Posts tagged with "MASS MoCA":
James Turrell rooms, a 15-ton Louise Bourgeois sculpture, and many site-specific works feature in MASS MoCA expansion
In April, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) opened a vibrant multi-part installation and survey of works from the Philadelphia-based artist Alex Da Corte. Titled Free Roses, the show is a dark, comical, and sinister spectacle that highlights the opulence of kitsch objects. Mediums on display include paintings, sculptures, videos, and photography within a palatial environment of plush carpeting, mirror-striped floors, and multi-hued neon lighting. Rarely do the works within a museum exceed the sum of their own parts and generate a surplus environment in the way Free Roses accomplishes.
Da Corte is an artist within the tradition of pop and surrealism known for frequently collaborating with and borrowing the work of artists to remix objects and environments to represent mass consumer culture. While themes of anxiety, the uncanny, and the everyday dominate the individual works, the subject of the Free Roses show is actually architecture. Recent projects by Da Corte have been immersive installations that play with the malleability of time, the fluidity of space, and the design of cinematic narratives as an invisible and plastic architecture. Free Roses continues within this trajectory and presents a cinematic and spatial mise-en-scène that, more than any other recent contemporary show, brings questions and conversations about the relationship between art, architecture, site, and installation to the forefront.
Such a conversation may have been drowned by the recent seemingly nonstop announcements of museum expansions. Mass MoCA is no exception; a campus in the former factory town of North Adams, the museum has been expanding for 25 years. Recently it announced the rehabilitation and renovation of a factory building, led by the firm Bruner/Cott, that will bring an additional 120,000 square feet of gallery space. The plans include a long-term installation of immersive light environments by artist James Turell. However, unlike the vast contemplative empty spaces of a Turell work, Free Roses is a transportive, neon-lit fantasy world loaded with cultural signifiers, reminiscent of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s descriptions of the Las Vegas strip.
New work from Da Corte, in the form of a sprawling ensemble, is the centerpiece of Free Roses and is presented as a sequence of sculptural tableaux and amalgams of spatialized memories. Set within eight zones, framed by a floored square parcels and hanging square neon lights, the viewer is free to walk in-between and around the taut environment of literal free-floating signifiers. Titled Lightning, the installation is a reference to the Joseph Beuys sculpture Lightning with Stag in its Glare, which is on long-term view at Mass MoCA. Inspiration for the elements of Lighting are taken from a mixture of experience in a suburban home and films such as Singin’ in the Rain, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Beetlejuice and A Clockwork Orange. All together, the work presents the idea of a modern home and its inhabitant’s mind deconstructed and made undone, both literally and figuratively. The first tableau is of a house with only a freestanding facade. The seven surrounding pieces are hazy memories of life within its interior: plastic swans circling in a pool of pink water, a giant tissue box, a stuffed-dog walking in an infinite loop, an oversized Coca-Cola can, and an off-scale pool table, among others. These neon plastic and camp works leave a nightmarish impression of memories turned sequenced film stills.
Da Corte skillfully manipulates the familiar to produce a sense of jamais vu, the uncanny feeling that something seen many times before is suddenly strange and unfamiliar. Free Roses additionally includes important past works from the 35-year-old artist’s growing portfolio. Easternsports is a four-channel video installation projected on four monumental freestanding walls that envelop viewers into the three-hour long video piece. The interiors and architecture within the piece are uncanny and nearly disturbing in symmetry, pattern, and color—all of which spill out into the gallery space containing the piece. This vibe permeates through both the work and the gallery, creating a fluidity of space and malleability of time that persists through Free Roses.
When speaking about his work in relation to architecture, Da Corte said in Interview Magazine: “It’s something else that’s about making a space vibrate in terms of strange energies or something in the room. You have to physically build that into a space, but then it has to recede.”
The final tableau of Lightning is a sculptural rendition of the iconic ending to the Looney Tunes cartoons, but with the “That’s all Folks!” missing. As it naturally should, the spatial-cinematic show continues with Scene 2. The culmination of Free Roses is the aforementioned Lightning—it is one of the most theatrical installations and one that depicts a natural and primordial scene within the arrangement of its elements. Scene 2 builds on the theatrics and contributes green fluorescent lights, carpeting, essential pine oils for scent, and an ambient soundtrack by the musician Dev Hynes, and in doing so casts all new meanings onto Beuys’s work. With Free Roses Da Corte masterfully blurs the distinction between art and architecture with a formless cinematic aesthetic.
Free Roses is open at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art through January 2017.
Renovation transforms decommissioned McKim Mead & White building into campus event space.When Amherst College decided to convert a former steam plant into a student event space, the choice likely struck some observers as odd. Designed in 1925 by McKim, Mead & White, the coal-burning plant was decommissioned in the 1960s; since the 1980s, it had been used as a makeshift garage for ground equipment. The facade of the neglected building needed to be opened up to reveal its potential while respecting its good bones. "It wasn't in great shape, but it wasn't in terrible shape," said Bruner/Cott's Dana Kelly. "Impressively enough, the school recognized that it had qualities that could be harnessed for a new student space." The brick building's industrial aesthetic was a particular draw, said Kelly, whose firm has spearheaded renovations at the nearby MASS MoCA (itself a former industrial complex) since the museum opened in 1999. For Amherst College, Bruner/Cott took a similar approach, balancing preservation and alteration to support the new program without disrupting the historic building's essential character. By the time Bruner/Cott began work on the Powerhouse, the original brick envelope had already seen a lot of change. Earlier renovators had filled windows with glass block, rebuilt a blind arch in mismatching brick, and cut a large garage door into the south facade. "Since the building had been altered so much, we chose to continue the dialogue by restoring or reconstructing some exterior elements, and sensitively altering others to match the new use and open the building up to campus," said Bruner/Cott's Jason Forney and Aoife Morris. On the side of the building facing the campus road, the architects inserted a new steel and glass entrance into a blind brick arch. On the south facade, to connect the interior to the new outdoor terrace, they inserted historic replica windows and french doors in place of the glass block, and swapped out the roll-up garage door for a bi-fold glass door. On the north side, which faces the parking lot, Bruner/Cott retained the existing glass block. "The observer still reads the McKim, Mead & White design, but with the changes the building has evolved to be an extroverted part of campus instead of being an introverted coal-burning steam plant," said Forney and Morris. Environmental performance was a priority for the architects, who will monitor the building's energy consumption during occupancy. They talked Amherst College into opting for operable windows over mechanical cooling. For heat, they chose a hydronic radiant floor and an overhead infrared heater that runs on gas. "These systems work to heat the bodies of occupants, instead of heating the large volume of air in the space," explained Forney and Morris. An insulated chamber designed by Bruner/Cott captures waste heat from the new steam plant below the building and releases it into the event space during the winter. The architects chose not to insulate the interior walls "since their character was an important design element for the event space," said Forney and Morris. To compensate, they installed a new slate roof, heavily insulated with spray-on cellulose. The new roof, noted Forney and Morris, mixes two colors of stone "to achieve the mottled effect of the existing roof, which was beautiful but had outlived its lifespan." To avoid interrupting the Powerhouse's open plan, Bruner/Cott situated the restrooms in an understated addition constructed from board-formed concrete. "We find that additions like this are often necessary to support existing buildings without undermining their spatial qualities," observed Forney and Morris. To foreground the steam plant itself, "we chose to make the addition appear like a garden wall—a 'non-building,'" they said. "It is simply two offset concrete walls that conceal the door to the terrace." The contractor built the formwork from rough-hewn lumber to achieve a patinated look, and tinted the concrete to match the existing water table banding. The addition's gutters are designed to pour water down the face of the wall and hasten the appearance of age. Like Bruner/Cott's sensitive renovation, the steam plant's new moniker—the Powerhouse—effectively gestures at both the history of the building and its new incarnation as a campus activities hub. "Amherst College chose the name both to remind students of the building's industrial past, and to recognize its place in 21st-century student life," said Forney and Morris. Once responsible for producing heat, today the structure generates something less material, but equally important: student engagement.