For 2 weeks, two exhibitions in NY about Corbusier overlapped. In addition to the MoMA retrospective that closed on September 23, Amie Siegel’s Provenance at the Simon Preston Gallery on the LES (through October 6) examines a rather different slice: from the point of view of the furniture created for Chandigarh, the Indian planned city of the 1950s.
The film that forms the core of this installation travels in reverse, de- and re-contexualizing the objects. It starts with Chandigarh chairs, settees, and tables in their new homes in the West from apartments to lofts to townhouses and even yachts seen in slow tracking shots and lockoffs by cinematographer Christine A. Maier. These are perfectly crafted interiors that are pristine, light, airy, signaling the curated good life as seen in Architectural Digest. Peeking out are the inventory numbers, like a Holocaust tattoo or cattle branding. Does it give the furniture a limited-edition cache? The pieces are like adopted children who have been lucky enough to be given a new life, but they are out of their native culture and are isolated from their tribe. Even in their new surroundings with other treasures, one can always pick out the Corbusier piece, with the sharply angled forms—triangles are a distinct feature—and geometric planes, even in their new clothes of reupholstered checks, squares and luxury leather. Questions about preservation, neglect, restoration, reinterpretation, and fetishism arise.
On Friday night at Riverfront Studios, motion-picture soundstages on 3 acres of East River waterfront between the Williamsburg Bridge and the Navy Yard, the newest art project by Doug Aitken called Station to Station was launched. Aitken did the “destruction” of Gallery 303 last year, Creative Time’s Broken Screen Happening at the Essex Street Market and Sleepwalkers projected on the wall of MoMA’s Sculpture Garden.
On the site of the former Schaefer Brewery, spotted in the crowd was Agnes Gund, Klaus Biesenbach, Chrissie Iles, Roxana Marcoci, Linda Yablonsky, Lisa Phillips and other art world luminaries. This event marked the inaugural nomadic “Happening” that moves in an Aitken-designed train from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Coast stopping at nine different locations each time for a one-night-only live event in September. The scene was set for live performances that included a colorful site-specific smoke bomb installation by Olaf Breuning; food happening created by artist Rirkrit Tiravanija; and an original performance choreographed by Jonah Bokaer inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s Pelican (1963) on the occasion of work’s 50th anniversary and more.
On View> Museum of Arts and Design Presents “Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Art, Craft, and Design” Through September 15
You may think you know wood, but this exhibition stretches the material beyond convention into the 21st century, and has a distinct sense of humor. Artists and designers play with the form, starting with artist Martin Puryear, who inspired curator Lowery Sims to explore trends that destabilize conventional methods. His specially commissioned piece for this show is a puffy, tufted wing-back chair that looks so soft you could sink into it, but it is actually solid pine. Its title, A Skeuomorphic Wing Chair, 2012, refers to the ersatz, an object made to resemble another material to make the new look comfortably old and familiar, like a digital notebook app that mimics yellow lined paper. Weight is conveyed differently in Yuya Ushida’s Sofa_XXXX, 2010, a delicate lattice comprised of 8,000 recycled bamboo chopsticks, that can be expanded or contracted; or Mark Moskovitz’s Facecord, 2012, which looks like a stockpiled cord of logs, but is actually a chest of drawers.
A yardstick is a straightedge with markings at regular intervals used to physically measure lengths in imperial units of up to a yard (three feet). It is also a standard for making a critical judgment. This measuring device was placed in once-forbidden zones of the World and Cold Wars that have since been abandoned, by Jane and Louise Wilson, the British fraternal twin artist duo who have a show on view at 303 Gallery.
A woman sits alone and thinks to herself.
A painting converses with a room. The room talks back.
So says Barbara Bloom, whose installation of selections from the Jewish Museum’s collection, create a dialogue with architect C.P.H. Gilbert’s French Renaissance Warburg mansion—the building that houses the museum—real and imagined visitors, and the objects themselves. Architect Ken Saylor, who worked closely with Bloom on the spatialization and design of the exhibition, said, “we tried to ask ourselves ‘What does it mean to inhabit an exhibition?’ where things are simultaneously absent and present, masked and revealed, teased and assaulted, subject and context, museum and house.”
Inspired by the design of the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism, where the original text is framed by annotated scholarly debates across generations, the exhibition is entitled As it were…So to speak. That suggests “what you are about to hear … Is not exactly what it appears to be.” The exhibition is a narrative but without beginning, middle, and end, which harmoniously surfs the practices of art, architecture, and design.
This Saturday evening, July 20, EZUFF, the Elvis Zapp Urban Projection Project, a mini-film festival, will have its inaugural run at the Mayles Cinema in Harlem. Its goal is to explore “art and city public life” using short experimental film to “make a link between contemporary urban forms of expression/representation and the political imagination for the city of today. It is about oblique ways to dig into present day urban cultures and imagine alternatives for the cities of tomorrow.” EZUFF is masterminded by co-founders architect Andrew Macnair and multi-media artist and Mamoru Kobayakawa, along with Robert Bowen, Joke Post, David Kessler, and Kim Steele.
With gay marriage rippling across the country and even the Boy Scouts opening their doors to gays, it’s hard to believe that during Liberace’s lifetime, coming out was career suicide. The mystery is how anyone, particularly his adoring blue-haired female fans, could have ever thought otherwise. His flamboyant, over-the-top more –is-better excess in décor and fashion, both on stage and off, screams “queen” louder than his proficient, versatile piano playing. “The Impossible Dream” indeed.
“I call this palatial kitsch” says Michael Douglas playing Liberace, known as Lee, to Matt Damon’s Scott Thorson, his soon to be paramour in HBO’s Behind the Candelabra. This is shortly after Scott enters the Las Vegas spread where he asks the friend who’s brought him: “Is this a palace?” which prompts the reply “Lee thinks he’s King Ludwig II.” Scott: “ Who’s he?” “The Liberace of Bavaria.” (Ludwig [1845-1886], also gay, commissioned extravagant palaces, patronized composer Richard Wagner, and was deposed as “mad.”)
What do you do if a building is slated for demolition? If you’re the artist Doug Aitken and the building is your gallery, you devise a “time-based destruction installation.” Which is precisely what Aitken, who is known for wrapping the facade of the Hirschhorn Museum in with a 360-degree video installation to the tune of “I Only Have Eyes For You,” installing a video “land art” installation on the Seattle Art Museum, and the video “Sleepwalkers” projected on the facades of MoMA, “a cinematic art experience that directly integrates with the architectural fabric of the city while simultaneously enhancing and challenging viewers’ perceptions of public space” did.
BOFFO is an arts and culture non-profit fostering collaborations between artists, designers, communities, and theorists to inform and engage the public in participatory arts programs. In late May, it launched a show house at a Lower East Side public school building turned apartment house, called The Madison Jackson. It turned out to be a clever draw getting people to a neighborhood that is lower and farther east than more popular sections of the LES. I speak from familiarity as I live in a perch overlooking the venue. The glam show house is unusual for a neighborhood comprised largely of public housing blocks next to tall towers that formerly were union cooperatives and as close to socialist housing as we’ve had in NYC.
In spite of the glorious weather, the inaugural Architecture and Design Film Festival was a smash hit with dozens of the 40+ films shown over last weekend sold out in advance, and the notables on five accompanying panels actually sticking around for the films and conversation that ran at the Tribeca Cinemas last weekend, among them Cooper Hewitt’s Bill Moggeridge, the Times’ Pilar Vilades, and AIA’s Rick Bell.