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More Irwin

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“Excursus: Homage to the Square^3” by Robert Irwin at Dia:Beacon paired with Marni stirrup trousers.

An excursus on Irwin: If traipsing out to West Texas isn’t in the cards this summer, consider day tripping to upstate New York, where Robert Irwin created a “site-conditioned” (his term) installation for Dia:Beacon. Conceptually, the evolution of Excursus: Homage to the Square³ began nearly two decades ago when the Dia Foundation commissioned Irwin to make a work for their former Chelsea site. Shape-shifting by design, the 1998 installation opened in April as Prologue: x18³ —18 interconnected rooms defined by transparent scrims. The gallery walls, covered in blue and gray theatrical gels, subtly changed in tone with shifting natural light. Come summer of 1998, Irwin pushed the installation further in terms of intensity, shifting the entrance and installing vertical fluorescent lights rooms in each room. Thus reborn, he renamed the experience Excursus: Homage to the Square³. Dia bought the work, and now, years on, asked Irwin to redesign the piece for the former Nabisco factory he helped reimagine as an epic art space. Such site-conditioning, as Irwin defines it, requires drawing out “the sculptural response draws all its cues (reasons for being) from its surroundings.”

In the 1950s, Irwin began his career as an abstract painter, but by the 1970s, he vacated his studio and turned to scrim (after discovering the diaphanous medium in Amsterdam). His “conditional art” approaches the environment as the form; his hand thus heightens the perception of space. Excursus represents a pivotal point in his career: the work is utterly undidactic. There’s no beginning, middle or end. There’s no front or back. Viewers decide how they explore/interact with the installation. And yet, at every turn, they encounter a moment touched by Irwin. As the exhibition introduction explains:

The presentation of Excursus at Dia:Beacon is particularly resonant, for Irwin was deeply involved with the museum’s design, including its exterior public spaces, main entryway, and windows. Moving from the work’s redesigned scrim chambers, through the building’s subtle spatial interventions, and finally to the landscaped gardens and forecourt, visitors have the unique opportunity to experience an environment of which virtually every facet has been touched by the artist.

Giddy up and go before May 2017 (in these excellent stirrup pants).

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Sneak peak

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A sneak peak of the Robert Irwin project at the Chinati Foundation (photo by Philipp Scholz Rittermann) paired with Maison Margiela layered tweed/chiffon midi skirt.

Save the date: On July 23 in (my favorite) Marfa, TX, the matchless Chinati Foundation will open Robert Irwin’s magnum opus with a weekend-long celebration replete with a dawn to dusk viewing and community BBQ. The 13,000 square-foot work—17 years in the making—builds upon the C-shaped footprint of the Fort D.A. Russell hospital. Painting with space and light rather than pigment and canvas, Irwin devised subtle tactics to frame and refocus the endless Trans-Pecos landscape and sky within the rebuilt bones of the military hospital. At the center, Irwin has planted a Stonehenge-esque grouping of basalt columns and paloverde trees. Upon completion, the Chinati project will be the only freestanding architectural structure designed by Irwin—an artists’ artist revered for his ephemeral, philosophical approach to place and temporality.

More to come on Irwin, but the meantime, I’ve got three open seats in my mid-summer caravan to West Texas.

Windows dress

An interior view of Robert Irwin’s Chinati project (photo by Philipp Scholz Rittermann) paired with Bottega Veneta’s ruffled floral midi dress.

 

 

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Surfing safari

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Catherine Opie’s “The Shores” mural in La Jolla, CA paired with J.Crew colorful stripe rash guard.

 

The beach is only blocks away—this is La Jolla, California after all—and yet, this mural by photographer Catherine Opie captures all of the melancholic longing for spending a day in sand and water. This should be you – walking into the waves, not walking toward shops along Girard Avenue. A hazy invitation issued as part of the ambitious Murals of La Jolla program, conceived by the impressive nonprofit Athanaeum Music & Arts Library as a way to enhance the civic character of the community. In only five years, the program has commissioned new works by John Baldessari, Ann Hamilton, and Opie, among many other banner artists.

Opie considers her offering within the context of the history of photography. By using the coastal motif of the California Pictorialists, she references this painterly tradition through blurry abstraction. Her images feel elemental, like light drawings, unmoored from the specificities of place, hovering in a visceral realm. A vision of oblivion, the sublime, the unknown. A sensory shoreline amid commercial cacophony. La la Jolla.

 

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John Baldessari’s “Brain/Cloud (with Seascape and Palm Tree)” paired with Proenza Schouler’s printed sweater.

 

 

 

 

 

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On the road

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Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains in the desert outside Las Vegas, NV paired with Isa Arfen’s multicolor off-the-shoulder dress.

The 65mph by which people now drive by Seven Magic Mountains belies the five years it took to realize the public art piece in the desert outside Las Vegas. As Andrew Russeth recently reported in ARTnews, the ambitious installation of seven neon totems required road improvements, complicated permits, warning signs, and a special law (greatly reducing liability), i.e. patience and tenacity from its producers—the Nevada Museum of Art and Art Production Fund.

No wonder the Day-Glo work required such effort; Ugo Rondinone specializes in bold strokes, like the “Hell, Yes” light piece that graced the façade of the New Museum in 2007. Seven Magic Mountains is the inverse of an idea he explored several years ago—a coterie of monumental Stonehenge-esque stick figures at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan. That piece placed “something raw within an artificial environment—Rockefeller is the most highly artificial place,” Rondinone told Russeth. “Now [I’m] going to the desert with the same material, but just creating the contrary—setting something artificial into a natural environment.”

Artificial yet familiar; Rondinone drew inspiration from nature’s own hoodoos, the globular spires that protrude from rock formations in arid basins like Utah—funky remnants of erosion. His thirtysomething-foot-tall totems also recall the meditation practice of balancing stones. Or the navigational cues of cairns. Seven Magic Mountains seems “both primordial and pop,” Russeth writes. “It is a uniquely jaunty piece of public art for the area, sharply contrasting the austere, canonical public works staged in the West by artists like Robert Smithson, Michael Heizer, and Jean Tinguely.”

A piece attuned to place and time, reflective of the economic optimism returning to Las Vegas. “New Age objects perfectly befitting the present moment,” writes Russeth. On view for two years, Seven Magic Mountains will be seen by some 16 million people driving along Interstate 15, en route to or from California. I do believe Jack Kerouac would have stopped for a look-see.

…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

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Street wise

 

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A miniature room in a manhole cover in Milan paired with P.A.R.O.S.H.’s flared floral print dress.

Bound for Milan next week, I’m mapping out what not-to-miss and found this: “Borderlife,” a new series of outdoor installations by artist Briancoshock, transforms abandoned manhole covers into miniature rooms throughout Milan. In spite of their charming presence, the rooms are designed to draw attention to the plight of the more than 600 people who live underground in the sewers of Bucharest.

Of the paradoxical project, Briancoshock writes:

If some problems cannot be avoided, make them comfortable.

A sobering counterpoint to cultural travel.

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A “Borderlife” room by Briancoshock paired with Home & Loft’s turkish cotton robe.

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Living archive

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The QVEST Hotel in Cologne, Germany paired with Maison Margiela’s velvet pussy bow dress.

 

A Neo-Gothic former archive in Cologne reborn as a Bauhaus boutique hotel: Michael Kaune, editor of QVEST Magazine (a publication devoted to “fashion, culture & attitude”), spent two years meticulously renovating the 1897 building, preserving structural elements like the dark-oiled parquet floors and marble columns and adding Modernist pieces from his personal collection of museum-worthy furniture, photography and art (think iconic designs by the likes of Arne Jacobsen, Eames and Le Corbusier). All 34 rooms are different: some suites feature two-story ceilings and ornate filigree windows, while others boast hand-painted medieval rafters. One common dominator: In lieu of TVs, each room shelves a small library of books on fashion, art and design—my heaven.

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Pop property

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Andy Warhol’s first studio in NYC, now for sale, paired with Topshop’s Romilly turtleneck leather mini dress.

A firehouse with many lives—including an illustrious turn as Andy Warhol’s first NYC studio—hit the market this week for a cool $9.975 million. According to the listing, the 5,000-square-foot space entices developer buyers as a “a blank canvas to create boutique condominiums, mixed use rental, luxury townhouse, or community facility/medical use.” A very different blank canvas than the one Warhol envisioned when he stepped foot inside the brick space, then without heat or running water.

The building sat a few blocks away from the 89th Street townhouse where Warhol had been living with his mother for three years. To remedy the overcrowding of Brillo boxes and Campbell’s soup cans, he jumped at the discovery of the vacant firehouse, most recently occupied by a hook and ladder company. Warhol wrote a letter to the city and offered to pay $100 (the lease he signed sold at Sotheby’s in 2014 for $13,750).

Concurrent to the move, Warhol decided he didn’t need to fabricate his own work anymore and hired an assistant, Gerard Malanga, to aid his exploration of the macabre in media. “I remember when Kennedy was shot,” Malanga told New York magazine in 1987. “We went back to the firehouse and made a silk screen of Dracula biting a girl’s neck.” Many such “Disaster” paintings began in the firehouse.

In the real estate mode, Warhol simultaneously scouted for spaces in midtown to base his first iteration of The Factory. A crumbling former hat factory on East 47th Street caught his fancy; he covered the walls with silver foil and metallic paint, and opened the Silver Factory in 1964.

The Factory and the firehouse attest to Warhol’s singular spatial aesthetic. “Andy was attracted to the space because it didn’t appear to be your typical artist’s studio, with wood floors and big windows looking out on a grand urban vista,” Malanga said. “It didn’t have that artsy aura. It had, more or less, an anonymous feel to it. You walked into it and you weren’t quite sure what it was or what had gone on there previous.”

Hopefully people now prospecting the firehouse will know what it is and some of what has gone on there.

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Bold as brass

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The London Aquatics Centre, designed by Zaha Hadid for the 2012 Olympic Games (photo by John Walton) paired with Awake’s striped waistcoat.

The world mourns the untimely passing of Dame Zaha Hadid, the iconic architect whose designs live on in all corners of the globe. Born in Baghdad in 1950, Hadid studied mathematics at the American University of Beirut before diving into architecture in London. Through her firm, Zaha Hadid Architects, she left her imprint on 44 countries through 950 projects. Far more than her many firsts (first woman and first Muslim to win the Pritzker Prize), she set a non-normative, uncompromising course for modern creativity.

“I don’t really feel I’m part of the establishment. I’m not outside, I’m on the kind of edge, I’m dangling there. I quite like it,” she said last month on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs (for which she opened with Bryan Ferry, These Foolish Things). “I’m not against the establishment per se. I just do what I do and that’s it.”

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Zaha Hadid’s first built commission, the Vitra Fire Station in Weil am Rhein, Germany paired with Delpozo’s cropped back jacket.

And what she did was revolutionary: At the February ceremony naming Hadid as the first woman to win the prestigious British Architects’ 2016 royal gold medal, architect Sir Peter Cook applauded his colleague’s iconic individualism.

For three decades now she has ventured where few would dare… Such self confidence is easily accepted in film-makers and football managers, but causes some architects to feel uncomfortable, maybe they’re secretly jealous of her unquestionable talent. Let’s face it, we might have awarded the medal to a worthy comfortable character. We didn’t. We awarded it to Zaha: larger than life, bold as brass and certainly on the case.

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The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum in East Lansing, Michigan, by Zaha Hadid, paired with her Nova Shoe, a collaboration with United Nude’s Creative Director Rem Koolhaas.

 

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300 game

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Explore at will/wild Meow Wolf’s House of Eternal Return in Sante Fe (photo by Kate Russell for the NY Times) paired with Roksanda’s colour block sweater.

A few years ago, Vince Kadlubek applied for a marketing job at the Jean Cocteau Cinema, an indie movie theater in downtown Sante Fe resuscitated by “Game of Thrones” creator George R.R. Martin (a Santa Fean since 1979). Shockingly, the interview involved sitting down with Martin himself. A foot in the door and then a pitch: Would Martin be interested in helping back his art collective Meow Wolf’s purchase of an old bowling alley? Instead, the fantasy kingpin offered to buy the building and rent it back to Meow Wolf (with another $3 million to pump construction). A scheme cemented.

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Another look inside House of Eternal Return (photo by Kate Russell for the NY Times) paired with Christopher Kane’s fringed skirt.

On March 17, Meow Wolf’s first permanent installation, House of Eternal Return, opened atop the sprawling lanes. Imaginations (young and old) are welcome to run wild in the 20,000 house, built upon a non-linear narrative of the fictional Selig family, the former occupants who mysteriously up and left leaving food in the fridge and flowers in bloom. Free to roam at will (as Bugs does), visitors stitch together what happened from hypercolor clues, a fantastical romp fueled by snooping.

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The half-school bus upper deck of Meow Wolf’s music venue paired with Sacai’s printed midi dress.

The exhibit is one part of Meow Wolf’s reinvention of the site as a community hub. Other elements include a makerspace, educational studios, galleries and a performance venue. A triumph of constructive creativity spawned by page-turning fantasy. Bowling 300 all around.