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exhibitions

Hot to Cold: Bjarke Ingels Group’s ‘Architectural Odyssey’ Bound for National Building Museum

Danish Expo Pavilion 2010_Image by Iwan Baan_01
Designed by BIG with ARUP and 2+1, the Danish Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010 featured a pool filled with fresh water from Copenhagen’s harbor. (Photo: Iwan Baan)

Bjarke Ingels is becoming quite the Beltway insider. Over the summer, his Copenhagen- and New York-based Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) transformed the atrium of the National Building Museum into a giant (read: BIG), crowd-pleasing plywood maze and within a few weeks he was back in Washington, D.C. to unveil something even BIG-ger: a $2 billion master plan for the Smithsonian Institute’s historic southern campus alongside the National Mall. Washingtonians won’t have to wait long for their next fix: BIG returns to the National Building Museum next month with a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process behind its own globe-spanning projects.

Opening January 24, Hot to Cold: An Odyssey of Architectural Adaptation will take visitors “from the hottest to the coldest parts of our planet and explores how BIG´s design solutions are shaped by their cultural and climatic contexts.” There will be oodles of three-dimensional models (more than 60 to be suspended at the second-floor balconies of the museum’s Great Hall) and collaborators galore. Among those interpreting the 20 BIG projects to be featured in the exhibition are photographer Iwan Baan, filmmakers Ila Bêka and Louise Lemoine, and Stefan Sagmeister, who is designing the accompanying catalogue.

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At New Cooper Hewitt, a Room of Maira Kalman’s Own

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An installation view of Maira Kalman Selects at the newly reopened Cooper Hewitt and Kalman’s illustration of Andrew Carnegie’s music room. (Photo: Matt Flynn, courtesy Cooper Hewitt)

The wait is over: today at the stroke of 11 a.m. the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum reopens its meticulously restored doors to the public, revealing the results of a four-year, $91 million expansion. Among the first of ten inaugural exhibitions and installations that visitors will encounter is the exquisitely presented Maira Kalman Selects, in which the author, artist, and designer has brought together 40 objects from the Cooper Hewitt, other Smithsonian institutions, and her own personal collection in a presentation that is at turns haunting and whimsical.

Ranging from calligraphy samplers and a stepladder to Gerrit Rietveld‘s Zig Zag chair (“He took things to their elemental line,” says Kalman of the Dutch designer. “He was rigorous–but had a sense of humor.”) and lemon-hued leather slippers from 1830 that give Dorothy’s ruby pair a run for their money, the artifacts suggest the moments in a life, from birth (a vintage edition of Winnie the Pooh) to death (Lincoln’s funeral pall). The piano in the corner is a nod to the origins of the high-ceilinged yet intimate space as Andrew Carnegie‘s music room, and a tasseled ribbon points like an arrow to a pair of striped pants resting on the piano bench. Encouraging a second look is a small white placard, lettered in Kalman’s distinctively dreamy handwriting: “Kindly refrain from touching the piano and Toscanini’s pants.” Bravo, Maira.

Quote of Note | Ellen Lupton

honeywell round

“[Henry] Dreyfuss‘s Honeywell Round, introduced in 1953 after ten years of development, remains the most widely used thermostat on the planet. A thermostat is pure interface: it is a switch for turning a system on and off, and it is a display that communicates the system’s current and future state. Users operate the Honeywell Round with a simple twist of the dial, and they can intuitively compare the set temperature and the room temperature. The Honeywell Round replaced clunky boxes that users often mounted crookedly on the wall. Dreyfuss reinvented the lowly thermostat—produced with little consideration for users—by subjecting it to his process of designing for people.”

Ellen Lupton, senior curator of contemporary design at the Cooper Hewitt, in Beautiful Users: Designing for People (Princeton Architectural Press), a companion to the exhibition opening December 12 along with the new Cooper Hewitt.

Mark Mothersbaugh’s Myopic Moment

myopia coverNearsighted devolutionaries, don your energy domes and unite! DEVO co-founder and multi-talented artist Mark Mothersbaugh is the subject of a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. Curated by MCA Denver director and chief animator Adam Lerner, the exhibition traces Akron-born Mothersbaugh’s shape-shifting career in art and music from the early 1970s through the present, with documentation and music from his DEVO days; prints, drawings, paintings, sculptures, rugs, and video animations; performance footage; newly produced musical and sculpture installations; and a life-long series of postcard-sized works, exhibited in its entirety for the first time.

Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia is on view at MCA Denver through April 12, 2015, after which it will travel to Minneapolis (Minneapolis Institute of Arts), Cincinnati (Contemporary Arts Center/Cincinnati Art Museum), Austin (The Austin Contemporary), and Santa Monica (Santa Monica Museum of Art), ending up in New York (Grey Art Gallery at New York University/Drawing Center) for early 2017. Until the show comes to a city near you, take a closer look at all things Mothersbaugh in the accompanying volume from Princeton Architectural Press. The book includes a foreword by Wes Anderson, for whom Mothersbaugh has scored films such as The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and Rushmore, as well as essays by street artist Shepard Fairey, writer and art dealer Steven Wolf, and punk scholars Maria Elena Buszek and Cary Levine.

Friday Photo: Paul Strand’s Place to Meet

(Paul Strand)
Paul Strand, Place to Meet, Luzzara, 1953 (© Paul Strand Archive/Aperture Foundation)

The Philadelphia Museum of Art reveals the fruits of its 2010 mega-acquisition of Paul Strand photographs in a stunning retrospective—the first in nearly fifty years—that spans from the breakthrough moment when Strand neared the brink of abstraction (his Porch Shadows of 1916 alone are worth the trip) to his broader vision of the place of photography in the modern world. On view through January 4, Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography highlights his 1953 project in the northern Italian village of Luzzara, where he set out to create a major work about a single community and captured this group of gentlemen meeting amidst spindly chairs and dynamic signage that includes a spirited rendering of geographically appropriate footwear.

Mark Your Calendar: Beautiful Users

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The countdown continues to the December 12th reopening of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Among the exhibitions that will welcome visitors to the freshly renovated Andrew Carnegie Mansion on Fifth Avenue, which has gained 60% more gallery space in the overhaul, is Beautiful Users. Located in the sparkling new first-floor “Design Process Galleries,” the show will explore the shift toward designs that are based on observations of human anatomy and behavior, from Henry Dreyfuss‘s “human factors” to hacking. Get a sneak peek on Friday, November 21, when curator Ellen Lupton visits New York’s 92nd Street Y (tickets here) to discuss the exhibition and how users are increasingly affecting the design of objects.

Exhibition Showcases Five Decades of Michael Graves’ Designs at Home and Abroad

The upcoming Architectural League of New York symposium is but one (aqua-hued, curvy, multi-windowed) component of the Michael Graves 50th-anniversary extravaganza happening this fall. A show of the architect and product designer’s paintings are on view through the end of the year at NYC’s Studio Vendome gallery. And over in New Jersey, Grounds for Sculpture has mounted a Graves retrospective. Writer Nancy Lazarus visited the latter exhibition—and then followed Graves home.

graves GFSGolden banners hung from the rafters and bearing sketches of now-famous products greet visitors to Michael Graves: Past as Prologue at the Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey. The retrospective, on view through April 5, is a festive tribute to Graves and his architecture and design firm as they mark their fiftieth anniversary.

Organizing an exhibit spanning Graves’ prolific and ongoing career was no easy feat. “This was planned as a series of vignettes” chronicling the practice’s interdisciplinary work along with Michael’s owm drawings and paintings, explained Karen Nichols, principal at Michael Graves & Associates, at a recent press preview. The firm’s core values: aesthetics, functionality, and humanistic design, connect seemingly disparate projects.

Few architects can claim commissions as varied as the Portland Building, Louisville’s Humana Building, the Denver Library, decorative scaffolding for the Washington Monument, various Disney Resorts, and Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore. The photographs and architectural models tell the stories of Graves’ broad geographic scope.
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Quote of Note | Robert Gober

(Jonathan Muzikar)
Installation view of Robert Gober: The Heart Is Not a Metaphor, on view through January 18, 2015 at the Museum of Modern Art. (Photo: Jonathan Muzikar)

“With the sink, only after I was making it as a series did I realize that I had had, years before, a recurring dream about finding a room within my home that I didn’t know existed. That room was full of sinks, but it was very different—there was sunlight pouring in the room, and there was water running in all the sinks. They were functional. So it was an image that I had a recurring dream about, but it’s not like I woke up and I said, ‘Gee, that would make an interesting sculpture.’ It’s after-the-fact. You look back and you see all these different influences: dreams, people you’ve known, things you’ve read.”

-Robert Gober in a 1989 interview with Craig Gholson for BOMB Magazine

Superior Interiors: NYSID Showcases 90 Years of McMillen

McMillen Inc. turns ninety this year, and the New York School of Interior Design is celebrating the august firm with an exhibition that explores its legacy of superior interiors. Writer Nancy Lazarus got a behind-the-scenes look at the country’s oldest continuously operating interior design firm during a recent visit to NYSID.

30's Cosmopolitan ClubThe white gloves worn in the 1920s, when McMillen was founded, are long gone, but the renowned interior design firm carries on many of the traditions that have accounted for its longevity, said Ann Pyne. As McMillen’s co-president and daughter of the founder, Eleanor Stockstrom McMillen Brown, Pyne shared her inside perspective at a recent NYSID panel discussion. The event coincides with a 90-year retrospective exhibit, on view until December 5.

“Walking into the McMillen office gives you the feeling that you’ve arrived at a company that knows its business,” said Tom Buckley, principal and founder of Brown Buckley, and a former head of McMillen’s design department. “Mrs. Brown had a very progressive mind and was a forward-moving businesswoman.”

As Pyne sees it, the firm’s design authority, non-negotiable business models, devotion to education, and attention to finishes are the cornerstones of its success. McMillen interiors also adhere to the “discipline of the room,” while promoting a sense of conviviality and coziness. That foundation has stayed with McMillen alumni long after working at the firm, noted Buckley.
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Friday Photo: Poe Goes Pop

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“There are few cases in which mere popularity should be considered a proper test of merit,” Edgar Allen Poe once said (he granted a pass to the case of song-writing), and there’s no telling what the author and critic would have made of his own infamy as celebrated in “Evermore: The Persistence of Poe.” On view through November 22 at the Grolier Club in New York, the exhibition brings together a stunning array of Poe-related artifacts, all drawn from the personal collection of Grolier member and Poe pro Susan Jaffe Tane. Along with letters, manuscripts, portraits, and a fragment of Poe’s coffin are contemporary objects and ephemera that demonstrate his enduring influence, from comic books and playing cards to a Poe action figure and a skateboard that features a raven feasting on the Baltimorean’s exposed brain.

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