Category:architecture

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Well there we are, then. Bob Rubin got the prize, the 50-foot prototype of Buckminster Fuller's Fly's Eye Dome, which he's now restored and will unveil to the world in May-June at the Festival International d'Art in Toulouse, which used to be Printemps de Septembre, but is now actually in the Spring, and Printemps de Printemps was obviously not going to work, so. Whatever they call it, and whenever it is, this is a junket I will accept.

Anyway, The Architect's Newspaper has the story, which Phaidon's hype-y account distorted beyond recognition.

Max Protetch had been working these domes since at least 2008, and the Buckminster Fuller Institute sold the 10-ft prototype to Norman Foster, and the 24-ft version to Miami developer Craig Robins, who Miami'd the hell out of that thing in 2011.

With architectural expertise and sympathy running as deep as his pockets, Rubin is probably the best guy to take this on. And though Fuller's original engineering consultants Daniel Reiser and John Warren are involved, there's no luxury yachtmaker mentioned. So maybe Rubin's restoration will have some historical sensitivity.

Meanwhile, I will console myself with the knowledge that since the 50-foot dome is the only one you could conceivably live in, if I'd bought it, I would have been tempted to make unconscionable ahistorical modifications to it. Like windows. And a door. So I'm better off with a repro.

Robert Rubin restoring a monumental Buckminster Fuller dome. [archpaper via bfi via phaidon wtf via @wefindwildness]

Previously:
2011 Fuller's Fly's Eye Dome Gets Miami Makeover
2008 Welcome to the Fly's Eye Dome

January 16, 2013

Levi's Street View

Whether the uncanny valley is the right metaphor, or seeing a dog walking, something still feels weird about seeing store interiors on Google Street View. I'm sure that'll change, and one day we'll all be holoshopping without ever leaving our pods, our purchases delivered by robot Google vans, and people will struggle to remember the last time they even looked at the Street View part of Street View, much less actually went anywhere.

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But that day is not yet. And the workings of Store View are still odd and/or unknown, and thus interesting. For example, here is the Levi's store on West 34th St, tweeted by @ManBartlett.

Maybe the making of is interesting only in contrast to the entire concept of a surfable depopulated chain store filled with mountains of indistinguishable jeans. Or is it just me? Can you barely contain your excitement for the day when you can virtually fall into all 5,000 Gaps?

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Anyway, let's look around. They have image date now [Feb. 2012]. Is that new? Obviously, with high merchandise turnover, you'd want to keep that relatively fresh. Store View will become just one more monthly/seasonal expense for a retailer. I see they don't blur the faces of either the models or the mannequins. It'd be kind of cooler if they did. Even ironically?

Or better if the Street View blur turned up in someone's IRL in-store/ad campaign. Oh, damn, there's your pitch right there, creative director: some street style photoblogger is "captured" at work by the GSV car. A Street [View] style blog. BAM. Embed those shoots all over town. A viral bonanza.

Look at me, revolutionizing advertising when I'm supposed to be reviewing pano stitching algorithms. These panos sure are distortion-free. A major advance? The benefit of shooting undisturbed in ideal conditions? Hey, what's that at the bottom of the picture up there? A tripod leg.

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And here's the whole, stitched thing. That is very nice. Here it is again, this time with a shadow.

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This is not a camera on wheels. It's on the tripod, single vantage point for every pano, operator out of the way. That's why there are no distortions. And the only evidence of the process is the legs.

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Which, again, are rather nice. Kind of kaleidoscopic, with a blend of in-focus tips and blurry legs. Soon enough, these Matrix deja vu cat-level distortions will disappear, and the differences between real and virtual will be mistaken for mist, or heat waves rising from the sidewalk.

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Zooming right into Grotjahn country here. This is sweet. Looks like this pano sphere has maybe 48 slices, each 7.5 degrees? In satelloonmaking, they're called gores. What do they call them in panoramic photos?

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January 15, 2013

Brought A Trailer

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I hate malls in general, Tyson's in particular, and Tyson's at Christmas most of all. So I was beyond annoyed that it was the nearest/soonest Genius Bar appointment when the foot came off my laptop.

All was forgiven, though, when I saw this slightly amazing portable building. An office module on a trailer.

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I do not know what it was for--I didn't notice that now-obvious sign by the steps. And I don't know whether to put it in the tiny home, prefab, shipping container, or cabin porn category.

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It's really one space on the inside. With a window unit A/C, a little bit of a hack. It looked a little shabby, i.e., used, broken in, so it presumably wasn't [just?] a materials/color mockup for reskinning a nearby office building.

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If it's a temporary building, though, such as one might find on a giant construction site like the one enveloping the entire Tyson's Corner area, we should definitely give credit where it's due; this thing is far sweeter than the standard issue site office.

The sad part is, now that I've insulted their mall, I feel bad about calling and asking what it's for. Maybe someone else can be the citizen journalist here and cold call the mall with a, "What's this awesome thing I saw on the internet?? You guys are so awesome!"

January 9, 2013

Supreme Sforza

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image: protestor in front of the US Supreme Court on Jan. 8, 2013, the 11th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo prison. by Saul Loeb for AFP/Getty

I've been meaning for a couple of weeks now to post a photo of the extraordinary construction scrim on the front of the US Supreme Court, which has a full-scale photo reproduction of the actual building. Here we go, since this tweet:

I had no idea. So I looked it up. And was troubled by the fact that I had no idea it had been in place since last May. During the 21-month west facade stone restoration project, "The scaffolding and ongoing conservation work will be concealed by a scrim that will mimic the Court's architecture."

The Supreme Court building was designed by Cass Gilbert with John Rockart, and completed only in 1935. From its overall classical Greek temple design to the sculptures on the facades to the smallest ornamentations of the bronze flagpoles and handrails, is highly symbolic. As Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes said at the laying of the cornerstone in 1932, its very creation and existence are symbolic:

The Republic endures and this is the symbol of its faith...the national ideal of justice in the highest sphere of activity.
So it is entirely appropriate, then, to take a symbolic view of the scrim as well, and its illusionistic simulation of Equal Justice Under Law. As symbolic curtains go, it's the most inadvertently damning drapery since Colin Powell covered up the UN Security Council's Guernica tapestry in 2003.

The anniversary of Guantanamo coincided with the unreleased ruling in the hearing on Pvt. Bradley Manning's illegal and abusive detention without charge. The cancer of vengeance and torture that the US government first directed only toward foreign others has spread to its treatment of our country's citizens.

And so the thing that gets me about Saul Loeb's photo above is not the hooded Abu Ghraib/GTMO/Fort Meade protestor, or the Court's photogenic tarp, but the police officers spread long the steps between them.

Interesting, related, and surprisingly full of scare quotes for a 2009 show: Ben Street's review of Goshka Macuga's Whitechapel installation about Guernica, which included the UN tapestry.

Via the Hirshhorn via Art21 comes a nice two-way interview between Barbara Kruger and Richard Prince, originally published in BOMB Magazine in 1982, that ends:

RP I'm misinformed about style. I always thought it had to do with being able to wear the same kind of a jacket for ten years. I don't know. What I wonder is . . . is it possible to have style and be unreasonable at the same time?

BK I think unreasonableness can mean any number of possible locations nearer or further away from the idea of reason. Because many of these positions are already coded, their shock value is tempered by style. A lot of times the idea of transgression really turns on a romantic conception of otherness; of a rebellion already tolerated. You know, the charming rogue, the picaresque cuteness of the bull in the china shop and in the art world, badness invades the atelier. Driving limos through heavy neighborhoods to look at the graffiti. Unstylish unreasonableness may be limited to the categories of the insane and the unpleasant (the poor, the unbeautiful, the unempowered). The non-romanticism of these kinds of otherness makes them unsightly and "vulgar" considerations for the polite company of international bohemia.

This image of limos driving "through heavy neighborhoods to look at the graffiti" is great in itself, but it also reminded me of an anecdote from, of all people, Jasper Johns.

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Jasper Johns, Harlem Light, 1967, image "taken. It's not mine."

It's about the genesis of a motif that first appears in a 1967 painting, Harlem Light [above]. Here's the version from Michael Crichton's 1977 catalogue for Johns' Whitney retrospective, which is still the most engrossing Johns book I've seen. And I've seen a lot:

Johns was taking a taxi to the airport, traveling through Harlem, when he passed a small store which had a wall painted to resemble flagstones. He decided it would appear in his next painting. Some weeks later when he began the painting, he asked David Whitney to find the flagstone wall, and photograph it. Whitney returned to say he could not find the wall anywhere. Johns himself then looked for the wall, driving back and forth across Harlem, searching for what he had briefly seen. He never found it, and finally had to conclude that it had been painted over or demolished. Thus he was obliged to re-create the flagstone wall from memory. This distressed him. "What I had hoped to do was an exact copy of the wall. It was red, black, and gray, but I'm sure that it didn't look like what I did. But I did my best."

Explaining further, he said: "Whatever I do seems artificial and false, to me. They--whoever painted the wall--had an idea; I doubt that whatever they did had to conform to anything except their own pleasure. I wanted to use that design. The trouble is that when you start to work, you can't eliminate your own sophistication. If I could have traced it, I would have felt secure that I had it right. Because what's interesting to e is the fact that it isn't designed, but taken. It's not mine."

Crichton goes on to discuss the "small differences" that go unnoticed, and which are lost in creating from scratch. And of flagstones, like flags, an ideal Johnsian image," which are found and known and abstract and concrete. Seriously, I could just keep quoting from that book all day.

But instead, I'm going to try to make sense of Kruger's next sentence, "Unstylish unreasonableness may be limited to the categories of the insane and the unpleasant (the poor, the unbeautiful, the unempowered)."

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On July 11, 2006, on the floor of the US House of Representatives, Congressman Steve King, Republican from Iowa, presented a model of "a fence and a wall" he had designed. It was a site-specific proposal, to be located on the US-Mexico border.

The fence/wall could be built, Mr. King explained, using a slipform machine to lay a concrete foundation in a 5-foot deep trench cut into the desert floor, a gesture that immediately brings to mind the Earth Art interventions of Michael Heizer. Pre-cast concrete panels, Post-minimalist readymades 10 feet wide and 13 feet high, could be dropped in with a crane.

"Our little construction company," Mr. King said, referring to the King Construction Company, which he founded, and which was then being run by his son, "could build a mile a day of this, once you got the system going."

Mr. King demonstrated the construction of the wall using his tabletop model, made of cardboard boxes, silver-painted wood slats, and a couple of feet of coiled wire [representing the wall's crown of concertina wire, which would be electrified "with the kind of current that would not kill somebody...we do that with livestock all the time."]

It's true that the remarkable simplicity of the design and the economy of the materials resonate the work of Richard Tuttle. But in the scale and especially the form, King seems to be making a conscious reference to the early work of Anne Truitt.

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Seven, 1962, image: annetruitt.org

Obviously, at some point after his arrival in Washington in 2003, King studied the iconic Truitts in local collections: the highly fence-like First (1961) [at the Baltimore Museum] and slab-on-plinth structures like Insurrection (1962) [at the Corcoran]. But even I was surprised to see King make such an explicit homage to Truitt's Seven (1962) [above, collection of the artist's estate].

Much like Christo and Jeanne-Claude, King conceived of his site-specific fence/wall to be temporary, at least conceptually:

You could take it back down. If somehow they got their economy working and got their laws working in Mexico we could pull this back out just as easy as we could put it in. We could open it up again or we could open it up and let livestock run through there, whatever we choose.
Whatever we choose. Thus the fence/wall becomes a symbol of American freedom.

According to the Congressional Record, Mr. King, appearing as an expert witness, exhibited his Study For A Fence And A Wall again a week later, in a joint hearing of the House Committees of Homeland Security and Government Reform.

The current whereabouts of King's model is not immediately clear, but I guess I could call about it. Meanwhile, I would love to see this work realized at full scale, if only temporarily, where it was conceived: right here in Washington DC. Perhaps in the National Gallery's sculpture garden, or along one of the sketchier sections of Pennsylvania Avenue, where dangerous elements threaten Our Freedoms.

January 2017 inevitable update: Oh how we did not need to worry that this work might not have survived. On Jan. 13 Congressman King tweeted out a photo with it, and the new appointee for DHS. Study was installed on his coffee table in his office. It will be noted that it has a new base, set in unpainted wood feet, presumably a pair. The articulation of the wall at the ground and the underground footing are now fully visible. The box representing the desert floor, and the notch, where "you put a trench in the desert floor." are not seen. What was once site-specific is now available for installation anywhere, I guess. Though it's really tough to say at the moment.

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I really don't know what else to call this, and there's nothing I can think to say about it, except that I came across these two press photos, shot many years and miles apart, of men jumping up to touch a new sculpture.

The first, from 1961, shows Atlanta mayor William Hartsfield testing a mobile in the terminal of the airport that would eventually bear his name. It's for sale here from Historic Images:

hartsfield_mobile_1961_hi.jpg

The second shows an unidentified office worker in the sunken plaza of the McGraw-Hill Building, part of the Rockefeller Center expansion finished in 1972, trying to reach the tip of Athelstan Spilhaus's sculpture, Sun Triangle. It's for sale here:

sun_triangle_rockctr_hi.jpg

The photo has no date, but Sun Triangle was installed in 1973, which matches those folks' look. Better known as a scientist than as a sculptor, Spilhaus aligned the sides of Sun Triangle to align with the sun on the equinoxes and solstices. He was also the guy behind the balloon that crashed in Roswell in 1947.

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I recently came across this photo of Louis Kahn's "Monument To The Six Million Jewish Martyrs," which, I had no idea. And it was to be built in New York City, Battery Park, to be exact, and was perhaps the last best chance for an apparently serially disastrous effort to build a Holocaust memorial in the city. Ultimately, of course, the city did get the Jewish Memorial Museum in the 1990s, in Battery Park.

There is no doubt a story to tell about the tumultuous history of that process. And I'm sure someone has already written a decisive history of how people attempted to grapple with the Shoah and Holocaust as history, and how and when those concepts took hold. Because they're absent from the contemporary discussion of this memorial. But what really sticks with me is the story and particulars of Kahn's memorial design, and how resonant it seems with memorials followed it.

Kahn was recommended by an Art Advisory Committee [via Philip Johnson] that had been brought in in 1966 to help the Committee to Commemorate the Six Million Jewish Martyrs solve their seemingly impossible charge: creating a suitable memorial to genocide. The NY Times' architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable complained that the previous designs were full of "wrenching angst" in which "the agony and the art were almost too much to bear."

After the City Art Commission approved it, Kahn's 6-foot model was put on impromptu display in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art for month, from Oct-Nov. 1968. Which is when Huxtable praised as architecture and sculpture "of the highest order":

In an age that has made a flat mockery of conventional memorial values and platitudes, Mr. Kahn's solution is a cool, abstract, poetic, powerful and absolute statement of the unspeakable tragedy. It could rank with the great works of commemorative art in which man has attempted to capture spirit, in symbol. for the ages.
And in case you needed any more reminder that memorials are as much an expression of the time they're created, not just the history they mark, here's Huxtable's final judgment:
The generation that lived through the time and events the monument proposes to commemorate will never forget them. We have that memorial seared in our souls.

The generations that are innocent of this kind of totalitarianism and ultimate tragedy will find no monument meaningful. That is one of the anachronisms of art and history in an age of violence.

This memorial could work, as art and as history, and as a lasting expression of the human spirit. In a nihilistic, value-destroying society, that is no mean artistic accomplishment.

Yow, no Summer of Love here.

Kahn's Monument was to consist of seven 10x10 squares, 11 feet high, made entirely of elongated, cast glass brick, and arranged 2-3-2 on a 66-ft square grey granite plinth. [His original design, presented to the Committee in 1967, called for nine 12x12x15 squares in a grid. I think the switch to 6+1 was a way to Judaize and particularlize the memorial's content.] The translucent bricks meant that the blocks would change with light, weather, and the presence and movement of people around the site. Only the center cube would be inscribed and accessible; as Kahn put it, "The one, the chapel, speaks; the other six are silent."

I think Kahn's 1967 proposal is at least one of the earliest, if not the first, deployments of Minimalism in a memorial context. Or maybe Post-Minimalism is more accurate, since Kahn's evocative forms and their deliberate emotional and experiential evocations were anathema to the objective Gestaltism of orthodox Minimalism as it was being argued out at the time.

If the history of using a Minimalist formal vocabulary for intractable memorials typically began with Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial, then Kahn's Monument pushes it back 15 years--to the conflict-torn heart of the Vietnam era. And though it wasn't realized as he envisioned, Kahn's proposal was influential. It's the best explanation I can see for for the use of glass block in New York State's disappointing Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Water Street in lower Manhattan. [That memorial's plaza siting was probably also influenced by Huxtable's unequivocal condemnation of the Battery Park site for Kahn's memorial, an insurmountable criticism which probably doomed the design she praised so highly.] More directly, though, Kahn seems like a direct progenitor for the two most prominent Holocaust memorials built in Europe to date.

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Kahn's formal references to the silenced, the room-scale, and the bookshelf-like bands of glass brick are all echoed in Rachel Whiteread's Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial, where a ghostly library of books the city's murdered Jews will never write stands on a plinth in a public square in Vienna. Whiteread's memorial has obvious precedents in her own sculptural practice, and I've never seen her mention Kahn as an inspiration, so it's entirely possible that these resonances are natural and widely held, and which the artist and architect arrived at separately.

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Amazing shot of Peter Eisenman at the 2004 opening of his Berlin Memorial from Mark Godfrey's book, Abstraction and The Holocaust

I can't believe that's what went down, however, with Peter Eisenman and Richard Serra. From its central formal device--passages between impenetrable, figure-dwarfing blocks--to its title, Memorial to the Six MIllion Murdered Jews of Europe, Eisenman and Serra [who subsquently removed his name from the project] had to have been very familiar with Kahn's proposal, and with the politically fraught development process that spawned it.


Oh, look, Mark Godfrey's 2007 book Abstraction and the Holocaust has an entire chapter on Kahn's Monument. [amazon, google books]
Anthony Vidler wrote about Kahn's memorials [cooper.edu]
The Louis Kahn Collection at UPenn has drawings and a different model of the memorial. [upenn.edu]

I really shouldn't do this, but there are just too many for me to hoover up by myself.

eBay seller Lexibell currently has a big stash of vintage press photos from the Denver Post that includes hundreds of pictures from and about the Denver Art Museum.

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Among the highlights, this March 1970 shot of the Museum's highly anticipated, Gio Ponti--designed art fortress. Post staff photographer Duane Howell's photo ran with a story that in fact, the museum folks were so excited they couldn't wait until the building's scheduled completion in 1971, so they were holding their gala there in April.

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Stunning Judd aluminum boxes on the roof of Ponti's completed building in 1971. You're only seeing this now because I bought it, obviously.

Here's Ed Sielsky's 1969 photo of Don Bell looking through a chromium & glass "cube" by "designer" Larry Bell:

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Several shots of Carol Walmsley ["Carol Walmsley likes her job."]

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and her Colorado Artrek big rig, a museum-in-a-semi that she drove around the state, bringing exhibitions and educational programs to citizens beyond Denver.

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Which is perhaps inspired by the NEA's 1971 project, Art Fleet, which was supposed to take masterpieces around to the people in trucks and inflatable dome pavilions. But which never happened.

Meanwhile, back in Denver, there are other party pics, including lots of shots of festive hats from the 1951 Mad Hatters Ball. This one looks postively Calder tin can Christmas Tree-esque:

denver_mad_hatters_2.jpg

denver_museum_mad_hatters.jpg

And to close it out, here's a Jan. 1987 shot by Brian Brainerd captioned, "Celebrities ponder art at the Denver Art Museum." And yes, that is then-museum director Richard Teitz with/near Ted McGinley with Shawn Weatherly, at a pivotal moment in their careers between Revenge of the Nerds and Married With Children and Police Academy 3 and Baywatch, respectively:

denver_museum_celebrities.jpg

And there are currently 700 more like this.

Ian Volner's spec-heavy article in Architecture Magazine gives a nice hook to finally post about Lo-Tek's shipping container project, the Whitney Studio.

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image: Ian Allen, no relation, via archmag

As pioneers in the medium, Ada and Giuseppe know how awful shipping containers can be as built spaces, and they are very skilled at countering the geometric claustrophobia. The diagonal slices of the window and mezzanine are somehow unexpected and obvious, and they really work nicely shoehorned all into and against Breuer's building.

lo-tek_whit_studio_before.jpg

Which is kind of a bummer, because, where's it going to go when the Whitney decamps for the meatpacking district? As an object, it has its own validity, but it really does get a lot from its crazy site, and that tension will be lost when it is plopped down on some trustee's rolling lawn.

And don't look at me to buy it: the Whitney Studio's just one more in a series of post-museum modular houses I am not collecting. Besides, I think stacking the bedroom containers on top of the Whitney Studio would ruin its cube-y goodness.

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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about this archive

Category: architecture

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Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
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It Narratives, incl.
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
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Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
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YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
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"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
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Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
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Prince YES RASTA:
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