Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War Canadian Centre for Architecture 1920, rue Baile Montréal, Québec, Canada Through September 18 How did World War II impact the built environment? This new exhibit curated by Jean-Louis Cohen explores how 20th century architects contributed to the war efforts and how their work ultimately led to the modern structural and technological innovations that make some of today’s complex designs possible. WWII was an accelerator of technological innovation, and from 1937 to 1945 architects were frequently pressed to pursue the most modern solutions, which often meant the most cutting edge. Designed by New York-based WORKac, the exhibit is comprised of drawings, photographs, posters, books, publications, models, historical documents, and films that reveal how contemporary architecture left its mark on the landscapes of both the Axis and the Allied powers. Organized thematically, the exhibition focuses on wartime activity as well as architects and their projects in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, the United States, and the USSR. Architecture in Uniform is part of a larger project at the CCA that examines the various roles of architecture from the Second World War to today called On the Natural History of Destruction.
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Mark Handforth Plaza Project Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago 220 East Chicago Avenue July 8 through October 10 The formality of the plaza and entrance that Josef Paul Kleihues designed for the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago has always stood in contrast to the institution’s experimental spirit. This summer the Miami-based artist Mark Handforth will debut four playful sculptures on the plaza and west facade of the building, including a giant brass coat hanger (above) hand bent by the artist. Other pieces, which mine Surrealism even more explicitly, include a giant streetlamp coiled like a snake, a monumental bone with a telephone handset hanging off the top, and a massive crumpled traffic cone topped with an English bobby’s hat.
Pipilotti Rist: The Tender Room Wexner Center for the Arts The Ohio State University 1871 North High St. Columbus, Ohio Through July 31 Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist makes her debut in Columbus with a new site-specific project drawn from the artist’s latest inspirations. The lush multimedia environment promises visitors a full-body experience, featuring kaleidoscopic colors, lulling soundtracks, and whimsical lighting, along with lounge chairs for taking in the sights and sounds. As usual, Rist takes a familiar starting point, such as the body, and plays with it (altering colors, speed, and sound) until it becomes unfamiliar and even fascinating. Drawing inspiration from her first feature-length film, Pepperminta (2009), Rist complicates the visitors’ environment, blurring the boundary between fantasy and reality. The exhibition also features Rist’s single-channel video Open My Glade (Flatten) (2000) outside the Wexner Center’s east entrance.
Tim Burton Los Angeles County Museum of Art Los Angeles Through October 31 Best known for directing films like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, and Beetle Juice, Tim Burton and his work as an illustrator, writer, and artist are being honored with a retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This new show celebrates the way that Burton has managed to put his own spin on movies in an industry known for its fear of the unknown. With over 700 items on display, including drawings, paintings, photographs, film and video works, storyboards, puppets, concept artworks, maquettes, costumes, and assorted cinematic ephemera, visitors get a glimpse into the mind of this modern day Renaissance man. Though the show debuted on the east coast at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the LACMA version of the show, organized by Britt Salvesen, offers its own take on the Burbank native’s body of work. Burton collaborated with the exhibition designers to transform the museum’s Resnick Pavilion into an appropriately “Burtonesque” environment. He also created several new pieces for the exhibition, including what the museum describes as a “revolving multimedia, black-light carousel installation that hangs from the ceiling.”
Knoll Textiles, 1945–2010 Bard Graduate Center Gallery 18 West 86th Street New York Through July 31 A new show at the Bard Graduate Center (BGC) takes a comprehensive look at the history and influence of Knoll Textiles, both as a brand and a company. It also aims to bring to light the importance of textiles in relation to modern design. Curated by a multidisciplinary team (Earl Martin, associate curator at the BGC; Paul Makovsky, editorial director of Metropolis magazine; Angela Völker, Curator Emeritus of Textiles at Vienna’s MAK; and Susan Ward, an independent textile historian) the exhibit features 175 examples of textiles, furniture, and photographs that explore the innovations, from production of materials to marketing, during the 1940s through the 1960s.
Jorge Pardo Armory Center for the Arts 145 North Raymond Ave. Pasadena, California Through November 6 MacArthur-winner Jorge Pardo gained his reputation by blurring the boundaries between art, architecture, and design. In his temporary exhibit in the courtyard of the Armory Center, Pardo engages the surroundings, deploying four pepper trees to act as three-dimensional framing devices for groups of translucent hanging globes. What at first seems to be a festive environment becomes a contemplative one, as visitors sit on benches surrounding the base of the trees and take a closer look at the spheres. Each reveals an ethereal universe inside: delicate reflective materials sit protected from the surrounding activity, casting shimmering, changing light onto the world around them.
Michael C. McMillen: Train of Thought Oakland Museum of California 1000 Oak Street, Oakland Through August 16 The Oakland Museum of California’s new exhibit looks at four decades of work by Michael C. McMillen, a California-based mixed-media artist. Curated by Philip Linhares, who is also a long-time collaborator of McMillen’s, the retrospective includes sculptures, tableaus, paintings, drawings, films, and large-scale installations. Found objects have long played an important part in McMillen’s work since childhood, when he began crafting toys for himself out of old radios and other discarded items. The artist’s creations often call to mind the cinematic landscapes of a Hollywood picture, somewhat appropriate given that he once worked making miniatures, like the motel model above, and props for films, including such sci-fi classics as Blade Runner and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. McMillen often uses architectural references and clever visual cues to transport viewers into an altered reality. He wants viewers to “come away from the experience seeing the world in a slightly different way,” McMillen said in an artist’s statement.
Art Institute of Chicago 111 South Michigan Avenue June 11 through October 9, 2011 Soon after the turn of the last century, artists and designers from Central and Eastern Europe began producing radically innovative images and objects that remain remarkably fresh today. For the first time, the Art Institute has gathered over 300 objects from across departments to present a comprehensive view of works from the period. Bold graphics, such as John Heartfield’s cover and illustrations for Kurt Tucholsky, Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles from 1929 (above), and pared back design objects show some of the ways in which these artists sought to transform daily living, an experiment that historical events would quickly bring to an end.
Lori Bookstein Fine Art 138 Tenth Ave., New York Through June 25 The architect Louis Kahn drew inspiration from his travels, both in foreign lands and closer to home. A new exhibition brings together drawings, watercolors, pastels, and oil paintings Kahn made between the late 1920s and the early 1950s during trips around the United States, Canada, Europe, and Egypt. From New England churches to Egyptian rock quarries, the collected works offer Kahn’s interpretation of diverse landscapes and cityscapes, like Coastal Village, No. 2, Isle Madame, Nova Scotia (1936), above. In the exhibition, Kahn’s artwork is contextualized with his postcards and other travel ephemera.
Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities Museum of Arts and Design 2 Columbus Circle Opening June 7 Otherworldly: Optical Delusions and Small Realities showcases the construction of small hand-built artificial environments and alternative realities as sculpture and for film. It explores the increasing interest in creating things by hand, as digital technology becomes a bigger part of our lives. The exhibit, which features models, snow globes, photographs, and video, seeks to reflect a meaningful engagement with materials and attention to detail. Works include the Chadwicks’ diorama of a microbrewery and Alan Wolfson’s recreation of a tri-level cross-section of Canal Street, above.