Posts tagged with "art":

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NYC’s new cultural plan is a roadmap through changing times

Since the NYC Mayor’s Office released its first cultural planCreateNYC, in July, many have taken stock of the work that must be done to build equitable access to cultural institutions and increase staff diversity. Recently the New York Times released new data on several of NYC’s major cultural institutions that illuminates a striking disparity between institutions with and without a focus on racial parity among its employees and board members. The data show that while some institutions do employ staff members representative of their communities, boards and senior leadership are largely white. In the case of Studio Museum in Harlem both the staff and the leadership reflect the broader racial diversity of NYC. All cultural institutions currently receiving city funds must submit diversity plans within the first year of CreateNYC in order to continue receiving public support. While achieving more representative leadership is a high priority within the first year, accountability measures have also been set to ensure that cultural institutions are increasing access for those with disabilities and abiding by the city’s aggressive sustainability goals. These two provisions in particular will have an effect on the way private institutions that accept public money will develop their capital investments strategies and set the stage (so to speak) for progressive architectural environments. While CreateNYC has been in the works for months, cultural landmarks and institutions are receiving renewed attention as central figures in a national debate over identity following the traumatic events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Earlier this month Mayor De Blasio called for a 90-day review of New York City’s “symbols of hate,” commissioning a panel that will develop methods for altering or potentially removing public objects that espouse hate or intolerance of any kind. Now, the city is considering placing explanatory plaques next to controversial monuments that will contextualize the racist actions of the people they depict for a contemporary audience.
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A temple dedicated to Oscar Wilde is coming to New York

Just as some statues to slavery are being torn down, a statue championing a worthy cause is going up in New York City. Due to open September 11, a temple dedicated to Oscar Wilde will be unveiled inside The Church of the Village on West 13th Street. Designed by New York and Dublin–based artists David McDermott and Peter McGough, the temple will contain a statue of the esteemed author. Inside the temple, visitors will be immersed in the Victorian era as McDermott & McGough set the scene of the exact moment Oscar Wilde visited America for a year in 1882. To accomplish this, bespoke wall coverings made from fabric have been installed along with furnishings and architectural and decorative details of the time. In a press release, the artistic duo described the temple as a "time experiment" and dedicate it to honoring those who fought for equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender peoples. “For more than twenty years, we have wanted to create The Stations of Oscar Wilde to Reading Gaol, echoing the Catholic Church’s iconography and the ritual purpose of the Stations of the Cross,” added McGough. (Reading Gaol was the English prison where Wilde served two years hard labor for "homosexual offences" in 1895.)
At the center of the temple is a central altar and a four-foot, three-inch statue of Oscar Wilde. Below reads "C.33," Wilde's assigned prison number. On either of the statue will be eight paintings that narrate Wilde's arrest and incarceration. Another altar will also be on display, this one being dedicated to people suffering with and who have died from AIDS. McDermott & McGough’s 1987 painting Advent Infinite Divine Spirit will lie adjacent the altar, joined by a votive candle stand and a book for visitors to leave messages.
Other paintings from McDermott & McGough on show include portraits of Alan Turing, Harvey Milk, Marsha P. Johnson, Brandon Teena, Xulhax Mannan, and Sakia Gunn, all deceased and all who suffered and struggled for recognition of their identity. The Oscar Wilde Temple, as it is officially known, aligns with McDermott & McGough: I’ve Seen The Future and I’m Not Going, a retrospective of the two artitsts on show at the Dallas Contemporary from October 1. The Church of the Village can be found at 201 West 13th Street, on 7th Avenue and the exhibition runs through December 2 this year.
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Why everybody’s mad at Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor has everyone grumbling these days. The knighted artist is known for his intellectual preoccupation with blood, female anatomy, nothingness, and obtuse-yet-high-drama installations—like his 2017 piece Descension in Brooklyn, an infinitely spinning whirlpool. Descension explores, Kapoor said, “negative space,” a concept which is arguably the crux of his work. His pieces can, on one hand, appear benign and purely decorative, like Blood Mirror (a concave bowl of arresting, reflective red) while some are severe in their violent ugliness, like Internal Object in Three Parts (a series of three meat-textured reliefs that, some would argue, are disarming in their vulgarity). Much of that vulgarity comes from his dogged pursuit of extreme materiality: he strokes his whimsy by making art that is desperately large in scope and overwhelming in its concentration of color. His work also often inevitably segues into his favorite topic: The Void.

A post shared by Anish Kapoor (@dirty_corner) on

Enter Vantablack: the blackest synthetic material on Earth. It absorbs almost all the light and radiation that hits its surface (99.96 percent of it) and was originally developed by British researchers in 2014 for aerospace, engineering, and optics. Vantablack, which is a substance made of “vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays” (hence, “Vanta”), is “grown in a forest” of carbon nanotubes and is hydrophobic—absorbing no water. It makes everything around it look cartoonish against its unsettling lack of dimension. When sprayed on, it causes an optical illusion that flattens features and forms to render objects into a two-dimensional void. It’s so black that Surrey NanoSystems (the company that manufactures Vantablack) notes on its website that “it is often described as the closest thing to a black hole we’ll ever see.” If there is any living artist with the clout, savvy, and the Nietzschean impulse to monopolize the closest incarnation of a black hole, it's to no one’s surprise (and to many people’s chagrin) that the person would be Kapoor. He bought an exclusive license to use the material—making it impossible for other artists to access and experiment with it. Immediately, painter Christian Furr told the Daily Mail, “I’ve never heard of an artist monopolizing a material. This black is like dynamite in the art world…. It isn't right that it belongs to one man.” But it is not, as Wired notes, the first time an artist claimed rights on a color (artist Yves Klein famously patented his own hue of blue), nor did Kapoor actually create anything himself. Technically speaking, Kapoor did not monopolize the color black. Vantablack is not a paint or a color. It’s a material. It’s commercially unavailable. It’s engineered. It’s untouchable; the surface fades away when those microscopic nanotubes are disturbed. And it can only be applied by professionals. Surrey NanoSystems chose Kapoor as their highest-value bidder “because we didn’t have the bandwidth to work with more than one—we’re an engineering company—we decided Anish would be perfect,” Ben Jensen, the CTO at Surrey NanoSystems, told Wired. “His life’s work had revolved around light reflection and voids.”

Up yours #pink

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All this caused a visceral irritation in the art world, at least on social media, and something else was afoot. Amid the high tempers over the ethics of access arrived Stuart Semple, a British artist nearly half Kapoor’s age who had a real problem with this whole situation. Semple, who creates and sells pigments on his website, showed up with his little bottle of fluorescent pink—or as he labeled it, The Pinkest Pink. Semple called Kapoor a “rotter” in a YouTube video because he refused to “share the black” and thus inspired social media warfare with its seminal tool: the hashtag #Sharetheblack became a trending topic. So did Stuart Semple’s website, which disparagingly addresses Kapoor’s monopoly and also states a legal caveat about The Pinkest Pink’s purchase:
Purchasers of PINK will be required to make a legal declaration during the online checkout process though, confirming that: “you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this paint will not make its way into that hands of Anish Kapoor. If you order some I hope you love it. And please if you get a chance tell @anishkapoor_art to #ShareTheBlack
Semple bagged both empathy and sales. If Twitter and Instagram commentaries were any indication of the general feeling of discontent, they also mobilized a marketing campaign for Semple, who sold not only oodles of color but perhaps a philosophy—or maybe a protest against monopoly.

Painting atom bombs - photo: Nadia Amura, 2014

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It would make sense that an artist with the fame, street cred, and agency of Kapoor would be the first to get his hands on Vantablack. And it’s little surprise that Kapoor got his hands (or, more precisely, his middle finger) on something else, despite the ban against him: Semple’s Pinkest Pink. He proceeded to post an image on Instagram with his middle finger dipped in the powder with a caption “up yours #pink,” sparking outrage. It probably doesn’t help that, aside from his Instagram post, Kapoor has remained mum on the topic. When asked for comment, his representatives responded with scientific information on Vantablack—deftly stating that “Vantablack is not a paint, it’s a material.” (Fair. Point noted.) On Semple and Kapoor’s Instagram accounts, users provide support and drama, respectively. Comments on Semple’s Instagram read generally like this: Comments on Kapoor’s Instagram, on the other hand, are far less wholesome. Here are some PG examples:
  • Pine_straw_mtn: "You bought exclusive rights to this paint, and the only thing you did with it is make a hole? The guy who invented this stuff literally has an example of a hole illusion in the tests, and you just copied that? You couldn't think of anything more creative? You are the cancer of the art world."
  • mcd: "A real artist would not need a color or lack thereof all to them selfs you are far from a true artist"
  • io: "Capitalist scum"
  • Awkwardjosie: "You're not a bad artist, but you're a shitty person. Imagine how your fan base and exposure could grow if you have up the rights. Just a thought."
It’s unclear what Kapoor will try to do with Vantablack, aside from post on Instagram and create a predictable circle on the floor. It’s also unclear why Kapoor won’t talk about any of this, especially if—given his pink-dipped finger—he knows what’s happening.

A post shared by Anish Kapoor (@dirty_corner) on

Is the reactionary conversation surrounding this—which many may call petty and some may call productive and ethical—exactly the point? Did Kapoor play his cards this way on purpose as a piece of performance art? Or was that Semple’s idea in using Kapoor’s name and a philosophy of artistic access as “brand” for his product? You’d think the beef would die down after Semple got his big boost, but just last week, the drama once again reignited with Semple’s release of Phaze, a color changing paint that goes from purple to The Pinkest Pink, and Shift, a color-changing rainbow paint. His video posts on Instagram included a link to buy the products, and of course, the hashtag #sharetheblack. One wonders whether those involved in this conversation speak out of moral obligation, or from a place of altruism, or whether this whole thing is really a matter of attacking the Kapoor and his power. By the way, not only has Kapoor ticked off artists, it seems, but also his neighbors. His recent decision to add a floor extension to his London home caused his neighbors to create a petition to “to help try to stop Anish Kapoor [from] blocking our precious light & view, a valuable thing in our crowded city.” The plea continues: “You'd think Anish Kapoor would understand the value of light, colour, and social responsibility.”
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Judith Barry’s “Imagination, Dead Imagine” references horror films and J.G. Ballard

You enter a dark room illuminated only by a 10-foot-high rectangular cube comprised of four green-framed video monitors showing a face in close-up from all sides—facing forward, back of head, and both sides featuring the right and left ears (a 5th view could be seen from above, showing the top of the head), all above a mirrored surface where your reflected legs continue the bodyline. An androgynous, blue-eyed Caucasian with very regular features, bowed lips, and dark short hair has gelatinous liquid in a succession of yellow, red, brown, milky clear, and red-turning-to-greenish-yellow with small bits of debris, all simulating bodily fluids, poured onto it from above in a wash. A crinkly digital line clears the frame between each pour. At various points, crickets crawl and eat liquid off the face. Flaky white oats are sprinkled. Worms crawl and tumble down the face. There’s a flour snowstorm. Then the footage goes in reverses and the debris flows up. Throughout, we hear breathing sounds. Expressions of joy, relief, stoicism, placidity are actually emoted from a composite head that digitally combines two models, one male and one female. Currently on view at Mary Boone Gallery and curated by Piper Marshall, Judith Barry's Imagination, Dead Imagine dates from 1991 when it was originally commissioned for the Savage Garden exhibition curated by Dan Cameron at Madrid’s CaixaForum. It was displayed along with other installation art by Mike Kelley, Ann Hamilton, Barbara Bloom, David Ireland, Christian Marclay, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Charles Ray, Meyer Vaisman, and Meg Webster. Imagination, Dead Imagine is also the title of Samuel Beckett’s last and shortest (five pages) novel, in which he describes “an austere room in which a male and female character are seated, experiencing only invariable cycles of light and heat.“ Barry was also influenced by J.G. Ballard’s story The Impossible Room, which includes the following description: “A perfect cube, its walls and ceiling were formed by what seemed to be a series of cinema screens. Projected onto them in close-up was the face of Nurse Nagamatzu, her mouth three feet across.” Trained as an architect, Barry wrestled with “how architecture might be conceived of differently as not primarily the physical manifestation of the building per se, but instead as the translation into built form of our lived social relations. Foregrounding discourse and translation as the primary, not secondary, generators of the built world freed me….” Barry is also interested in the blind spots, what we cannot see outside the frame. The repeated onslaughts of liquid shows the indomitability of the human spirit, with the head wiped clean over and over again. In the era it was created, this could refer to feminism, illustrating women being dumped on (Beatriz Colomina’s “dirty and clean spaces”), the AIDS crisis, or the first Gulf War. Today, it can be read as a metaphor for living in the era of Trump. At the same time, it references horror films like Carrie and Evil Dead, as well as Freud’s excess, repression, and bodily functions. At least the liquids Barry used in production were non-toxic—honey, beets, soup and more, soaked up between videotaping the scenes with sacks of kitty litter. Imagination, Dead Imagine Mary Boone Gallery 541 West 24 Street New York, NY Through July 28, 2017
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Hans-Ulrich Obrist on architecture, art, and Metabolism

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext—a multidisciplinary platform for design promoted by Actar Publishers—to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we’re pairing the urbanNext article below with AN’s “First look at Jenny Sabin Studio’s immersive MoMA/PS1 installation.” The article below was authored by Hans-Ulrich Obrist, an art curator, critic, and historian of art.
My interest in architecture, from the perspective of my role as a curator of art, stems from the fact that architecture is the pre-eminent site for the production of reality, as it is uniquely oriented the toward the future, but precisely as a continual negotiation, or as a continually articulated struggle between the present, the past, and the future. This is what I look for, also, in the art that interests me the most; namely, the recognition, following Duchamp, that art is ultimately a game in which the only constant is change itself. Implicit in Duchamp is a vision of history under perennial negotiation; historical truth as forever in situ. My interest in architecture stems especially from the work of English architect Cedric Price, who, beginning in the 1960s, advanced an evolutional model of building premised upon flexibility, change, and renewal. Although many of his concepts never materialized outside the studio, Price is receiving a renaissance in architecture today and I am particularly indebted to his progressive thinking. Price’s vision was to do with the unpredictability of architecture, of its forms and uses, and I am especially interested in pushing at the edges of what is expected of the exhibition-form; and in conceiving unusual sites, formats, and temporalities for exhibitions. Price’s unrealised Fun Palace, 1964, adjusted to its users’ ever-changing needs: "It will probably look like nothing on earth from the outside," it was said. "The kit of service towers, lifting gantries and building components exists solely to produce the kind of interior environments that are fitting and necessary to whatever is going on." The Potteries Thinkbelt, 1966, proposed the construction of a school in England’s North Staffordshire region across a series of railway tracks: the university was rearticulated as a set of interchangeable mobile units which could be attached and detached as necessary. My own practice draws considerably upon Cedric Price’s future of dynamism and his disregard for permanence—his structures often had shelf-lives and once their utility expired, he urged their destruction. Both art and architecture today must be adequate to the most pressing needs of our time, and in particular to the demands of ecology: both sustainability and adaptability; preservation and impermanence. This is why I have tried, wherever possible, to avoid the top-down blockbuster model of curating, and have been more interested in exploring other means to produce reality through exhibitions, delegating decisions and possibilities to artists. Since its inception in 1993, for example, Do It has traveled to over 40 international venues and offers a model of art and exhibition making as the following-through of a variable set of instructions. Perhaps the pre-eminent challenge encompassing this project concerned how to perpetuate a show that no big museum wanted to touch: because it wasn’t the "real" thing—because it was about instructions and interpretations, not concrete "works"—it never hit the primary institutional radar. By consequence, Do It was a huge risk and it perpetuated only through an amazing grassroots mechanism that ricocheted across Europe, Asia, the Americas, and so on. From an economic perspective, the manner in which Do It produced its own circuit, a self-sustaining distribution model, is exemplary and I consider this to be among my proudest achievements. So we come to Metabolism, which, for me, is one of the most fascinating developments in postwar architecture, since it explores all of these important aspects of adaptability, change, and renewal that I see as being especially important in the art context. To some degree, the moment of Metabolist architecture in Japan is inseparable from the tremendous forces of change and renewal affecting that country during the postwar period—the Japanese economic miracle that propelled the country into the premier league of developed nations and only began to stall in the 1990s. This emergence into the "big league" required a distinctively Japanese Modernism, and this is the great achievement of the Metabolists in my view. As one of the movement’s founders, Takashi Asada, clearly stated in regard to the relation between Metabolism and Japan’s phenomenal economic dynamism after the war:
… Those who signed their names on my copy of Metabolism 1960, Ekuan and I as chairman are the eight members of the group… For six years I have encouraged them to realize their proposals in the book so as to examine their validity. In my view, the flexibility that inherently exists in our society and the rapid economic growth in recent years should allow for their proposals to be realized.
With regard to Japan’s economic growth, there is a deep optimism inherent in much of the architecture, an optimism appropriately framed by the decade of the 1960s, marked by the signing of Metabolism 1960 and the important Expo 1970 in Osaka. This optimism is, perhaps, most obviously apparent in Kiyonori Kikutake’s Marine City proposal of 1958, which has all the formal revolutionary zeal of Corbusier, and envisions an entirely new mode of life appropriate to the modern age. But it is also there in some of the more modest examples of Metabolist work, which are, of course, the few key examples that have been realized and given to us for posterity. So, Kisho Kurokawa’s ever-controversial Nakagin Capsule Tower in Shimbashi, Tokyo, is a powerful homage to the dynamism of the Japanese capital city and economic powerhouse: a residential building comprising two interconnected concrete towers, intended as distinctively Japanese, but also somewhat Corbusian, "machines for living" for the capital’s salarymen, featuring as standard all the amenities of modern life amid what Ernest Mandel once characterized as the "third industrial revolution" of mass consumption and rising living standards in the advanced economies. But it combines this with that quintessential Western imaginary of contemporary Japanese living: the capsule, which are here able to be reconfigured and combined in different ways according to individual need. Kurokawa’s Capsule Tower is thereby simultaneously expressive of widespread societal change then afoot, as well as the need for individual maneuverability within this larger systemic whole. Expo 70 was billed as a celebration of "Progress and Harmony for Mankind," and is perhaps the summation of the optimistic Japanese orientation toward the future—a unique historical moment that has many lessons for us today. It stands in the Japanese collective memory as a testament to the country’s incredible rate of economic development and rapid recovery during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and is today marked by the Expo Commemorative Park in Osaka. It is indeed fitting that this pivotal event was held in Osaka, which, especially during that period, was of course, the beating heart of Japanese industrialism. Expo 70 in fact marked a turning point, as the culminating point of the steadily accelerating growth of the Japanese economy in the twenty-five years following the end of the war, and the 1970s, during which the country’s great fortune would only further accelerate amid the economic crises of the West that were prompted, not least, by the Oil Crisis of 1973. Change and renewal, as the most important elements of what I understand by the "production of reality," are directly indexed in Metabolist work. Impermanence is a key facet of Kisho Kurokawa’s practice, for instance, and it may not be too much of a stretch to suggest that the idea of unceasing change is deeply rooted in Japanese culture. It goes back to the most profound teachings of the Buddha, who argued that attachment to the idea of a permanent self, a permanent ego, in this world of change is the cause of suffering and the main obstacle to liberation. Liberation for Buddha, and for Buddhism generally, means to accept the implacability of change. The enormous changes that Japan as a nation had to face in the immediate aftermath of the war were, I think, fundamental to the visions of renewal and change that we find in Metabolism. Kurokawa, in particular, noted that, apart from Kyoto and Kanazawa, the majority of Japanese cities of any size were decimated during World War II. Whereas, in the West, when a city like London or Dresden was destroyed, there was brick and stone and rubble remaining as evidence of what had been, and out of which new ideas could grow. But Japan’s cities, on the other hand, appeared as blank slates after the dust had settled. Kurokawa noted that Japan’s cities were predominantly built of wood and other natural, perishable materials, and so when they were bombed, they simply turned to cinder. The destruction of both Edo (now Tokyo) and Kyoto during several battles of the Warring States period in the 15th and 16th centuries also made deep impression on Kurokawa, while into this mix of influences on Metabolist notions of change and adaptability can be added the obvious fact that Japan’s cities are virtually annually struck by natural disasters of various kinds: earthquakes, typhoons, floods, and volcanic eruptions. This ongoing destruction and reconstruction of buildings in Japan has meant that the Japanese population have, as Kurokawa put it, “an uncertainty about existence, a lack of faith in the visible, a suspicion of the eternal.” What is also detectable in Metabolist work is a strong emphasis, stemming from traditional Japanese architecture, on the notion that buildings and cities should be true to their environs. In traditional Japanese buildings there is the idea that architecture should be as natural as possible and should be in harmony with the rest of nature, since it is, after all, only temporarily there. This ethos spurred the entire Japanese tradition of making buildings and cities as temporary structures, with the ideas of temporaneity and autochthony in-built. Autochthony, in particular, I think can be seen in Kurokawa’s design for the Nagoya City Art Museum, completed in 1987, for the way that the entrance, especially, seems to expose the formal structure of the building and seems also to ‘bleed’ into the area surrounding the building itself. This idea of impermanence was reflected in Kurokawa’s work as part of the Metabolism Movement, and his buildings were built to be removable, interchangeable and adaptable, both in time and space. All of these ideas mean that Metabolism infused a particularly Japanese Modernism with some of the key ideas of postmodernism in architecture; especially, truth to surroundings, rather than the implantation of a transposable and monolithic International Style. But there was also a profound sense of experimentation and search for the new, rather than simply the recombination and resurrection of the old, that marks Metabolism out as very much part of the canon of architectural Modernism, however much it may be a kind of proto-postmodernism. Experimentation was inherent in the ways in which the Metabolists worked and collaborated, which echoed the constant reshuffling and disciplinary revolutionizing that is characteristic of, for instance, the Bauhaus under Gropius. As Asada described it:
Group Metabolism has no strict rules or agreements. It’s a free and
 intimate group of architects, designers, and critics.
One of the ways in which this was manifested was in the profound interdisciplinarity of Metabolism as it merged with other fields of knowledge. So, we have Tomatsu’s sociology, Kurokawa’s Institute of Social Engineering, Awazu’s graphic design, as well as an engagement with the broader spheres of science, technology, and biology.
Metabolism, it could be said, belongs to the last heroic wave of architectural movements, in a period before the hastening of disciplinary specialization that we find with trends such as the otherwise exemplary Deconstructivist movement of Libeskind and Eisenman. Metabolism was anything but the manifestation of a recursive, architectural argument, but rather was profoundly open to the world, not least in its engagement with questions of environment and ecology. It therefore has many potential lessons for us today, as we search for ways in which design might lead us into the future. On the one hand, the challenges of sustainability, and therefore of urban wellbeing, demand that cultural production today reclaims its old sense of ambition and scale; that it once again embraces the possibilities of total design. Bruno Latour has recently called for an expanded role for design that extends "from the details of daily objects to cities, landscapes, nations, cultures, bodies, genes, and… to nature itself," welcoming this as a novel "political ecology" that might "ease modernism out of its historical dead end." This is not to say that we should resurrect anything like the monolithic aesthetic schemes of modernism itself, but rather that we should borrow from their ambition in order to form our own dynamic, shifting and alterable institutions and spaces of the future. Latour states that: "the little word 'design' could offer a very important touchstone for detecting where we are heading and how well modernism (and also postmodernism) has been faring." But one way of avoiding what is a potential pitfall of grand visions for the redesign and rebuilding of urban environments is to embrace possibilities for future change as an inherent facet of architectural and planning projects, in other words, to embrace impermanence and adaptability. It may not be too much of a stretch to imagine Metabolism as an object lesson in the way in which architecture might straddle these dual demands of the revisioning of the urban context and urban society, while at the same time accommodating uncertainty, becoming, and the changeable.
This article originally appeared as Architecture, Art and Metabolism on urbanNext.
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Architectural works steal the show at Documenta 14

The art exhibition Documenta has been staged every five years in Kassel, Germany since 1955. The first Documenta was labeled “a museum for 100 days” and featured work from the famous 1937 degenerate art show staged by the Nazis. It was an example of Germany coming to terms with its troubled past and it created a reputation that Documenta would take risks and comment critically on contemporary issues in the art world and society. This year’s quinquennial event is staged in public spaces, museums, and squares all over the German city and for the first time in Athens, Greece. The joint Kassel/Athens staging is perhaps a German gesture of goodwill between the two European Union nations that have had a contentious political relationship since the 2016 Greek debt crises. But the curatorial team behind Documenta 14, lead by artistic director Adam Szymczyk, makes the case for Greece as the birthplace of democratic ideals and thus an important partner in 2017. This dual exhibition strategy was created (at the height of the Greek economic crises) so one can see “how problematic things are at the moment, and how much worse they may soon become—though not, naturally, to simply induce passive spectatorship,” said Szymczyk in the exhibition catalogue. The works in Kassel are installed all over the town; museums, cinemas, schools, parks, paths, clubs, and shops that its curator argues “comprises Kassel in its density, richness, particular hospitality, and beauty.” This strategy is meant to create an experience that is “non-exclusionary and defined by personal and collective encounters and decisions—a precise public realm in space and time.” But does this 60-year-old experiment still take chances and represent critical reflections on the world? It's decision to stage temporary artworks in abandoned underground train stations, parks and museums (interspersed between permanent displays) offers Kassel residents the chance to daily confront the work and the ideas they represent. However, I spent six hours walking up down and around Kassel and visiting scores of installations and the exhibit did not really come together as a compelling statement (I did not visit Athens) nor a theme (it seemingly has no title?) that could serve as a framework for the best artworks from the most important artists of the day. But surprisingly, many of the most powerful works in Documenta were architectural or urban in ways that one would find at an architecture biennale. Thus, I have five architecture or urban-themed projects that stand out and should not be missed by designers and urbanists visiting Documenta. The most obvious work—and impossible to avoid—is the full-scale reproduction of the Athenian Parthenon that has been constructed of wire in Kassel’s Friedrichsplatz square by the Argentinian artist Marta Minujin. The double-layered wire mesh is solidified by the inclusion of thousands of donated books, copies of those banned and burned during the Nazi era, on this exact site during the country’s infamous Kristallnacht. The books add color and texture to the structure and remind viewers of how fragile the values of democracy are even if we have buildings constructed in their memory. Near the wire Parthenon in Königsplatz is a stone obelisk, long a symbol of conquest but also urban planning from Rome through Bernini and Haussmann’s Paris. In Kassel, it is a public totem dedicated to the 60 million immigrants and refugees currently on the run. The artist, Nigerian-born and Connecticut-based Olu Oguibe, has inscribed on its four sides gold lettering (in Arabic, Turkish, and English) the words “I was a stranger and you have accommodated me” from Saint Matthew. Oguibe hopes the work will particularly provoke “those pious evangelicals in the USA who vehemently oppose the reception of refugees,” as he said in the Documenta catalogue. In fact, the pillar does work as urban design, giving this large amorphous square a center while focusing our attention not on political conquest but political failure and human responsibility. The other important architecture projects were installed in the classically designed Palais Bellevue which, despite its charming demeanor and beautiful view across the sprawling Auepark below, featured a work that all confronts issues of trauma rooted in the “various disasters of war.” In one room Israeli artist Roee Rosen screened a tightly scripted opera video The Dust Channel (2016) that—in addition to highlighting the sex rituals of a privileged middle class Israeli couple—also focuses on their “perverted” aversion to dust and dirt and obsession with home cleaning appliances, particularly their iconic design object Dyson 7 vacuum. In fact, the Dyson does a star turn as a constant centerpiece of the bourgeois domestic interior. Also in Palais Bellevue is Australian Bonita Ely’s provocative installation—featuring Sewing Machine Gun; Watchtower; Trench; and Call of Duty II—that creates a dystopia surely familiar to any fleeing immigrant. The center of the installation is a trench or maze system made of old furniture inherited by the artist that may not be architecture but is surely ‘design.’ Standing over this is a tower made of an old metal bedsprings and a model machine fabricated from an ancient Singer sewing machine. The installation (or the world it stands in for) is child-like, horrifying, and beautiful at the same time. Finally, a work by Christos Papoulias (who studied architecture in Venice with Rossi, Tafuri, and Scarpa) channeled his inner childhood dreams or nightmares to construct a series of fantasy houses of tramps, coal merchants, agriculturists, gossips and one of the most powerful and creepiest objects in Documenta, the house of a child molester that features a large sculpted hand entirely covering a building. Documenta 14, like all large international art exhibitions, always has several architecture projects than can inspire and provoke. But in Kassel, they stand out for the focus they bring to subjects when they are given an architectural and urban context.
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Artists protest funding cuts to the arts at Trump Tower

On President Donald Trump’s birthday, New York City artists held performances inside Trump Tower’s not-so-secret public gardens to issue a call-to-arms against the White House's proposed budget cuts to arts funding. The performances, which took place earlier today, are part of a rising trend where activists now use Trump Tower’s public gardens as spaces for political activism. The gardens and atriums inside Trump Tower were a part of Trump’s 1979 agreement with the city, which led to the creation of 15,000 square feet worth of public space in exchange for a zoning variance to build an additional 20 stories. The agreement also stipulated that these privately-owned public spaces (POPS) be accessible to the public from 8 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily. “Today in an act of resistance, we take back what is rightfully ours, the public space inside Trump Tower, and use the power of art to protest this administration,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer, who is also chair of the committee on cultural affairs. “There is an assault on the arts, culture, and thinking in this country right now.” Trump’s budget proposes eliminating federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “We gather as artists and citizens to celebrate our country's commitment to the freedom of expression and the exchange of ideas between all people,” said Lucy Sexton, an artist at the event. Performers used art as a way to cover a wide range of subjects that have been topics of hot conversation in Trump’s administration, including climate change and Russia. Trump himself was also a topic of interest, in performances like Brick x Brick, where participants wore brick-patterned jumpsuits adorned with statements of misogynistic violence made by Trump. The performance was a way to “demonstrate disdain to Trump’s policies,” according to Caterina Bartha, the event’s curator, adding that it was “a gift to New Yorkers who attended the free performance and a call to people across the country to fight to save the arts from Trump’s axe.”
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Artist Martin Boyce uses architectural forms to create surreal sculptures

British Turner Prize–winning artist Martin Boyce is presenting Sleeping Chimneys. Dead Stars. at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Chelsea. In the exhibition, Boyce uses sculpture and architectural forms to explore themes of melancholy and abandonment. Many of the works use an angular, oblique design language derived from work by French sculptors Joël and Jan Martel—longtime inspirations for Boyce, who lives in Glasgow. Audiences can witness this in the first part of the exhibition, There was a Door, which, unsurprisingly, is a door, but one that doesn't open to the exhibition, or in fact anything. There was a door, however, is a precedent for the rest of Boyce's work on display. Details down to the wall-mounted door's bronze keyhole and peephole reflect the intimacy of the inanimate objects on display. "I enjoy the stillness and melancholia of an object such as a lamp or table of which can appear lonely or abandoned," said Boyce speaking to The Architect's Newspaper. On the ground floor, furniture can be found along with four apparently "sleeping" chimneys (officially titled, Still Life Landscape with Sun). The furniture is mostly metal, with Boyce weathering some to give a false sense of history; the works appear as if they sat outside for some time. To do this, Boyce said he brushed the metal with Scotch-Brite, vinegar, and filings. The furniture then sits adjacent to white, wall-fixed moldings, creating a contradiction with what we would usually expect to find inside and outside. Likewise, the same could be said for the array of chimneys that create a roofscape within the all-white-walled gallery ground floor. Made from jesmonite, the chimneys have been stained with acid to give the impression of being exposed to the rain. Their oblique sculpting is a scaled-up reference to the smaller motifs that feature throughout. To complete the roofscape scene, the chimneys have television aerials attached to them and, in the background, a paper lantern acts as the sun behind the chimney-tops. However, this isn't the only star of the show. Another light, or rather a Dead Star, can be found in the form of a circular lamp hanging over a table. This lamp, though, emits no light. Like the supposed electrical fittings, the lamp was made from cast bronze and hence will never be able to shine. "Because of this, it really becomes about shape and structure, it is a purely sculptural, combatant, and broken lamp," remarked Boyce. Other light fittings throughout Sleeping Chimneys. Dead Stars are also made from bronze and their absence of illuminance amplifies their lonely presence.
On the floor above is another contradiction: a fireplace. Unsurprisingly there is no fire and the fireplace, located above the chimneys, dons oblique motifs present throughout. Inside the fireplace, a miniature yellow hanging lantern and set of stairs can be seen. The stairs lead nowhere and the lantern—a reference to another functioning one on the same level—emits no light. "It acts as a device that plays with perspective in the room, becoming an an architectural space within a theater," said Boyce. "With a lot of the works, it's more about being with the 1:1 objects and then within that chimney, it's stage-like." Sleeping Chimneys. Dead Stars. is on view now and runs through June 16 a the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (521 West 21st Street, New York, NY 10011).
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Two Cuban artists uniquely capture Detroit’s built environment—both its decay and hope for the future

Two Cuban artists, Alejandro Campins and Jose Yaque, feature in the City of Queen Anne’s Lace exhibition now on view at the Wasserman Projects gallery in Detroit. Using painting, sculpture, and drawing, they embody the emotion of Detroit's past, present, and future. Campins' works, laconic in style, are similar to those of Polish artist Joseph Schulz, whose Form 14 (archetypal of Schulz's style) exhibits architecture without detail. That work was cited by critic Stephen Parnell in his essay "Post-truth architecture." "Stripped of just a few elements, such as lettering, mundane architecture can reveal an uncanny elegance," Parnell said. The same could be said of Campins' paintings, if not for the moody tones and visible brush strokes (he used oils, watercolors, and also pencil) that convey the opposite. His works represent an abandoned Detroit, yet, despite their sense of silence, there are symbols of optimism: A green traffic signal and blank billboard can be interpreted as signifiers of opportunity. Yaque's work, meanwhile, is more explicitly optimistic. Made from Detroit's recycled trash, a large-scale installation rises up from the ground, topped with grass, flowers, and other greenery. The work appears at a glance to be molded by layers of sediment and soil (and Detroit's history)—almost as if a section of the earth's crust lifted from the ground. The piece physically dominates the gallery; exactly what is atop the chunk of recycled earth is unknown and out of sight, but we know from what we do see is that the land upon which is grows is evidently fertile. This piece also references the exhibition's name. Also known as a "Wild Carrot," Queen Anne's Lace is a flower that is commonly found sprouting from the city's decaying buildings. While most often associated with Detroit's downfalls, the plant has substantial nutritional value. Yaque also uses a more traditional medium. Like his Cuban counterpart, he draws, though Yaque employs charcoal to depict Detroit's urban vernacular. Yaque's technique allows his drawings to be nostalgic as they don the faded aesthetic of a century-old photograph. Smudging, often applied to the based of a work, connotes energy—the lost energy of the lonely landmarks and time passing by, wind-like and invariably contributing to the building's demise. Unlike his built work, these images hark back to a Detroit that is certainly consigned to memory, with buildings either no longer used or repurposed. However, in a similar vein to his sculpture, this reference point is only implied. City of Queen Anne’s Lace has been curated by Rafael DiazCasas, an art historian and independent curator based in New York City. The exhibition came about after Wasserman Projects founder Gary Wasserman saw Campins' works while in Havana. Through DiazCasas, the two discussed the parallels between Detroit's and Cuba's history. Inspired by this, Campins visited the Michigan city for himself, later introducing Yaque to the city too. The pair encountered much Wild Carrot during their foray into Detroit. According to a press release, they found the flower to be symbolic of change and natural rebalancing. This sentiment formed the basis of their work for the exhibition, promoting a feeling of hope while looking at Detroit through an alternative lens. City of Queen Anne’s Lace is on view at Wasserman Projects through June 24, 2017.
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Bronx Museum announces Gordon Matta-Clark exhibition

The Bronx Museum has just announced it will stage an exhibition on Gordon Matta-Clark and his work in and around the Bronx. The exhibit Gordon Matta-Clark: Anarchitecture will examine “the artist’s pioneering social, relational, and activist” work. There have been scores of Matta-Clark exhibits, but few connect the artist's work to the underserved and troubled urban landscape of the 1970s and his activist approach. The museum has a distinguished history—under its Director, Holly Block, and Principal Curator, Sergio Bessa—of highlighting the borough's urban history and its often neglected importance to the art of the city and the moments of artistic joy that often spring from its rocky soil. Matta-Clark is the perfect artist to pair with the Bronx Museum’s mandate to not just highlight the borough's urban history but to highlight activist solutions by artists and architects. The exhibit will run from November 2017 to January 2018. For more on the Bronx Museum, see its website here.
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A snapshot of war with ISIS is on show at the Thomas Jaeckel Gallery

For ten years, British artist Piers Secunda has been capturing the violent manifestations of geopolitics using industrial floor paint. He described himself to me as merely "a guy who collects bullet damage," however, the downplaying ends there. Currently, at the Thomas Jaeckel Gallery in Chelsea, Secunda is exhibiting a collection of recent works that use damage from ISIS gunfire, collected from the recently ISIS-liberated regions of Iraq. Speaking to The Architect's Newspaper (AN), he explained his work in more detail. "I'm trying to make a forensic quality record, [it] has to be as accurate as possible," Secunda, said, talking of the bullet holes he has accumulated and is now exhibiting. His process involves making molds of bullet holes and then placing their negatives into historical friezes (a video can be seen below). The result of this process is a series of ancient replica reliefs, nearly all of which appear to have been targets in a firing range. Indeed, it was at a firing range where Secunda first delved into the process of bullet hole collection. In Pudong, China, he and a colleague (of sorts) "chatted their way into" a People’s Liberation Army firing range used for executions. After a "long convoluted lie," Chinese officers shot some paint for Secunda and thus his foray into collecting such artifacts began. The endeavor has taken the London-based artist to some areas of more immediate danger, notably Afghanistan where he collected bullet damage from the Taliban. After this, he was invited to the Kurdish regions of Iraq by the Kurdistan government and the Peshmerga (Iraqi Kurdistan military forces). Despite being protected by the Peshmerga, however, Secunda wasn't able to go wherever he wanted. "It was impossible to get to Nimrud or Nineveh, it would have been suicidal to go there," he said. "The best I could do was to go somewhere where ISIS had been recently—a few months or so ago." Secunda was able to get to the town of Daquq where he met its mayor, Idriss Adil. He asked about what ISIS had done and what their impact was. "It's crucial that I know where ISIS attacked from, so I know I'm collecting the right bullet holes and also to get background on the skirmish that took place." Just outside Daquq, Secunda was able to collect samples from a former gunshot peppered school that had been transformed into an ISIS headquarters. Secunda, though, even in this setting, was limited with what he could do. "At one point ISIS were only about 60 yards away," he said. "When men in flack jackets holding machine guns tell you, you can't go somewhere, you do what they say." To "collect" the bullet holes, Secunda uses alginate—a substance usually used in dentistry—and mixes it with a hardener in his hands and then stuffs it into the bullet hole. The mold takes approximately five minutes to set after which Secunda has to rather forcibly pry from the cavity. After this, he goes home to make a high-resolution facsimile of the mold using a high-grade silicone. And so to 532 West 25th Street at the Thomas Jaeckel Gallery. Hung against a blue wall are industrial paint-made reliefs that have these bullet hole negatives set into them. The reliefs range in scale: smaller, Assyrian ones depict hunters and bulls and have smaller bullet holes forged into them; meanwhile, larger, thicker friezes like replicas from the Pergamon Altar span more than fifteen inches and show The Temple of Zeus. In these instances, numerous reliefs are shown, with each having more bullet holes embedded into them. In all these cases, the friezes have a history that can be traced back to where ISIS has been—and inevitably caused destruction. Speaking of the latter example, Secunda described how Zeus lost his body (replaced by bullet damage) and the impact he strives for. "The sensitivity of the interaction with those holes and the rest of the composition heightens the work," he said. "To try and take a figurative sculpture put holes through it in a way that heightens its context and its validity as an image and as a story, that's where the challenge is." In a sense, Secunda is time-stamping the violence that ISIS brought and placing it in an accessible medium that nearly all Westerners will be able to experience. Piers Secunda: ISIS Bullet Hole Paintings is on show through May 6 at the Thomas Jaeckel Gallery.
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The unknown story of New York City’s brutalist playgrounds, as told by artist Julia Jacquette

The idea of concrete being the dominant material for a children's play area seems bizarre today. What about the grazed elbows and knees and scratched palms? What if, God forbid, someone hits their head?! In 1970s New York, however, it worked: Artist Julia Jacquette recalls the concrete playscapes built during one of the city's most socially turbulent eras in her new book, Playground of My Mind. A combination of personal memoir, playground design guide, graphic novel, and story of New York's modernist architectural scene, laced with snippets of feminist ambition, Playground of My Mind is narrated retrospectively by Jacquette, who illustrated the book with her own distinctive graphic style. It starts by plunging you into the depths of Columbus Park Towers, a confusingly named, singular high-rise apartment block on West 94th Street. It's here, in the tower block's basement, where Jacquette's interested in playgrounds started. Described as a "city within a city," Jacquette uses the now-demolished play area, designed by landscape architect M. Paul Friedberg, as a springboard to illustrate the egalitarian principles found in modernist architecture and recount how such design influenced her. Another example is the Adventure Playground, found in Central Park and designed by architect Richard Dattner. Emphatically, Jacquette states: "Much of the Adventure Playground was made with poured concrete aggregate: CONCRETE WITH PEBBLES IN IT." Jacquette touches on more design details as she chronicles her experiences, which include playgrounds by Aldo van Eyck in Amsterdam, where her childhood is also rooted. She portrays these play areas as a reaction to the out-dated, one-dimensional curated fun prescribed by former NYC Parks Commissioner and Chairman, Robert Moses. In Moses's parks, objects encouraged limited means of interaction, and were, as critic Phineas Harper described, "modeled on Victorian notions of character-building gymnastic exertion." Swings were for swinging in, see-saws were essentially the same (just more wooden in every sense of the word), and you slid down slides. Jacquette's account of these play areas may be useful today as Harper described contemporary playgrounds as "totally prescriptive," citing researcher David Ball who found that the commonly deployed rubber "safety surfacing" has a negligible impact on children's' safety. Instead, Jacquette prefers playgrounds that encourage inventive ways of using and navigating them; places where fun is free to be had and above all interpretive: A hollowed, spiraling mound could be a mountain, volcano, castle or river, while at the same time referencing ancient architecture such as Roman amphitheaters and Egyptian pyramids. The author's illustrations complement this personal narrative, playing with scale in a similar fashion to the featured playgrounds. This is supplemented by text design and layout consultant, Cathleen Owens's meandering arrangement of text that weaves through the book, working its way around the axonometric, plan and graphic drawings that fill every page. Her father an architect and mother a stylish librarian, Jacquette ascribes the unified aesthetic vocabulary that played a big part in her childhood to her making today, drawing on memories such as: the clothing worn by her mother who confidently strode around gritty New York; Manhattan movie theaters; playgrounds in the Netherlands and parks designed by her father. Today, Columbus Park Tower sits atop a cleaners, cafe, boutique, cobblers, bar and two restaurants and is engulfed by residential high-rises lining Columbus avenue. It's cream colored (originally white) balconies which Jacquette mentions protrude out and contrast against its aged (but not damaged) brickwork. They amplify the linear orderliness of the facade—an aesthetic retained today. Look north and there are newer, modern, high-end apartments. The area is a far cry from the rough-and-tumble neighborhood that Jacquette grew up in, but the bold spirit of the place evidently lives on in her work. Playground of My Mind was published by Prestel in conjunction with the Wellin Museum of Art, where a mid-survey exhibition of Jacquette is currently on show, located on the campus of Hamilton College. Julia Jacquette: Unrequited and Acts of Play looks at the theme of identity through the nostalgic lens used in Playground of My Mind. The exhibition is on view through July 2, 2017, and an abridged version of the show will travel to the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit, New Jersey, where it will be on view from September 24, 2017, through January 14, 2018. Playground of My Mind Prestel, $49.95