Posts tagged with "landscape":

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Such Great Heights

Winter makes Chicagoans crave a sense of escape. An intriguing new exhibition of Maya Lin’s work at the Arts Club of Chicago provides a timely opportunity to visit, visually at least, some fascinating terrain. With its small and large-scale sculpture and installations, viewers can travel from mountain peaks to the bottom of the sea. Chicago’s streetscape is flat, melding almost seamlessly with the shores of Lake Michigan. Lin’s work challenges the viewer to explore topography and geologic phenomena of greater depths and heights, pushing us to consider the natural environment far beyond our immediate surroundings. Through April 23, the public can view eleven of Lin’s works, including the room-filling Blue Lake Pass (2006)  and Flow (2009), the latter mimicking the undulation of wave swells. Much of the work is a continuation of the solo exhibition Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes that was organized by the Henry Art Gallery in Seattle, WA and traveled to several major museums. For the show at the Arts Club, Lin created a site-specific work, Reversing the Flow (2010), where the Chicago River is cast with straight pins in its two dimensional map shape. And at first glance, one might confuse the three-dimensional plywood model next to Flow as a sonar reading of Lake Michigan, when it is actually Caspian Sea (Bodies of Water series, 2006). Maya Lin The Arts Club of Chicago 201 E. Ontario Street Monday – Friday, 11-6 Through April 23
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Northerly Night

The Chicago Parks District is holding a public meeting on the future of Northerly Island tonight at the Spertus Institute from 6-9pm. The 91-acre peninsula, which is connected to the lakefront by a causeway, has played an important and evolving role  in Chicago's civic imagination. It figures prominently in the Burnham Plan, was home to 1933-1934 World's Fair, and later the Meigs Field airport, and was part of the 2016 Olympic bid. The meeting will offer a preview of plans for the island and solicit public comment.
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At Home in Dystopia

Friend of AN Jeremiah Joseph visited an exhibition of interest in New York's gallery district. Et in Arcadia Ego, a new exhibition at the Thornton Room in Chelsea, examines the intersection and overlap of natural and man-made landscapes. With the title, roughly translated from Latin, “I am in pastoral utopia,” the show, curated by Blanca de la Torre and Juanli Carrion, could easily devolve into a Nature equals Good, City equals Bad equation. Instead, the way the six artists explore the topic is not so divisive or stale. The work tends to engage the subject from the side, generating surreal results. At the end any answers are farther off than before viewing the work, and this ambiguity is show’s strength. It prevents the viewer from standing too sure-footed and jumping ahead to conclusions and prejudices. In the modest gallery space, Chus Garcia-Fraile 's video Protected Zone is projected in the front window. In the piece, an escalator is placed in a lush forest, running like a waterfall in reverse. The device sits seamlessly in the forest. The viewer knows these components should not co-exist, save perhaps in some Wow-Me mall in Dubai where ski-slopes and the world's largest-something-or-other are commonplace. But here the relationship is eerily correct. Recalling the tension of Michael Heizer's Double Negative—platonic geometry thrust into a rustic landscape—two clearly opposing conditions go deep into dialogue (or not) with each other, forcing us to decide which reading is correct—nature, man-made, or a combination.
Carlos Irijalba's video Twilight uses artificial light as a gateway into natural and synthetic landscapes. The video begins with the viewer above an empty soccer stadium where an array of stadium klieg lights flicker on as twilight arrives. With gentle thrumming of the city beyond, the lights run through varying colors until they hit their hottest white light. Dropping down and hovering above the perfectly manicured grass pitch, the light and flora are shown in their most synthetic and controlled states. Relocating to a forest at twilight, a generator rumbles on and the same array of lights reveals a very different context. Standing like the Monolith from Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey the lights are clearly alien among the trees and insects. What does the light Monolith bring to the forest? Simple illumination? Does it turn the forest into an overly dramatic movie setting or bring an impending sense of destruction? Or perhaps a sense of detached and bemused sentimentality? With a different sensibility, the photographic works Catastrophes by Christoph Draeger recall newspaper disaster images. With child-like earnestness, the images show the apparent aftermath of a plant explosion and a tornado strike. The cheekily morbid images, familiar at first glance, quickly reveal they are deliberate constructed narratives. Both pieces in fact are careful staged and photographed models. The fabricated horrors are so thoroughly executed it is difficult to suppress a smile at their morbid nature. But this inversion of bleak sadness leads to a pause. How often do we gloss over these situations in the media with a mild sense of loss, but a greater sense of relief because they are far away? Draeger directly engages the terror, readdressing them as modern fables and foibles. We look at the images as a whole and then trace through to see how they are made. In the deep scanning and study we see fresh the nature and complexities of real world catastrophes. By far the most architectural and accessible but also most troubling piece is J.G. Zimmerman's Dystopia Series: Suburbia (above). In a 24 minute video satellite images of suburbs run by leisurely, hypnotizing as the landscape morphs from one familiar suburban fabric into the next. Initially appearing like a lazy Google Earth, the video is actually a deftly crafted piece of art. By specifically removing details and cues of inhabitation—there are no cars or people—we are left only with houses, streets and a smattering of grass and trees. It would too easy to jump to the conclusion that a suburban existence equals the Boring Life, but the artist sidesteps this reactionary reading. Recalling photos by Hilla and Bernd Becher studying industrial archetypes Zimmerman bends our perception of reality. Even while carpet-bombing the landscape with familiar suburban quadrants, we see an odd duality of sameness and differences everywhere. The effect is spellbinding and disturbing leaving us wondering what is real and what is simulacra – in both the video and real-life. Rob Carter's Landscaping II is a large-scale print of plants growing literally up and through folded, cutout images of traditional buildings. A recurring theme for Carter, nature reclaiming urban territory, in the piece he places two different scales together (real life plants within the tiny pictures of historic buildings) and allows the intermingling to commence. There is no good or bad, winner or loser, only a snap shot of a process. Shot strongly in black and white and printed large scale, the picture is harder to decipher then if it was shown in color and in 1:1 scale. Carter obscures legibility, creating a situation where he and the audience are both first time viewers of this creation. Everyone, artist and viewer, have wait for allow the process to unfold. And all we can do is to try to understand the equilibrium, if there is one, and ponder where the process might lead us next. Et in Arcadia Ego runs through May 23rd at the Thornton Room, 150 West 25th Street, New York City.
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Inside Out, Outside In

Peter Gisolfi’s oeuvre is diverse enough to merit five separate categories in his new book Finding the Place of Architecture in the Landscape: townscape, campus, landscapes and buildings, gardens and houses, and transformation. But as Gisolfi presented the book to a crowd at the Center for Architecture on April 15, what stood out were the commonalities in his approaches to those various projects, not their differences. In particular, he is attuned to the nuances of the figure-ground relationship and how the placement of buildings shapes the spaces between them. Adding a single new building becomes a form of spatial acupuncture: At the Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, MO, the addition of an Early Childhood Center transformed the campus’s nebulous blob of negative space into two coherent, well-defined quadrangles. In Peekskill, NY, Gisolfi’s team built a new middle school perpendicular to the existing community center, creating a strong corner that formed the edge of a new town green. One of his favorite ways to deal with the figure-ground dichotomy is to blur it. In a private residence in Englewood, NJ, a series of outdoor rooms morph seamlessly into building and back again, from mostly open (a lawn bordered by a wall and a fence), to enclosed but open-air (a rose garden), to sheltered and partially open (a veranda), to sheltered and entirely open (an arcade and porte-cochere). In a resort on the Guadalupe river in Texas, that interweaving of inside and outside happens vertically: A masonry wall forms the spine of a staircase that leads visitors from a glassy pavilion overhanging the water down to a terrace 30 feet below, via a series of alternately sheltered and open spaces. Blurring the inside-outside distinction even more, the structure is designed to allow the river to flow through it when the water level rises. Orienting a building in the landscape also means thinking beyond its immediate surroundings, Gisolfi said, asking rhetorically: “Where’s the sun, where’s the street, what’s the difference between north and south?” The orientation of the new Peekskill Middle school, for instance, is dictated by the nearby Hudson river, creating stunning river views from all the hallways and public spaces in the building. And in his large-scale housing developments, Gisolfi draws inspiration from the Pueblos who designed their houses to respond to the sun, orienting them towards the south and angling them to capture the sun’s low-slanting rays in winter and fend off its high rays in summer. Those constraints imposed by a project’s setting are what make it great, Gisolfi emphasized. “The inspiration for me comes from defining the boundaries of the problem,” he said. In a competition to design a 300-unit housing complex in Eagle Ridge, CO, those boundaries included a steeply sloping site, a main road that snaked through it, and the need to orient all the buildings to the south to capture solar energy. That in turn defined the central design challenge, how to create logical, legible spaces among the buildings within those parameters. Gisolfi’s not the only one whose creativity thrives under constraints. A former music theory and composition student at Yale, he closed his presentation with a quote from the composer Igor Stravinsky: “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit.”