Art as Architecture

"The Building Show" and Burgeoning Geometries

Photography, film, and design have all entered the museum. All have changed the practices of art as well. It seems only natural for architecture to take its turn. For at least a few months, it has.

"The Building Show" describes architecture as a flight of artistic fancy, while John Kirchner, June Bum Park, and Pascual Sisto turn the camera on real buildings in real spaces. Others allow a city to take shape and grow within the very confines of a museum. "Burgeoning Geometries" in fact gives urban sprawl new meaning. A shame that it closed just before another kind of burgeoning, the first day of spring. 

Rather than building for the future, they are questioning the imagined futures of others, from exurbia to cities, from highway barriers to A-frames, and from planned communities to decaying monuments. Some related reviews have looked at Rirkrit Tiravanija, urban sprawl, museum archaeology, the High Line, Exit Art's "The Reconstruction," skyscrapers at MoMA, and model building for Zaha Hadid. (You might continue reading beyond these dreams of building by turning to shows this same spring about unbuilding—or about Gordon Matta-Clark.)

John Haber

John Haber

John Haber

NY Art Critic - Take the A-Frame

Article Date: March 30th, 2007

Article Source:

"Long Winded" By: Caridad Sola, Mary Miheic

Take the A-frame 

"The Building Show" ran at Exit Art through March 30, 2007,


Of course, architecture entered the museum some time ago. The Museum of Modern Art has long had its architecture department, Bauhaus recently returned to the Whitney and Gaudí's Barcelona to the Met, and Zaha Hadid had her turn at the Guggenheim. In the galleries, Max Protech long ago exhibited architecture along with painters as traditional as David Reed. Artists everywhere have borrowed architectural elements or mimed imaginary cities, with Andrea Zittel being only one example. Both Smack Mellon and Exit Art celebrated their new spaces with shows about urban design and "The Reconstruction" of the gallery itself. Like the High Line or political art, architecture could stand for art's ability to navigate between public spaces and private aspirations.


Now Exit Art is at it again. Yet "The Building Show" only underscores how hard it is to squeeze architecture through the gallery door. Unlike a painting, a photograph, or even a helicopter, a building survives more as a plan, a model, or a setting for art. It refuses to give up its former life for the purity of the white cube. Where design and photography promised to debunk the originality of the avant-garde, a building almost insists on its original presence—even in something as faceless as prefabricated homes or a housing project. No wonder Robert Smithson had to bury it, Gordon Matta-Clark to burst it apart, and Sarah Sze to diagram the remains.


This time Exit Art's reconstruction is hardly at stake, and "The Building Show" looks elsewhere for inspiration—to other buildings and distant cities.

Caridad Sola and Mary Mihelic litter an enclosed chamber to evoke the Windy City.

Chuck Sehman gives himself a cardboard Self-Storage, and Noah Loesberg uses cardboard and wood to lend the nonprofit space an oddly funky row of Cornice Blocks. Others, however, do not even try to compete with architecture on its own terms. Tim Spelios treats it as sculpture with his Leaning Tower of Bass Drums, all the funnier for its simplicity. Peter Eudenbach does much the same by assembling models of the Eiffel Tower into a Ferris wheel, with the goal of pointing toward historical conjunction at the roots of modernity.


Most, however, adhere closely to the gallery walls, with monitors for video and new media the only hint of three dimensions. If that sounds like unintended irony for a building show, it should. These artists find architecture more of a jumping-off point for visual fantasies. They could have dark fantasies, like Quintin Rivera's performer within an empty military facility or Patty Harris's animation of waters within a modernist home built below the floodplain. Glen Walls's toy monkey supports a model of Villa Savoye, by Le Corbusier, as if modern art still had a monkey on its back. Others feel a sense of release in confined spaces, like Scott Andersen's cotton models for a Kansas speedway or John Enxuto's video of the race up the Empire State Building's stairwell. Heidi Nelson's idea of a Long Island City Sundial, in the Citicorp center and its enormous shadow, owes something to both darkness and sunlight.


Only rarely, however, does architecture peek through as physical or, especially, social structure. They may nearly appear in an artist's comic fantasies. If that risks too many a one-liner, it also cuts tall buildings down to size. Kenneth Grady Barker gets a pun on coitus out of San Francisco's Coit Tower. Emily Katrencik improves on the Lollipop Building with actual lollipops—each with a marble fragment from the vanishing Columbus Circle façade.


Sometimes stories seem about to begin, as with Seth Weiner's stand-in for the Unabomber's shed or Peter Hildebrand's association between the Pentagon and a fabled wilderness. Nuno Cera discovers a holiday camp for the Nazi leadership, and Elaine Gan juxtaposes Las Vegas with what it copies. Barbara Gallucci, however, finds a more interesting story well underway, with a photographic series of A-Frame Houses. So basic and replicable an element can span private homes and a fast-food nation. Architecture has developed from some telling one-liners itself.


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Right Click disabled

Please respect our privacy.