Kat Murrell
Spatial City

Artists ponder architecture at Inova show

By - Feb 12th, 2010 06:15 pm
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Yona Friedman, Ville spatiale, 1959-1960. Crédit photo. François Lauginie. Courtesy Yona Friedman. Collection Frac Centre. © Adagp

Yona Friedman, Ville spatiale, 1959-1960. Crédit photo. François Lauginie. Courtesy Yona Friedman. Collection Frac Centre. © Adagp

Spatial City: An Architecture of Idealism may contradict your expectations.  If you’re thinking of architectural idealism in the form of swoon-inducing examples of showy buildings or a vicarious stroll though the world of tomorrow, this exhibition will upend those ideas. It digs down deep into philosophical foundations concerning the human relationship to the built environment.  This exhibition operates on a discrete level, and the works on view have a particularly fragmentary character.

Many pieces are created from humble and ordinary things – wood, mirrors, even cardboard.  Élisabeth Ballet employs this latter material in Temple, 5-19 février 1985.  It’s like a citadel made from stacked boxes, but peer inside at the suggestions of classical architectural elements – historically potent and grand, but transient in the fragility of this stuff.   As described the exhibition notes, “The piece recalls the ‘architecture’ of homelessness without reducing social neglect of a joke or an afterthought.”

Domestic architecture is cast in somber, cynical notes by Juan Muñoz, who transforms elements of ordinary staircases into disembodied things.  Stairs as a way of passage from one place to the next, perhaps the public downstairs to the private upstairs, are excerpted from ordinary life, and seem to float poignantly without resolution.

Berdaguer et Péjus, Divan, 2003. Crédit photo. Marc Domage. Collection Frac Basse-Normandie.

Berdaguer et Péjus, Divan, 2003. Crédit photo. Marc Domage. Collection Frac Basse-Normandie.

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Berdaguer & Péjus gesture toward architectural furniture and a tenuous comfort in their circular Divan (2003).  An inviting sheepskin for lounging drapes the bottom of a white ring that stands about six feet tall.  In order to keep from rolling rampantly across the gallery space, piles of books chock the bottom. So of 20th century philosophy secure the sleek divan.

Kristina Solomoukha, Shedding Identity (Identité permutable), 2005-2006. Crédit photo. Marc Domage. Collection Frac des Pays de la Loire.

Kristina Solomoukha, Shedding Identity (Identité permutable), 2005-2006. Crédit photo. Marc Domage. Collection Frac des Pays de la Loire.

Philippe Durand’s Ruisseau Gonflable (2000) is like a giant pair of pillowy plastic lungs, with lush nature imagery photo-printed on top.  The object wheezes as air escapes and is pumped back in, like land on respiratory life support.  Kristina Solomoukha arranges varied rectangular boxes on the floor, displaying photographs and mirrors, in Shedding Identity (2005-2006).  She’s made  a fragmentary, miniature urban land to move around and through.  The images shift in the reflections as you move, so you’re deeply implicated in the artwork.

Sarah Morris’s video Midtown contrasts the organized clarity of International style skyscrapers of Manhattan with the comparatively squishy, indecisive, random, confused, alternately languid and driven actions of crowds on the street.  This juxtaposition – the perfections of architecture and the complicated, messy demands of humanity – underlie this exhibition. But a fully symbiotic relationship is elusive; the fragments and suggestions of these works remain as modes of thought, but without resounding resolution.

Spatial City: An Architecture of Ideals represents a cosmopolitan array of artists working in Europe and America.  It runs through April 18 at UWM’s Inova Gallery, in the Kenilworth Building. Click here for hours and further information.

Many pieces are part of the collection of France’s Regional Contemporary Art Funds (Frac).   This exhibition was originated by Inova curator Nicholas Frank, and will travel to Chicago’s Hyde Park Art Center (May 23-August 8, 2010) and the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit – MOCAD (September 10-December 26, 2010).

Categories: Art

0 thoughts on “Spatial City: Artists ponder architecture at Inova show”

  1. Anonymous says:

    The Solomouka piece is my favorite from this exhibition; it’s possibly one of my favorite pieces, period. Catching glimpses of yourself in the mirrors as you walk through is both exhilarating and frightening.

    Excellent take on the exhibition!

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