Ahead of the game

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 11.49.46 AM This athlete—a refugee—did not make it to the Olympics. Despite the avian grace of his dive into the sea. Despite the grandeur of his current presence as public art. The newest iteration of JR’s Inside Out Project—a global initiative to raise the visibility of otherwise overlooked persons—the Rio installations present portraits of athletes otherwise shadowed by their refugee status. Technical triumphs, each piece is a stretched print on fabric strung up on scaffolding (“My first flying piece,” JR announced on Instagram). As the Olympics welcome the first refugee team, JR’s art suggests more should be done to celebrate heroes who are as yet unsung.

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In the case of this athlete, his physical feat is all the more awesome when set 25 stories high. Earlier this week, JR introduced his vaulting subject as Mohamed Younes Idriss, a 27-year-old athlete from Sudan who lives and trains in Cologne, Germany. On Friday, JR contextualized Mohamed’s larger-than-life presence at the Games in spite of his inability to qualify for the new refugee team.

80 years ago the Olympics happened in Berlin. Hitler wanted to use them to demonstrate the supremacy of the Aryan race. Today they will open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a "mixed race" country ("país mestiço"). Even though Brazil is going through political and economic turmoil and the necessity of the Games at this moment can spark controversy, the Olympic spirit will joyfully be welcomed by the people tonight. This is Mohamed, a Sudanese athlete who couldn't make it to the Games because of an injury. He still came to Rio and jumps over a building in Flamengo.

City of culture

Screen Shot 2016-08-06 at 3.00.58 PM Amid the Olympic melee, I would seek refuge in Rio’s new Cidade das Artes, a massive cultural complex designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc. Wedged between the sea and the mountains, the Cidade sits atop a flat plain crisscrossed by highways, now reimagined as a fledgling district, Barra da Tijuca. Unveiled in January, the complex exists as a city unto itself with a concert hall, cinema, galleries, rehearsal rooms, studios and a restaurant. Anchored by a vast elevated terrace—designed as a public gathering space—the Cidade is an eloquent expression of form: two horizontal slabs of concrete frame the first floor and roof, with elevated boxes, large curving fins and splayed columns adding interior elements. A dance of volumes and voids overlooking the sprawling city. Medal-worthy.

As we speak

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Got to love when a conversation had at a summer BBQ resurfaces in a morning art bulletin: After listening to a friend talk about her recent Dancers’ Workshop teaching residency and its pan-creative curriculum based on Alexander Calder’s approach to static and dynamic motion, I woke up to find an e-notice of the new “Calder in the Alps” sculpture exhibition in Gstaad, Switzerland. Art synchronicity.

The exhibition, staged by Hauser & Wirth in collaboration with the Calder Foundation, features (through September 30) five large-scale stabiles and one standing mobile, 3 White Arrows (1965), a gentle trident last installed outside the Seagram Building in New York—a setting more in keeping with Calder’s aims: “My mobiles and stabiles must be put in open spaces, like [...] in front of modern buildings […] It must be designed as a real urban signal as well as sculpture."

Gstaad provides a fresh context for Calder’s work; less urban signage, more bucolic jolts. “These works will surely surprise viewers as they harmonize in unpredictable ways with their surroundings,” said Calder Foundation President Alexander S.C. Rower. Add to the context a finned denim top—unpredictable perfection.

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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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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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).

Kick start

Screen Shot 2016-03-15 at 10.56.02 AM.jpg The hotel that Kickstarter (re)built. Owner Greg Hennes crowdfunded $107,000 to revive a rundown 1910 landmark at the base of the snowcapped Wallowa Mountains. Now, the Jennings Hotel boasts three design-rich rooms (and counting), like Room Two, a serene space suffused by loft light, downtown views and chic finds, inspired by the Danish concept of hygge (loosely, coziness), the work of Ashley Tackett (not to mention the whole situation sits across the hall from the stylish sauna). Despite the interior allure, the Jennings' proximity to the natural playground of this remote patch of the Pacific Northwest is its primary draw (i.e. pack gear).

Ever the hermit though, I imagine kickstarting a book in Room Two, bundled up in this warm number by PNW darling Bridge & Burn, to the boombox soundtrack of cassette tapes pulled from the supplied collection. Consider me applied for the residency...

Of a feather

"The common SENSE (the animals)" by Ann Hamilton at SITE Sante Fe paired with Dsquared2 feather top.             

 

 

A favorite stop in 2015: Ann Hamilton's installation at SITE Sante Fe. Extinction in action: A room populated by ghostly animals, already memories. Coveting encouraged, images copied on newsprint pads, inviting rippage, each tear pushing the printed species closer to erasure. Timid at first, we got greedy (despite the glares of other gallery-goers) and tore off a zoo that now lies in piles, waiting for domestication on my wall. The guilt lingers, as it should.