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Vera Lutter, San Marco, Venice, XIX: December 1, 2005 (detail), 2005

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Architecture in Art
September 19-October 2, 2007

Architectural forms keep cropping up in contemporary art, from Andrea Zittel's utopian designs to Monika Sosnowska's tilted rooms and Vera Lutter's haunting photographs. In this issue, we explore whether artists just want to be architects, or whether they are using architecture as a new language for social criticism. We interview Dan Graham about his disorienting public installations, and we spotlight Sarah Oppenheimer, who creates algorithm-generated plywood structures. A book on the playful Dutch studio Atelier Van Lieshout is our media pick, and we recommend new shows by Joachim Schmid and Neo Rauch.

Hirst Launches Levi's Line
(Guardian Unlimited, September 4)
How do you follow up the priciest piece of art imaginable? If you're Damien Hirst, you take some of the sparkle from a diamond-encrusted skull and sprinkle it over commercially produced denim. The British artist's first clothing collection, titled Warhol Factory X Levi's X Damien Hirst, bowed before a star-studded audience at Gagosian Gallery during New York's Fashion Week. As the name suggests, the 80-piece line comes from the collaborative efforts of the venerable denim dealer, the Andy Warhol Foundation, and Hirst, who — nodding to both Warhol and his own work — adorned jeans, t-shirts, and jackets with rhinestone skulls and patterns pulled from his spin paintings.

Barnes Museum Chooses Architects
(Philadelphia Inquirer, September 10)
New York architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien have been tapped to design the Barnes Foundation's new home in downtown Philadelphia. Conceived as a building within a building, the idiosyncratic design replicates the '20s galleries displaying Albert Barnes' collection of impressionist and modern art in his former residence in nearby Merion. Once completed, it will join the husband-and-wife team's other esteemed buildings, including New York's American Folk Art Museum. However, it may take some time, as petitioners are still fighting the Barnes move, with community activists opposed to the displacement of the juvenile facility currently occupying the new site.

Burning Man Prematurely Torched
(Underwire, August 28)
In an alternative-culture art festival where rule-breaking is a way of life for many of its participants, attendees of the Burning Man gathering in Nevada's Black Rock Desert were nevertheless shocked by the early immolation of the titular effigy. Usually set to burn on the Saturday night of the weeklong event, the 40-foot Man was torched on Tuesday this year by San Francisco prankster Paul Addis, who was subsequently arrested on felony arson charges. Upset but determined, Burning Man staff and volunteers rebuilt the Man in time for the traditional Saturday burn. Meanwhile, Addis' action gave voice to complaints about the current state of the festival.

Shanghai Art Fair Shines
(Bloomberg, September 7)
As the Chinese art market continues to boom, the four-day ShContemporary 2007 fair in Shanghai brought together 100 galleries from around the world to display the best in new Asian art. While a third of those galleries were from China, the event was directed by former Art Basel maestro Lorenzo Rudolph and curated by Swiss gallerist Pierre Huber. Lower-priced work first proved popular, but business for big-ticket items improved the second day: a Nam June Paik sculpture sold for $450,000 to a Taiwanese collector, and Miami mogul Craig Robins dropped $200,000 for Rirkrit Tiravanija's installation that supplied free rice, containing the message "Rich Bastards Beware," to visitors.

Confessions of a design obsessive more »

Miami-Dade public art collection is in serious disarray more »

Asia Society starts contemporary collection more »

Sebastião Salgado perks up with pics of coffee trade more »

Diana Balmori tapped to landscape Guggenheim Bilbao more »

What Turner Prize winners really think more »

Director Neal Benezra looks to grow SFMOMA more »

Frédéric Bruly Bouabré gets a "delightful" retrospective more »

Xu Bing talks about the language of signs more »

What an architectural monument could be more »

DC auto body shop being turned into a gallery more »

Julian Schnabel gets Gucci Group Award for film work more »

Praise for Bernard Tschumi's playful blue tower more »

A closer look at LA cool more »

Olafur Eliasson discusses his survey show and work with brands more »

Jonathan Yeo collages porn for portrait of President Bush more »

Athens launches first biennial more »

London makes its design mark with festival more »

MOCA LA teams with bank to bring in new Chinese art more »

The twilight of Georg Baselitz? more »

DNA prints: the ultimate self-portrait more »

Folk artist Jimmy Lee Sudduth dies at 97 more »

Note: Some online publications require registration to access the articles. If you encounter a registration screen, try akreader1 as the username and password.

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[ Art About Architecture ]


Monika Sosnowska / Daniel Arsham / Rachel Whiteread / Frank Stella

The division between art and architecture has long been a rigid one, with few artistic movements, such as the Bauhaus and postminimalism, merging the two. However, in the last ten years, artists, following the examples of Gordon Matta-Clark, Vito Acconci, and Frank Stella, have turned to architecture with renewed interest. Some depict and analyze familiar buildings, probing their personal, cultural, and political associations, while others construct playful, dreamlike structures liberated from practical concerns.

A number of artists focus on specific buildings, copying and exaggerating their qualities to convey the sensory experience of the space. One of the pioneers of this genre, Rachel Whiteread famously cast the interior of an entire 19th-century house in 1993, turning intangible space into hulking, room-sized plaster volumes. Her more recent casts of the interior of a water tower and the area underneath a fire escape have further exposed marginal spaces while creating new, imposing forms. Rirkrit Tiravanija, another early practitioner, made a splash in 1999 when he built a full-scale wooden replica of his East Village apartment in New York's Gavin Brown enterprise and opened it to the public 24 hours a day. For a solo show this year, Tiravanija rebuilt his casual Thai eatery in a gallery space and reconstructed Matta-Clark's dumpster home alongside it. In the field of painting, Sarah Morris riffs on flashy, modern buildings in abstractions such as The Kodak Theater [Los Angeles] from 2005, and her ceiling painting for the Lever House in New York references modernism while merging with it. German photographer Vera Lutter turns the lens of her camera obscura on famous European monuments, but by displaying her negatives instead of positive prints, she renders the familiar structures ghostly and strangely luminous.

Another group of artists appropriates architectural forms, but throws utility out the window, creating environments that are pure fantasy. Felix Schramm slams full-scale rooms through gallery walls, leaving viewers to dodge looming shards of drywall, while Polish artist Monika Sosnowska unnerves gallery-goers by adding gaping holes in the ceiling, labyrinthine corridors, or bulging walls. In his paintings, sculptures, and gallery interventions, Daniel Arsham collides architecture with rock shards and dripping stalactites, and Monica Bonvicini intimidates viewers with her combinations of stark architecture, enormous text, and S&M; accessories. With a sleeker aesthetic, Liam Gillick's brightly colored, minimalist structures, such as his 2002 exhibition The Wood Way, are meandering explorations of abstract forms and text-based narratives. Merging playfulness with viable design, sculptor Jorge Pardo's conceptions for his own home and the Mountain Bar in Los Angeles glow with the same fiery warmth as his candy-colored lamps. Another pioneering artist-designer, Andrea Zittel has produced a line of living units that make pleasure portable; her Escape Vehicles are compact pods that open to reveal a personalized retreat. But it's in the realm of painting that the wildest architectural fantasies abound — artists like David Schnell, who are unfettered by structural physics, are free to imagine a world of floating houses, tilting walls, and freeways winding endlessly in the sky. (BR)

David Schnell's paintings are on view at the Mönchehaus-Museum für moderne Kunst Goslar in Goslar, Germany, until September 26; Felix Schramm's solo project at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Andrea Zittel's survey show at the Vancouver Art Gallery are on view through September 30; the traveling exhibition Gordon Matta-Clark: You Are the Measure is at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art until January 7; and Rachel Whiteread's solo show at the Stiftung Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum in Duisburg, Germany, opens on October 21.

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Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba: The Ground, the Root, and the Air

Mizuma Art Gallery
Now through October 6

  Supported by curator France Morin's The Quiet in the Land project, Saigon-based artist Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba produced his latest film, The Ground, the Root, and the Air: The Passing of the Bodhi Tree, with the Luang Prabang School of Fine Arts, Laos. Centering on a surreal flotilla of punts carrying art students who furiously attempt to paint the surrounding scenery while floating down the turbid Mekong River, the single-channel projection evocatively portrays an isolated nation where Buddhism, communism, and — increasingly — capitalism collide. Other scenes show students doing morning calisthenics in an empty stadium and studying traditional, candle-lit shadow puppets quietly spinning from wires. The unrelenting putter of the punts' gas motors drives the minimal soundtrack, but Nguyen-Hatsushiba remains reticent about development's effect on daily life. (AM)

Jun Nguyen-Hatsushiba's work is also on view at Lehmann Maupin in New York through October 20.

Joachim Schmid: Selected Photoworks 1982-2007
San Francisco

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Now through October 14

  German photographer Joachim Schmid famously declared, "No new photographs until the old ones have been used up." He has spent the last 25 years exploring the various roles that photography plays outside of fine art. Seven projects make up this traveling, mid-career retrospective, including 100 photographs from Schmid's most well-known project, Bilder von der Straße (Pictures from the Street) — photographs found on his daily walks since 1982. For Photogenetic Drafts, Schmid recovered a portrait studio's discarded negatives, which had been sliced in half; the studio's methods were so formulaic that the artist recombined different halves to produce uncanny hybrid portraits. In a recent project, Cyberspaces, Schmid turned to the Internet, capturing the anonymous spaces inhabited by the young women who perform for sex cams. (HGM)

Hungry God: Indian Contemporary Art

Art Gallery of Ontario
Now through October 7

  Hungry God, which originated at Beijing's Arario Gallery, is an impressive assemblage of works by 12 of India's leading artists. Preoccupied by the changes facing their country, these artists explore issues such as nationalism, consumerism, identity politics, and globalization. L.N. Tallur's Alzheimer's, a figurative sculpture of charred wood, hauntingly summons to mind the consequences of religious fundamentalism. In Sonia Khurana's seminal video Bird, the artist appears nude, lumbering around her studio in an ungainly but noble attempt to fly. The show's highlight is Ranbir Kaleka's monumental Crossings, a four-channel video loop projected onto a row of four paintings. A meditation on cultural and religious identity, the work combines the luminosity of video with the depth and texture of paint to startling effect. (LV)

Neo Rauch: para
New York

Metropolitan Museum of Art
Now through October 14

  Hot-selling, prolific, and critically acclaimed Leipzig painter Neo Rauch presents 14 beguiling works painted for para, the third exhibition at the Met dedicated to mid-career artists. In densely populated canvases, Rauch arranges his figures — modeled on socialist laborers — as if they were objects. Distorting perspective and scale, Rauch establishes interactions popping with potential energy, like the mismatched embrace in Vater (Father), in which a well-appointed, cross-eyed man cradles a shrunken, mustachioed figure in his rubbery, yellow hands. In Goldgrube (Gold Mine), glowing ochres and muddy reds ominously frame workers loading a cow's skull into a wheelbarrow; elsewhere, in Vorort (Suburb), pockets of flame surround — but can't quite ruffle — a flag-bearing crowd. These potent, uncanny images free figurative painting from socialist realism's categorical, politicized messages but nightmarishly mock interpretation. (ASA)

An exhibition catalogue has been published by DuMont.

Stella Vine: Paintings

Modern Art Oxford
Now through September 23

  Sensationalist painter Stella Vine's first major solo exhibition in the UK consists of over 100 paintings from her meteoric — and controversial — career. Two of her most inflammatory works appear on loan from Charles Saatchi: the bloodied-mouth portrait of schoolgirl heroin victim Rachel Whitear and Hi Paul Can You Come Over..., a crude depiction of a frightened Princess Diana. Much of Vine's work appears to collude with the cult of celebrity, yet, by breaking down their perfect facades with her brightly colored and unstudied style, Vine lambastes the idolatry surrounding these societal figureheads. Alongside contentious, media-conscious works are more personal self-portraits and images of her family, though it's Vine's wry images of celebrities like Kate Moss and Nigella Lawson that really succeed. (JC)

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[ Sarah Oppenheimer ]

Sarah Oppenheimer

Sarah Oppenheimer creates social experiments in her videos and architectural installations, exploring how individuals navigate constructed space. Folding is the primary exercise in Oppenheimer's works and something of a personal obsession; her website,, contains an index of triangular forms, illustrating the multitude of shapes that can be generated from a combination of creased lines.

Oppenheimer's conceptual investigations have attracted high honors this year: she has been awarded both a Guggenheim Fellowship and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Art. Her interests in folded forms and spatial perception began when she was a student in Yale's MFA program in the late '90s. For her 2001 project Behavior Study, Oppenheimer observed subjects' pace and patterns of movement through a room and then created a system of shelving units based on those measurements.

In her recent practice, Oppenheimer has been creating plywood modular forms, generating their structures from algorithms. At New York's P.P.O.W. Gallery in September of 2006, she premiered 554-5251, a massive installation made from interlocking sheets of folded 4' x 8' plywood. By lining the walls with plywood veneer and constructing a succession of elevated, white-walled throughways, Oppenheimer turned the gallery space inside out. 554-5251 is the first in a series of works based on an algorithmic process; each of the seven numbers in the work's title denotes an operation that determines the object's form. 552-1251, shown at the American Academy of Arts and Letters last spring, is a wood-lined aperture in a gallery wall that opens sight lines into three different rooms. A portal between previously distinct spaces, the opening counteracts the rigid integrity of a traditional room and makes possible new interactions between gallery visitors. (HGM)

Oppenheimer has a solo show at the Ezra & Cecile Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University opening in January 2008, followed by another solo show at the Saint Louis Art Museum in April 2008.

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[ Dan Graham ]


Dan Graham

Dan Graham is one of the most influential contemporary artists working at the intersection of art and architecture. His works have explored a variety of urban phenomena, from suburbia to public architecture and punk music. Graham is also a theorist and writer on cultural ideology and systems. Artkrush contributor Sara Raza interviews the artist about his interests in architecture and urbanism.
AK: You have famously been quoted saying that all artists have a desire to be architects. What exactly do you mean by this?

DG: There's a disease out there — artists want to become architects, and architects want to become artists — which I think I may have started. In 1978, I exhibited architectural models at the Museum of Modern Art Oxford (now known as Modern Art Oxford) in a show curated by Mark Francis. I had seen a show at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York in which the New York Five architects showed their models, so I thought, "Why shouldn't artists also show architectural models?" Architects show models as propaganda to get things done and also to convey fantasies. I always like things to be on the boundary of those two goals.

But I also think about architects like Philip Johnson, who was a fascist; he only wanted to do architecture that was purely aesthetic. I think a lot of architects secretly want to be artists. In fact, Frank Gehry's Disney Concert Hall project comes directly from Frank Stella's architecture and also from Richard Serra. So they're imitating artists, these architects, and I think it's some of the worst architecture of the world.

AK: Your work often draws inspiration from collisions between public and private spaces. What draws you to these ambiguous spaces?

DG: In the early '70s, I was doing work that was later published in a book called Video-Architecture-Television. It was all about surveillance and how video defeated renaissance perspective with its time delay and linking of distant places. For example, you can be in your living room, and you can see images from the moon on the television. I think that experience is also present in corporate architecture, especially in the phenomenon of two-way mirror glass. Two-way mirror glass functions by making one side into a mirror, and on the other side, where there's no light, you can transparently see out without being seen. This is also where the idea of surveillance came in — I wanted to make work that was both transparent and reflective, and I also wanted to introduce play into a controlled situation.

AK: How do you feel your work fits within the spatial dynamics of the gallery context?

keep reading the interview »

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  Atelier Van Lieshout
Jennifer Allen, Aaron Betsky, Rudi Laermans, and Wouter Vanstiphout
NAi Publishers

Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL) is a freewheeling collective of artists, designers, and architects that creates art installations, furniture, and functional structures, which could be described as either ingenious or absurd — the distinction is unimportant to the group. Founded in 1995 by artist Joep van Lieshout, AVL uses dark humor to challenge authority and social norms. The radical team has created its own free state in Rotterdam and communes abroad, and has designed a workable bar that's crazily shaped like a rectum. This comprehensive monograph covers AVL's full range of work, from toilets and weapons to a line of Bad Furniture and mobile units for escaping reality. Essays include "AVL for Dummies" and "Sade, Fourier, van Lieshout?," which discusses AVL's ongoing plans for a massive Slave City, complete with workshops and brothels. (PL)

Atelier Van Lieshout has solo shows at Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma in Rome through September 30 and Carpenters Workshop Gallery in London opening October 10, as well as numerous group shows currently on view throughout Europe.

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Cover Art
Vera Lutter
San Marco, Venice, XIX: December 1, 2005, 2005
Silver gelatin print
91 1/2 x 112 in./ 232.4 x 284.5 cm
Courtesy the artist and Gagosian Gallery, New York, Beverly Hills, and London
© Vera Lutter
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster

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