How To Create A Secular Saint – And Her Shrine

Local Essex woman Julie Cope never lived or died, but sure enough, in a peaceful Essex field you can find a building that commemorates her life in every detail. Tapestries, tiles, statues, and other objects use various symbols and imagery to communicate the story of her life: her gradual rise up Britain’s socioeconomic ladder, her marriages and children, and her untimely demise at the hands (wheel?) of a food delivery motorbike. This shrine, which doubles as a vacation home, is part of a unique series of architectural experiments being commissioned in Britain by the organization Living Architecture. Read on learn about their undertaking, the house’s design, and how it was created through a close collaboration between artist Peter Grayson and architect Charles Holland.

Link to Architectural Record Article

Top Image: A House for Essex, Photo © Jack Hobhouse

Luca Zanier Corridors Power

Photographing The Corridors Of Power

Analyzing the architecture of power is tougher than it looks. It’s relatively easy to discern the symbolic meaning of governmental architecture – the tallest building houses the most prominent functions, Greco-Roman architecture suggests stability and timelessness, etc. However, those meanings are inflected and influenced by actual politics: a Greco-Roman government building can just as easily symbolize hypocrisy or oppression, depending on the actions of its inhabitants.

That’s what makes this collection of photography  by Luca Zanier so fascinating. Zanier has spent years photographing congresses, councils, parliaments – everywhere important decisions are made. He says the photos (now a forthcoming book, titled Corridors of Power) aim to show the public those unseen spaces that affect their lives. While grand, these rooms would be almost anonymous and inconsequential if not for a few name placards and symbols. Once you move past their stately magnificence, these empty spaces suggest that architecture is a vessel of power – not its embodiment. Read on to learn more about Zanier’s photography and crowdfunding campaign!

Link to the Curbed Article

Top Image: UN Security Council I, New York 2008, courtesy Luca Zanier.

Miya Ando at the Venice Biennale

When I last interviewed artist Miya Ando, who’s art is inspired by traditional Japanese bladesmithing, I was able to get up close to her paintings – and what I saw surprised me. Her works are laced with tiny metallic crystals – invisible in photography – that sparkle in every color. I’ve seen the same crystals before: on the master-crafted Japanese blades at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Arms and Armor hall. As I understand it (and I’ve done some bladesmithing myself) they’re evidence of steel that’s been especially hardened for cutting. They’re only visible in the right light, meaning her paintings – which range from murky to brightly reflective – are very sensitive to their surroundings.

For that reason, I can’t wait to step into her latest work – and first installation – Emptiness The Sky (Shou Sugi Ban). It immerses you in four walls of her paintings, transforming the space into an almost panoramic super-minimalist landscape. Read on to learn about the Emptiness The Sky, currently on display at the 56th Venice Biennale, and its uniquely Japanese charred-wood exterior.

Link to the Curbed Article

Top Image: Courtesy Miya Ando

The Art of Combat: The Fight Over Museums and Cities

The spindly legs of a Louise Bourgeois spider sculpture, seen above in this rendering, show us that giants only need a small footprint to stand.

The rendering depicts one of the six projects that’s been shortlisted as a candidate for the Guggenheim’s new museum in the Finnish capital of Helsinki. The Guggenheim, like the MoMA, is a giant of the modern art world: it commands extensive collections, curatorial expertise, and name recognition. However, the global institution’s newest Scandinavian venture is not a fait accompli: despite the success of its famous Gehry-designed museum in Biblao, Finland is balking at the proposed project’s $150m construction bill. The critical question is whether such sacrifices will produce significant returns in terms of tourism revenue and cultural cache. Many Finns disagree and resistance has coalesced around a rival architectural competition, titled the Next Helsinki, which is waging a war of ideas against the Guggenheim. At stake is the future of the Helsinki waterfront and a major chapter in the history of museum giants. I interviewed Michael Sorkin, chairperson of the rival competition, on the Guggenheim’s six finalists and the future of museums.

Link to the Article

For more on the artist Louise Bourgeois (a favorite of mine), check out her profile on Artsy.

Top Image: Finalist: GH-04380895. Image Courtesy of Malcolm Reading Consultants, via Archdaily.

When Art Became Digital

Barbara Nessim was the last person I’d expect to be a trailblazer. The famed professional illustrator was immeasurably friendly as she led me on a tour of her retrospective exhibition at the Bard Graduate Center, on display until January 11th. Usually those individuals at the cutting edge, especially in art and architecture, have a subtle aggressive or tactical air, some trait that has enabled them to beat out the rest. In contrast, the still-energetic 76 year-old Nessim led a successful career as a freelance illustrator when few women were professionals.

More impressively, she was an early adopter of graphics software for art, something most artists take for granted in an Abode-drive world. During the tour, it seemed her digital forays were spurred by pure curiosity and the desire to try new things, an urge also seen in her explorations into fashion, sculpture, and book design. She told me that, “even on my deathbed – wait, wait, one more thing to do!”

The decades of her work, on display at the Bard Graduate Center, evinces how she used her personal artistic explorations to explore new styles and ideas that would quickly appear in her public and professional works. As someone who toes the line between my passion for writing and the profession of journalism, Nessim’s successful balancing act spoke to me deeply, but this collection is impressive by anyone’s standards.

Link to the Article

Top Image: Barbara Nessim. John Lennon Remembered, for the October 20, 1988 cover of Rolling Stone, 1988. Gouache. Victoria & Albert Museum, E.63-2013.

PS. For those interested in even earlier digital art, see Douglas Dodd’s book on the subject. Dodd, who expertly curated the exhibition, also led my tour with Nessim.

(Blog Exclusive) Grappling with the Past and Present: Artist Miya Ando

On December 14th, Japan moved one step closed to taking up the sword.

After World War II, the Japanese government wrote a “Peace Clause” into its constitution that forswore a military and the use of force abroad. However, now faced with the rising power of China, some Japanese wish to reassert the martial potential of the world’s 3rd largest economy and 10th largest population. A recent election affirmed the aspirations of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to reinterpret the clause and expand the Japanese military. Now, a new generation of Japanese will soon grapple with two very different ideas of itself: a peaceful and international post-war Japan and a longer martial history that stretches from Imperial Japan to the samurai. As Japan shapes a new identity, one artist has already spent her life exploring her modern identity through her links to Japan’s identity, spiritualism, and history: Miya Ando.

Half-white and half-Japanese, from a clan of swordsmiths-turned-Buddhist priests, Ando’s complex background shapes her metal paintings and sculptures. With five solo shows this past year, and another set to open January 17th, Ando is keeping very busy. I sat down with the artist in her Long Island City studio to discuss the many currents of thought churning beneath her serene titanium, steel and aluminum works.

Top: One of Ando’s Kimonos. Image courtesy of Miya Ando and Sundaram Tagore Gallery.

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The Davids and Goliaths of the Art World

The most important part of a painting may not be paint at all, or even the canvas underneath it.

It’s the frame. The frame, whether ornate or simple, dignifies the painting it encloses. It’s an extra artistic flourish, an extra luxury, that connotes value and exclusive provenance. While modern painters eschewed the frame as an artistic crutch, today’s art world still relies on a frame of sorts: museums and galleries. They surround the artwork with spectacle or somber guardianship, heavily influencing how we see a work from an artistic and monetary perspective. In that sense, the frame is alive and well. With this in mind, I was pleased to talk to Lucy Hunter and R. Lyon, two artists who’ve transformed a small retail space in Brooklyn into a provocative art space called “Where”. While the art itself is intriguing, most fascinating is how they’ve fundamentally re-examined how institutions use architecture to shape the art world.

Link to the Article

Top Image: Where5, Photo ©Zachary Edelson