Posts Tagged ‘Buckminster Fuller’

Culture | Hippie Modernism Comes of Age

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Environment Transformer / Flyhead Helmet, 1968
Archive Zamp Kelp
Photo © Haus-Rucker-Co, Gerald Zugmann

Hippie Modernism:
The Struggle for Utopia
Walker Art Center
Minneapolis | Minnesota | USA
24 October 2015 > 28 February 2016

Archizoom Associati
Superonda Sofa, 1966
Archive Centro Studi Poltronova
Courtesy Dario Bartolini
(Archizoom Associati)

In the year 1967 – incidentally that in which contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson was born, but more of that later – the total number of American troops serving in Vietnam was increased to 475,000. Peace rallies multiplied as the numbers of anti-war protesters swelled. In the Middle East the Six Day War saw Israel attacking Syria, Egypt and Jordan, resulting in Israel’s occupation of massive areas of land outside their previously-designated borders.

That summer cities throughout America exploded with rioting and looting, Detroit being the worst-effected, where, to restore order 7000 National Guardsmen were drafted in.

In stark contrast, 1967 also played host to the ’summer of love’. For three days in June, 200,000 young Americans gathered at the Monterey International Pop Festival in California where they smoked a lot of dope, danced and were entertained by some of the biggest names in music including Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Janis Joplin, Simon & Garfunkel and the Mamas and the Papas, and where Scott McKenzie would sing the words of his anthem that came to symbolise the era, ‘If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…’ While it is claimed that the counterculture movement began in the USA before it became established in Europe, the peace symbol, designed and first used in the UK during the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, later became synonymous with opposition to the Vietnam War, and was much in evidence at events such as Monterey. Elsewhere the ‘flower children’, or ‘hippies’, as they became known, stuck flowers in the barrels of guns held by US National Guardsmen in demonstrations against the masculine culture that gave rise to wars and supported racial discrimination.

Was the hippie culture naive and deserving of the scorn that was poured over it over the next few decades? Once dismissed as both a social and aesthetic failure, the counterculture of the period embraced themes and ideas – ecological awareness, audience participation, the resurgent interest in yoga and spirituality, organic foods, local agriculture, marijuana legalisation, climate change, alternative energy, and social protest movements – that persist and are growing in popularity today. Step into one of fashionable contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama’s immersive visions of endless dots and nets or infinitely mirrored space – currently on show at Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art – and you’re sampling experiences that began life in the ‘hippie’ era. Indeed, regarding them as fundamentally important to her life and work, 86-year old Kusama, who talks of seeking a cosmic vision, longs for love and peace.

Corita Kent
yellow submarine, 1967

Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, LA
Photo Joshua White

Sheila Levrant de Bretteville
Women in Design: The Next Decade, 1975

Poster, cut blue-line process print
Courtesy Sheila Levrant de Bretteville

The conceptual work of the Viennese group Haus-Rucker-Co, founded in 1967, explored the performative potential of architecture through installations and happenings in which, using pneumatic structures or prosthetic devices that altered perceptions of space, viewers became participants with the possibility of influencing their own environments. The radical ideas promoted by seminal British group Archigram include Walking City, a peripatetic giant reptilian structure, Living Pod a miniature capsule home and Instant City, an airship containing all the cultural and education resources of a metropolis which could land in remote areas giving inhabitants a taste of city life, ideas that were not lost on Richard Rodgers and Renzo Piano when they came to design the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and later on Future Systems, founded by experimental non-conformist architect Jan Kaplický, said by fellow Czech and also British-based Eva Jiřičná to be ‘considered one of the visionaries of modern architecture’.

As radical as they come, Ant Farm, though rooted in architecture, was devoted to cultural critique in different forms, especially video with Cadillac Ranch Show (1974), Media Burn and The Eternal Frame (both 1975) ranking among the most poignant early examples of the genre: the collective is infamous for having briefly ‘kidnapped’ their hero Buckminster Fuller, whose ideas and work continue to influence new generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a sustainable planet.

Fuller’s former protégé, Icelander Einar Thorsteinn (1942 > 2015), sometimes referred to as architecture’s mad scientist, worked with Frei Otto from 1969-1972 helping to design the futuristic Munich Olympiapark for the 1972 Summer Olympics and later designed mobile lunar research laboratories for NASA. In 1996, he would team up with Danish-Icelandic Olafur Eliasson, 25 years his junior, and become the mad scientist collaborator behind some of Eliasson’s more renegade works. It would be Eliasson, who would pick up the torch of countercultural experimentation and carry it into the third millennium, in so doing making himself into one of the most successful artists of our era. In 2003 he installed The weather project at the London’s Tate Modern, converting the massive open space of the gallery’s Turbine Hall into an awe-inspiring sun-worshipper’s paradise. His design for the annual London’s Serpentine Pavilion in 2007 was produced in collaboration with Kjetil Thorsen of Oslo and New York’s Snøhetta architectural practice. The timber-clad structure, resembling a spinning top, acted as a ‘laboratory’ where, every Friday night, artists, architects, academics and scientists lead a series of public experiments. The programme culminated in an extraordinary, two-part, 48-hour marathon event exploring the architecture of the senses. In November 2013, at the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin, Olafur presented with Ai Weiwei, connected via an internet link from Beijing, their collaboration Moon, an open digital platform that allows users to draw on an enormous replica of the moon via their web browser, is a statement in support of freedom of speech and creative collaboration. For Contact, which ran from December 2014 to February 2015 at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, and reflected Olafur’s on-going investigations into the mechanisms of perception and the construction of space, artworks appeared as a sequence of events along a journey. Moving through passageways and expansive installations, visitors become part of choreography of darkness, light, geometry, and reflections. Rooted in the late 1960s and 1970s, Eliasson’s ideas lead us on into the future.

Neville D’Almeida and Hélio Oiticica
CC5 Hendrixwar / Cosmococa Programa-in-Progress, 1973

Coloured hammocks, 35mm slideshow, audio disc
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
T B Walker Acquisition Fund, 2007

Explorations into domestic living during and after the hippie period led to innovative designs such as Ken Isaac’s Superchair – a frame structured structure with inbuilt shelving, suitable for books, and supporting a platform that doubles as an easy chair or bed. In 1973, Switzerland’s Ubald Klug combined diverse elements into ‘lounge landscapes’, comparable to layered topographical models, on which Mick Jagger posed for an advertising shot illustrating the extent to which the concept captured the contemporary zeitgeist. Also in Switzerland, Danish architect and designer Verner Panton, who idiosyncratically fused pop art with design, created a domestic utopia in his own home, which he used as a showroom and laboratory for his experiments. Echoes of this pioneering spirit could be seen at London’s V&A Museum in 20111, when French designers Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec laid a striped field of fabric loungers inside the Raphael Court as part of the London Design Festival. The Textile Field installation covered 240 square metres of the gallery floor and encouraged gallery visitors to sit or even lie down, to contemplate the renaissance artworks exhibited rather than merely to view them.

Works on show in a new exhibition at the Walker in Minneapolis include Ken Isaac’s pioneering The Knowledge Box (1962 > 2009), a room-size chamber where one is immersed in a montage of projected images culled from the popular press. According to the Time Life website ‘built in 1962, [it] predated the internet by three decades — but also hinted at information-gathering techniques that we all use today, everyday, online.’ An integral part of the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas designed potent, hard-hitting artwork for newspaper illustrations, posters and pamphlets that became symbolic of the movement and which inspired many to act are also included. Meanwhile, work by Corita Kent, aka Sister Mary Corita, who gained international fame for her vibrant typographic silk screen prints during the 1960s and 1970s, who was a sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, running the Art Department at a convent until 1968 when she left the order to pursue her commitment to social justice and hope for peace, is featured.

Loosely assembled around the American psychologist, writer and advocate for psychedelic drugs, Timothy Leary’s famous mantra, ‘Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out’, Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, at The Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis examines the intersections of art, architecture, and design of the era.

All images courtesy The Walker Art Museum

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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 sent 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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Auction | Architect-Built Furniture

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Ettore Sottsass
Bookcase, 1994

Plastic-laminated wood.
Produced by Galerie
Mourmans, the Netherlands.
Estimate £6,000 > 8,000

The Architect
Exhibition 23rd > 29th April 2014
Sale 29th April 2014
London | UK

Some 400 works designed by an august pantheon of international architects – among them, Michael Thonet, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Eliel Saarinen, Gerrit Rietveld, Poul Henningsen, Arne Jacobsen, Gio Ponti, Oscar Niemeyer, I M Pei, Buckminster Fuller, Ettore Sottsass, Richard Meier, Zaha Hadid and Shiguru Ban – encompassing items from the mid-19th century up to the 21st, will be auctioned next week in London.

For this inaugural event, uncompromisingly entitled The Architect, the auction house Phillips chose architect Lee F Mindel FAIA, of the New York-based multi-award-winning Sheldon, Mindel & Associates Inc, as curator. SM&A, who, since establishing their company in 1978, have designed numerous lofts and private homes – including one for musician Sting and his actress/producer wife Trudie Styler – were also responsible for the interior of the gallery/sales office for Herzog & deMeuron’s prestigious 56 Leonard Street development of luxury condominiums. The company have designed furniture and lighting as well as interiors for ocean liners and at least one Gulf Stream jet. They believe that ‘Simplicity is the most complicated thing to pursue, but when all elements synthesise, they transcend mere enclosure and become an art form.’ The latter is a quote from the magazine Architectural Digest, which has recognised SM&A as one of the top 100 design firms of the last century. On Phillips’ website Mindel himself quotes American architect Louis Kahn as having said: ‘Design is not making beauty. Beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.’ But, enough of this high-minded proselytising and sentimental stuff – so clearly intended for the unconverted. Let’s take a look at a selection of the inspiring array of objects on offer, which, hopefully, speak for themselves.

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld
Maquette, for the ‘Danish’ chair,
circa 1950>1956
Estimate £4,000 > 5,000

Oscar Niemeyer
Pair of ‘Aran’ lounge chairs,
circa 1975
Leather, stainless steel.
Made by Aran Line, Italy.
Estimate £15,000 > 20,000

Arne Jakobsen
Designed for the American
Scandinavian Foundation,
New York, 1952

Leather, chromium-plated
steel, ebony, painted wood.
Made by cabinetmakers
Rud Rasmussen A/S, Denmark.
Estimate £40,000 > 60,000

I M Pei
Double-sided clock, from
the John Hancock Building,
Boston, circa 1976
Steel, acrylic
Estimate £6,000 > 8,000

Zaha Hadid
Ordrupgaard bench,
model no PP995
for the Ordrupgaard
Museum extension,
Charlottenlund, Denmark,
circa 2006.
Ash. Produced by
PP Mobler,
Estimate £35,000 > 45,000

All images courtesy of Phillips

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

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Sculpture | Ruth Asawa: Line as Form

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Ruth Asawa: Objects & Apparitions
Christie’s Private Sales
Rockefeller Center
New York City, USA
Exhibition 6th -31st May, 2013

Associated with the formulation of modernism, the concept of line as form is an ineffable paradox that was first explored at the Bauhaus in the 1920s and early 30s. Unlikely then, in 1947, for high-school graduate Ruth Asawa, to stumble upon a language that expressed the complex notion in the looped-wire baskets used for selling eggs in Mexico’s markets. But the promising and curious student, born in 1926 of Japanese immigrant parents, who had grown up during The Great Depression and began studying drawing and painting with professional Japanese artists in the internment camps, where she and her family were confined during World War II, had already travelled to Mexico two years earlier to study Spanish and Mexican Art, and by the time her return visit came around had come under the influence of former Bauhaus master Josef Albers and architect Buckminster Fuller, both teachers at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where she had enrolled. ‘The artist must discover the uniqueness and integrity of the material’, Albers had explained, and intrigued with the idea of experimenting with wire as a medium, Asawa began to loop and twist it in a similar fashion to the Mexican basket makers, producing 3D forms – essentially, drawings in space – made from a single continuous wire. ‘I was interested in wire sculpture because of the economy of a line,’ Asawa said, ‘making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out. It’s still transparent.’ Many of these sculptures were designed to be hung from the ceiling, and later Asawa hit upon the idea of creating transparent forms within the transparent forms, increasing the complexity and playfulness of her creations.

It wasn’t until 1953 that Asawa began exhibiting her work – in the meantime having been married and given birth to two of the six children she would have by 1959 – in solo and group shows at the San Francisco Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum of Modern Art and at The Museum of Modern Art in New York. By this time she had met and formed a life-long friendship with legendary photographer Imogen Cunningham (1883 -1976). Cunningham, famed for her images of flowers, nudes and industrial landscapes, sensitively captured the sublime lightness and fluidity of Asawa’s work in still life compositions. She produced many pictures of the artist working, as well portraits in which Asawa becomes an element inextricably enmeshed with the sculptural forms of her creations.

In the 1960s, Asawa received major commissions to make public art and in 1970, her work was exhibited in the American Pavilion at the Osaka World’s Fair. So well-established as an artist was she by the early 70s that her sculpture and paintings began being shown in a string of retrospectives at important US venues – San Francisco Museum of Art (1973), Fresno Art Center (1978 and 2001). Asawa is reprented by the Rena Bransten Gallery in San Francisco. Virtually unknown in Europe, in New York, her work can be found in major collections including that of the Solomon R Guggenheim and Whitney Museum of American Art; Objects & Apparations is her first major solo show in the city in over 50 years. Forty-eight works, including sculpture and works on paper – for sale or for private loan – will be presented in a show that takes place in the elevated setting of the 20th floor of 1230 Avenue of the Americas, at Rockefeller Center. Christie’s will offer the sculpture Untitled, above, from the Ruth Asawa Family Collection at their May 15th Post-War and Contemporary Art evening sale.

Imogen Cunningham photographs from top
Ruth Asawa, Sculptor, 1956
(Ruth Holding a Form-Within-Form, 1952)

Hanging, six-lobed, multi-layered continuous form within a form
Estimate $250-350,000 (£160-225,000)

Ruth Asawa 2, 1957

All photos: archive pictures ©Imogen Cunningham
Courtesy Christie’s New York

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The Blog is about art, architecture, gardens, books, design and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you

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

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