Posts tagged with "Graham Foundation":
There is a productive dissonance among the many pieces in the current exhibition at the Graham Foundation, Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth. A dissonance between scale and size, performance and perception, and artifact and object. Each contribution from the 24 participating designers, architects, and artists implies its own narrative, separate from the other pieces. Yet, as a whole, the entire show has a clarity that resonates across the disparate objects and installations.
Spaces without drama is curated by the Mexico City–based Ruth Estévez and Wonne Ickx of LIGA, Space for Architecture. The duo propositioned participants to explore two-dimensional surfaces as a means of producing architectural space. The prompt is a direct reaction to the recent proliferation of digital collage, and an attempt at drawing a lineage through the historic works of canonical postmodern designers and artists. The result is a diverse set of works that straddle the lines of stage set, model, and installation. The genesis of much of the work comes from the Aldo Rossi’s Small Scientific Theatre and David Hockney’s design for The Magic Flute, both of which are present in the show in drawing and collage form. From that starting point, the more contemporary work ranges from full-scale environments to carefully crafted maquettes.
At the largest scale, pieces throughout the show set the gallery spaces as stages to be explored, or backdrops to view the work against. Cité de Réfuge by OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen wraps two walls in a large curtain. This blocks off the Graham Foundation’sground-floor windows, while extending the visitor’s view to Ceuta: a refugee city in the no-man’s-land between Spain and Morocco. Batia Suter’s Vale/Cabenet plays a similar game with some of the Graham’s built-in cabinetry, which is tactically covered in digitally manipulated scenery. Silke Otto-Knapp’s Stage (after Kurt Schwitters) is the closest to what might be called a true stage set. Large hand-painted panels fill the end of one gallery space, forcing viewers to weave among them to circulate through to another space. The result is a purposefully exposed “back-stage” which questions the piece’s own illusion of space.
Other works seem to fit more comfortably in the category of illustration or model, but these still rarely play out as simple representations. While House no.8, Image no.1, with Layers and Masks by MOS Architects seems to be a simple, yet uncannily flat, model, its position in the middle of the gallery allows guests to peak through a peephole on its back side. This effectively filters the view of the rest of the gallery through the model. Sam Jacob’s Untitled touches on a similar effect with a model of a series of spaces divided by four translucent colored planes. The resulting confusion of space and scale looking at the model itself can be extended to the greater gallery space as one looks through it.
Johnston Marklee’s Teatro del Mare inversely makes the guest question the scale of the piece itself. The large model appears to be representing a scaled space, referencing the office’s Vault House. But the inclusion of a series of full-size objects designed by Rossi twists the perception of the piece from scale model to display case, and then back. The cheekiest of any of the pieces is Drop-Leaf Table in Oblique Elevation (with Drop-Leaf Table in Oblique Elevation) by Norman Kelley. A finely crafted piece of furniture in its own right, the Drop-Leaf Table is skewed, as if directly built from an axonometric drawing. Sitting against the gallery wall, like one might expect a similar piece of furniture, the table is also the display stand for a smaller flattened version of itself. It should also be noted that the leaves and a small drawer in the table, like those of the miniature version, don’t “work.” This makes the table, as well-made as it may be, about as useful as any other theater set piece.
Along with the other fascinating works from the likes of Charles Moore, baukuh, fala atelier, Emilio Ambasz, Monadnock, Pezo von Ellrichshausen, and more, the show is a delight for the academic, as well as those simply interested in beautiful images and objects. At the least one will get to see original pieces by Hockney and Rossi, and at the most one will gain a new respect for power of flatness to evoke space, and—dare I say—drama.
Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth is on show at The Graham Foundation through July 1, 2017.
Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts 4 W Burton Place, Chicago
The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts’ spring exhibition Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth will examine the proliferation of collage in architectural representation, specifically in scenography and theatrical set design. The show has invited contemporary designers to rethink the relationship between theatricality and architecture, while drawing on historical references from 19th-century toy theaters through Aldo Rossi’s Little Scientific Theater. The show features the work of a wide range of architects and artists, including Argentinian architects Emilio Ambasz and Gerardo Caballero, Portuguese firm fala atelier, Brazilian architect Marcelo Ferraz, and British architect Sam Jacob, as well as American offices Johnston Marklee, MOS Architects, and Norman Kelley.
Other contributing architects include OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Cecilia Puga, Aldo Rossi, Taller de Arquitectura Mauricio Rocha + Gabriela Carrillo, and Pezo Von Ellrichshausen. Artists in the show include Pablo Bronstein, William Leavitt, Silke Otto-Knapp, Gabriel Sierra, Batia Suter, as well as dramaturge Jorge Palinhos. Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth is curated by the Mexico City–based LIGA, Space4Architecture, Ruth Estévez, and PRODUCTORA founder Wonne Ickx.
Spaces without drama or surface is an illusion, but so is depth The Graham Foundation Madlener House 4 West Burton Place, Chicago Through May 27, 2017
Every Building in Baghdad explores the work of Iraqi architect Rifat Chadirji through his own photographs and building documents. Curated by Mark Wasiuta, the show was originally produced for the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. Chadirji was an important cultural figure in Iraq though its modernization period of the 1950s and 70s. A prolific architect with over 100 buildings, his work ranged from factories and communications structures to monopoly headquarters and colleges. Every Building in Baghdad fills the Graham Foundation with custom display armatures holding over 70 photographic paste-ups of Chadirji’s photographs of his work and the streets of Baghdad from the 1960s through the 80s. The show will also include drawings, etchings, and more photographs by Iraqi photographer Latif Al Ani.
Every Building in Baghdad: The Rifat Chadirji Archives at the Arab Image Foundation runs at the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts (4 W Burton Place, Chicago) to December 31, 2016.
Architecture of Independence(!): African Modernism(!). (Exclamation points mine). The title of the current exhibition at the Graham Foundation is the first hint that the show is a departure from the Graham’s usual oeuvre. More historical survey than discursive inquisition, Architecture of Independence presents an impressive catalogue of architecture from five sub-Saharan countries (rarely- or never-before-seen by Western audiences) built at the height of late-modernism, at the moment just after independence from colonial rule.
Rigorously researched and curated by Swiss architect Manuel Herz, the exhibition is the outgrowth of a book dominated by photographs by Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster. Originally presented at the Vitra Design Museum Gallery in Germany, the mounting at the Graham is the first scheduled presentation in the United States. (It will also appear at the AIA New York Center for Architecture in Feb. 2017).
According to Herz, the aim of the research is to bring the architecture into the discourse through documentation and presentation. “There is virtue in just documenting these buildings,” he said. Focusing on the multitude of public and cultural institutions built during the era, the exhibition argues that architecture was used as a nation building tool in post-colonial Africa, and that the buildings themselves act as witnesses to the complicated and often violent history and politics of the regions following independence.
Aside from a case of archival materials that includes historical photographs, postcards, and architectural plans and sketches, the exhibition is an abbreviated representation of the book, exploded throughout the galleries. Like the book, the exhibit is organized by country: Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire are on the first floor of the Madlener House, and Ghana, Zambia, and Kenya are on the second.
This approach works best with an illustrated timeline that spans the north wall of the library, charting the political, economic, demographic, and cultural histories of each country from the time of independence to the present. Where each country’s timeline is separate in the book, the exhibit overlays them all, quickly revealing trends and discrepancies between them.
Each building is presented within a wood box with photographs and texts arranged behind glass on a wooden back.
To fit over 700 images of over 80 buildings into the frames, the photographs are snapshot-sized and the text is small, forcing an intimate proximity to the walls. While the archival-style presentation unfortunately precludes large-format prints of most of the architecture, the clustering is reminiscent of a family portrait wall, which plays nicely against the residual domesticity of the Madlener House.
To absorb the scope of the assemblage is staggering. It inspires the speculation of an entire city composed of these buildings alone: skylines full of experimental, strangely expressive, beautifully dominating, concrete and steel monoliths. It is like a hyper-Brasilia, which is itself a close relative of the work on display, both in terms of architectural style and political ambitions.
The writing accompanying each building sticks mostly to close readings and formal descriptions of the architecture. The wall text introducing each country positions the architecture as intensely optimistic projections of the hopes and dreams of newly independent nations. Like La Pyramide market building in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, or Independence Square in Accra, Ghana, massive buildings were constructed to facilitate and anticipate the rapid cultural and economic development of each nation. Now both defunct, the exhibition reveals how the architectural style and utopian rhetoric of modernism were widely adopted to bring post-colonial Africa into conversation and competition with the Western world.
Also like La Pyramide and Independence Square, most of the architecture on display was designed by European or American architects, in many cases from each country’s former colonial power.
In fact, it could be argued that the work is not the Architecture of Independence at all, but is, in every way, the architecture of colonialism; the architectural manifestation of a kind of cultural Stockholm syndrome. The authorship and intentions of the architecture presented raise important questions about the meaning of freedom, autonomy, and independence in the wake of colonialism, the effects of which continue to play out today around the world. As Audre Lorde wrote, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
In the introductory essay to the book, Herz examines the complexities and problems of authorship and architectural expression in relation to the slippery meanings of the terms “independence” and “modernism” in the context of Africa. Unfortunately, that critical framework is not explicitly carried over into the exhibition.
There is also the unavoidable problem of the white gaze. The framing and narration of the exhibition and the book are situated firmly in the scholarly, white, Western view, for a Western audience, fetishizing both the architecture and the anonymous black bodies populating the images. The existence of the white gaze is not as troubling in and of itself as the fact that it goes completely unacknowledged.
From a purely disciplinary perspective, the Architecture of Independence brings attention to a canon of architectural history (for five countries) that is full of important and interesting work by European, American, and some African architects. However, it raises the questions: Who can lay claim to this work Where does it belong? In the Western discourse of modern architecture, studied alongside other known works by Denys Lasdun, Harry Weese, and Henri Chomette, or through the lens of African politics, history, and culture? While the exhibition seems to be saying both, the framing of the work seizes it solely for the Western discourse.
Many of these issues could have been addressed by simply changing the title from a statement to a question. Changing “The Architecture of Independence” to “The Architecture of Independence?” would not only shift grammar and tone to be more reflective of the complexities and idiosyncrasies presented, but it would also provide a more compelling framework for the exhibition.
Go see this show. The architecture is stunning, the research rigorous, and the images striking. Stand too close to images of iconic architecture you have probably never seen, get a crash course in the recent history of five African countries, take in the sublime photography of Iwan Baan and Alexia Webster. Do it. It’s worth it. But do so with one eye sideways, craning around the singular gaze presented to the complex questions that the exhibition raises.