Grosse negligence

  Katharina Grosse's temporary public art installation in the Rockaways paired with Roberto Cavalli's Kimono-print gown.

There she goes again: After a series of recent interventions in the tri-state area, Berlin-based Katharina Grosse has applied her large-scale locational painting to a neglected Fort Tilden aquatics building in the Rockaways of Queens. The structure’s decay has been sublimely derailed by her spray-painting technique: A fuchsia phoenix, ready to rise (or fall—the building is slated for demolition). Exploding notions of traditional landscapes and sculptures, Grosse traipses beyond the strictures of form to include, in this instance, the sand, trees, sea grass and pavement surrounding the beachside hovel, ultimately creating an interfacing composition that sprawls with motion and gumption.

This temporary public art piece is part of Rockaway!, an ongoing collaborative program presented by MoMA PS1 alongside the Rockaway Artists Alliance that began in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Two summers ago found solo projects by Patti Smith, Adrián Villar Rojas, and Janet Cardiff as well as a group show at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Grosse’s contribution continues the bold momentum of the Rockaways’ creative resurgence.

Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA PS1 director and Rockaway! mastermind, invited Grosse to the peninsula after seeing her work for Prospect.1 in New Orleans, “where she painted a small house that was abandoned and condemned after Hurricane Katrina,” he told designboom.com. “I was deeply moved that a building just waiting to be taken down was given this temporary, proud, and fragile beauty. When I heard that the aquatics building in Fort Tilden was to be demolished following Hurricane Sandy, I immediately wanted to invite Katharina to do a project at the site.”

A stunning sunset for a forlorn structure.

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Mists of time

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 2.51.16 PM Another moment of aesthetic solace from Versailles, this time in the form of a misty halo. “Fog Assembly” fills the Star Grove with a nebulous yet grounded cloud, an elemental installation designed to “amplify the feelings of impermanence and transformation.” Shrouded so, the formal landscape becomes subsumed by experience. All part of Olafur Eliasson's plan: Stop your dazzled consumption, take control, the moment is yours alone to author.

Historically, the royal court at Versailles was a place of constant observation – of oneself and of others; the strict social norms of the time were enforced through a web of gazes. The Baroque architecture of the palace served to heighten visibility, becoming a stunning instrument of power held exclusively by the king. Today, however, we look at Versailles differently, and when I visit the site, I ask myself: how do you, the visitor, view this iconic site? What does it do to you? Have we all become king? The Versailles that I have been dreaming up is a place that empowers everyone. It invites visitors to take control of the authorship of their experience instead of simply consuming and being dazzled by the grandeur. It asks them to exercise their senses, to embrace the unexpected, to drift through the gardens, and to feel the landscape take shape through their movement.

A cascade

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 4.14.34 PM .... of calamities, most recently in Nice. Today, Olafur Eliasson’s “Waterfall” installation at the Palace of Versailles in France feels like a solemn sentinel to the outpouring of sorrow felt around the world for Nice, Baghdad, Orlando, Dallas (the list goes on). Set on the central axis of Versailles—the Grand Canal—the installation is part historic fulfillment—Louis XIV’s landscape architect Andre Le Notre never realized his vision for a grand fountain—and part tribute to engineering. The water seems to flow from no where, a phantom font, a misty mirage that cleverly obscures its own making: The slender scaffolding built according to the specs of the rest of the court, its structure exposed—as we all are in times of suffering. Perhaps solace can be found in such moments where humans seem capable of more than they are, capable of sublime intervention, of beautiful collusion with nature.

Above water

Screen Shot 2016-06-22 at 10.19.22 AM A weekend of waterborne celebration, both at home and afar: leagues away from the floatilla we crafted, global art pilgrims feted the full expression of conceptual virtuoso Christo’s long-held design for “The Floating Piers.” The two-week installation found a 1.9-mile saffron walkway bobbing across Lake Iseo in Northern Italy, an ephemeral experience of walking on water—or “perhaps the back of a whale,” Christo has said—a dream realized by the artist's tenacious team over 22 months, a yellow-brick road formed by 220,000 cubes anchored to the uneven lakebed by a crew of French deep-sea divers and Bulgarian athletes.

In the 1970s, Christo and his late wife and collaborator Jeanne-Claude set out to create a transcendent commute for people living in harbor communities, otherwise bound to boat travel. After considering multiple sites—including Río de la Plata in Argentina and Tokyo Bay in Japan—the widower Christo landed on the perfect location linking San Paolo, the private island inhabited by the Beretta family, with the islet of Monte Isola and the shores of Sulzano. “The Floating Piers” recalls his last outdoor installation with his wife, “The Gates,” which draped Central Park in 7,500 saffron panels in 2005. As with all of their ambitious concepts,“The Floating Piers” was free and open to all. “There are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. The Floating Piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone.”

Everyone and then some. All told, the pedestrian piece drew more than 1.2 million visitors, doubling projections. At times, the tiny hamlet was overwhelmed, forcing transit suspensions to quell crowds and nighttime closures of the artwork to allow for clean-up. Still, come its closing Sunday, the installation began its deliberate vanishing act, with all materials removed and recycled. A nomadic dream, now memory.

Surfing safari

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The beach is only blocks away—this is La Jolla, California after all—and yet, this mural by photographer Catherine Opie captures all of the melancholic longing for spending a day in sand and water. This should be you – walking into the waves, not walking toward shops along Girard Avenue. A hazy invitation issued as part of the ambitious Murals of La Jolla program, conceived by the impressive nonprofit Athanaeum Music & Arts Library as a way to enhance the civic character of the community. In only five years, the program has commissioned new works by John Baldessari, Ann Hamilton, and Opie, among many other banner artists.

Opie considers her offering within the context of the history of photography. By using the coastal motif of the California Pictorialists, she references this painterly tradition through blurry abstraction. Her images feel elemental, like light drawings, unmoored from the specificities of place, hovering in a visceral realm. A vision of oblivion, the sublime, the unknown. A sensory shoreline amid commercial cacophony. La la Jolla.

 

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On the road

Screen Shot 2016-06-02 at 4.47.24 PM The 65mph by which people now drive by Seven Magic Mountains belies the five years it took to realize the public art piece in the desert outside Las Vegas. As Andrew Russeth recently reported in ARTnews, the ambitious installation of seven neon totems required road improvements, complicated permits, warning signs, and a special law (greatly reducing liability), i.e. patience and tenacity from its producers—the Nevada Museum of Art and Art Production Fund.

No wonder the Day-Glo work required such effort; Ugo Rondinone specializes in bold strokes, like the “Hell, Yes” light piece that graced the façade of the New Museum in 2007. Seven Magic Mountains is the inverse of an idea he explored several years ago—a coterie of monumental Stonehenge-esque stick figures at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. That piece placed “something raw within an artificial environment—Rockefeller is the most highly artificial place,” Rondinone told Russeth. “Now [I’m] going to the desert with the same material, but just creating the contrary—setting something artificial into a natural environment.”

Artificial yet familiar; Rondinone drew inspiration from nature’s own hoodoos, the globular spires that protrude from rock formations in arid basins like Utah—funky remnants of erosion. His thirtysomething-foot-tall totems also recall the meditation practice of balancing stones. Or the navigational cues of cairns. Seven Magic Mountains seems “both primordial and pop,” Russeth writes. “It is a uniquely jaunty piece of public art for the area, sharply contrasting the austere, canonical public works staged in the West by artists like Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer, and Jean Tinguely.”

A piece attuned to place and time, reflective of the economic optimism returning to Las Vegas. “New Age objects perfectly befitting the present moment,” writes Russeth. On view for two years, Seven Magic Mountains will be seen by some 16 million people driving along Interstate 15, en route to or from California. I do believe Jack Kerouac would have stopped for a look-see.

...the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

Bold as brass

Screen Shot 2016-03-31 at 11.50.12 AM.jpg The world mourns the untimely passing of Dame Zaha Hadid, the iconic architect whose designs live on in all corners of the globe. Born in Baghdad in 1950, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before diving into architecture in London. Through her firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, she left her imprint on 44 countries through 950 projects. Far more than her many firsts (first woman and first Muslim to win the Pritzker Prize), she set a non-normative, uncompromising course for modern creativity.

“I don’t really feel I’m part of the establishment. I’m not outside, I’m on the kind of edge, I’m dangling there. I quite like it,” she said last month on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs (for which she opened with Bryan Ferry, These Foolish Things). “I’m not against the establishment per se. I just do what I do and that’s it.”

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And what she did was revolutionary: At the February ceremony naming Hadid as the first woman to win the prestigious British Architects’ 2016 royal gold medal, architect Sir Peter Cook applauded his colleague’s iconic individualism.

For three decades now she has ventured where few would dare… Such self confidence is easily accepted in film-makers and football managers, but causes some architects to feel uncomfortable, maybe they’re secretly jealous of her unquestionable talent. Let’s face it, we might have awarded the medal to a worthy comfortable character. We didn’t. We awarded it to Zaha: larger than life, bold as brass and certainly on the case.

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Twist turn

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 2.10.33 PM.jpg A rusty loop draped across a hillside outside Rotterdam, designed by Dutch firm NEXT Architects. The stairway climbs toward an unhindered view of the horizon and skyline, and then descends upon the tram track taken by commuters. Designed to defy, the installation emulates the Möbius strip, a continuous surface with no top or bottom.

“When used as a path, it suggests a continuity, but crossing that path is—at least physically—an impossibility,” the architects told Arch Daily. “It’s that kind of ambiguity that we recognized in the inhabitants of this suburb: mentally they still feel very much connected to their mother town Rotterdam, but in daily life they are definitively disconnected. With the Möbius strip stair, we offer them a glimpse towards the Rotterdam skyline, but to continue their trip, they have to turn backwards, facing the context of their everyday life, Carnisselande."

Ergo the title, “The Elastic Perspective,” and the notion of an elastic self visually linked yet stretched from the city. An urban identity so close yet so far away. A rubber sense of belonging.

Bright façade

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 4.02.43 PM Impossible to ignore: 14,000 life vests, collected from refuges fleeing from Turkey, wrapped the columns at the Konzerthaus concert hall in Berlin. Ai Weiwei created the temporary installation last month for the Cinema for Peace gala, for which he served as the honorary jury president.

A bright memorial of a dark plight: this year alone, more than 400 refugees have died while attempting the dangerous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. Ai collected the life vests from the northern shore of Lesbos, a tragic stockpile he documented on his personal Instagram account during his first visit last December. He has since opened a studio on the Greek island.

"What a waste. To put life in this jacket," he said. "It's not necessary. We can provide a better, safe passage for those people."

“As an artist, I have to relate to humanity’s struggles. I never separate these situations from my art.”

Starry night

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 6.43.27 PM  A star is born in mainland Penang, Malaysia. Steel cables – aglow in more than 500 meters of LED lights – pierce through a four-story cement building, a celestial jax in an urban nocturne. “The Star” is the “low-tech materials meets high-tech application” work of Malaysian artist Jun Hao Oan for the 2015 Urban Xchange public art festival in Penang. With stars twinkling from treetops this time of year, this colossal intervention feels like a welcome expansion to the luminary lexicon.