Posts tagged with "Vito Acconci":

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Signs and Symbols gallery opens in LES with an architectural mission

Occupying the cozy interior of a former record store on Forsyth Street, Signs and Symbols is the latest art space to crop up on New York’s Lower East Side. Describing itself as a “curator’s studio and non-gallery gallery,” Signs and Symbols takes its name from a short story by Vladimir Nabokov first published in The New Yorker in 1948 (as “Symbols and Signs,” the inversion coming in a later edition), and acts as a laboratory for curatorial projects. Founded by Mitra Khorasheh and Elise Herget, Signs and Symbols’ vision is centered around three major figures of twentieth century art—Ulay, VALIE EXPORT, and Vito Acconci. As such, the space will largely focus on photography, performance, architecture, and the intersection thereof, opening with an exhibition of British artist Rachel Garrard entitled Primal Forms. Signs and Symbols had been hosting performances nomadically around the city since 2012; however, this is the first permanent physical iteration of the project. Perhaps most relevant to architecture is the focus on Vito Acconci. Acconci (1940–2017), the poet turned artist turned designer, opened Acconci Studio in the late 1980s to focus on sculptural and architectural projects. Signs and Symbols’ planned exhibitions have a number of artists whose work intersects with architecture, as well as some architects making art. Sarah Entwistle, a British architect, will be presenting her project in which she communes with her late grandfather, whom she never met, the architect Clive Entwistle. Wermke/Leinkauf, the Berlin-based artistic duo infamous for illegally climbing the Brooklyn Bridge and flying white-out U.S. flags, will be presenting photographic work engaging architecture, the built world, and the body. Brooklyn-based Drew Conrad, whose sculpture deals with buildings and their ruins, will also have a solo show. Signs and Symbols differentiates itself from galleries in another critical way—it works on a royalty model and doesn’t require exclusive representation. A platform rather than a gallery, Signs and Symbols will also be presenting performance collaborations, lectures, workshops, one-off projects, and other programming to complement the exhibitions. Finally, landing a physical location doesn’t mean Signs and Symbols plans to become rigid or stagnant—it will continue to be “a platform for re-thinking and re-adjusting,” that, like contemporary art, is “in a constant state of becoming and transforming.”
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The sublime and brutal architecture of Vito Acconci

In the work Claim from 1971, artist Vito Acconci sat blindfolded, positioned at the base of a narrow stairwell in a gallery, wildly swinging a metal pipe. The viewer was left with the uncomfortable choice of figuring out how serious the intent of the artist was in deciding whether or not to progress. As with many things Acconci, you might be advised to proceed with extreme caution.

Similarly, the 1971 work Trappings saw Acconci making use of his penis, in this instance dressing it up like a doll and carrying on a monologue, addressing it as another person; Vito’s version of the Vagina Monologues.

In an early 1969 performance at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York entitled Points, Blank, Acconci began in Harlem and phoned the gallery every dozen or so blocks as he incrementally made his way by foot to Soho from uptown. Acconci wrote of the piece that by periodically informing the visitors in the space of his progress, he was haunting the audience with the notion of his impending presence, an ethereal figure that hung over the crowd.

Acconci was a concrete poet that segued from words, actions, and output in various media, to literal concrete, by building some extraordinary structures like the floating island/cafe/performance space in the river Mur in Austria in 2003 when Graz was the cultural capital of Europe. Few so seamlessly and radically changed gears in such a far-reaching fashion, yet always from one form of radicalism to another. The pace was unrelenting and unmatched.

In my role as an independent art curator throughout the decade of the 1990s, I futilely tried to contact Acconci—by phone, fax, and later email, to no avail. Then I read in an interview he had long ago forsworn making art (and the art world in general) to practice architecture and design; an alumnus of the school of the self-taught (like Tadao Ando). He mentioned he was so wanting of work he’d happily accept a bathroom commission. I seized the opportunity, not to get an Acconci toilet (I wanted that too), but to design a temporary conceptual exhibition space; rather more for the occasion to work with him, than actually wanting anything that resembled a typical gallery.

In 2000, I called the studio: Within hours there was a message from Acconci and two days later he was sitting on my couch discussing the brief, which I was hatching as we went along. I still have the microcassette tape with his inimitable voice. My fandom relates to the fact the gravelly, gruff guru of performance and installation helped inspire me to enter art in the first instance—he didn’t open doors, expanding content and practice, but bulldozed his way into history, most notably by engaging in an endurance act of onanism under the floor of Sonnabend Gallery in New York in 1972, the infamy of which dogged him till his death; it neither pleased nor amused him.

My exhibition idea was based on Frederick Kiesler’s design for Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery, which opened in 1942 on 57th Street in New York. There, paintings were cantilevered off the wall (by sawn-off baseball bats), and other works were displayed in a vitrine with a manually operated, revolving lazy Susan–like turntable.

Acconci came up with a design influenced by Kiesler’s biomorphic Endless House (1950s), a Möbius strip of multifunctional metal componentry. Kiesler described his house as: “endless like the human body—there is no beginning and no end,” and in Acconci’s gallery layout the front door extended to the desk and window shutter, and from there, swooped into walls, an upstairs office, and even an overhead video-projection screen. The walls were constructed of expanded metal, on which the art could be hung from hooks inserted into the mesh surface; and, additionally, elements could be manipulated and adjusted into seating and shelving for sculpture.

It was Acconci’s first interior commission and led to another for United Bamboo’s fashion boutique in Tokyo. Though the space was open for merely two years, it was reviewed in the New York Times and hosted many exhibitions including those of Mary Heilmann, Joe Bradley, and Kim Gordon.

Acconci’s space was sublime (to live and work in—it was in the back of my house on Charles Lane) and simultaneously angst provoking. conTEMPorary, as it was called, harked back to the provocative performances of Acconci—hard-edged, brutal, and unforgiving; some artists recoiled from the cage-like interior, while others embraced it.

The art world (and especially the market) affirms and consumes art in repetitious series and is very unforgiving of artists that don’t. Employing any strategy was anathema to Acconci, a restless artist who never capitulated a day in his 50-year career. Poetry, performance, installation, sculpture, design, and architecture were for Acconci natural progression; but, for the rest of the conservative art and design worlds, it was hard to swallow.

Historically, a dilettante was not a dabbler but a seeker, someone who cultivated artistic interests and pursuits in a wide variety of endeavors. And that Acconci did in the best possible way. Marcel Duchamp (another multitasking art practitioner) led the charge, declaring any store-bought object could be art if the artist deemed it; Acconci took it a step further, initially looking within enlisting an assortment of body parts before casting his gaze outward. An ascetic and philosopher, Acconci functioned outside of the material myopia we are all enslaved to on one level or another. I will miss him and for what he so steadfastly stood.

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Conceptual artist and architect Vito Acconci passes away at 77

Bronx-born and Brooklyn-based conceptual and artist and architect Vito Acconci has passed away at the age of 77. He is best known for his seminal performance art and for designing the Storefront for Art and Architecture with Steven Holl in downtown Manhattan.

Acconci also taught at Pratt in the architecture program and took up architecture late in his career. He founded a Brooklyn practice called Acconci Studio, where he completed the Murinsel - Futuristic Artificial Island on the River Mur in Graz, Austria.

Maria Acconci, his widow, has released this statement: "It is with heart-break I share the news that the world lost Vito Acconci today. He was voracious in his genius and the indelible mark he has left on the world has no boundaries. His work and archives will live on as we plan a place for his generative art, architecture, design, and performance to keep living like a mobius strip—a future only Vito could have visualized.”

The news of his passing was originally reported by collector Kenny Schachter on Instagram. A full obituary will follow.

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Iowa City picks Cecil Balmond for downtown art project

Iowa City this week picked engineer-turned-artist Cecil Balmond to anchor an overhaul of the city's downtown pedestrian plaza. His sculpture will be the focal point of Iowa City's Black Hawk Mini Park Art Project, the first phase of an $11 million streetscape redevelopment project that officials hope to start next year. Balmond's work aims to enliven public spaces with forceful, architectural installations. His studio has strung shafts of light in Anchorage, Alaska, explored the Solid Void of sculpture with a forest of metal filigree in Chicago's Graham Foundation, and woven steel like rope to bridge a Philadelphia railway. The Chicago Transit Authority recently tapped Cecil Balmond Studio to contribute art for an overhaul of the 91-year-old Wilson Red Line station. An artist review panel consisting of Genus Landscape Architects Brett Douglas and Angie Coyer, and Iowa City staff Geoff Fruin and Marcia Bollinger selected U.K.–born Balmond over artists Vito Acconci and Hans Breder. Construction on the project is expected to begin next year.
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Pictorial> Illuminate SF setting San Francisco aglow

For the second year, San Francisco Travel (the city's marketing organization) is organizing Illuminate SF, a two-month series of light art installations around the metropolis. This year's version, taking place now through the end of the year, features 16 glowing pieces—11 of them permanent—including works by James Turrell, Ned Kahn,Vito Acconci, and James Carpenter. Many are integrated into San Francisco buildings, such as Morphosis' San Francisco Federal Building, KMD's SF Public Utilities Commission, the grain elevator at Pier 92, and various terminals at SFO. Cities like Cleveland and New York have held similar festivals in recent years. The San Francisco event includes the return of Leo Villareal's Bay Lights, the world's largest LED light sculpture covering the Oakland Bay Bridge's 1.8-mile-long West Span. Soma, by Flaming Lotus Girls, was originally displayed at Burning Man, and will be illuminated every night from sunset until 2:00 a.m. Accompanying events for Illuminate SF include film screenings, art walks, tours, light shows, Christmas Tree lightings, and even parades. Enjoy a slideshow of the phenomenal installations below.  
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Acconci Gets In on the Ground Floor

What do kitchen counter tops, shower-wall cladding, and the Grand Concourse have in common? Corian, of course. Thanks to performance-artist-turned-designer (and Bronx native) Vito Acconci and Acconci Studio designers Adam Jakubowski and Bradley Rothenberg, the Bronx Museum can now boast its very own DuPont fabricated sculpture. Acconci’s large, porous installation is titled Lobby-For-The-Time-Being and provides an imaginative, fabric-like reconsideration of the now ubiquitous polymer, originally developed in 1967 to replace human bones. In what seems like the most recent installment in a worldwide series of Corian-centric, site-specific sculpture, Lobby-For-The-Time-Being incorporates seating (take that Philadelphia), as well as lighting and projections by Taylor Levy and Che-Wei Wang. Technically, Acconci’s first foray into architecture was way back in 1971, the year the Bronx Museum opened. Though it’s unlikely anyone remembers Seedbed for its central wooden structure...
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Our Inattentive, Unintentional Observation

It was a low-key but engaging evening at The Storefront for Art & Architecture on Thursday at the opening reception for Marina Ballo Charmet's peculiarly-titled exhibition of photos and a video, At Land: Bodyscape & Cityscape. Trained as a psychoanalyst, Charmet's work is driven by her self-professed interest in "inattentive, unintentional observation, irrational and without direction." As you might guess from the exhibition's title, the works on display range in scale from the extremely intimate to the nearly impersonal, and were culled from four separate series the artist has been compiling since the mid-1990s. Their common denominator, explains curator Jean-Francois Chevrier in the text that accompanies the show, is Charmet's proclivity to move "at land, to quote the first film by Maya Deren. [...] She makes her way as one would sail, through cities and parks, among bodies, giving her pictures an oceanic and kinematic dimension." There's something inherently appealing, sexy even, about just setting the gaze to sweep, and exploring the world by evenly skimming the surface of things, regardless of scale or context. In staging the exhibition, Charmet and Chevrier make great use of Storefront's distinctive triangular footprint, balancing smaller prints that focus on Charmet's wide-scope work, namely images taken in some of the greatest parks in Europe and the Americas, with larger prints depicting extreme close-ups of necks and clavicles and stubbly chins. A single video piece, placed on a low pedestal, provides a noisy focal point at the narrow end of the space. The centerpieces, of course, are close-cropped images of the business end of big anonymous buildings that would make both the Smithsons and Darth Vader equally proud—titanic, weather-stained expanses of unyielding concrete, framed at imposing angles. For all her stated interest in "inattentive, unintentional observation," Charmet's photos retain a calculated composition of a kind that's totally absent from, say, the work of a photographer like Daido Moriyama, whose early Provoke-era photos were so spare and without composition, teetering menacingly between accident and nihilism, that it's still tremendously influential today. The kind of work Charmet is doing isn't exactly breaking any new ground, but the juxtaposition of scales and surfaces is very pleasant nonetheless. When she hits the mark, Charmet's sense of composition recalls the odd, disorienting, and occasionally claustrophobic framings that are the trademark of the Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, whose films are always beguiling and about as contemporary as you can get. Viewed together, as it is at the Storefront, this seeming hodge podge coalesces into a concrete whole. At the opening, a small-by-Storefront-standards crowd gathered, though the space's co-designer Vito Acconci did make an appearance. Chevrier cheerfully welcomed guests and gave a brief, improvised introduction to Charmet's approach to the photographic process. He pointed out that Charmet's work has much to do with the gaze (she's a psychoanalyst after all), and he underscored the unique angle of her work's photographic perspective (it evokes the view of a dog, or a child crawling). With a casual air redolent of the works on the wall, Chevrier invited those assembled to enjoy the "fritto misto" of Charmet's works, well-complemented by the wine guests helped themselves to as outside the rain that had threatened all evening finally began in earnest.
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Vito Acconci, Male Model

Back in June, we spoke with Vito Acconci about his decision to close up shop. The artist and designer essentially said he was yet another victim of the recession—"The contradictory thing is that at a time when there are these architectural projects that we have the possibility of doing, how do we keep the studio active on a day-to-day basis?"—but now we're wondering if he maybe had a career change in mind. It would appear so, as Archinect alerts us to Vito's appearance in none other than October's J. Crew catalog. Maybe it's some kind of performance art? He's ready for his close-up after the jump.
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Talk Around the Clock

Philippe Parreno, Marquee Guggeneim, NY, 2008. Photo: Kristopher McKay/Guggenheim Foundation
Listen up insomniacs and coffee snobs, the Guggenheim is hosting a 24-hour talk, appropriately on the theme of time, as a companion to the exhibition theanyspacewhatever. The event starts at 6:00 pm tonight and runs through 6:00 pm on Wednesday, and includes artists, designers, curators, social scientists, philosophers, and others. Among those who will be taking up time and space are architectural theorist Sanford Kwinter (8:10 pm, Tuesday), designer/artist Vito Acconci (2:30 am, Wednesday), and architects Marc Kushner (5:00 am, Wednesday), Florian Idenburg (9:00 am, Wednesday), Thomas Leeser (12:00 pm, Wednesday), Makram El-Kadi (2:30 pm, Wednesday), and Lebbeus Woods (4:00 pm, Wednesday).
Carsten Holler, Revolving Hotel Room, 2008. Photo: David Heald/Guggenheim Foundation
Click here for a full line-up of speakers. To keep the conversation going, Illycaffé is providing free coffee!
Jorge Pardo, Sculpture Ink, 2008. Photo: Kristopher McKay/Guggenheim Foundation