Friday, October 24, 2008

Information at the Signal

My interview with Ed Ruscha is on the cover of the latest issue of Fabrik. Check out the magazine here until I can figure out a way to embed the file. (It's on page 8)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

John Lautner

John Lautner: Between Heaven and Earth
Hammer Museum
Through October 18th
By Jesi Khadivi

Published in Whitehot Magazine, October

American architect John Lautner worked in the right place at the right time.
As one of the progenitors of Googie architecture--the ultra modern, futuristic architectural style that takes its name from a coffee shop Lautner designed on Sunset Boulevard-- his early work dovetailed with the burgeoning automobile and aerospace culture of 1950s Southern California. Lautner’s 1960 commission Chemosphere, a space aged octahedronal dwelling perched upon a twenty foot pole, was described by Encyclopedia Britannica as the “most modern home built in the world” and has been featured in numerous Hollywood films. Lautner’s structures are full of glass and exaggerated curves, many of them nestled in stunning natural landscapes. He was disparaged for his poppiness by many critics of his day (Googie architecture only began to receive academic credibility with Venturi, Izenour, and Brown’s Learning From Las Vegas), but his work remains compelling today because it functions at the interstice of organic architecture and the flamboyantly stylized anticipatory fervor of the atomic age. This fusion was doubtlessly fostered by the blend of natural and unnatural splendors in his adopted home of Southern California, his utilitarian North Woods upbringing, and the tutelage of his mentor, the seminal American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Sadly, the Hammer’s Lautner exhibition is the least stimulating of this summer’s architecture fare (The MoMA and the Whiteney Museum in New York mounted exhibitions about pre-fabricated architecture and Buckminster Fuller respectively). Despite the loftiness of its title, the show is leaden and a bit of a downer. The exhibition is comprised of three rooms filled to the brim with architectural drawings and cardboard models. Large scale plaster models are installed in front of projections of landscapes, presumably to contextualize the buildings and give the viewer the feeling of “being there.” This only succeeded in drawing me closer to the exhibition text, which was informative and interspersed with thumbnail views of gorgeously executed photographs of Lautner’s buildings. It’s a pity there weren’t larger scale versions of these photos included in the show because they deftly encapsulated the complicated beauty of Lautner’s buildings. While the exhibition suffers from didactism, the accompanying programming is both thoughtful and inventive. The museum has hosted walk throughs of various Lautner homes, a screening of a documentary film about Lautner, as well as a symposium on post war architecture.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Michael Müller: Werke

By Jesi Khadivi
Orginally published Art

In his first solo exhibition in the US, German artist Michael Müller (who has shows running concurrently in Düsseldorf and London), presents pairs of drawings and small paintings that not only converse, but complete each other. Best known for his work with drawing and text, Müller employs the act of drawing as an instrument of translation. Using each medium like a dialect of a mother tongue, he teases out exquisite variations in texture, perception, and understanding.

Müller's nine-part series (1 a:m_) Reflecting on Pink Elephants (all works 2008) is a restrained play of mirrored images. In Part 3: Reflecktion zu einem Fleck (Reflection of a blot), a small, high gloss painting of a Rorschach-inspired ink-blot on wood is echoed by an ethereal pencil drawing. Although it is discernibly the same image, the taut, hand-wrought scribbles imbue the drawing with a dreamlike, otherworldly quality. In Part 4: Diktatur der Form (Dictatorship of the form), a small piece of wood is painted a glossy white while the corresponding drawing is an exercise in compulsive mark making: the entire sheet is covered with small, delicately hatched pencil markings.

While Müller's work has clear formalist undertones, the exhibition does not suffer from a lack of humor or compassion. The two-part work Corner Love consists of a gestural gouache of an angler fish and a sculpture of a renegade minimalist cube snared on a fishing hook. One of the most gripping pieces is Der Versuch unter Hypnose abtrakt zu sein (The attempt to be abstract under hypnosis), a loving video meditation on the act of drawing, propelled by a minimal, ambient score. Three drawings produced during the making of the film accompany the projection in the mezzanine gallery.