Sunday evening, a week later than when I wanted to write, and I am sitting here trying to wring meaning from the fact that Matters of Sensation, the new architecture show at Artists Space curated by Georgina Huljich and Marcelo Spina, opened the same week as Allied Works Architecture Brad Cloepfil’s Museum of Arts and Design. I think there might be something to say about craft and the continued return to materiality, but I am not sure I am ready to make that leap.
For one thing, the MAD building, which has been skewered in the press, just isn’t that good. Sure, Cloepfil’s slots make for nice views of the city from within the gallery, but all the rejiggering of the core and revamping of Edward Durell Stone’s loopy, lollypop façade doesn’t make up for the fact that the floorplates are too small for galleries. The failure of Huntington Hartford’s old Gallery of Modern Art still haunts the place. The tight gallery layout, especially in the permanent collection rooms, brings the viewer uncomfortably close to a lot of Chuhuly glass, Memphis-style functional sculpture from a decade or two ago, fiber arts, and a Frank Gehry gestural thing. It is the kind of art that perhaps only a craft artist could love.
A DIY knitter of scarves and the occasional obscene cozy, I wanted to like museum and its collection. (The special, one floor exhibition, Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary, a showcase of fifty-four artists who repurpose and transform mass-produced objects into works of art, is pretty groovy. Imagine a chandelier constructed from vintage eyewear, each myopic lens twinkling.) I could appreciate the technique, of the architecture and the art on view, but had to navigate around certain issues involving taste.
And maybe it is here that I can come back to Matters of Sensation. The show features fourteen architecture practices—davidclovers with C.E.B. Reas, Emergent, Gage/Clemenceau Architects, Gnuform, Hirsuta, Höweler+Yoon Architecture, IwamotoScott Architecture, mod, MOS, murmur, Ruy Klein, Sotamaa, SU11, Xefirotarch—all young, all experimental. The goal of the show was to transform the understanding of these firms’ digital allegiances from the virtual to the material.
From the press release:
Matters of Sensation, like MAD, is a lot about appreciating technique, and then being compelled to an artwork based on taste. I really loved MOS’ Desert Island No. 2 (silicone rubber mats) simply for the fantasy of walking barefoot through the sea anemone–like surface. Other laser-cut or CNC milled pieces seemed lickable, while other folded, kinetic, twisted works (from IwamotoScott Architecture and Howeler + Yoon/MY Studio) were beautiful in their organic repetitions.
And because I liked certain works, regardless of their architectural intent, I just might let the press release seduce a little more: