Experimental Architecture

‘Plexus’ at The Jazz Gallery

By - May 10th, 2011 04:00 am
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Photograph by Casey Paynter

If you’ve recently passed by the Jazz Gallery, you may have been perplexed or tantalized by the new installation, Plexus: Exhibition of Experimental Architecture. What, after all, is “experimental” architecture? The term itself raising many questions, but describing it may be even more difficult to pinpoint. When you consider the usual non-participatory relationship between people and interior spaces, you may be reluctant to volunteer in any experimental architecture.

All concerns are eased when you step into the volunteer-run gallery on East Center St. and observe the “seared wood” and “voluptuous aluminum” which are the results of work produced by 13 students at  UW-Milwaukee’s design studios. These experiments seek to not only discover, but to constitute new networks between emotional effect, imagination and the material world.

Photo by Casey PaynterA cursory tour of the gallery space will give you a sense of three stages of the exhibition’s development: material study, structural study and a full-scale interior installation.

In the first stage, evidence of each designer’s attention to everyday materials can be found among the six panels on the wall, originally intended to serve as window installations in the UWM architecture building. Imagine slivers of light between the narrow slats of a burnt fence; or a mosaic of plastic soap dishes, partially-melted to translucency; or crumpled aluminum foil, punctured with pinholes so that as you stare into the light, it is projected onto you. Each study provokes you to reconsider the window, and examine how hints of the exterior environment enter the interior space.

Part of the Leonotis Nepetifolia Pavilion

The second stage of Plexus’ experiment, a series of scale-model pavilions, invites a different imagination by allowing the viewer to walk through the models. Each pavilion is built of a basic component, replicated over and over. In one specimen, the Leonotis Nepetifolia pavilion (inspired by the plant Lion’s Ear), aluminum is curled into spiny tubes which are then distributed over a canopy.

The most impressive and physically commanding pieces of the exhibition, however, are the third stage installations: a ceiling for Crisp Pizza Bar & Lounge, which resembles a stepped chess board; a curtain wall for Zarletti Italian Restaurant, which bends and folds 20 kinds of wood veneer into waves resembling “desert sand”; and the Lotus Illuminated Ceiling, which combines spiritual inspiration of the lotus blossom with unlikely materials like sheet metal and wine bottles.

Posted alongside these impressive architectures are photos of prototype models which led to the present form: a paisley becomes a wave, scraps become a resource, a leopard’s prints are translated into a wood finish. The generosity of this exhibition is that it not only shows the final work, but also invites the viewer into the creative and developmental process. You leave Plexus feeling like a node integrated into a complex network, open to the emotion and potential in the forms and textures of the world.

Plexus features work by Paul Bestul, Petar Bochukov, Hollie Engdahl, Gregory Francis, Jacob Himmelman, Sara Larson Mercer, Jackson Lindsay, Megan Lomas, Ted Petermann, Paul Rohde, Joe Schwobe, Paul Steidl, Abby White, Prof. Kyle Talbott and Prof. Kevin Kinney. The exhibit will be on view at the Jazz Gallery (926 East Center St., Milwaukee) until May 20. The gallery is open Thursdays 5-8 p.m. and Saturdays, noon-5 p.m., and  7-9 p.m. For more information, visit Microcosm Studio online or The Riverwest Artists Association.

Categories: Visual Art

0 thoughts on “Experimental Architecture: ‘Plexus’ at The Jazz Gallery”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Looks pretty good! Will check it out.

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