Most of us who frequent art exhibitions and museums have a certain pace at which we walk from one work to the next.
Faster or slower than that and it doesn’t feel right.
Now imagine walking through a space and having to wait for Work A to move out of the way before you get a glimpse of Work B.
It could either be one of those ‘how long is this going to take?’ experiences. Or it could be magical.
Ayşe Erkmen is an artist who investigates the history and the politics of the locations her work is sited at. This is interesting in the context of The Curve – a space that wraps around the back of the Barbican’s Hall while sitting above its backstage area. Playing on the idea of ‘behind the scenes’, Erkmen has created eleven scenic backdrops that are placed in quick succession across the narrow semicircle gallery. By raising and lowering these backdrops on an automated fly system, she creates a scenic walkthrough for vistors, often making them pause between backdrops as they wait for the one one ahead to rise up.
That the verso of each backdrop is matched by the front of the one ahead is poignant; almost making the visitor feel like they’ve been sandwiched between two works. Not being able to move around them is also key to the experience; you have no choice but to wait.
A powerful work that doesn’t succumb to our need for instant gratification, Intervals also covers different styles and traditions of theatre design across the carefully selected backdrops.
There’s something about the Adrián Villar Rojas exhibition that adds a sense of mystery to the new Serpentine Sackler Gallery. Titled Today We Reboot The Planet, Rojas’ work has consumed the Gallery, covering it’s floors and core with brick and concrete as if to give it a new form and life. And in doing this through his signature large scale installations, he explores several themes including those of the fossilised monument, the vulnerability of the natural versus the man-made, and art taking over a given space to add greater meaning.
The Serpentine Sackler Gallery in it’s newly renovated form and with an extension by Zaha Hadid Architects was built in 1805 and was originally used as a gun powder store. And at the heart of the Gallery are two vaulted passages that no doubt will be put to dynamic use by all exhibiting artists. Rojas himself has left one empty for visitors to walk through while the other contains a floor-to-ceiling presentation of the unfired clay sculptures he and his team have made during his residency in London. These numerous sculptures are misshapen and otherworldly, and are aimed at representing how human interference affects nature’s intent.
We love the brick floor, the way Rojas’ work sweeps across the space, and the fact that cracks, imperfections and unabashed vulnerability is celebrated in this display. Add to that the mystery of what the Gallery actually looks like given that most of the central area and floor have been taken over by this site-specific installation.
We’re still undecided about the Hadid extension wrapped around the corner of the historic building, but then it brings with it great potential as a cafe or events space. More on this soon as we’re going back to explore shortly.
The current Richard Rogers exhibition at the Royal Academy is deeply thoughtful and inspiring. And more than a historic documentation of all of Rogers’ projects, this retrospective offers a wealth of wisdom about being a socially conscious architect, in a way that Rogers thought architecture should be. In what took us three well-spent hours to walk through this display, here are some of Rogers’ ideas that remain with us several days later –
‘Architecture is too complex to be solved by any one person. Collaboration lies at the heart when different disciplines, from sociology to mathematics, engineering to philosophy, come together to create solutions.’
‘The scale of a building is not defined by its size alone, but by the articulation of its parts. To reduce the apparent bulk of the Pompidou, we created a façade that could catch and sculpt the light. A layered façade, not a wall, but a series of transparent screens, metal structures with terraces and balconies, one behind the other.’
‘My first government appointment after finishing the (Centre) Pompidou was to join the Board of Tate Gallery. Later I became Chairman. It was a wonderful experience surrounded by knowledgeable artist trustees: Tony Caro, Patrick Heron, Rita Donagh, but it was also in some ways an old-fashioned institution.
One of my last jobs was to sit on a small committee to appoint a new Director. I consider my greatest achievement to be appointing Nick Serota, a man who has totally changed the culture of art in this country.’
‘What I stand for is more important than what I have achieved.’
‘To bring about change you need to campaign constantly. Demonstrations, parliamentary speeches or the way you run your life and business could all be means at our disposal. It is equally important to campaign for the planting of a tree as for a just National Planning Policy.’
‘I shall leave this City not less but more beautiful than I found it” was the ancient Athenian citizen’s oath and is the driving ambition behind my work.’
‘No one is more integral to the clarity of a project than an enlightened client.’
‘Work is not an end in itself. A balanced life includes the enjoyment of leisure and time to think.’
‘In ‘open-minded’ spaces we are readier to meet people’s gaze and participate. These spaces give us something in common, bring together diverse sections of society and breed a sense of tolerance, awareness, identity and mutual respect.’
‘Our buildings are more like carefully designed indeterminate objects than frozen temples. Flexibility to meet the changing needs of a building over time is key to our design approach.’
‘Architecture is measured against the past, you build in the present and you try to imagine the future.’
‘Good design humanises. Bad design brutalizes.’
We love the explosion of colour that is Inside Out, the personality of Rogers’ that shines through, and the vibrant open room at the end of the exhibition with its wall covered with ‘Your Ideas for London’.
Don’t miss the poetic note written to Richard Rogers at birth by his uncle, the architect Ernesto Rogers.
Calling him ‘Dani’ it says,’Dani, beautiful baby, this is life – do you like it?
It goes on to have Ernesto describing himself –
‘In general I am likeable.
I am not handsome but I live to compensate the world,
forcing myself to invent beautiful things.’
And among other bits of wisdom, Ernesto tells Richard to,
Life is beautiful, life is curious
Many get confused and spend their lives eavesdropping through the door.
Break through the door!’
Such honesty is hard to come by. But when we do, it stays with us a long time.
Richard Ross is one of those photographers who’s work never fails to make us react, be it with empathy or a shudder. Two series of images that have elicited our strongest responses are Juvenile In Justice that documents the placement and treatment of American juveniles housed by law in prison-like facilities, and Architecture of Authority that captures the unsettling interiors of prison cells, detention facilities and spaces that are designed to exert obedience and influence over visitors that pass through their doors.
But the one set of images that made us smile, if only a slight ironic one, is his series Waiting For The End Of The World that documents underground shelters, built to protect humans (a lucky few) from a host of evils including a nuclear attack, the next world war, a possible alien invasion, and more images of Miley Cyrus twerking.
Ranging from those that have arrows that clearly point to their ‘secret’ location, come equipped with rocking chairs, balloons and pink cell doors, to those that are garnished with political propaganda and asbestos warnings, these shelters as Ross discovered, come in all shapes and styles.
Welcome to the world of Stephen Wright, the resting place for the discarded, the imperfect and the commemorated objects of the everyday.
Tucked away on a quiet East Dulwich street is Wright’s House of Dreams, a two storey house, the lower floor of which he has dedicated to his museum of everything, that is like no other we have seen.
Recently Wright was kind enough to take us around the House, a project he started in 1998 with his then partner Donald as a simple floor mosaic which gradually expanded into the nearby rooms to take on the form it currently has today – magical interiors where the walls and ceilings are covered with personal and found objects that commemorate life and death. When Donald passed away four years into the project, followed by the death of both of Wright’s parents, the House of Dreams took on greater significance and personal meaning.
As Wright took us through the rooms, he pointed to one of them which he said was complete. Every inch of the walls and ceilings was covered, and we couldn’t help but ask how he knew that the space was complete, and that he wouldn’t go back to a particular spot to change something. To which Wright said that there was nothing else he could add to it, it was finished, and that time being what it is, he had to move on to complete other parts of the house. This sense that there is always more to do and that we have limited time is something that the House of Dreams makes you think about. And by it’s very nature, where its existence is tied to its current location, we couldn’t help but get a strong awareness of the inevitability of change and mortality.
Wright who as an artist works with a wide range of materials from mosaics to fabrics, is strongly influenced by the folk art traditions of Mexico, South America and Asia. Feeling a strong connection to these cultures and especially their religious and spiritual iconography, his House of Dreams comes across not only as a representation of death and commemoration, but also a resting place where you are kept safely after you have fulfilled your purpose. While he sources most of the objects from markets and shops, he also has friends and visitors bringing him material to use. And sometimes this even happens to be belongings of a departed loved one.
Though death might be one of the obvious themes, the House is a colorful, celebratory environment, sprinkled with thought provoking passages from Wright’s notebooks, including one of the final passages he wrote after Donald’s passing. Reading these makes you realise how deeply personal this environment is to Wright.
Wright’s work is very much in line with French art environment builders Bodan Litnianski and Raymond Isidore who built La Maison Picassiette. And we couldn’t help but ask what his own living quarters upstairs were like. Are they as colourful and filled with objects as the House? Wright did reveal that he lives in a more regular environment, and he did move a lot of his work downstairs when he met his current partner Michael, an actor by profession who though not directly involved in Wright’s work completely understands the creativity and the passion he puts into the House.
The more we spoke with Wright, the more we got a sense that the House is his world, it is the London he exists in. The hustle and bustle of the big city is what he escapes and what he offers to people coming into the House. And with a lovely peaceful garden at the back, it is evident that Wright’s world is a paradox of busy colour but quiet contemplation.
When we asked about his inspiration, Wright revealed that the place he usually goes to a few times a year is the Great Dixter House & Gardens in East Sussex, which he finds very inspiring. And he also visits Paris where he has exhibited his work and where he often sources material for the House.
A definite must see if you’re exploring ideas of memory and death, the House of Dreams has been bequeathed to UK’s National Trust and Wright hopes it will continue to exist in its current form long after he is gone. It can be visited by appointment as well as on the next open day which is 7th September 2013.
We loved the House, Wright’s penchant for damaged dolls, his friendly and welcoming manner, and his honesty when he says he is still surprised that visitors come to visit the House from all across the world. But then no distance is too great for art aficionados to travel when they hear about an interesting project, and especially an environment as unique as the House of Dreams. They might be Wright’s dreams, but they are not so far from some of our own.
Here’s introducing a new series of guest posts called Friday Inspired, where some of our favorite creatives contribute ideas and images that have inspired them this past week.
Independent curator Veeranganakumari Solanki’s find this week is A Brief History of Modern Architecture through Movies –
“It’s like the movies!”
Incidents that seem unreal, dreams that come true, perfect settings for perfect situations – these are things that don’t occur on a daily basis (at least for most people), and when they do, we often compare them to being picture perfect or the utopic realisation from movies that we’ve seen or heard of. I recently came across this piece on “A Brief History of Modern Architecture through Movies”, which in fact reverses the above mentioned outlook and “Ways of Seeing” (John Berger would be glad!)
This post on Architizer takes one on a guided tour of architecture from Art Nouveau in Midnight in Paris all the way to Futurism in The Fifth Element! In a world of moving imagery and rapidly fading histories being swallowed with the progress of the future, this one’s a great find for architecture and movie buffs to pause time and recreate utopias! Travel through these movies to learn the history of architecture…
A.G. Rizzoli or Achilles Gildo Rizzoli as his full name stands, deserves a reverent stroll around the gallery, and in fact several back and forth’s and across the room’s.
A San Francisco resident, Rizzoli was born in 1896 and spent most of his life employed as an architectural draftsman. He was quintessentially what you would classify as a competent employee and a devoted son. Celibate for life and with few friends, Rizzoli was also a visionary artist whose work was only discovered several years after his death in 1981. Possessing a highly vivid imagination, his drawings depicted people and events as towers, cathedrals and various other architectural edifices, while skillfully marrying Art Deco, Rennaissance and a number of other architectural styles.
Rizzoli invented a world expo that he called Y.T.T.E. (Yield To Total Elation) that is featured in several of his drawings, journals and architectural plans. And he also hosted an annual exhibition from 1935 to 1940 at his home in San Francisco called the A.T.E. (Achilles Tectonic Exhibit). Sadly these exhibitions were not popular, attracting only a few visitors in the form of family members and the children who played on his street. But he documented nearly everyone who visited these exhibitions in his drawings, some of which are below.
While this is all very creative and fascinating, the most poignant aspect of his work is that Rizzoli was a man who found it easier to communicate with the world through his drawings; be it thanking someone who came to visit, or a little girl who liked his annual exhibition. And he made his drawings powerful and magnificently detailed, investing in them the very best parts of him, that he otherwise found hard and maybe impossible to share with anyone.
An artist who failed to receive any recognition during his life time, we’re delighted that Hayward Gallery has included him in the show. Our favorites are the cathedral-like Mother Symbolicly Represented, 1935 and the phallic shaped The Primal Glimpse at Forty, 1936 – Rizzoli drew this work as an immediate reaction to seeing the genitalia of a little girl on the street outside his house. Rizzoli remained celibate all his life and died an undiscovered genius in 1981.
“That you too may see something you’ve not seen before”
It takes some skill to imagine an empty Giardini in Venice, especially if you’ve visited over the last few months like we did for the ongoing Venice Biennale – Il Palazzo Enciclopedico. With tourists everywhere and just as many people as artworks within the various pavilions, it made us wonder what it would be like to have the place all to ourselves.
An acclaimed photographer with a background in architecture, Basilico (who passed away in February this year), devoted his career to photographing landscapes and space, with a special series on the Biennale pavilions in Venice. And these aptly accompany a brilliant anthology of essays titled Common Pavilions that debuted at the 2012 Architecture Biennale in Venice.
While the essays make for an excellent read (click on each image below), we can’t help but marvel at the stillness and grandeur of Basilico’s images. Sometimes it is the space that makes the art.
Sometimes you discover art so unbelievably mad, it’s brilliant.
And Richard Greaves falls into this category.
Part of the Alternative Guide to the Universe exhibition at Hayward Gallery (sadly only individual artists impress me rather than the exhibition as a whole), Greaves’ work has to be seen to be believed. But that would require a trip to Beauce, Quebec where he built over twenty of these structures on a plot of land that he and some friends purchased in the 1990’s.
So for now we’ll have to make do with some black and white images by Mario del Curto.
What makes Greaves special is that he takes dilapidated and abandoned structures apart, and puts them back together using twine and found material. Made in a unique Greaves’ style, these are structures that you can actually walk into and move around in. But I’d be a bit wary about doing this.
As lopsided as lopsided can get, these structures impress on me the fact that there is no box to stay within, other than the ones we make for ourselves. Even without following norms, there is a harmony to be found that can be uniquely yours. And looks like Greaves has found it.