs to multicultural people.” “People flock here,” he said, “because the wind blows in off the sea and the mountains, refreshing its complex beauty in which all the heightened colors join forces consistently to create an environment where everyone can feel at home.” The town and dream of it was not one he would ever live in, but one which lived in him. Multiculturalism is paramount in Kingelez’s work, and we see it not only in the foreign design present in some of his Congolese maquettes, but also in the maquettes dedicated to places, like the outstanding purple and yellow Mongolique Sovietique (1989), in Palais d’Hirochima (1991) whose tiered, raised buildings are inspired by a real imperial palace with paper lanterns suspended between buildings, and Céntrale Palestinienne (1993). His New Manhattan, built a year after the attack on the World Trade Center, is a take on the Manhattan skyline with a third tower filled with water whose “cooling effect will prevent any bombs from exploding.” In insisting on a world crafted for peace, Kingelez, who died three years ago, challenged our imagination to consider what this would require. His work, he insisted, was as much a “gauntlet thrown down to professional artists” as a prodding of our “ability to create a new world.” With salvaged materials like colored paper, scissors, and glue, the self-anointed “prophet of African art” constructed dream cities and a universe of peace, equality, and equity for all. Surely today, with better instruments, we can reflect on his vision and fulfill it down here on earth. Bodys Isek Kingelez: City Dreams The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) On view through January 1, 2019