Category:architecture

While trying not to steal his thunder, let me just post the awesomely vivid ending to LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne's review of Williams + Tsien's unavoidably flawed Philadelphia museum building now housing the art-centered educational institution known as The Barnes Foundation:

Imagine if the Barnes trustees, in the name of improved access to a supremely great but historically cloistered collection, had declared they were going to produce replicas of its paintings by Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani and Van Gogh and hang those in a new building on the parkway.

The howls of protest would have been loud and immediate. The idea wouldn't have lasted five minutes.

And yet the notion persists that re-creating buildings is somehow more reasonable or at least less obvious and that new rooms can be made to impersonate old ones without much aesthetic risk. That copies of paintings belong in gift shops and on refrigerators, where their fakeness is self-evident and salable, while copies of buildings can go blithely along pretending to be real. That architecture somehow is different.

Memo from Philadelphia: It's not. [Emphasis added for awesomeness.]

I got a million and 99 problems with The Barnes Foundation, but copying ain't one. Barnes's spaces and installations are geared entirely around the pedagogical system of close looking and cross-referencing which he oversaw. Which makes for a suboptimal museum because it was supposed to be a non-museum by design.

Meanwhile, I love that this fakeness all happens next door to the Rodin Museum, which is full of copies, thereby blithely refuting Hawthorne's analogy without making it any less valid.

Architecture review: A poor replica of Barnes Foundation museum [latimes]

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For issue 5+6 of Aspen: The Magazine in a Box (1967), guest editor/curator Brian O'Doherty conceived of a conceptual art exhibition in a box. [Which really should be staged in real space somewhere. Has it ever been?]

One of the first things you notice when you open the box is the little stack of cut and scored black matteboard, which is a make-it-yourself scale model of Tony Smith's The Maze (1957 1967).1 When assembled, if any ever were, the pieces formed four monolith-like blocks, which were to be placed in an open rectangle:

smith_ubu_mazeGrid2.gif

As is clear from the drawings, "The Maze" was originally designed for a particular space. Thus the pathways around the pieces as well as through it are an integral part of the design. For this reason it is a labyrinth rather than a monument.

I did not think of the symmetry of the piece as I was doing it, but I happened to notice when making the drawing that the central part is a five-foot square; the part including all the passages is a ten-foot square; then if you take the extension along the room, it is a fifteen-foot square. So it is a lot of expanding squares.

On the other hand if you take different divisions, for instance if you take all these squares and carry them through, they make a grid which interpenetrates-- the two sets of grids interpenetrate one another. In a certain sense it is a labyrinth of the mind. You can see that it becomes quite complex, but at the same time everything falls in very, very simply.

--Tony Smith

The Maze was designed for the exhibition Schemata 7, at Finch College Museum, May 1957 1967. The above statement has been adapted from the catalogue.

The actual dimensions of the modules were 6'8" by 10' by 30" (two modules) and 6'8"by 5'by 30" (two modules). The models have been scaled down to fit in this box. The models may be set up standing free on neutral ground. They should be set up in accordance with the plan indicated in the drawing. Those who wish to reproduce the work in its original dimensions (in metal or wood) may do so.

The individual pieces may be cut from the enclosed cardboards by a matte-knife (e.g. the General 850 available at any art supply store) guided by a metal ruler.

The parts should be attached as indicated i.e. the appropriate edges should be opposed to the grey areas. (Elmer's Glue All may be used). "White" edges should be darkened with ink or water color.

The drawing below may serve as a guide.

smith_ubu_maze_guide.gif

It's been more than 14 years since I discovered Aspen; 5+6 was the first, and for a long time the only, issue I could find. And it's almost ten years since I found the entire run of Aspen reproduced on Ubu.com, a move which brought Aspen out of unciteable obscurity. And now it's more than two years since I cooked up auraprogettazione, a comprehensive [sic] exhibition of the rare examples of instruction-based art work that the artist actually gave permission to make. And yet I only just now noticed that Smith authorized reproduction of The Maze. Has anyone ever done so? Before me, I mean, because I just added it to the list.

1: UPDATE So yeah, I thought 1957 was an extraordinarily early year for Smith to have exhibited an installation of four matte black minimalist sculptures, and at Finch College or anywhere. So Ubu's text is incorrect, and Smith's Maze was shown in Schemata 7 at Finch in May 1967, right around the time Aspen was published.

ANOTHER UPDATE Grace Glueck's May 14, 1967 review of the opening of Schemata 7 says the show's working title was "Walk-In Sculpture," and gave each of seven artists a chance to show their attitude "to scale and enspheric space." Of The Maze, Glueck wrote:

The room is kept in a subdued light and, though the scheme is simple, a walk among these gloomy, primeval presences evokes the feeling of an endless forest.
Sounds like a wildly different experience from the toy-sized cardboard model.

In addition to Smith, Schemata 7 featured work by Les Levine, Ursula Meyer, Brian O'Doherty, Will Insley, Michael Kirby and Charles Ross. So far, I can't find any installation shots of the original Finch version, but I'm on it.

UPDATE 3 And here's John Perreault's review of Schemata 7 for the Village Voice. He puts it in the context of pioneering minimalism shows like Primary Structures, which had just happened a few months earlier in 1966. Still no pics, though.

Reuters' Jorge Duenes' cropped aerial shot of a 300-acre marijuana plantation "discovered" in Mexico last July that The Atlantic's InFocus photoblog ran today was dramatic and awesome enough to make me want to see the full thing.

Here it is:
pot01_duenes_reuters.jpg

Stunning, right? Ellsworth Kelly himself couldn't have done better. But the full caption bears analyzing a little more closely:

An aerial view shows parts of the biggest marijuana plantation ever found in Mexico, in San Quintin, about 350 km (220 mi) away from Tijuana, on July 13, 2011. Mexican soldiers discovered the plantation in a remote desert, a top army officer said on Thursday. Soldiers patrolling the area found 300 acres (120 hectares) of pot plants being tended by dozens of men.
Because I have a hard time seeing how parts of it can be simultaneously true. For the plantation to be in the "remote desert" and in "San Quintin," for example. Or for it to be in "San Quintin" and "discovered."

350km from Tijuana does sound remote. But San Quintin turns out to be on the northern part of the Baja Peninsula, the part where the highway runs between the mountains and the sea. On Google Maps, it's clear the landscape is characterized by agriculture--and airstrips. To still be in San Quintin, the terrain in Duenes' photos almost certainly has to be just off the main highway, and one of the largest crops of any kind in town. Saying it was discovered, then, implies that its existence was not known beforehand, which, holding other factors constant, seems impossible.

Still, the important thing is, it does look awesome.

Well that's an unexpectedly awkward situation I just stumbled into.

greycube.jpg
greycu.be: what, you mean your car doesn't have a domain name?

A week or so ago, I decided my new car needed a domain name. So I registered greycu.be. Partly because the tweeters these days are all hot for the short URLs. But mostly because my car, a little art hauler and storage unit runner, is a Scion xB. Which is the perfect canvas upon which to realize my previously all-talk idea of commissioning artists to do vinyl wrap art cars. [additional posts here, here, and unfortunately, here.]

Needless to say, greycu.be was available. But it did get me to thinking, so I threw whitecu.be into the whois search for the Belgian DNS operator. And it wasn't registered, per se, but "quarantined." A 40-day limbo following the non-renewal of a domain name on dns.be. Which went until April 1. And sure enough, when I checked in this evening, whitecu.be had been released. So I registered it.

inside_white_cube.jpgI confess I have no plans for it at this point. And also that buying it was motivated partly by the sheer novelty of being able to buy a domain name again after it has expired, something the shady/annoying backorder/resale adsquatting "services" in the US domainspace have made basically impossible. [I happen to be at least the second owner of greg.org; the first, an outfit called Global Real Estate Group, had let it expire in 1997.]

But even in this somewhat oddly punctuated, awkwardly unpronounceable incarnation [whitecu dot be? whitecu point be? whitecu pwahn be? It just doesn't work, except as web text], a chance to connect with one of the foundational paradigms of contemporary art theory was too awesome to pass up.

Since they first appeared in Artforum in 1976, Brian O'Doherty's essays, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space have provided a powerful critical framework for examining the impact of the commercial art market on the creation and exhibition of art. Even 35 years on, artists grapple every day with the political and financial implications of the white cube, which persists as the central site of art's instantiation as a commoditized luxury good.

Which has been deeply influential on my own education and experience with art, and with my history as a collector, and more recently as a writer and maker.

elmdrag_white_cube.jpg
Powerless Structures No. 15/12 Hours of White Paint, 1997, Elmgreen & Dragset

Which is presumably why, in 1993, Jay Jopling chose to name his London gallery White Cube. Now he has three, and they're among the most important and well-known in town. Their website is whitecube.com.

Which would seem plenty clear, distinct, and obvious, unlike, say, whitecu.be. Yet it turns out that Jay did not think so. Or at least he thought that the artist and gallery portfolio hosting service that went up on whitecu.be last year looked a little too similar to his gallery's web presence. Or that any reference to a white cube was de facto confusing to his 2008 [!] trademark on the term. Because he filed a trademark infringement claim with dns.be against the service's creators attempting to have the domain name canceled.

the_cube_jim_henson.jpg
Still from The Cube, a 1969 NBC teleplay by Jim Henson about a guy who finds himself stuck in a white cube.

The site's creators, a pair of young designers in Florida, prepared a lengthy response to Jopling's claim, but apparently they did not formally respond to it. And so the third-party arbitrator appointed by dns.be issued an extraordinary ruling in Jopling's favor. The findings for which seem to ignore the entire basis of the domain name and TLD system:

The mere fact that the Licensee inserted a full stop between the letters "cu" and "be" is not likely to outweigh the massive similarities and the replications of all the letters contained in the Complainant's trademark, in the same order, with the same meaning.
And which also ignores the highly significant, and widespread common use of the term "white cube" in an art context and its history which predates Jopling's commercial use and [very recent] trademark claim for the term. And which ubiquity was, in fact, the reason Jopling chose it.
The existence of legitimate interests in the litigious domain name appears quite dubious...
And then there's a remarkable finding of bad faith:
It is obvious from the record that the intention of the Licensee was to divert internet users from the domain name by creating a likelihood of confusion with the Complainant's trademark.

It is the opinion of the Third party decider that this clearly constitutes a case of typo squatting, with the intent of commercial gain and potential damage for the distinctive character or the reputation of the Complainant's trademark.

Well, I still don't know how to say it, or what it'll be used for, but the new owners of whitecu.be can assure you that it will not be in the business of being mistaken for Jay Jopling's fine and reputable establishment. Which is at the obvious, widely known, and easily pronounced whitecube.com.

March 28, 2012

Mass, Grass & Claes

hirshhorn_grass_claes.jpg

Yes, we now have Doug Aitken, which might help, and there's an After Hours party every quarter, but the Hirshhorn's outdoor space has always struck me as one of the most potentially interesting and under-utilized public spaces for contemporary art in Washington.

But just when I think nothing ever gets moved around here, I stumble across this interesting pattern burned into the lawn behind Claes Oldenburg's Geometric Mouse. It looks like it could be a Paul Chan floor projection or something but it's just the bleached out footprint of whatever zig-zag sculpture used to be there. I'm trying to remember what was...

hirshh_aitken_test1.jpg

We came out of the Hirshhorn tonight after the surprise [to me] screening of Space is Process, a 2010 documentary about Olafur Eliasson, only to find they were testing Doug Aitken's Song1, a 360-degree projection on the barrel of the museum.

hirshh_aitken_test2.jpg

I had been worried about how well buff-colored aggregate would hold up as a projection surface, but I tell you, it looked pretty great. Amazing, even.

And seeing it suddenly makes you wonder--and by you, I mean me--why doesn't the Hirshhorn project things on the surfaces of the buildings more often? You know what, why not all the time?

hirshh_aitken_test3.jpg

And that leads to the next logical question: what should be projected on the Hirshhorn?

Song1 is a hypnotic, laconic, melancholic sequence of closeups of an LA Basinful of people singing "I Only Have Eyes For You," intercut with abstract CG motion graphics. Its narrative doesn't seem anywhere as complex as the multi-screen Sleepwalker, projected on MoMA, but it seems thoughtful, and definitely works as a beautiful proof-of-concept.

But. So.

What else is going on the Hirshhorn Channel? The potential [or maybe the temptation] for agitprop and politically charged artworks seems either irresistible or anathema, depending no how involved one is in wooing Congress. The Hirshhorn and the Smithsonian at large are likely not interested in actually biting any hands that feed them.

hirshh_aitken_test4.jpg

And starting Thursday night at 8pm, that strategic non-engagement pact will be on view from the Mall in full, dazzling force.

March 12, 2012

Leonardo Photomural

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image: DARIO THUBURN - AFP/GETTY IMAGES, see washpost for fullsize

There has been much talk among such circles about the possibility of a lost, unfinished mural by Leonardo da Vinci hidden behind a fresco by Giorgio Vasari, in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence.

Leonardo's original work, The Battle of Anghiari, executed in 1504, was replaced in 1564 by Vasari's 5-fresco cycle. But art historians following an interpretation of a clue in one mural discovered it was painted on a false brick wall, and there was an airspace behind it.

And now there is also paint. National Geographic, which purchased the exclusive first rights to the controversial investigation, today announced the discovery of Leonardo-era pigments in the hidden airspace.

The press conference was held in front of the mural[s], which were covered by a giant, digitally printed photomural, actually a detail of a Rubens drawing of the Leonardo original.

If there is, in fact, a Leonardo back there, which has been hidden, or even lost, for nearly 500 years, I honestly don't see the hurry to uncover it now. Critics of the project are right to protest the possible damage or destruction of the Vasari the search--or worse, the discovery--may inflict. But if we have, in just the last few years, developed the tools to detect the space and the Leonardo, isn't it best to sit tight, and wait for technology that can preserve both artworks intact?

At least just wait like a hundred years or so, for the current crop of Da Vinci Code knuckleheads to die off. And in the mean time, why not just put up a giant photomural version of Rubens' copy? 99.9% of the 8 million visitors who'd see it each year wouldn't mind--or even notice.

leonardo_vasari_yoder-getty.jpg
Sen. John Kerry and team use a probe to look for what they believe may be Leonardo's Battle of Anghiari behind a fresco at Florence's town hall. Photograph: Dave Yoder/AFP/Getty Images

Art historians say they have found evidence of 'hidden' Leonardo da Vinci [guardian via galbraith's twitter]

andrea_bosio_gsv_domus.jpg

Jon Rafman's got his 9 Eyes, but maybe what we really need is a 5 Stages of Google Street View, something to account for the process by which people awaken to the aesthetic, social, conceptual, and ultimately, political implications of Google's worldmapping project.

Urban architecture photographer Andrea Bosio has passed Stage 1: Looking up your own house on GSV, and has managed to turn Stage 2: Visiting famous places--in his case, name brand architecture--into a photo essay for Domus:

I have always used Google's Satellite and Street View system to view cities and principally to identify the urban drift areas featured in some of my photographic projects. In these cases, I use software as if it were a map made of pictures to find my way through the reality at times of direct experience. This is also the approach I adopted for the photographic project presented here although, on this occasion, the subject of my shots was the representation of the city supplied by Google Street View on my computer screen. I treated this new pixelated reality as a territory up for exploration and managed to compile a true photographic record of it by selecting different points of observation in this virtual space. I photographed the city without ever actually being there.
Which, shooting screens, hmm. Also: "We are able to experience the reality in an objective and non-interpretative portrayal." Which, hmm.

At least Bosio demonstrates the potential of GSV for creating postcard views.

I've never been there, by Andrea Bosio [domusweb.it]

John Powers has been on me for months to read ">Nicholas de Monchaux's Fashioning Apollo, the incredible and unlikely history of the development of the Apollo spacesuits.

And I have been meaning to, I swear, but this insane photo may be just the thing to push me over the edge. Because in his otherwise heady interview with de Monchaux, Geoff Manaugh only captions the images as being from the book.

Which I will have to buy, to find out what this three-story dolly was doing in this massive, origami-ended space lined with sound-deadening foam pyramids. Because seriously, holy smokes.

Spacesuit Interview with Nicholas de Monchaux [bldgblog]

riedel_zwirner_artinfo.jpg
[image via artinfo]

A little Anastasi, a little Lawler, a little Shore, a little Fischer, a little Albenda. I wonder what color Michael Riedel's awesome photomural in Zwirner's booth will be by the time I get to the Armory show?

riedel_zwirner_install_artnet.jpg
[image via artnet]

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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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Category: architecture

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