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.

More Irwin

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 8.56.33 AM An excursus on Irwin: If traipsing out to West Texas isn’t in the cards this summer, consider day tripping to upstate New York, where Robert Irwin created a “site-conditioned” (his term) installation for Dia:Beacon. Conceptually, the evolution of Excursus: Homage to the Square³ began nearly two decades ago when the Dia Foundation commissioned Irwin to make a work for their former Chelsea site. Shape-shifting by design, the 1998 installation opened in April as Prologue: x18³ —18 interconnected rooms defined by transparent scrims. The gallery walls, covered in blue and gray theatrical gels, subtly changed in tone with shifting natural light. Come summer of 1998, Irwin pushed the installation further in terms of intensity, shifting the entrance and installing vertical fluorescent lights rooms in each room. Thus reborn, he renamed the experience Excursus: Homage to the Square³. Dia bought the work, and now, years on, asked Irwin to redesign the piece for the former Nabisco factory he helped reimagine as an epic art space. Such site-conditioning, as Irwin defines it, requires drawing out “the sculptural response draws all its cues (reasons for being) from its surroundings.”

In the 1950s, Irwin began his career as an abstract painter, but by the 1970s, he vacated his studio and turned to scrim (after discovering the diaphanous medium in Amsterdam). His “conditional art” approaches the environment as the form; his hand thus heightens the perception of space. Excursus represents a pivotal point in his career: the work is utterly undidactic. There’s no beginning, middle or end. There’s no front or back. Viewers decide how they explore/interact with the installation. And yet, at every turn, they encounter a moment touched by Irwin. As the exhibition introduction explains:

The presentation of Excursus at Dia:Beacon is particularly resonant, for Irwin was deeply involved with the museum’s design, including its exterior public spaces, main entryway, and windows. Moving from the work’s redesigned scrim chambers, through the building’s subtle spatial interventions, and finally to the landscaped gardens and forecourt, visitors have the unique opportunity to experience an environment of which virtually every facet has been touched by the artist.

Giddy up and go before May 2017 (in these excellent stirrup pants).

Sneak peak

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 3.10.26 PM Save the date: On July 23 in (my favorite) Marfa, TX, the matchless Chinati Foundation will open Robert Irwin’s magnum opus with a weekend-long celebration replete with a dawn to dusk viewing and community BBQ. The 13,000 square-foot work—17 years in the making—builds upon the C-shaped footprint of the Fort D.A. Russell hospital. Painting with space and light rather than pigment and canvas, Irwin devised subtle tactics to frame and refocus the endless Trans-Pecos landscape and sky within the rebuilt bones of the military hospital. At the center, Irwin has planted a Stonehenge-esque grouping of basalt columns and paloverde trees. Upon completion, the Chinati project will be the only freestanding architectural structure designed by Irwin—an artists’ artist revered for his ephemeral, philosophical approach to place and temporality.

More to come on Irwin, but the meantime, I’ve got three open seats in my mid-summer caravan to West Texas.

Windows dress

 

 

300 game

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 5.32.55 AM A few years ago, Vince Kadlubek applied for a marketing job at the Jean Cocteau Cinema, an indie movie theater in downtown Sante Fe resuscitated by “Game of Thrones” creator George R.R. Martin (a Santa Fean since 1979). Shockingly, the interview involved sitting down with Martin himself. A foot in the door and then a pitch: Would Martin be interested in helping back his art collective Meow Wolf’s purchase of an old bowling alley? Instead, the fantasy kingpin offered to buy the building and rent it back to Meow Wolf (with another $3 million to pump construction). A scheme cemented.

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On March 17, Meow Wolf’s first permanent installation, House of Eternal Return, opened atop the sprawling lanes. Imaginations (young and old) are welcome to run wild in the 20,000 house, built upon a non-linear narrative of the fictional Selig family, the former occupants who mysteriously up and left leaving food in the fridge and flowers in bloom. Free to roam at will (as Bugs does), visitors stitch together what happened from hypercolor clues, a fantastical romp fueled by snooping.

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The exhibit is one part of Meow Wolf’s reinvention of the site as a community hub. Other elements include a makerspace, educational studios, galleries and a performance venue. A triumph of constructive creativity spawned by page-turning fantasy. Bowling 300 all around.

Saddle up

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 11.43.28 AM.jpg If you build it, they will come. Two years ago, Lyon Porter and Jersey Banks did just that: They created a cool space for a cool community to stay overnight—not a particularly novel B&B concept, but perhaps for the location: an unassuming block in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Designed with a city loft-meets-hunting lodge-meets-stoop party style and “run by a dream-team of creative bastards,” Urban Cowboy Brooklyn welcomes artsy wanderlust with its communal kitchen and living room, bounty of Pendleton blankets, and even a cabin out back. The shingle-sheathed row house is now a Billyburg staple.

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And it’s bound to fill the same niche in East Nashville: Several weeks ago, Porter and Banks opened Urban Cowboy Nashville in a Victorian mansion they found within two hours of their first scouting trip to the Music City.

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The pair announced the soft opening on Instagram, introducing the concept as: “The design came out of an urge to try something new. To create a magical place, where big ideas come to grow and life-long friends are made. And so it begins…” So we shall see (and stay).

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.

Ruin redux

Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 2.45.02 PM A tower rising from detritus. Urban unison restored?

A former station in Lille, France has become the latest depot for Detroit-based artist Scott Hocking. “Babel,” his site-specific installation for the Lille 3000: Renaissance festival earlier this year, explores the cycle of ruin within cities—without judgment.

“Why do we look at some ruins with reverence, and see others as failures?,” Hocking has said. “Why can’t we realize that we’ve been creating things since the dawn of time, making structures and objects with our hands, and at some point they decay, at some point the civilization that made it fails, at some point the city in which it was made disappears? It’s not the end—there’s never an ending. So maybe there’s a certain countering to the idea that this is the end of something, that this is a failed city, or a failed industrial age. I just see it as a constant cycle that we’re in the middle of. I just try to find the beauty in all the stages.”

A profound platform. All aboard.