"It’s a bird! It’s a dog! It’s a woman!?" To this day, no one is exactly sure what the 50-foot-tall untitled Picasso sculpture in Chicago’s Daley Plaza actually is supposed to represent. Often called "the Chicago Picasso," the Spanish artist never revealed what or if it was supposed to represent anything at all. On the occasion of the sculpture's 50th anniversary earlier this week, hundreds came out for a reenactment of its unveiling. As part of the reenactment, each of the speakers from the original program were represented by new speakers. For example, in the place of the Bishop-elect, Chicago poet and songwriter Avery R. Young gave a stirring poetic invocation. Fittingly, Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke in place of Mayor Richard J. Daley. Rather than the grand unveiling of the sculpture with a giant cloth, onlookers were provided with fans designed by Chicago artist Edre Soto to cover their eyes for the second reveal. The sculpture was constructed by the American Bridge Company, a division of the United States Steel Corporation in Gary, Indiana, and commissioned by C.F. Murphy Associates, designers of Daley Plaza. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) acted as architects for the sculpture and their archives provide a look into the mixed reception the artwork received in 1967. Today, the sculpture is generally considered one of the great public artworks in a city that's also home to major pieces by Alexander Calder, Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Jaume Plensa, and Anish Kapoor. SOM generously provided copies of letters to The Architect's Newspaper (AN) that both praised and condemned the “pile of junk.” “I came, I saw, I left. How could you? And you look like such a nice person too. What is it?” asked Alexander Marxen in her letter to architect-in-charge William Hartmann of SOM. Roughly a year before the sculpture was complete, Paul Kiniery Ph.D. asked mayor Daley to cancel the whole project. “I hope very much that you, as the senior executive officer of the City of Chicago, will prevent this monstrosity from being erected in the plaza of the Civic Center. It will be humiliating and embarrassing for all of us who live in Chicago and to see this 'thing' when we are in the downtown area.” Others attacked Picasso himself. In another letter to Mayor Daley, Howard F. Bickler wrote, “You see, Mr. Mayor … Pablo Picasso is a Communist. A self-admitted Communist.” Mr. Bickler had a better idea for the plaza, suggesting “a giant cross or a symbol of the American eagle.” Harold B. Hozman felt that if people saw the work for what it was, “P. Picasso would only be another embittered, unknown, pitiful blotch.” Yet, not everyone was quite so cynical about the Cor-ten monument. A handwritten letter by Kathleen Chesbro, an eighth-grade student at Our Lady of Victory School, to the Mayor reads: “It expresses modern Chicago, how Chicago is now and what the people are like, and what Chicago will be in the future. Modern!” A personal letter from fellow architect Spencer B. Cone, of Cone and Dornbusch Architects, to William Hartmann compared the piece to some other famous icons. “I’m sure the statue will become our counterpart of such attractions as the Eiffel Tower and the Great Pyramids.” Citing rave reviews of Picasso’s show at the Tate that year, Charles A. Gianesi, M.D., chastised the Chicago American newspaper for giving “ammunition to the ignorant with front and back page exposure.” Also noting, “I don’t understand or appreciate Picasso I may some day (sic), and until then, I am content to accept the opinions of my cultural peers.” Along with providing the letters, Eric Keune, director at SOM and an expert on the Picasso, spoke with AN about the importance of the sculpture. “This piece broke the dam and opened the floodgates for abstraction to be accepted by the public, for it to be a subject of discourse among everyday Americans. It started a chain reaction, this first, then Calder at the Federal Center, then Chagall, then Miró, Henry Moore in 70 W. Madison, Calder in the Sears tower, and on and on, all the way through Millennium Park.”
Posts tagged with "Sculpture":
It is always exciting to discover the work of an architect whose name you know from history but whose buildings remain a mystery. This is what happened to me on a recent trip to Prague and my “discovery” of Jože Plečnik. His final 1929 building, the Church of the Most Sacred Heart of our Lord, and his small insertions in the Prague Castle were revelations and he is a new hero. But occasionally one discovers the work of an architect whose name does not even register as a footnote in traditional surveys. This is the case of the Rudolf Belling (1886-1972) who is the focus of a new exhibit at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin. Belling, was, in fact, an artist, primarily a sculptor, who worked on the fringes of architecture yet produced several projects that are highly original and should be better known by architects. His work might best be described as modernist abstraction in the manner of contemporary movements of the period like Constructivism or Expressionism. He argued, like his contemporaries, for a fusion of the arts and he worked in multiple mediums including film, interior decoration, and architecture, in addition to sculpture (his principal medium). Belling was not unknown in his time and was a member of Arbeitsrat für Kunst, the 1918 Novembergruppe, and was featured in Le Corbusier's magazine L’Esprit Nouveau. The exhibit sets out to highlight his belief in a coming together of the arts and notion that culture and architecture were to be guided by tectonic forms rather than “natural” shapes; this was the focus of his practice and teaching. Belling, incidentally, spent several years in New York City, where he fled the Nazis and taught at the Annot Art School and Gallery in Rockefeller Center. I addition to his stunning design (at least in the grainy photographs in the exhibition) for The Scala restaurant in Berlin, he was able to model sculpture into architecture. As Alfred Kuhn pointed out in 1927, for the first time he created “sculpture from the outside in but from the Inside out.” His forms in space may not have been truly revolutionary for his time but he created powerful monuments that were more innovative as architecture than sculpture. His seven-meter-tall advertising sculpture (with Wassili Luckhardt in 1920/21) for the tire maker Pneumatik Harburg-Wien was a very example of how to create memorable roadside architecture and signage. His most powerful and unique architectural projects were a 1923 gas station (with Alfred Gellhorn and Martin Knauthe) for Olex and the two architectural sculptures he designed for Olex and the Villa Goldstein in 1923 (both destroyed). These brought all his influences from Constructivism to Futurism together as a single powerful work. In fact, it may be said that he brought architectural ideas back into sculpture. Finally, he produced beautiful small architecture renderings that seem decades in advance of the Pop style of architectural drawing methods. Rudolf Belling: Sculpture and Architecture runs through September 17 at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin. (The video below on Rudolf Belling: Sculpture and Architecture is available only in German.)
Once every decade, the German city of Münster hosts a sculpture exhibit in its public spaces. The first exhibit was in 1977 and so in 2017 it’s time again for the experimental program in this Westphalian village. Münster is a thriving regional capital with a large university, thousands of bicycles, and town and regional leaders of great vision who have a desire to support art. It is hard to imagine an American city of Münster’s profile hosting an adventurous project—even if it would bring tourists to its hotels and restaurants. The curator of the exhibition, Kasper König, choose not to have a theme for the event: it’s better, he believes, to allow artists total authorship of their work and for them to exist in their own site-specific context. Participating artists are invited to Münster in advance to investigate the city before they propose a project. It allows the work to be site-specific while also enabling it to point “beyond its boundaries,” as the Project's catalogue says. Münster purchases several of the sculptures from each edition of the event so they remain permanently in place and there are several of these works visitors should not miss: a bus stop by Dennis Adams, Siah Armajani’s study garden, Dan Graham’s Octagon for Münster, Daniel Buren’s red stripe gate in a narrow alleyway, and Rachel Whiteread’s balcony of books in the LWL-Museum of Art and Culture. This strategy of purchasing works by the world’s best sculptors is such a smart way of bringing the world of forms and ideas into this provincial town and our city planners could learn a great deal about the role of culture in the city. In any event, here is my list of 2017 installed projects not to miss if you are lucky enough to be in Westphalia in the next three months. The most spectacular work in Münster this year is Pierre Huyghe’s After A life Ahead, an excavation of a large, shuttered ice rink on the city’s periphery. Huyghe ripped the concrete floor with saws and then piled the newly freed slabs around the site like ancient shards. He then excavated into the earth below the old floor and created a hilly, damp landscape accessible by visitors. In the middle of this landscape on a sand hill is a glass incubator that contains a HeLa cancer cell line, the growth of which triggers “the emergence of augment reality shapes,” according to the Münster Sculpture Project catalogue. These shapes are mirrored in the triangular forms of the slabs and window openings in the ceiling; this creates a sculpted landscape experience that Hugyhe calls “a time based bio-technical system.” Before I nervously focused on mold growing on the ceiling panels, the immersive experience of the installation was one of the most powerful interior spaces of recent memory. In the Westfälischer Kunstverein is the installation Surplus of Myself by American artist and architect Tom Burr; this piece investigates Paul Rudolph’s Yale Art and Architecture building as if it were a suit of clothes. Burr, who thinks all architecture is “a matter of participation of the human being,” asks us to “consider a room impersonating a body, an inverted volume with naked walls quivering in plain view of the town.” He concludes there are “moral codes: that are applicable to rooms” and, like few others, he able to take on this formidable building and its architect, whose image is included in the exhibit. He describes this tough architecture school interior as one with “swagger and sway” that asks to be “touched; asked to admired, but never fondled.” Is there a better description of this important building anywhere? The best participatory installation in Münster is Ayşe Erkmen’s On Water. She submerged a metal mesh bridge just below the level of a Danube Ems canal so that participants and viewers get the sensation of walking on water. They are able to traverse the narrow body of water from an area that has been totally gentrified with fancy flats to the other side of the canal that is still an industrial oasis and primed for gentrification. It's like walking across time as well as space from the present to the deindustrialized past and people seem to love it, though it's not the cleanest body of water. The most powerful pure sculpture/architecture project in Münster is Thomas Schutte’s Nuclear Temple, which is cast of Cor-ten steel. It has beautiful but odd proportions (like a large pencil eraser) and it's beautiful and horrifying at the same moment. It draws us in but is too small to actually enter and thus becomes a self-contained monument that questions the role of architecture in today’s world. Is architecture today meant for only gazing or branding and not use? No architect in Münster will miss artist John Knight’s beautifully machined and playful large metal water level attached to the side of the LWL-Museum of Art and Culture like a sign, branded with Knight’s initials, which brings the role of design and construction into the public sphere. It takes this beautiful object of construction and reminds us of architecture’s significance for culture and the ambitions of the city. Let’s hope it remains on the museum facade long after the 2017 sculpture project comes to an end later this year. Lastly, Jeremy Deller’s Speak to the Earth and It Will Tell Yyou started in 2007 and won’t leave the city. The artist is fascinated by popular, working class and bottom-up culture. The artwork started out in local allotment gardens in 2007 and asked the gardeners to keep a daily diary’s of their gardening efforts as a way of marking changes due to climate change and as a record of how local residents work in these spaces. They are a record of daily life and a plea for more environmental awareness. There are some who argue that international surveys like Münster no longer matter as powerful statements since curators have become the true stars, selecting work out of public view and then setting their own limits and themes over the combined display. Of course, at this exhibition, there is no theme, but the curators are still making choices and writing catalogue essays in a traditional survey format. But to have a chance to see Huyghe, Deller, Buren, Whiteread, etc., take on Münster and the world is still worth the time devoted to a special trip. In all, there are thirty-five sculptures and installations spread over Münster that are easily accessed by the rent-a-bikes parked all over the city so go and make your own decision. The Münster Sculpture Project runs through October 1, 2017. See its website for more details.
An extensive exhibition featuring works by Alexander Calder, who renowned for the use of kinetic movement in sculpture, is now on display at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art. The exhibition, Calder: Hypermobility, offers visitors a rare opportunity to experience the artist’s works as they were meant to be—in motion. Previously, the dynamic pieces of art were thought to be difficult to show in museums and were often left static. The moving pieces of artworks are motorized and wind-propelled, creating a choreography of rotations and unpredictable movements. Some of Calder’s earliest works are on display, including his early motor-driven abstractions and wall panels with suspended active elements, as well as other major examples from his later years. While people could actually touch Calder’s works themselves during his lifetime, the sculptures at this exhibition can only be set in motion by ‘activators,’ people who are trained to handle the delicate pieces. There’s an intrinsic relationship between the art and the city that only a location at the Whitney can offer. The exhibition space on the eighth floor of the Whitney Museum, where the works are on display, opens up to the city and creates a connection between the city and the gallery space. “This is a show that can only happen in New York,” Jay Sanders, curator of performance at the Whitney, said at the press preview, adding that the exhibition exaggerates the inter-relation between the urban bustle and the artist’s works. “Calder’s works is a wonderful hinge between these realities.” In addition to the gallery display, there will also be a series of performances, concerts, screenings, and episodic, one-time demonstrations led by the Calder Foundation. These contemporary artists will work in dialogue with Calder’s works. Calder: Hypermobility is on view from June 9 to October 23, 2017, at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
British Turner Prize–winning artist Martin Boyce is presenting Sleeping Chimneys. Dead Stars. at the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Chelsea. In the exhibition, Boyce uses sculpture and architectural forms to explore themes of melancholy and abandonment. Many of the works use an angular, oblique design language derived from work by French sculptors Joël and Jan Martel—longtime inspirations for Boyce, who lives in Glasgow. Audiences can witness this in the first part of the exhibition, There was a Door, which, unsurprisingly, is a door, but one that doesn't open to the exhibition, or in fact anything. There was a door, however, is a precedent for the rest of Boyce's work on display. Details down to the wall-mounted door's bronze keyhole and peephole reflect the intimacy of the inanimate objects on display. "I enjoy the stillness and melancholia of an object such as a lamp or table of which can appear lonely or abandoned," said Boyce speaking to The Architect's Newspaper. On the ground floor, furniture can be found along with four apparently "sleeping" chimneys (officially titled, Still Life Landscape with Sun). The furniture is mostly metal, with Boyce weathering some to give a false sense of history; the works appear as if they sat outside for some time. To do this, Boyce said he brushed the metal with Scotch-Brite, vinegar, and filings. The furniture then sits adjacent to white, wall-fixed moldings, creating a contradiction with what we would usually expect to find inside and outside. Likewise, the same could be said for the array of chimneys that create a roofscape within the all-white-walled gallery ground floor. Made from jesmonite, the chimneys have been stained with acid to give the impression of being exposed to the rain. Their oblique sculpting is a scaled-up reference to the smaller motifs that feature throughout. To complete the roofscape scene, the chimneys have television aerials attached to them and, in the background, a paper lantern acts as the sun behind the chimney-tops. However, this isn't the only star of the show. Another light, or rather a Dead Star, can be found in the form of a circular lamp hanging over a table. This lamp, though, emits no light. Like the supposed electrical fittings, the lamp was made from cast bronze and hence will never be able to shine. "Because of this, it really becomes about shape and structure, it is a purely sculptural, combatant, and broken lamp," remarked Boyce. Other light fittings throughout Sleeping Chimneys. Dead Stars are also made from bronze and their absence of illuminance amplifies their lonely presence.
On the floor above is another contradiction: a fireplace. Unsurprisingly there is no fire and the fireplace, located above the chimneys, dons oblique motifs present throughout. Inside the fireplace, a miniature yellow hanging lantern and set of stairs can be seen. The stairs lead nowhere and the lantern—a reference to another functioning one on the same level—emits no light. "It acts as a device that plays with perspective in the room, becoming an an architectural space within a theater," said Boyce. "With a lot of the works, it's more about being with the 1:1 objects and then within that chimney, it's stage-like." Sleeping Chimneys. Dead Stars. is on view now and runs through June 16 a the Tanya Bonakdar Gallery (521 West 21st Street, New York, NY 10011).
Two Cuban artists uniquely capture Detroit’s built environment—both its decay and hope for the future
Two Cuban artists, Alejandro Campins and Jose Yaque, feature in the City of Queen Anne’s Lace exhibition now on view at the Wasserman Projects gallery in Detroit. Using painting, sculpture, and drawing, they embody the emotion of Detroit's past, present, and future. Campins' works, laconic in style, are similar to those of Polish artist Joseph Schulz, whose Form 14 (archetypal of Schulz's style) exhibits architecture without detail. That work was cited by critic Stephen Parnell in his essay "Post-truth architecture." "Stripped of just a few elements, such as lettering, mundane architecture can reveal an uncanny elegance," Parnell said. The same could be said of Campins' paintings, if not for the moody tones and visible brush strokes (he used oils, watercolors, and also pencil) that convey the opposite. His works represent an abandoned Detroit, yet, despite their sense of silence, there are symbols of optimism: A green traffic signal and blank billboard can be interpreted as signifiers of opportunity. Yaque's work, meanwhile, is more explicitly optimistic. Made from Detroit's recycled trash, a large-scale installation rises up from the ground, topped with grass, flowers, and other greenery. The work appears at a glance to be molded by layers of sediment and soil (and Detroit's history)—almost as if a section of the earth's crust lifted from the ground. The piece physically dominates the gallery; exactly what is atop the chunk of recycled earth is unknown and out of sight, but we know from what we do see is that the land upon which is grows is evidently fertile. This piece also references the exhibition's name. Also known as a "Wild Carrot," Queen Anne's Lace is a flower that is commonly found sprouting from the city's decaying buildings. While most often associated with Detroit's downfalls, the plant has substantial nutritional value. Yaque also uses a more traditional medium. Like his Cuban counterpart, he draws, though Yaque employs charcoal to depict Detroit's urban vernacular. Yaque's technique allows his drawings to be nostalgic as they don the faded aesthetic of a century-old photograph. Smudging, often applied to the based of a work, connotes energy—the lost energy of the lonely landmarks and time passing by, wind-like and invariably contributing to the building's demise. Unlike his built work, these images hark back to a Detroit that is certainly consigned to memory, with buildings either no longer used or repurposed. However, in a similar vein to his sculpture, this reference point is only implied. City of Queen Anne’s Lace has been curated by Rafael DiazCasas, an art historian and independent curator based in New York City. The exhibition came about after Wasserman Projects founder Gary Wasserman saw Campins' works while in Havana. Through DiazCasas, the two discussed the parallels between Detroit's and Cuba's history. Inspired by this, Campins visited the Michigan city for himself, later introducing Yaque to the city too. The pair encountered much Wild Carrot during their foray into Detroit. According to a press release, they found the flower to be symbolic of change and natural rebalancing. This sentiment formed the basis of their work for the exhibition, promoting a feeling of hope while looking at Detroit through an alternative lens. City of Queen Anne’s Lace is on view at Wasserman Projects through June 24, 2017.
New York–based artist Roxy Paine has two series of artworks—both distinct and striking—on display at Paul Kasmin Gallery in Chelsea. The first are the "Dendroids," the latest iteration of a long-running group of all-stainless steel sculptures that meditate on how the industrial transforms into the natural. These gleaming artworks feature man-made objects, human organs, and other abstract forms seamlessly melded with trees. But the exhibition's other trio of works—the "Dioramas," titled experiment, Meeting, and Desolation Row—are even more surreal and provocative. experiment portrays one of the CIA's "MKUltra" experiments, which lasted from the 1950s to 70s and had scientists observe the effects of LSD on subjects, sometimes without their permission and coupled with various forms psychological manipulation and torture. No photographs of these experiments exist, but Paine has crafted a vision here. He situates the viewer in front of an MKUltra experiment, with a CIA observation room looking onto a testing area (a generic, hotel-like bedroom and bathroom). The former is dark gray, the latter all yellow. Most remarkably, an incredibly acute forced perspective compresses the two small rooms together. From a certain angle, the vanishing point and scale are flawless, but any slight movement reveals the extreme compression of the observation room furniture. No glass separates the viewer from the two spaces, but the yellow hotel room feels miles away. The collapse of visual perception in experiment, combined with its subject matter, forces the viewer to confront paradoxes of perception, reality, and control, all to very chilling effect. Meeting is far more ghostly. It depicts the windowless meeting room of a twelve-step substance abuse program; the diorama features models of generic office furniture and bright white fluorescent lighting. As with experiment, the forced perspective is flawless, but the diorama's eye-level placement and realistic coloring heighten its strangeness. From afar, with its harsh fluorescent illumination, the room appears photo-realistic. But as the diorama pulls you closer, rough and unfamiliar textures appear on the floor and chairs. As you approach the far corners, it appears as though the scene has been put under a fisheye lens. Unlike Meeting, there are no shadows. All these effects make experiment pass from surreality to almost nightmare. The last diorama is Desolation Row, which depicts a smoldering landscape of blackened earth and burnt trees, still glowing with orange light. There's no use of forced perspective here—at least, none that I could see, though the diorama's farther trees do shrink in scale. Desolation Row evokes a cycle of growth and destruction, as well as themes of control, man, and nature that run throughout all the exhibition's artworks. Architects will certainly appreciate the care taken with these dioramas; Paine's attention to detail and perspective is remarkable. However, while architectural models aim to explain, elucidate, and convince, these do the opposite—they disturb, provoke, and question. The show—titled Farewell Transmission—is on view at Paul Kasmin Gallery at 293 & 297 Tenth Avenue, New York City.
In the two years since restoration work on the largely-forgotten Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial restoration in Downtown Los Angeles began, the areas around the isolated military memorial fountain have begun to see signs of change. To the north, the LA Plaza Village project, a new mixed-use development by architects Johnson Fain and landscape architects SWA Group, will likely transform the area when its 355 housing units and 46,000 square feet of commercial spaces come online in 2018. That project will take over several Los Angeles County–owned parking lots occupying the relatively isolated blocks east of the memorial. These formerly-neglected hillside lands are populated mostly by encampments, parking lots, and planted slopes and are relatively difficult to access on foot. The LA Plaza project will feature, however, a central, stepped paseo connecting across several blocks, linking the memorial with the pedestrian life of the Olvera Street area to the east. The Civic Center area to the south of the memorial, meanwhile, is working toward implementing the initial phases of a new, transformative master plan that seeks to convert the bureaucratic enclave into a mixed-use residential neighborhood in its own right. If there’s anything in the air around these parts, it’s change. Work on the Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial continues in pursuit of these changes, as the fountain—its waters shut off since the 1977 drought—is meticulously restored by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works under the guidance of Conservator Donna Williams and Civic Art Collections Manager Clare Haggarty. The memorial is located atop the stubborn slope that gives Downtown Los Angeles’s Hill Street its name and is dedicated to the Mormon Battalion and the New York Volunteer American military forces that first raised the American flag over the recently-conquered California territory on July 4th, 1847. The memorial is situated in a sunken plaza that features a large, running-bond brick expanse on its northernmost end. Next follows the 80-foot-wide waterfall backed by small, colorful tiles. The southernmost portion of the memorial contains a 78-foot by 45-foot terra cotta bas relief installation designed by renowned German sculptor Henry Kreis depicting the flag raising ceremony mentioned above. The bas relief installation also features a trio of symbolic narrative compositions celebrating the area’s conquest via Manifest Destiny. The uppermost panel celebrates the post-indigenous Spanish ranchos and agricultural pioneers of the area. The central panel depicts a “prairie schooner,” a type of stagecoach used by the early American settlers “who made Los Angeles a city,” while the lowest panel celebrates the might of industrial “water and power” that allowed for the region to be inhabited on a mass scale. The overall memorial was designed by Southern California architects Kazumi Adachi and Dike Nagano between 1947 and 1957 and officially dedicated in 1958. The memorial also features a 68-foot-tall triumphal pylon designed by American sculptor Albert Stewart. The pylon is itself embossed by a 16-foot by 11-foot sculpted eagle bas relief and an inscription dedicated to the “brave men and women” who played a role in “extending the frontiers” of the United States westward. Haggarty spoke to The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) via email, explaining that work on the memorial restoration is well underway, with the restoration of the waterfall’s tile backing proceeding toward completion. Craftspeople are recreating replacement tiles for the wall by hand in an effort to match the original installation. Haggarty explained that when the waterfall was turned off during the 1977 drought, the monument began to fall into disrepair, but that many of the artistic components are in decent shape, otherwise. She explained, “The materials [like] grout, tiles, etc. started to get brittle and began to delaminate” when the water was originally shut off and that after over 40 years of neglect, “the plumbing for the waterfall needs to be entirely replaced.” A goal of the restoration is to return the monument to its original function as a fountain, assuming there is enough water to go around. Haggarty explained, “It is supposed to be a fountain and turning it off caused most of the issues. Another big issue is graffiti and prior methods of removal that have done more harm than good.” A broad, sandblasted patch along the brick wall portion of the project is a testament to that fact. Haggarty and Williams will both be presenting at the Los Angeles Visionary Association salon on Sunday, April 30th. The event, organized by preservation advocates Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, will include lectures from the women behind the restoration project as well as a tour of the restoration site. Schave told AN via email, “The Fort Moore Memorial is a huge part of the downtown landscape, poorly understood, and neglected, and now, thanks to the LA County Arts Commission, it is coming back into focus.” Schave added that the restoration “allows us to reassert the lost history of [Fort Moore] Hill—the demolished layers from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the people who lived there—and the monument itself.”
To most, "accessorizing with Noguchi" means adding that famous coffee table or a paper lamp to the living room. Unlike regular people, though, designer Robert Stadler had the famous sculptor's whole catalogue on hand, choosing, among others, Big Id—a phallic marble sculpture—to complement his own work in an exuberant new show at the Noguchi Museum. Solid Doubts: Robert Stadler at The Noguchi Museum is the museum's first exhibition to feature another designer's work in such close dialogue with Isamu Noguchi. It's an opportunity, said Executive Director Jenny Dixon, to "layer contemporary voices into the museum." But it's also a high-stakes conversation—in addition to being one of the most peaceful places in New York, Noguchi designed the original galleries himself. How to create a space of your own and respect Noguchi? As its title suggests, Solid Doubts complicates the artists' work down to its very definitions. The first impulse is to pick out Noguchi from Stadler, Where's Waldo? style, but that's not the point. The actual fun is in the adjacencies across four installations that fold work from Stadler and Noguchi into each other. Stadler, who's based in Paris, and curator Dakin Hart arranged these tableaus in an intense collaboration they jokingly referred to as a "long-distance date." In the main gallery, Stadler's Cut_Paste #4 hosts two Noguchi sculptures, one in chunky slate and the other, a delicate gold anodized aluminum piece clinging to a marble shelf. The arrangements resist easy categories: Can you put a drink on it? Sit on it? Well—in the Cut_Paste series, these everyday distinctions don't really matter. "It's all designed to be used," Stadler said. "It's not meant to be sculpture." "They play with the typology of furniture but doesn't sit evenly or comfortably in any category," Hart added, noting that Stadler's confusing and borderline gaudy assemblages are supposed to recall leftovers from a bad 1980s luxury condo development. Two other galleries are reserved for more elaborate tableaus. In one, two fictional scenarios join together: Noguchi's set pieces for Martha Graham's ballets are placed among Stadler's digitally-milled PDT furniture in a meeting of fantasy and function. The room is organized, loosely, around Stadler's Anywhere #2, a moveable ceiling lamp which the artist guided around the room to illuminate Noguchi's props and his own ashlar table, bench, and mirror. In the other gallery, a deconstructed Chesterfield sofa melts against one wall, like tar, guarded by a pouf in the same material and flanked by sit-upons that would be at home at a Girl Scout meeting. The "biomorphic assault," as the museum calls it, underscores the subtly of Noguchi's lighting: two of his Akari lanterns anchor the walls, while one of the rarest Noguchi lamps, on loan from a private collector, surveys the room from above. The unencumbered layout—developed collaboratively with Stadler and the museum—lets visitors move in and around the works as they please (the accident-prone should note that this arrangement is easy to trip over). Outside, in Noguchi's garden, Stadler installed two works, playful riffs on cheap plastic garden furniture. Cast aluminum mockups of the white table and chair, looking sturdy in spite of their mottled surfaces and missing pieces, are placed apart from each other, a deliberate break from the table→chair→sit progression as well as a comment on the long-term sustainability of these familiar but flimsy items. For those reluctant to make the trek to Queens, Solid Doubts coincides with two upcoming opportunities to see Stadler's work in New York: He will have another Noguchi pairing at the Collective Design Fair next month, and at Weight Class, a solo exhibition at Carpenters Workshop Gallery that begins April 27. But really, why not go to the museum first? Solid Doubts: Robert Stadler at The Noguchi Museum opens April 26 and runs through September 3, 2017.
The Coachella Arts and Music Festival kicked off this weekend in the desert outside Los Angeles with a bang, debuting a series of cute and colorful, large-scale art installations for concertgoers to revel among. One consisted of a “mirrored lighthouse for immigrants” by Brazilian artist Gustavo Prado. The work is expressed as a tall lighthouse for travelers—pivoting, curved mirrors sit every which way atop a series of metal armatures, reflecting views and sunlight in a multitude of directions. In a statement, Prado explained the structure as “a way to empirically present how the mind turns the continuous interconnectedness of phenomena into separate beings.”
Brooklyn, New York–based studio Chiaozza (pronounced like “wowza”) designed a garden installation consisting of a series of whimsical, desert-inspired plant structures. Like some type of Martian golf course, the stucco-clad, Dr. Seuss-ian masses—tall and knobby, in some cases, bulbous and squat in others—are wrapped in Memphis Group–inspired squiggles and dots and sit atop circular bases made of astroturf. Adam Frezza of Chiaozza explained in a statement that the group wanted “to create a visual bath, something you can explore and get lost in” with their acre-sized installation.
Nigerian-born, Brooklyn-based artist Olalekan Jeyifous created Crown Ether, an un-occupiable home supported by a series of angular, tree trunk-like pillars. The work, according to Jeyifous, is inspired by the artist’s longstanding interest in the intersection between public architecture and displacement, here symbolized by the tension resulting from the visual accessibility of the structure that cannot actually be occupied.Day ✌️ 📷: @ravivora A post shared by Coachella (@coachella) on
Lastly, United Kingdom–based artists Joanne Tatham and Tom O’Sullivan created a massive installation that works as a visual pun for the phrase “elephant in the room” made up of large masses of faceted, brightly-patterned elephants. The 75-foot tall herd stands in a rough circle, with various exposures of each creation wrapped in a different geometric, colorful pattern. The installations will be on view through April 23.Come thru 📷: @ari_fararooy A post shared by Coachella (@coachella) on
Last week the Department of Buildings (DOB) approved demolition permits for the Brooklyn Heights branch library, clearing the way for a 36-story tower but raising questions about the ultimate fate of the art on the library's facade. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported that exterior demolition at 280 Cadman Plaza West will begin in late March, and take about three months to complete. The new tower, designed by New York's Marvel Architects, will add 133 condos, retail space, and a STEM lab for young people in the neighborhood. An almost 27,000-square-foot library will occupy the development's mezzanine, part of the ground floor, and a below-grade level. Though it's smaller than the low-rise building it's replacing, the city maintains that the new branch will contain more usable space. Moreover, the sale of the city-owned property to developer Hudson Companies for $52 million is set to generate $40 million in capital repair funding for the BPL. Although site work has begun, the library sale and delayed transfer of ownership have remained a point of contention for activist groups like Citizens Defending Libraries, which maintains that no work should begin until the deal between the two parties is signed. So, with plans filed and permits in, there's just one more question—what's happening to the art on the library facade? The Architect's Newspaper previously reported that New York City's Public Design Commission (PDC) had to weigh in on the two bas–relifs by Clemente Spampinato before they could be removed. Keri Butler, deputy director of the PDC, shared the latest on the art's final home in an email:
The Public Design Commission has reviewed the methods and materials for removing the artworks from the facade of the library and temporarily storing them, and has found these methods to be appropriate with the understanding that a proposal for relocating the artworks within the new development at 280 Cadman Plaza West will be submitted by September 2017.Displaying Spampinato's work in the new library underscores its civic function while preserving the art more-or-less in situ for public enjoyment. There's no word yet, though, on where in the new building the reliefs will be hung when it opens in spring of 2020.
The Fourth Plinth in London’s Trafalgar Square, a high-profile venue for a changing program of temporary commissioned artworks, has inspired a similar landmark destination in New York: the High Line Plinth. New York’s plinth will be a visible stage for sculpture located on the High Line's new "Spur" section at West 30th and 10th Avenue; the plinth and the Spur are scheduled to open together. High Line Art (which describes itself as "Presented by Friends of the High Line," the non-profit group that funds and maintains the famous rails-to-trails park) has said construction is expected to begin in 2017, with the opening coming sometime in 2018. According to The New York Times, the plinth will likely change shapes and sizes depending upon the artwork showcased. "High Line Art continues to reach a broad, diverse audience—including more than 2.3 million New Yorkers annually—with free, world-class artwork 365 days a year," said Robert Hammond, cofounder and executive director of Friends of the High Line, in a statement. To determine what artworks should inaugurate the plinth, 12 international artists have been shortlisted by Hight Line Art and an international advisory committee. Models of the artists' proposed sculptures will be displayed from February 9 to April 30, 2017, on the High Line at West 14th Street. Of the twelve, two will be the first High Plinth commissions. The first artwork will be installed in 2018, and each piece will be available for viewing for 18 months. The artists include Jonathan Berger, Minerva Cuevas, Jeremy Deller, Sam Durant, Charles Gaines, Lena Henke, Matthew Day Jackson, Simone Leigh, Roman Ondak, Paola Pivi, Haim Steinbach, and Cosima von Bonin. See the gallery above to sample some of their proposals. The Friends of the High Line also reported that the Spur will provide storage space for park operations, maintenance, horticulture, and new public restrooms for the park. "The High Line Plinth will expand the program's impact by creating a one-of-a-kind destination for public art on the Spur, a new section of the park with even more space for public programming and dynamic horticulture,” Hammond said.
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