Street art became island adornment when Ygor Marotta and Ceci Soloaga of VJ Suave enrolled in the Walk&Talk residency on São Miguel Island, part of the Azores in Portugal. The São Paulo-based duo projected their animalian animations on trees, cliffs and shores, capturing their interventions through nocturnal long-exposure GIFs. Go wildcats.
A jewel box of a museum, tucked in downtown Denver, devoted entirely to the work of Clyfford Still—a man made enigmatic by his own agency. Having removed his art from the public eye at the height of his career (by severing all ties with commercial galleries and most with museums), he spent his final years living and painting in rural Maryland. And when he died, he left his entire oeuvre to an as-yet-determined American city under rigid stipulations that said city would agree to build or assign permanent quarters for his art to be exhibited and studied in perpetuity, and to never sell, give or exchange anything from his collection. For two decades, his widow Patricia Still searched for such a site. Meanwhile, the collection remained off-limits to all. Finally, in 2004, Denver stepped forward as the chosen home of the Clyfford Still Estate—some 825 paintings on canvas and 1575 works on paper. To house the collection, the city enlisted Brad Cloepfil and his Allied Works Architecture. Cloepfil rose to the challenge of sheltering the work of a singular artist by imagining a single form—a solid mass of concrete, crushed granite and quartz made luminous by natural light.
What could architecture offer to Still’s work? A challenging and charged context. A building that opens visitors to the emotion and power of the work. A building that offers time to stand with the work, a sense of intimacy and immediacy.
The eloquent space, opened in 2011, speaks to the profundity of Still’s paintings—their jagged contours of color, seemingly torn from existing layers like wrenching natural phenomena. Presaging the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, Still began shifting from the representational paintings of his early days to abstract Color Fields in 1938, to wide/wild acclaim (“a bolt out of the blue,” said Robert Motherwell of a 1946 show). As critic Clement Greenberg wrote in the Partisan Review in 1955.
When I first saw a 1948 painting of Still’s . . . I was impressed as never before by how estranging and upsetting genuine originality in art can be.
Me too, some 60 years later. Impressed, upset, astounded by the soaring experience set a mile above Still’s sea level.
This athlete—a refugee—did not make it to the Olympics. Despite the avian grace of his dive into the sea. Despite the grandeur of his current presence as public art. The newest iteration of JR’s Inside Out Project—a global initiative to raise the visibility of otherwise overlooked persons—the Rio installations present portraits of athletes otherwise shadowed by their refugee status. Technical triumphs, each piece is a stretched print on fabric strung up on scaffolding (“My first flying piece,” JR announced on Instagram). As the Olympics welcome the first refugee team, JR’s art suggests more should be done to celebrate heroes who are as yet unsung.
In the case of this athlete, his physical feat is all the more awesome when set 25 stories high. Earlier this week, JR introduced his vaulting subject as Mohamed Younes Idriss, a 27-year-old athlete from Sudan who lives and trains in Cologne, Germany. On Friday, JR contextualized Mohamed’s larger-than-life presence at the Games in spite of his inability to qualify for the new refugee team.
80 years ago the Olympics happened in Berlin. Hitler wanted to use them to demonstrate the supremacy of the Aryan race. Today they will open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a “mixed race” country (“país mestiço”). Even though Brazil is going through political and economic turmoil and the necessity of the Games at this moment can spark controversy, the Olympic spirit will joyfully be welcomed by the people tonight. This is Mohamed, a Sudanese athlete who couldn’t make it to the Games because of an injury. He still came to Rio and jumps over a building in Flamengo.
Amid the Olympic melee, I would seek refuge in Rio’s new Cidade das Artes, a massive cultural complex designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc. Wedged between the sea and the mountains, the Cidade sits atop a flat plain crisscrossed by highways, now reimagined as a fledgling district, Barra da Tijuca. Unveiled in January, the complex exists as a city unto itself with a concert hall, cinema, galleries, rehearsal rooms, studios and a restaurant. Anchored by a vast elevated terrace—designed as a public gathering space—the Cidade is an eloquent expression of form: two horizontal slabs of concrete frame the first floor and roof, with elevated boxes, large curving fins and splayed columns adding interior elements. A dance of volumes and voids overlooking the sprawling city. Medal-worthy.
There she goes again: After a series of recent interventions in the tri-state area, Berlin-based Katharina Grosse has applied her large-scale locational painting to a neglected Fort Tilden aquatics building in the Rockaways of Queens. The structure’s decay has been sublimely derailed by her spray-painting technique: A fuchsia phoenix, ready to rise (or fall—the building is slated for demolition). Exploding notions of traditional landscapes and sculptures, Grosse traipses beyond the strictures of form to include, in this instance, the sand, trees, sea grass and pavement surrounding the beachside hovel, ultimately creating an interfacing composition that sprawls with motion and gumption.
This temporary public art piece is part of Rockaway!, an ongoing collaborative program presented by MoMA PS1 alongside the Rockaway Artists Alliance that began in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Two summers ago found solo projects by Patti Smith, Adrián Villar Rojas, and Janet Cardiff as well as a group show at the Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Grosse’s contribution continues the bold momentum of the Rockaways’ creative resurgence.
Klaus Biesenbach, MoMA PS1 director and Rockaway! mastermind, invited Grosse to the peninsula after seeing her work for Prospect.1 in New Orleans, “where she painted a small house that was abandoned and condemned after Hurricane Katrina,” he told designboom.com. “I was deeply moved that a building just waiting to be taken down was given this temporary, proud, and fragile beauty. When I heard that the aquatics building in Fort Tilden was to be demolished following Hurricane Sandy, I immediately wanted to invite Katharina to do a project at the site.”
A stunning sunset for a forlorn structure.
And body. The world’s most playful/stylish climbing wall is the work of nendo, a limitlessly talented Japanese design studio. Striving to find the “!” moments in our everyday, nendo is responsible for a spate of truly innovative structures and installations around the world (documented on Yellowtrace). Here, in Tokyo, the studio rose to the challenge of designing a gym in the high fashion esplanade of Omotesando. Building on the brand—“becoming beautiful through movement”—nendo reimagined the rugged sport of rock climbing as a scramble up a salon-style gallery wall replete with animal mounts, bird cages, mirrors and vases. Pitch perfection.
Got to love when a conversation had at a summer BBQ resurfaces in a morning art bulletin: After listening to a friend talk about her recent Dancers’ Workshop teaching residency and its pan-creative curriculum based on Alexander Calder’s approach to static and dynamic motion, I woke up to find an e-notice of the new “Calder in the Alps” sculpture exhibition in Gstaad, Switzerland. Art synchronicity.
The exhibition, staged by Hauser & Wirth in collaboration with the Calder Foundation, features (through September 30) five large-scale stabiles and one standing mobile, 3 White Arrows (1965), a gentle trident last installed outside the Seagram Building in New York—a setting more in keeping with Calder’s aims: “My mobiles and stabiles must be put in open spaces, like […] in front of modern buildings […] It must be designed as a real urban signal as well as sculpture.”
Gstaad provides a fresh context for Calder’s work; less urban signage, more bucolic jolts. “These works will surely surprise viewers as they harmonize in unpredictable ways with their surroundings,” said Calder Foundation President Alexander S.C. Rower. Add to the context a finned denim top—unpredictable perfection.
Another moment of aesthetic solace from Versailles, this time in the form of a misty halo. “Fog Assembly” fills the Star Grove with a nebulous yet grounded cloud, an elemental installation designed to “amplify the feelings of impermanence and transformation.” Shrouded so, the formal landscape becomes subsumed by experience. All part of Olafur Eliasson’s plan: Stop your dazzled consumption, take control, the moment is yours alone to author.
Historically, the royal court at Versailles was a place of constant observation – of oneself and of others; the strict social norms of the time were enforced through a web of gazes. The Baroque architecture of the palace served to heighten visibility, becoming a stunning instrument of power held exclusively by the king. Today, however, we look at Versailles differently, and when I visit the site, I ask myself: how do you, the visitor, view this iconic site? What does it do to you? Have we all become king? The Versailles that I have been dreaming up is a place that empowers everyone. It invites visitors to take control of the authorship of their experience instead of simply consuming and being dazzled by the grandeur. It asks them to exercise their senses, to embrace the unexpected, to drift through the gardens, and to feel the landscape take shape through their movement.
…. of calamities, most recently in Nice. Today, Olafur Eliasson’s “Waterfall” installation at the Palace of Versailles in France feels like a solemn sentinel to the outpouring of sorrow felt around the world for Nice, Baghdad, Orlando, Dallas (the list goes on). Set on the central axis of Versailles—the Grand Canal—the installation is part historic fulfillment—Louis XIV’s landscape architect Andre Le Notre never realized his vision for a grand fountain—and part tribute to engineering. The water seems to flow from no where, a phantom font, a misty mirage that cleverly obscures its own making: The slender scaffolding built according to the specs of the rest of the court, its structure exposed—as we all are in times of suffering. Perhaps solace can be found in such moments where humans seem capable of more than they are, capable of sublime intervention, of beautiful collusion with nature.
A weekend of waterborne celebration, both at home and afar: leagues away from the floatilla we crafted, global art pilgrims feted the full expression of conceptual virtuoso Christo’s long-held design for “The Floating Piers.” The two-week installation found a 1.9-mile saffron walkway bobbing across Lake Iseo in Northern Italy, an ephemeral experience of walking on water—or “perhaps the back of a whale,” Christo has said—a dream realized by the artist’s tenacious team over 22 months, a yellow-brick road formed by 220,000 cubes anchored to the uneven lakebed by a crew of French deep-sea divers and Bulgarian athletes.
In the 1970s, Christo and his late wife and collaborator Jeanne-Claude set out to create a transcendent commute for people living in harbor communities, otherwise bound to boat travel. After considering multiple sites—including Río de la Plata in Argentina and Tokyo Bay in Japan—the widower Christo landed on the perfect location linking San Paolo, the private island inhabited by the Beretta family, with the islet of Monte Isola and the shores of Sulzano. “The Floating Piers” recalls his last outdoor installation with his wife, “The Gates,” which draped Central Park in 7,500 saffron panels in 2005. As with all of their ambitious concepts,“The Floating Piers” was free and open to all. “There are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. The Floating Piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone.”
Everyone and then some. All told, the pedestrian piece drew more than 1.2 million visitors, doubling projections. At times, the tiny hamlet was overwhelmed, forcing transit suspensions to quell crowds and nighttime closures of the artwork to allow for clean-up. Still, come its closing Sunday, the installation began its deliberate vanishing act, with all materials removed and recycled. A nomadic dream, now memory.