Archive for November, 2017

Photography | Lucien Hervé’s Architecture Agenda

Friday, November 24th, 2017

High Court, Chandigarh, India, 1955*
Architect: Le Corbusier



Lucien Hervé
Geometry of Light
Jeu de Paume­
Château de Tours
Tours |
France
> 27 May 2018



Unless we are prepared to travel a great deal the majority of our opinions about new – and old – buildings around the world are largely based on the photographs we see of them. While architects often have their own agenda, the photographer plays a critical role in our perception of their work. It’s worth bearing in mind, therefore, that his/her depiction of a particular building may reflect his/her personal and, perhaps more importantly, political philosophy.

Lucien Hervé (1910 > 2007), who became one of the most famous and sought after architecture photographers of the 20th century, was above all else a socialist. It was his socialist instinct that drove him to visit Le Corbusier’s L’unité d’habitation in Marseille, then under construction, in 1949, and to create 650 photographs of it in a single day, which he sent to the architect, who subsequently asked him to photograph everything he built. Their collaboration would last until the architect’s death in 1965.

Le Corbusier believed the tower block was the solution for rehousing the masses that had been displaced during the Second World War and Hervé was seduced by his vision. With 337 apartments and facilities for housing 1,600 people, and incorporating two shopping streets, a hotel and a rooftop terrace, completed in 1952 L’unité d’habitation was designed as a self-contained community. It was, and remains, a living illustration of the architect’s famous dictum that ‘a house is a machine for living in’.

Hervé took the pseudonym given him by the French Resistance, with whom he fought against fascism during World War II as his own name. Born László Elkán, into a modest background in Hungary, in 1910, he studied economics and art in Vienna and before settling in Paris in 1929, where he joined the French Communist Party and, in 1937, became a French citizen. The following year he secured a job as a photographer on the periodical Marianne but at the outbreak of war was conscripted as a military photographer. Captured by the Germans at Dunkirk in 1940, he was sent to Prussia, but soon escaped, making his way to Vichy France, where he promptly joined the movement fighting against the Nazis.

Paris Sans Quitter Ma Fenêtre
(Paris Without Leaving
My Window), series, 1947



Shipyard, Barcelona, ​​Spain, 1959



Cathedral, Brasilia, Brazil, 1961
Architect: Oscar Niemeyer



Clues were also already apparent in his first peace time photographic series (1947), Paris Sans Quitter Ma Fenêtre (Paris without Leaving my Window), above, inspired by Russian and German cinema, in which he depicted a jaunty group of anonymous cyclists, long shadows spread over the cobbled surface of the road, that he would focus on humanity rather than on the individual. In stark contrast to the albeit also left-leaning, life-affirming school of photography of his French contemporaries, Robert Doisneau and Willy Ronis, Hervé didn’t want his own pictures to tell stories and he took pains to avoid the anecdotal. The human figure, nevertheless, though often only fugitive or suggested, provided welcome animation in the rigorous compositions of the architectural photographs he would later produce.

Le Corbusier had told Hervé that he had the soul of an architect and Hervé himself has been quoted as saying that the best interpretation [of architecture] is that which reveals the work while remaining faithful, with humility, to the spirit of its creator.

Creating an architectural experience, thereby departing from earlier architecture photography, rather than simply showing the whole of a building in a single shot, Lucien Hervé’s approach was to present tightly cropped details that forced the viewer to proceed over its planes and through its spaces in intervals; isolating its various parts, he drew attention to how light and shadow reacted with its structural forms and geometry.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France, 1944
Architect: Stephen Sauvestre
Structural engineers:
Maurice Koechlin,
Émile Nouguier


His close affinity with architecture led to his documenting the construction of the UNESCO headquarters in Paris (inaugurated 1958), and to immortalise Brasilia, as well as architectural works by, among others, Marcel Breuer, Walter Gropius, Alvar Aalto, Jean Prouvé and Richard Neutra.

As the extensive retrospective exhibition Lucien Hervé: Geometry of Light at Jeu de Paume Château de Tours demonstrates, when demand for the photographer’s work became more international, Hervé had begun to travel a great deal and, in the late 1950s, started photographing the historical architecture and monuments of the countries he visited. While he marvelled at the of the Mughal ruler’s creations in India and the royal power embodied in Spain’s Escorial palace, he was inspired equally by the simple forms of popular houses of the Balearic Islands, to which, in accordance with his personal ideals, in his photography, he afforded the same respect.

All photographs by Lucien Hervé, courtesy Jeu de Paume.
All photographs © Lucien Hervé, Paris, except * © FLC – ADAGP / J Paul Getty Trust, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles


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Art | gimhongsok – Believe It or Not

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

A Study on Slanted
& Hyperbolic Constitution
– Small Love, 2017
Cast resin
238 x 103 x 90 cm



gimhongsok:
Subsidiary Construction
Perrotin
Hong Kong
17 November > 22 December 2017



Structuring Shadows
(bubble wrap), 2017
Pigment print on
resin coated paper



Accomplished liar: his untruths and ability to confuse his audience fascinate Korean painter, sculptor, performance and video artist, gimhongsok, whose methods elicit antagonism and acceptance in equal measure. Born in Seoul, in 1964, where he continues to live and work, despite claiming a fear of foreign travel, he studied in Braunschweig and at Düsseldorf Kunst Akademie in Germany (1990 > 1996).

The relationship between money and art is also of great interest to him. He once put on a performance in which a person he paid to wear an animal costume, held a pose for a certain length of time. For the same performance at another venue, he placed a mannequin inside the costume with an accompanying explanatory panel saying that he had paid a Spanish worker to model for him, so that on this occasion both the existence of the performer and the financial transaction existed only in the text.

While he might have us believe that he is a homebody, and that many of his ideas are derived from the long hours he spends watching TV news and documentary programmes, the content of which he subverts and manipulates in order to present convincing fictional stories of his own, his artistic concerns are far from parochial and deal with global issues – fake news, waste, and political oppression having been long-term preoccupations.

gimhongsok openly admits that plagiarism plays a strong role in his creativity. The animal costume piece mixed elements taken from Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan’s Love Lasts Forever (1999) with Mexico-based artist Santiago Sierra’s practice of hiring workers to perform tasks. In his recent sculptures, he mixes Jeff Koons-style wit with the sculptural forms of Constantin Brâncuși, while his prints suggest the spatialist techniques developed by Lucio Fontana. His earlier works borrow freely from, among others, the graffiti-based art of Jean-Michel Basquiat, from Joseph Beuys, John Chamberlain, and Carl Andre.

Structuring Shadows
(plastic bag), 2017
Pigment print on
resin coated paper



A Study on Slanted
& Hyperbolic Constitution
– Cubi XII of David Smith, 2017
Cast bronze
227 x 93 x 88 cm



Structuring Shadows
(cardboard box), 2017
Pigment print on
resin coated paper



Asked In a 2007 interview with ArtAsiaPacific whether there was any piece that best represented his style at the time, gimhongsok explained that, although it is common for contemporary artists to utilise diverse media, many still express a certain signature style. ‘In such a light’, he continued, ‘I could be accused of doing something completely arbitrary or nonsensical, because neither my methodology, nor the images I create represent stylisation, which I expressly resist… As such, it is agonising for me to pick a representative work’. Although his working method might be interpreted as parasitic, he asserts that because he is not dependent upon any particular subject matter, method, or style of presentation, he often believes that he is ‘on a perfect journey’.

gimhongsok’s work has been regularly exhibited throughout Asia, in the USA, Australia, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK since 1998, and the fact that all of the major Korean museums, including the National Museum of Contemporary Art, as well the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA; Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto, Japan; National Gallery of Canada, Canada; Queensland Art Gallery, Australia, and many other important international institutions, have acquired examples of it, stands as testament to the art establishment’s belief in his extraordinary talent.

Nothing is ever quite what it seems in gimhongsok’s creations and he delights in being found out. A Study on Slanted and Hyperbolic Constitution – Small Love, from his 2017 series – the series title itself is a clue that it is an appropriation of works by American sculptors David Smith and Robert Indiana – included in the forthcoming gimhongsok: Subsidiary Construction at Perrotin Hong Kong, might appear to be an unstable 2.4m high stack of taped-up cardboard boxes, however closer inspection reveals it as a hyper-realistic resin fabrication.

All images courtesy the artist and Perrotin


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being made available to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Architecture | Brutalism Bites Back

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Plumbers and Gasfitters
Employees’ Union Building,
Melbourne, Australia, 1968 > 1971.
Architect Graeme Gunn
Photo Graeme Gunn c 1971



SOS Brutalism
Save the Concrete Monsters!
Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM)
Frankfurt am Main | Germany
9 November 2017 > 2 April 2018



Birmingham City Library,
Birmingham, UK, 1969 > 1973,
demolished 2016.
Architect John Madin
Photo Jason Hood 2016



Brutalism has been given a hard time. Over the past thirty years or so many brutalist buildings across the globe have been destroyed. Many more are now at risk. Some of those bent on their demolition see themselves as avenging angels, ridding the world of ugly, unloved monsters that should never have been erected and which the world would be better off without. Often brutalist buildings were commissioned from noteworthy architects by big companies, cities or governments as symbols of success and of civic and national pride; they were constructed on prime sites, the current real estate values of which give pause for thought.

While no-one, in Britain at least, has gone so far as to prostrate themselves before the bulldozers, flying in the face of the destroyers’ views brutalism has reached cult status on Facebook and Instagram. On the British Brutalism Appreciation Society, Facebook page, one of its many members, Rhys Edmonds, a student at The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), expresses his excitement at having the Grade II listed One Kemble Street, built between 1964 and 1968 by Richard Seifert’s architectural company ‘right next to my Uni campus!’

Though it must be said that many were thrown up quickly and have little architectural merit, even some of the more functional buildings were executed with great care. In August this year, Westminster Council approved the demolition of the striking, brutalist Welbeck Street car park – just off Oxford Street  – designed by Michael Blampied and Partners in 1971. ‘While the car park on Welbeck Street stands out nationally as an exemplar of 1960s car parks, it does not meet the very high bar for listing buildings of this date,’ a spokesperson for Historic England said. The planners’ excuse is that removing the building is in line with the move away from the use of cars in central London.

Sainte-Bernadette du
Banlay,
Nevers, France,
1963 > 1966.
Architects Claude Parent
& Paul Virilio

Photo Bruno Bellec 2008



Sacré-Cœur Cathedral,
Algiers, Algeria, 1955 > 1963.
Architects Paul Herbé
& Jean Le Couteur

Photo Cyril Preiss 2005



Holy Trinity Church,
Vienna, Austria, 1971 > 1976.
Architect Fritz Wotruba
Photo Wolfgang Leeb 2011



Meanwhile, the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture held the day event Caring for Brutalism in Durham last month in response to the Secretary of State’s renewed decision not to list the city’s angular, concrete students’ union building. Designed by Architects Co-Partnership, Dunelm House was completed in 1966 under the supervision of internationally renowned engineer Sir Ove Arup – his remarkable oeuvre was celebrated in a major retrospective exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2016 – whose adjacent Kingsgate Bridge opened two years earlier. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, the noted architecture historian, considered the building, ‘Brutalist by tradition but not brutal to the landscape…the elements, though bold, [are] sensitively composed.’

It’s interesting to note that the term brutalism does not originate from the English word ‘brutal’, but rather from ‘béton brut’ – the French term for exposed concrete. However, it was coined in the 1950s by a young generation of architects in Britain who used the expression ‘New Brutalism’ to distance their work from the dreariness of post-war architecture. Architecture critic Reyner Banham described the Hunstanton School by Alison and Peter Smithson (and their unrealised Soho House) as ‘points of architectural reference by which the New Brutalism in architecture may be defined’.

Rozzol Melara, Trieste,
Italy, 1969 > 1982.
Architects IACP
(Carlo Celli & Luciano Celli)

Photo Paolo Mazzo 2010



La Pyramide, Abidjan,
Ivory Coast, 1968 > 1973.
Architect Rinaldo Olivieri



Brutalist architecture celebrates rawness and bare construction, qualities that lend themselves well to photography. #SOSBrutalism is a growing database and interactive site that currently contains images of over 1000 brutalist buildings from all over the world. The passionate conservation group behind it, in whose view brutalist buildings are not always made of concrete, ‘but are all ‘rhetorical’ in that they blatantly place the focus on their material or sculptural form’, have joined forces with the internationally esteemed Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) to present the eponymously-titled SOS Brutalism exhibition. To coincide with the show, this month Park Books publishes SOS Brutalism – A Global Survey, the first ever worldwide survey of brutalist architecture from the 1950s to the 1970s.

All images courtesy the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM)


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being made available to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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