Seasonal Paintings, a new site-specific piece by the French conceptual painter Claude Rutault was installed on March 19 at the Pacific Design Center (PDC), an all-blue glass monolith in West Hollywood designed by the late Argentine architect César Pelli. A continuation of the 78-year-old artist’s “de-finitions/methods” series that he began in the early 1970s, Seasonal Paintings goes to great lengths to avoid the conventions of displaying two-dimensional artwork by occupying nearly all surfaces at once. Canvases appear to levitate in the middle of the space, with the assistance of fishing wire that faintly glistens underneath the spotlights, while others are splayed out atop loosely shaped canvases like oversized bearskin rugs. The few paintings that are actually hung up on the wall disappear into the walls themselves, which have been painted in the identical shade. Read the full show preview on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
Posts tagged with "Exhibitions":
In what might be one of the darkest ironies of the COVID-19 saga in New York City, the Cooper Hewitt has been forced to close the Willi Smith: Street Couture retrospective before it opens, the first museum exhibition of the influential American designer Willi Smith (1948–1987), whose career was cut short when he was killed by the AIDS crisis in 1987. Smith, who in 1976 founded WilliWear with partner Laurie Mallet, is often credited as a pioneer—if not the creator of—streetwear, which today is nearly ubiquitous, uniting economic and social classes with a blend of high fashion and everyday-inspired clothing. Through collaborations with artists, designers and performers, such as Juan Downey, Dan Friedman, Keith Haring, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Les Levine, Dianne McIntyre, and Nam June Paik, Smith captured the creativity and spirit of the cities where culture was being formed. It is this marrying of the avant-garde and the world-at-large that brought together Smith with James Wines and Alison Sky of the art and architecture collaborative Sculpture in the Environment (SITE) built a series of showrooms that served as the backdrop for the gesamtkunstwerk of WilliWear. After seeing a window display at the Rizzoli bookstore designed by SITE, Willi enlisted the group to design a series of showrooms from 1982 to 1987, using found objects from around the streets of Manhattan. As members of the Environmental Art movement, SITE specialized in bringing art into places where you would least expect it, and retail stores were one of their specialties, most famously the BEST department stores. The exhibition, curated by Alexandra Cunningham was designed by Wines along with Sam Chermayeff Architects, who built a modified version of the original stores. The communication designers poly-mode have also contributed a very clear and fresh graphic solution to the display. The show was originally scheduled to be on until Sunday, October 25 2020, but the situation remains fluid. Note: Effective March 14, the Cooper Hewitt is temporarily closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.
In 1964, Julio Cortázar published his famous short story Axolotl, the tale of a man living in Paris fascinated by an aquatic creature that he observes in the aquarium of the Jardin des Plantes. The axolotl, a slow-moving amphibian that spends its entire life in a larval stage, and seems almost like a plant or a mineral, looks like it came from the prehistoric ages. The story’s protagonist starts to understand the different spaces and temporalities embedded in the axolotl: Both the man and the axolotl seem to share the same universe, but, in fact, their bodies encompass different notions of their surroundings, tearing them apart. They don’t share the same universe because the way they can relate to their environments and their temporalities are unreconcilable. Yet they coexist. They are part of a multiverse. In 2017, the artist and architect Michael Wang gave the axolotl a main role for his project Extinct in the Wild at Fondazione Prada in Milan. Wang showed the mutual dependency of these multiverses shared by different species and the ideologies behind them. The axolotl is now an endangered species that has vanished from its natural habitat and lives almost exclusively under artificial conditions in zoos and aquariums, in scientific facilities for research, and in homes as exotic pets. Humans are responsible for their disappearance in the wild, but they also owe their continued existence to human care. This relationship attests to the complex understanding of how the Anthropocene has affected a multispecies shared environment and the need to comprehend its challenges. It is not enough to build an immediate response to the climate crisis that comes from human beings or to come back to an “original” state of harmony, but a structural change that surpasses an anthropocentric view—with human beings and their standard of living as the center. It is necessary to build a notion of the world that takes into account the agency of other species. The conception of a multiverse and the mutual dependency of species has been the center of Wang’s work for the last few years, presented at The World Around in January of this year. In Extinct in New York (organized by Swiss Institute, where the installation permanently resides, and on view at LMCC’s Arts Center at Governor Island in 2019) he introduced a series of plants that had been eradicated from New York City’s landscape. This ecological catastrophe was the result of centuries of hunting, harvesting, and building craziness. As Wang pointed out: “When the Croton Aqueduct opened in 1842, the outflux of wastewater suffocated the seaweeds of New York Harbor. The air changed. Coal smoke poisoned the lichens that had hung from hemlocks; a century later these trees too nearly vanished, plagued by an insect introduced with ornamental plants. Forests of steel rose in their stead, as human habitation stretched skyward.” But Wang doesn’t understand the ecosystem in a dialectic way, based on the binarism of human/non-human confrontations; rather he highlights the new environments created by this relationship. Subways that maintain optimal temperatures for rats; pigeons that found in the skyscrapers a shelter not far from their ancestors’ nests on Mediterranean cliffs; heated living rooms that welcome new flora, etc. The territory, and their inhabitants, are both techno-social recompositions. This project is not about restoration, nor about the idea of a harmonic past. Wang rather conceives it as a life-support system that doesn’t try to reinstate the previous ecosystem where species like Zostera marina (native of the marine meadows in New York Bay) or the Helonias bullata (last collected in Jamaica Bay in 1883) have disappeared from their original habitat. This was also the basis for another project, The Drowned World, that Wang presented at Manifesta Palermo in 2018 (also shown at The World Around). In it, an artificial forest assembled from plants closely related to those of the Carboniferous period grows from the industrial ruins of a gasworks. These plants once formed swamplands that stretched across the globe. Over millennia, their buried remains hardened into the very coal used at the gasworks. As this coal was heated and burned, carbon captured from the air 300 million years ago was again released, and an ancient atmosphere was in part restored. In Wang’s projects, all the violence, the displacements, the uneven balance of powers, and the colonization of the territory are confronted. The world is designed by one species and for one species. But human beings are not self-contained. Their bodies are also part of other species, from the varied microorganisms that inhabit them to the ever-changing habitats they share with other non-human agents. The challenge now is to understand the mutual dependency between species in a multiverse.
Acute Art, an app-based art platform that has produced exhibitions with Marina Abramović, Olafur Eliasson, and Cao Fei, has announced an augmented reality (AR) project with the work of artist Brian Donnelley, known professionally as KAWS. The exhibition, EXPANDED HOLIDAY, launched today and is now on display throughout the world simultaneously thanks to the company’s AR app. “Invisible to the naked eye,” the company writes on its website, “the augmented reality art comes to life in your phone’s camera to reveal beautifully crafted sculptures that interact seamlessly and playfully with the world around them.” Twelve of KAWS’s trademark clown sculptures, now floating several feet above the ground, have been spread out across eleven locations—Doha, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne, Paris, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Taipei, Serengeti National Park, Tokyo, and New York City. “When I realized the quality that could be achieved and experienced in AR, I was immediately drawn to its potential,” KAWS expressed in a statement. “I have been creating objects and exhibiting works in public spaces throughout my career, and this allows me to expand on that in a whole new arena. the possibilities of locations and scale are endless, and I’m excited to start a new dialogue in this medium.” The exhibition demonstrates a way for artwork to not only exist in multiple places at once, but to also be placed in sites otherwise restricted from installation. The same sculpture is currently visible, for example, within the iconic Grand Central Terminal atrium and the middle of the highly trafficked Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. EXPANDED HOLIDAY is also exhibited in Serengeti National Park, a vastly opposite site from Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing. And yet, like any other exhibition, the artwork is for sale. Twenty-five of KAWS’s AR sculptures can be purchased as a collection for $10,000 and ‘placed’ wherever the purchaser chooses, with the option of being privately or publicly visible. “His editions will demonstrate that works of art in virtual space can be just as precious and sought-after as those in our physical surroundings,” Jacob de Geer, chief executive of Acute Art, told CNN. EXPANDED HOLIDAY will be on view until March 26.
In the novel Invisible Cities, written by Italo Calvino, we learn of fantastical cities of monumental silver domes, elevated cities of catwalks, and cities made of cities, where residents reinvent themselves with every move. All these cities are, in fact, Venice. In the exhibition Invisible City, cocurated by Sid Sachs, director of exhibitions at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and Jennie Hirsh, assistant curator, professor of Modern and Contemporary Art at MICA, we learn of fanciful cities of roads lined with giant pretzels, cities where twisting towers rise above verdant parkways, and where anthropomorphic puzzle pieces search for connection. All these cities are, in fact, Philadelphia—visions of Philadelphia, anyway, as dreamt up and occasionally realized by avant-garde artists and architects at midcentury. Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-garde celebrates the City of Brotherly Love’s unique contributions to art and culture from 1956 to 1976, a time when “Philadelphia was fundamental to urban planning, popular music, post-minimalist sculptural installations, and postmodern architecture.” Featuring significant works from the era, the interdisciplinary exhibition spans four venues and an expansive website, with related talks, tours, and capital-H Happenings happening across the city throughout March. Although the architecture gallery at the Philadelphia Art Alliance will be of particular interest to AN readers, visitors would be remiss to skip past the other venues because Invisible City is best experienced as a whole. The show is an ambitious, sprawling, impressionistic portrait of a creative city at midcentury. It's beautiful and inspiring, but, like an impressionist portrait, hard to understand what you're seeing when you get too close. At the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, sculptures made from stacked brick, planks of wood, and repurposed lawn ornaments fill the space like a minimalist construction site. The artists on display were clearly influenced by their exposure to Marcel Duchamp’s work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In another venue, plastic paintings by James Harvard, which look like they were produced in an autobody shop, hang just a few feet away from collages of hypothetical highway roadsigns by Venturi and Rauch with Murphy Levy Wurman—including the aforementioned giant pretzels. It feels like there’s an affinity between these works: the Duchampian interest in the found objects: the Venturian embrace of the ordinary, and the shared interest in witty appropriation, but the show doesn’t make any explicit connection between disciplines or ideas. Things aren’t much clearer at the Philadelphia Art Alliance, where the architecture gallery is bookended by grand visions created for the Bicentennial by Venturi & Rauch and Mitchell/Giurgola. Between these monumental proposals are models, drawings, collages, and ephemera representing works that are more modest in scale, but not in concept: an original basswood model of Anne Tyng's 1971 Four-Poster Home; a model of Tyng and Louis Kahn's unbuilt geometric City Tower; hand-corrected pages from Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. It’s an impressive display of some of the best work ever produced by Philadelphia architects. Much of it is familiar. And if it’s not, you’ve got some work to do, because other than name, date, and medium, the exhibit provides no information for most of the work on display. Were these architects all talking to each other? Were they looking at local artists who were looking at Duchamp? Maybe! The highlight of the show, for me, was discovering some lesser-known talents, like David Slovic and the firm Friday. However, I had to conduct my own research to learn about Friday’s complex, contradictory, and delightfully democratic designs. For any context at all that, you have to go online. Thankfully, Invisible City's virtual venue, invisiblecity.uarts.edu, features an extensive chronology and interviews with many of the artists and cultural figures from the era. Whereas the minimal labels and works-behind-glass are cold and distant, the interviews are warm and often personal. Denise Scott Brown shares the story about their fight to preserve South Street, a historic black community that was going to be destroyed for a ring road. Richard Saul Wurman, creator of TED Talks, shares stories about his time as a designer in the offices of Louis Kahn, looking back on his professional experiences with a genuine sense of awe: “Lou changed my life. He taught me you could tell the truth. There were huge penalties...but it was worth it.” I enjoyed my trip through the Invisible City, despite leaving with more questions than answers: Why is Philadelphia a city where Pop Art and postmodernism germinated but never blossomed? Why is it a city that was home to architects who transformed the discipline, but whose contributions in their own town are surprisingly invisible? “It's the ultimate question about our city,” says Slovic in his interview. “Why isn't [Philadelphia] leading the way instead of following?” Why is it an invisible city? Invisible City: Philadelphia and the Vernacular Avant-garde runs until April 4, 2020.
My in-laws are Russian. In fact, they are Muscovites. And they have a very convincing way of narrating their still-fresh memories of life in the Soviet Union. I have not been to Russia since their daughter and I traveled along the canals that connect Moscow to St. Petersburg fifteen years ago. We do not discuss politics much when we visit her family in New Jersey. I have learned that there are differences of perspective, but that those don’t really matter. We have not discussed Russian interference in the U.S. elections. Still, I am quite sure that we would all agree, at some level, that such things are essentially trivial too. Eating a Russian dinner in New Jersey doesn’t feel strange, and despite the fact that this family is in the U.S. because of geopolitics, the very idea of personalizing those politics does seem odd. Upon further reflection, however, there might be no other way to connect memory to history. Only after traveling to the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) in Montreal to view the exhibition of Building a New New World, Americanizm in Russian Architecture, did I realize that personal view of geopolitics also has a history. The exhibition collects an enormous array of architectural objects and documents that trace the ideas, materials, people, trends that moved between Russia and America over the course of more than a century. Indeed, nations have relationships, almost like people do. And the Russian relationship to America, or more precisely Russians’ views of Americanism (America, as they saw it) is Jean-Louis Cohen’s curatorial theme for the exhibition. Cohen is personally involved in these geopolitics as well, but more on that later. In the forthcoming exhibition catalog, Cohen refers to the work of Reinhart Koselleck, a mid-20th century German practitioner of conceptual history, or Begriffsgeschichte. This historical method hinged on the changing definitions of cultural terms over time, which he called “the semantics of historical time.” The language that binds expression to understanding, according to this theory, is the thread that historians use to enter a period distant from them in both space and time. This is Koselleck’s concept of a “space of experience” that Cohen has drawn into the galleries at the CCA, to understand the contradictory nature of Americanism in Russian architectural culture. This concept, therefore, offers an empathetic entry into an alien world of Russian modernism: We must first accept the various Russian conceptions about America to enter their changing space of experience—in other words, to personalize geopolitics. Of course, generalizations about America were not and are not unique to Russians; they were produced alongside the American Revolution, probably even earlier. Cohen begins the catalog’s introduction and the exhibition’s wall text with the words of Alexis de Tocqueville, who explicitly set “Anglo-Americans” and Russians into an incipient geopolitical rivalry, one based in their declared difference from traditional European values. Tocqueville’s theorization of American character for Europeans has, since, become the basis for most claims of national character. Indeed, Cohen is quite clear that Russian Americanism was always mediated by non-Russian interpreters. He and Hubert Damisch wrote on Américanisme et modernité (1993), and a Russian translation of Hugo Münsterberg’s book, Die Amerikaner (1904), appears in one of the beautiful cases designed by MG&Co. [interstial] The cases are crucial to building Cohen’s space of experience: they require close reading and immersive engagement. MG&Co’s beautifully designed curtains serve as transitions between the galleries, each focused on a theme. They also enclose six digital projections—one on each side of three thresholds—chosen to reflect on the contents of each gallery. The gallery walls and the curtains are color-coded, as are the cases that carry the essence of the show: models, drawings, and an overwhelming assembly of books and journals. The general impression is of density. In each one of the cases are numerous objects that reflect on one another, offering a guide from one object to the next. This composition feels like inhabiting a three-dimensional book; galleries are the chapters and the cases are subchapters within. The surprise for this reader came after turning around from the cases, as I faced the walls where the narrative of the chapter played out again, but now at a higher speed. The experience is hugely rich: There are places to stop and read, places to move and scan, and places where connections can be made as one watches a film, such as that of Colonel Hugh L. Cooper, an American engineer, dedicating a Russian hydraulic damn on the Dnieper River. In addition to all this content, Studio Folder (“an agency for visual research,” according to their website) has composed a set of maps that illustrate the connections between Russia and America. Lines describe the “routes of architects, intellectuals, artists and politicians who traveled across the two continents, between 1813 and 1991.” The endpoints of each line are sometimes surprising (Des Moines, Fort Wayne, San Antonio: Baku, Yalta, Novosibirsk) and sometimes not (New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C.: Leningrad, Moscow, Kyiv). The maps make evident the fact that Americanism was more than a generalization, more than political rhetoric, more than a literary fantasy. In fact, as Cohen has made clear in his selection of themes and objects, the very history of industrial infrastructure, from the late nineteenth to the middle of the twentieth century, was shaped by its transposition across the globe. The gallery named “Modernization of Czarist Russia” focuses on the 1893 World Columbian Exhibition and 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, sites that represent industrial exchange between the two countries as well as others. But this gallery also reveals the Maxim Gorky’s anguish in his book In America (1906), where he described the Americanism of New York City as “getting into a stomach of stone and iron, a stomach that has swallowed several million people and is consuming and digesting them.” The negativity abates in the third gallery, as the Gilbreths’ Motion Study is traced through the work of Alexey Gestev’s Central Institute of Labor, Ford’s tractors being built in the Putilov plant in Leningrad, and Albert Kahn’s company training over 4,000 Russian architects, draftsmen, and engineers from 1930 to 1931. The exhibition traces a dialectic between Russians attracted to American modernity and those who found it repellant. Often times, these oppositions are enacted simultaneously. The gallery focused on the avant-garde shows this opposition: Adaptations of Hollywood (Buster Keaton and Charley Chaplin) in Russian movie-making are set against the disparaging words of poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, who found New Yorkers as beset by a “dormant and flaccid rural mindset.” Or, there are those examples of Russians who sidelined American influence altogether—the Nikolay Ladovsky’s Vkhutemas pedagogy or and El Lissitzky’s horizontal skyscrapers. Geopolitical borrowing moves its target when it is politically strategic. Some Russians chose other influences despite the continued interest in American factories and the culture industry. Among the most impressive objects in the exhibition is the model of Boris Iofan’s Palace of the Soviets (1934). The image commonly associated with this winning entry for the international design competition depicts the building from below. A military parade marches in the foreground and fighter planes fly behind Lenin’s figure, who stands atop the neoclassical birthday cake of a building with a book (Das Kapital?) in his left hand, while his outstretched right hand points upward. It was the first time seeing Iofan’s design from above in his wooden model. Despite the monumentalizing efforts in drawing, Stalin’s architects could not overcome a model’s capacity to domesticate political bravado at a toy-like scale. In the sixth gallery, model airplanes are hung from above as though they have escaped from Iofan’s drawing. Some documents below them display the Soviet capacity to build flying warcraft that equaled or exceeded their American counterparts (even if based in their industrial espionage). One object stands out on the wall, drawn from Cohen’s father’s collection of Soviet memorabilia. As a French reporter, he kept a brochure distributed in a 1947 airplane shows. That object opens a clear “space of experience,” an empathetic encounter with Russian Americanism mediated by the Cohen family history. It is touching to think of all those events that historians trace through their narratives that may also be passed along in bedtime stories. In this respect, geopolitics is as historical as it is personal. The CCA, this winter, offered a unique platform to explore the richness produced by the mixture of memory and history, as well as the rigor and beauty of historical documents that display the critical role of architecture in constructing geopolitics. In a recent book by Keith Gessen, which has nothing to do with architecture, the protagonist makes connections among his life, his family’s travails, and the academic study of Soviet history. He sees the Russian tendency to borrow other nations’ advances as an addiction that finally leads to Gessen’s own suffering. I leave you with these musings as they so beautifully summarize the clarity afforded by interweaving human memory into a historical narrative.
“Suddenly everything I have been looking at—not just over these past months in Moscow, but over the few years in academia, and over the past fifteen years of studying Russia—became clear to me. Russia has always been late to the achievements and realizations of Western civilization. Its lateness was its charm and its curse—it was as if Russia were a drug addict who received every concoction only after it was perfectly crystallized, maximally potent. Nowhere were Western ideas, Western beliefs, taken more seriously; nowhere were they so passionately implemented. Thus the Bolshevik Revolution, which overthrew the old regime; thus the human rights movement, plus blue jeans, which overthrew the Bolshevik one; and thus finally this new form of capitalism created here, which had enriched and then expelled my brother, and which had impoverished my grandmother and killed Uncle Lev. You didn’t have to go and read a thousand books to see it; you just had to stay where you were and look around.”Building a New New World, Americanizm in Russian Architecture runs through April 5.
Although he never reached the fame of neoclassical contemporaries such as Claude Nicolas Ledoux and Étienne-Louis Boullée, French architect and artist Jean-Jacques Lequeu (1757-1826) remains a draughtsman of immense vision, from a turbulent era that witnessed the collapse of the Ancien Régime and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. Luckily, in the months leading up to his death, the artist bequeathed his vast collection of 800 drawings to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, which launched the first retrospective Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect at the beginning of 2019. The show’s latest iteration at The Morgan Libary & Museum is the first in New York City and is a succinct and, truth be told, sublime survey. The exhibition includes sixty of Leqeue’s drawings and is curated by the Morgan’s Eugene and Clare Thaw Curator of Drawings and Prints, Jennifer Tonkovich. Lequeu was born in 1759 to a long line of master carpenters in Rouen, the provincial capital of Normandy. His early career began with accomplished studies at the Rouen School of Drawing followed by a string of urban planning and architectural commissions, and a migration to the imperial capital of Paris in the waning days of the Bourbon dynasty. Initial professional success and a multiyear pilgrimage to the customary landmarks in Italy ultimately fizzled, and Lequeu settled into the relative monotony of governmental bureaucracy. Perhaps as a creative outlet to deflect from hampered ambitions—not dissimilar from the architectural fantasist A.G. Rizzoli—Lequeu produced hundreds of pen and wash drawings ranging from self-portraits to invented landscapes populated by renderings of imagined buildings and monuments, many found in his quasi-handbook Civil Architecture. “One of the big takeaways, for me, has been despite the official recognition, and in the absence of any sort of validation, he continued to draw, to envision new worlds, and incorporate novel elements,” said Jennifer Tonkovich. “He never gave up his idiosyncratic vision.” The Morgan, with its flamboyant marble flooring and intricate classical detailing, is a fitting curatorial space for the show. The exhibition room is split between an outer and inner ring: The former introduces the subject with a series of self-portraits—mouth agape and jowls creviced—and largely follows the trajectory of his drawings of architectural manuals to spectacular renderings produced at night within the confines of a claustrophobic Parisian apartment. The quality of penmanship is impressive unto itself, but drawings such as Design for a Living Room at the hôtel de Montholon and the Apotheosis of Trajan highlight the profound depth of ancient architectural knowledge at Lequeu’s fingertips, with an acute syncretism of Greco-Roman, Persian, and Indo-Chinese influences. While the architectural drawings are demonstrations of vivid imagination, all remain rooted in the clear and calculated logic of profile, section, and plan. Not only are Corinthian orders and cenotaphs deconstructed into their composite parts—base, shaft, capital, and entablature—but the tectonics behind their engineering are legibly, and fantastically, expressed. Although the human body and erotic themes extend across Lequeu’s oeuvre, the center of the exhibition focuses on his works of more explicit playful sexual depictions. With the same level of detail applied to his architectural renderings, thighs and crotches are splayed and labeled, nuns lift their habits to reveal corseted breasts, and buttocks stand athwart. The timing of the exhibition is prescient in the current political moment—classicism is cast as a revanchist tool by reactionaries to reestablish Eurocentric cultural norms and artistic conformity. The retrospective’s response is an art historical broadside against that perception: “Lequeu is trying out ideas, exploring non-western forms, testing the limits of structures, experimenting with unorthodox decoration,” continued Tonkovich. “He is not bound by rules or convention, and the result is designs that are clever, mysterious, beautiful, and mystifying.” Jean-Jacques Lequeu: Visionary Architect The Morgan Library & Museum 225 Madison Avenue Through May 10, 2020
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is staging its first virtual reality exhibition, Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media, created by Space Popular and curated by Shumi Bose. How architectural styles change and combine, and are propelled by media—etchings, magazines, Pinterest—is at the center of Space Popular‘s dizzying installation, and the changes in the technologies of architectural publicization will also be the subject of an upcoming lecture by the studio. Rather than taking the taxonomical approach of traditional historians, Space Popular opted to investigate the history of style itself by showcasing the messy experience of viewing built aesthetics whether on the page, the street, or the screen. As Space Popular cofounder Lara Lesmes said in a release, “Styles are most easily recognized as patterns, which can translate across mediums, from cutlery to textiles, furniture to buildings. This show explores how style relates to popular culture and technological changes.” Space Popular’s un-history takes place both on headsets and in physical space. A colorful carpet acts as a large-scale timeline of 500 years of architectural history, while a sizable model in the center of the room combines oblique and direct references to notable London structures—including St. Paul’s Cathedral and the Crystal Palace—into one atemporal amalgam. Through headsets, avatars transport visitors through VR spaces that explore the history and present of style in the built environment and which are occupied by many patterns of stained glass, noir-ish outlines of art deco buildings, Googie decorations, and more. The virtual spaces themselves use various representational styles: some parts look hyper-realistic, others like 8-bit video games. And, perhaps, VR may be a new way we experience style together in the future. “Architectural style has throughout all of human history been the most class dividing art,” wrote Space Popular co-founder Fredrik Hellberg of Freestyle in a RIBA announcement. “As spatial media makes its entry through virtual reality, this may finally change.” In addition to Space Popular’s virtual and material creations, there are objects from the RIBA collection, including books, drawings, photographic and stereoscopic prints and other materials, with original works by Owen Jones, Augustus Pugin, and John Nash among them. There are also “alternative” VR spaces created by 15 students from the London Design and Engineering University Technical College on display. This is the second in a series of exhibitions at RIBA that respond to the work of 15th–16th-century architect Sebastiano Serlio, whose visual-heavy publications, written in vernacular language, are part of an under-recognized legacy of architectural communication and education. Freestyle: Architectural Adventures in Mass Media at the Royal Institute of British Architects, London, will run through May 16, 2020
Some Walls From Unbuilt Houses opened earlier this month at Kent State University’s College of Architecture and Environmental Design Armstrong Gallery. The installation consists of a collection of framed spaces surfaced with a millennial's dream material palette: Faux pink-and-blue fur, dichromatic vinyl, raw plywood, glitter embellished wood shingles, and monochromatic felt and leather. While these textured walls entice visitors to snap a selfie or two, it’s what lies behind the surface that matters most. The installation is a collection of fragments extracted from plan drawings for various houses designed by Endemic Architecture (Clark Thenhaus). Their intersecting recomposition in the gallery creates an enfilade of unfolding spaces, moving between highly articulated surfaces and low-fi unfinished stud walls. The experience gives real meaning to the phrase, “inhabit the poché,” as one must circulate simultaneously through exposed interior wall cavities and finished rooms. To top it all off, the gallery’s large glass exterior wall is activated in one ceremonious section cut through the installation, further revealing interiors full of artifacts from the construction process. The layered, overlapping and assembled qualities of the space, combined with remnants of paint samples, Walmart receipts, and scattered floor plans are suspended in a state of constant negotiation, enticing visitors, as Thenhaus states, “to look behind, through, and into the walls in search of more layers or spaces.” As a corollary production to Thenhaus’s most recent publication, Unresolved Legibility in Residential Types, the installation asks visitors to pay attention to the in-between and the unresolved in domestic layouts. The forgotten closets, utility cavities, and leftover nooks often covered over with black poché in the architect’s drawing are revealed to become new spaces of discovery and inhabitation. Some Walls From Unbuilt Houses is on display until March 6 at the CAED Armstrong Gallery, located at 132 S Lincoln St, Kent, Ohio 44240. Endemic Architecture would like to thank the following Kent State University students for their assistance: Aiden Crossey, Aileen Lin, Allison Baker, Branden Hudak, Feyza Mutlu, Jonathan Bonezzi, Kyle Troyer, Logan West, Mike Bonezzi, Ryan Lane, Yu-ting Chang.
With never-before publically exhibited works, the Bard Graduate Center (BGC) Gallery presents the first in-depth U.S. exhibition of the works of the modern architect, furniture designer, and artist Eileen Gray. The 200-piece exhibition was curated by Cloé Pitiot, a leading Eileen Gray scholar at the Centre Pompidou in Paris; and Nina Stritzler-Levine, BGC Gallery Director and curator of the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris; with help from Jennifer Goff, curator of the Eileen Gray collection at the National Museum of Ireland. Born in Ireland in 1878, Eileen Gray was one of the few prominent female architects and designers before World War II, with work spanning photography, textiles, lacquer works, furniture, and residential interior design. Inspired by both the Dutch de Stijl movement and Imagist literature movement of the early 20th century, Gray wove enigmas—some easier to decode than others—into her pieces, carving architectural plans into tabletops and pressing letters into drawer fronts. “Everything is a code,” Goff said in a preview of the exhibition on February 28. “When you look at a piece by Eileen Gray, you have to try to look outside the box. If you think that something is abstract, it’s really not,” she explained, pointing to an etching of a site plan on a piece of furniture. Read the full preview on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania has unveiled Karyn Olivier: Everything That’s Alive Moves, on view through May 10, 2020. The Philadelphia-based artist and sculptor Karyn Olivier has readied a series of works centered around her personal explorations of monuments and memorials. With a particular focus on scale, Olivier describes her work as a combination of larger-than-life scale and the minute, modest gesture. Conceived as a revision and expansion of Olivier’s previous project, Everything That’s Alive Moves places monuments into new contexts that pose questions about the larger concepts of citizenship and responsibility. The exhibition includes a large-scale obelisk sculpture, a fully-functioning carousel for one rider, and a car built from repurposed shoes. In one installation, a floor-to-ceiling brick wall at the center of a gallery is intended to catch the eye as a spectrum of bright colors emerge from it—the piece, Wall (2017-2018), uses clothing wedged between the bricks in place of mortar, and the fabric cascades out of the rigid wall. “We are thrilled to present the work of local artist Karyn Olivier. Olivier’s ability to connect with the community and people through her work is profound,” said John McInerney, interim director at ICA, in a statement to ArtDaily. “She adeptly shifts our experience of the familiar to reveal the malleable and unfixed nature of objects and spaces, enabling us to ponder meaning, honor the past, while creating new possibilities.” Olivier has planned and built several memorials and public commissions herself, most recently being tapped to oversee the Dinah Memorial at Stenton, also known as the James Logan Home, in Philadelphia. Olivier also drew from her recent year of study in Rome, where she closely analyzed the intersection of the city’s public works with its history. “Karyn's searching curiosity is brilliantly indefatigable. Her sculpture incisive, her formal care and emotional responses to space simply searing,” said Anthony Elms, chief curator at the ICA. “What's more is that still her art contains enormous amounts of joy for and delight in our world and the people who, through gestures big and small, recognized or unnoticed, endure and thrive for all our betterment.” Karyn Olivier: Everything That’s Alive Moves is on view through May 10 at ICA. Admission is free and the show will be accompanied by a fully illustrated monograph set to be released later this year.
Gio Ponti (1891-1979), the architect of the renowned Pirelli tower in Milan, is now the subject of a major retrospective at the MAXXI museum in Rome. While the Louvre’s MAD in Paris dedicated a major show to Ponti back in 2018— Tutto Ponti, Archi-Designer, it overwhelmingly celebrated his design production. This exhibition at the MAXXI, Gio Ponti. Loving Architecture, is primarily dedicated to Ponti’s multivalent architecture, and his projects have been given the kind of ample space and resources necessary to grasp the broad scope of Ponti’s very particular creative vision. Curated by Maristella Casciato and Fulvio Irace, and set in the upper gallery 5, it is the first major architecture exhibition to occupy this prominent gallery since Zaha Hadid’s own show there in 2017. For heightened effect, along with images of models shot by Thomas Demand, the exhibition includes photos of Ponti’s built works by eight contemporary photographers, providing original visual commentaries on how we see these works today. The exhibition features an incredible display of models, architectural documents, original photographs, consolidating Gio Ponti’s well-garnered role as a poetically driven architectural modernist. You get this sense from the way Ponti peels back architecture’s opaque materiality, revealing through subtle manipulations of form and content a certain lightness and playfulness that over the course of his career becomes increasingly elegant and refined. Ponti saw his architecture as a search for a special understanding of the ‘crystalline.’ The exhibition’s co-curator Fulvio Irace suggested that Ponti’s search for the crystalline form is not about modeling volume, but rather about “…its negation by way of the autonomy of the walls and of the roof.” One need only look at the interchangeable facade panels employed in the models of the Bijenkorf Department Store for Eindhoven (1964-1968), on display at MAXXI, to see just how inventively Ponti pulled this off. Ponti built extensively across Italy, and well beyond, in Stockholm, Caracas, Denver, Islamabad, Hong Kong. He collaborated professionally with Bernard Rudofsky in Capri back in the late thirties, and with Luigi Nervi after the war. Ponti launched magazines like Domus, wrote and published extensively, and he knit together a significant international network of patrons, manufacturers, and artists. Yet what remains somewhat intriguing, if not puzzling about Gio Ponti, is how he remains an outlier among the great architects of his day, if you consider the likes of Ernesto Rogers, Carlo Scarpa, Giovanni Michelucci, or Giancarlo De Carlo. When I posed this question to the Milanese-based architecture historian Luca Molinari, he came back with this observation:
“Giò Ponti was not loved by the Italian progressive and modernist vanguard because he had pursued a third, moderate, bourgeois and decorative way for his modern architecture. In addition to this, his ambiguous closeness to Fascism had not been forgiven by characters such as Bruno Zevi and Ernesto Rogers and therefore his position was very isolated at the level of the Academy and cultural elite.”There is little question, today, however, that Gio Ponti’s body of work deserves another reevaluation, especially if we are also willing to recognize that such criticism also holds true for many star architectural practices that are considered at the top of their game today. Gio Ponti. Loving Architecture will be on display through April 13.