If the adage is true that “God is in the details,” then the current exhibition at Christopher W. Mount Gallery in West Hollywood might grant the venue some status as a holy site. On view through January 20, 2016, in the second floor space of the Pacific Design Center’s “Blue Whale” and entitled Mapping the Information Age, the exhibition is comprised of a collection of thirteen large, intricately detailed and color-coded microchip circuitry diagrams, framed and accompanied by a projected slideshow of historic imagery from the companies that produced many of the prints, such as Intel Corporation, Synaptics, Inc., and Hewlett-Packard, among others. “The complexity is appealing,” said gallery director Christopher Mount, as he discussed the strong impression conveyed through the diagrams. “There’s rigor here, even if we don’t understand it.” The diagrams, upwards of four to six feet wide, were used by microchip engineers and designers if something went wrong in the development process. “If you were designing a chip and it just wasn’t working, you’d bring these out,” said Mount. “Somebody would make sure that the memory was connected in the right way. You would spend days with them.” Mount, who has curated exhibitions at MOCA and LACMA, and held directorial positions at the Pasadena Museum of California Art and Parsons, first became interested in the prints while working on an exhibition at MoMA in 1990 that was organized by Cara McCarty, titled Information Art: Diagramming Microchips. The prints currently on view at Mount’s gallery were culled from that show. The collection engages with a discussion about the status of the drawing in contemporary design practices. The idea that such visually substantial prints, which are well suited to the gallery context, are the outcome of technological troubleshooting or routine “debugging” processes on the part of the microchip makers, raises questions about the expectations that we generally have of drawings. Designers and architects often use drawings to present idyllic possibilities, usually before the constraints of reality have come to bear on the design. The visually intricate microchip diagrams, however, are themselves the outcome of an error, a means to visualize and correct a problem. “These were not intended as art,” Mount noted. “But as functional design drawings.” For Mount, the question of authorship is another complicating factor: “People walk in here all the time and say, 'So, who’s the artist?' And I have to explain: 'Well, it’s Hewlett-Packard, or it’s Intel, or it’s Rockwell Technologies.'” The visual abstractions captured in the diagrams suggest a number of interesting and alternative readings. Mount recalled that some visitors see patterns for textiles, others see architectural plans. “They look like cityscapes, or any kind of urban complex.” he said. “They have the spirit of Corbusier.” In the precisely ordered, nanoscale grid of the plans, the viewer can read systems and interactions at a scale that is more relatable to everyday life; imagining some processor components as parking garages, others as apartments, and the green spaces in-between as parks. “The colors are all particular to the companies,” he explained, but are generally used to convey the visual depth and order of how the components would be stacked. “The lightest colors go deeper, the darker colors are higher up on the chip.” The diagrams might also reveal a sense of collective anxiety about how little we actually understand about computational processes. As smart devices occupy more of our time and attention, how important are the inner workings that these “black boxes” obscure? “We all use a computer every day, but you forget that this is the thing inside,” Mount said of the processor components. “People forget that in 1990 these were brand new.” Because desktop computers and microchip processors were less common twenty-five years ago, there tended to be a greater appreciation for the efforts and outcomes in the development of computer hardware.“Now, I think everybody comes in and recognizes them as microprocessors.” The computational complexity seems to be taken for granted, which means viewers are more interested in the formal qualities of the diagrams. Perhaps the shift from technological wizardry to mundane ubiquity is the neglected aspect of the information age that demands a more detailed mapping. As such, the diagrams on display might also reveal something about how we relate to designed objects more broadly. “I think everyday things aren’t appreciated,” said Mount of the objects that we often take for granted. “I’ve always been a real advocate for design.I like the fact that it’s available to everyone. I like the idea of a calculator that’s wonderful to look at and makes you happy, and can sit on your desk for twenty-five dollars.”
Posts tagged with "Christopher Mount":
Since architect Chris Genik left Daly Genik (now called Kevin Daly Architects) and became dean at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design in San Diego in 2010, we have lost touch with him. He’s no longer the dean, and we haven’t heard a peep about what he’s up to. If you know of his whereabouts please contact eavesdrop immediately. And speaking of Chrises, we hear that our friend Christopher Mount, who curated MOCA’s New Sculpturalism exhibition before things with Jeffrey Deitch went haywire, is opening up a gallery inside the Pacific Design Center dedicated to architectural prints and related art.
Having observed the absence of architecture and design materials from the American art collection scene, curator and scholar Christopher W. Mount decided to fill the gap himself. His eponymous Los Angeles gallery, housed in the Pacific Design Center, opens to the public on Friday, May 23 with A Modern Master: Photographs by Balthazar Korab. A second gallery, open by appointment, will be located on the Upper West Side in New York. “I really thought that this was the time,” said Mount. “I thought, ‘Here is a subject matter that major museums collect, and there hasn’t been somebody who opened a gallery.’” A former curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA, Mount more recently had a bumpy ride as guest curator of A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture from Southern California, part of the Getty Research Institute’s Pacific Standard Time series. He describes his new gallery as “a labor of love” and a natural extension of his museum work. “When people talk about what is it you really like to do, the answer [for me] is to find works, put them on the wall...and educate people on architecture and design. Get people to appreciate it as something that is equal in aesthetic pleasure and beauty to regular fine art,” said Mount. The works his gallery will display—including photography, drawings, and, possibly, architecture models—“is often towards another end, but is often beautiful in and of itself.” As for choosing LA as his headquarters, “I think part of the reason to be based in Los Angeles is...[that] the architecture profession is much less strictly commercial,” said Mount. “Certainly these people are wildly successful, but they tend to be more experimental.” At the same time, his work on A New Sculpturalism left Mount with a sense of how disconnected the New York architecture world is from what is happening in Los Angeles. “The idea is to promote this work, promote the designers and the architects, and hopefully we’ll promote it throughout the world,” he said. After the Korab show, which closes August 29, the Christopher W. Mount Gallery will exhibit photographs by architectural photographer Benny Chan. Mount also plans a show featuring drawings by prominent mid-century car designers, timed to coincide with the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.
Just when we thought the troubled MOCA New Sculpturalism exhibition was finally wrapping up relatively smoothly... There has been no official confirmation, but we've heard from several people involved with the show that Thom Mayne and his firm Morphosis are now leading the show, not curator Christopher Mount. Participants confirm that emails are now coming from Morphosis, not MOCA, while the show's assistant curator Johanna Vandemoortele last week sent out an email that she had already departed from MOCA. Mount was not available for comment, but Mayne's spokesperson Legier Stahl noted: "It is a collective, community effort. We are just helping to facilitate." Rumor has it that Mayne is considering adding more participants, including Wes Jones, John Enright, Hitoshi Abe, and Qingyun. Stay tuned as the saga continues.
AN just heard from MOCA that their embattled show, A New Sculpturalism, Contemporary Architecture in Southern California, is moving ahead. The date has been pushed back from June 2 to June 16, but it will still take place inside MOCA's Geffen Contemporary, presumably featuring the same roster of both emerging and star architects, minus Frank Gehry, of course. The show had been put on hold for several weeks for reasons that vary according to whom you ask. Curator Christopher Mount had blamed mismanagement at MOCA, while others had blamed apprehension about the show's direction, and Gehry's withdrawal. The following is the statement released by MOCA at 12:43 PST:
MOCA will present its exhibition on contemporary architecture from Southern California, A New Sculpturalism, opening June 16, 2013 at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA as part of Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in L.A. The museum is excited to bring the architecture community in Los Angeles together in recognition of the world-class architecture that has been and continues to be conceived in the city by some of the most renowned and emerging firms and practitioners working today.MOCA did not make clear if Mount would still be directing the show, and Mount was understandably unable to comment. Many in the community had been outraged at the possible closure of the show, and a petition to keep it going garnered more than 100 signatures. The show received more than $400,000 in grants and gifts from the Getty Foundation and other sources. It is the only exhibition on contemporary architecture in the Getty initiative, Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in Los Angeles. One of its participants, LA architect Tom Wiscombe, still needs help to get his part of the show done. He's raising funds on USA Projects for his pavilion, called Surface-to-Volume, a sixteen-foot-high inhabitable pavilion that will take its mutated form by having large indentations pushed into its thin exterior skin. The composite monocoque structure will be made of a water-based, fireproof composite with carbon and glass fiber reinforcement called M1, a material used primarily in aerospace engineering. "This is more like building an aircraft wing than a wall," said Wiscombe, who noted that the project's thin, large walls could only be created using such a material. Large seams will be engraved onto its surface, like tattoos. The project,which is already being fabricated by LA firm Barnacle Bros., will be complete in ten days if it reaches its fundraising goal by May 20.
Los Angeles architect Arshia Mahmoodi, founder of the firm VOID, has launched an online petition to try to help save the troubled exhibition, A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture in Southern California at MOCA. The show, scheduled for a June 2nd opening, is currently in a holding pattern, and its curator Christopher Mount told AN he feared it would be cancelled. Mount blames mismanagement at MOCA, while several news reports have pointed to general apprehension about the show, and the recent withdrawal of Frank Gehry. Mahmoodi released the petition—directed to MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch—yesterday. "The cultural and educational significance of this exhibition certainly outweighs any hindrance surrounding it," wrote Mahmoodi in the petition, which has been circulating in the local architecture community. Mahmoodi told AN she was inspired by Mount's call, documented in the LA Times, for a "community uprising" to keep the exhibition alive. She added that she doesn't want the petition to be "antagonistic or condemning in any form," since there is still so much haziness around the situation. "The show," she wrote, "is quite possibly the most important exhibition among the many curated under the Pacific Standard Time umbrella, as it is to provide a front for the emergent architecture in Southern California rather than the familiar historical or subjective curatorial discourse." The last pitch to Deitch: "We respectfully urge you to champion this mission to its resolution and ensure you that the support of the undersigned for this exhibition is unwavering." As of this posting the petition had 42 supporters. "It could act as a referendum of sorts to show the decision makers who and how many care about this," Mahmoodi told AN.
The intrigue continues at MOCA, whose upcoming show A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture in Southern California, is close to being cancelled, according to multiple sources. The show's curator Christopher Mount has told AN that Frank Gehry’s withdrawal is not the cause for the exhibition’s possible demise, as was suggested yesterday in the Los Angeles Times. The real reason, he said: MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch, who halted installation of the show a few weeks ago, claiming that money for the undertaking had run out. Mount, however, says there is plenty of money left in the show’s budget. The New Sculpturalism show, scheduled for a June 2 opening, received a $445,000 grant from the Getty Foundation (made up of a $170,000 research grant and a $275,000 implementation grant) as part of its Pacific Standard Time Presents: Modern Architecture in Los Angeles initiative. It also received a $15,000 grant from the Graham foundation as well as other smaller private contributions. Mount said that he has only spent $280,000 so far, and that the total cost of the show will be about $340,000. That leaves over $100,000 remaining. “The Frank Gehry thing is a total smokescreen,” said Mount, of the LA Times report, which pointed out that the show was being jeopardized because of that architect’s recent refusal to take part. Mount did acknowledge that Gehry had issues with the show (as have some others in the architecture community), and that he wasn't happy with the amount of pages dedicated to him in the exhibition catalogue, but he said that was irrelevant. “I don’t know where the money went. Somebody has to ask Jeffrey,” said Mount. He added: “I think it’s appalling that a museum can’t support an exhibition that explores some of the most important architecture of the last 25 years. I’ve never seen a show with all of its money raised just stop construction.” It is still unclear what Deitch or MOCA’s position is on the show’s status, or if the Getty, which donated most of the funds for the show, will step in to resolve the matter. The Getty has refused to comment, while efforts to reach MOCA on the record have thus far not been returned. Mount also acknowledged that Thom Mayne and others involved with the show have investigated moving it to another space, although he does not support such a move. "I'll certainly be disappointed if this comes to pass," said Neil Denari, who was scheduled to be part of the show, and noted that he has had doubts about MOCA's dedication to architecture. "I looked at it as a way to raise the consciousness of architecture in general. This raises questions about the ability to have a public discourse about architecture, which I think LA desperately needs." Disclosure: Sam Lubell was an on the advisory board for A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture in Southern California.