ARTISTS AND ARCHITECTURE:
James Casebere Amy Casey Dionisio González Candida Höfer
Matthew Kolodziej Jean-François Rauzier Jennifer Williams
This exhibition is supported in part by a gift from
Dr. Charles Y. Davis and Mrs. Carole C. Davis.
January 19–April 1, 2017
Given the pivotal role and great influence that architecture plays in the human experience, it is not surprising that some artists have found it to be a rich medium to probe—figuratively and thematically—as they explore and attempt to understand the world in which we live. In every society architecture has in some way reflected the ideals, practices, and beliefs of the people who live, work, and worship in the buildings of their towns and cities, and throughout history, the greatness of civilizations has to a significant extent been established by architectural achievements. As life in the 21st century is increasingly centered in urban and metropolitan areas, the role of architecture and the architectural aesthetics of our homes, workplaces, and civic buildings assumes ever more importance. Architecture determines to a great degree what our visual experience is—what we see and what we are surrounded by in our daily lives.
This exhibition features a selection of large-scale works by exemplary emerging artists, as well as some of the most acclaimed national and international artists of our times who inventively engage aspects of architecture in their creative endeavors. Spanning the practices of photography, painting, installation art, and works on paper, the artists in this exhibition project, converge, and/or intersect architectural images and ideas into visually arresting and conceptually layered works of art while addressing underlying issues of history, memory, and place.
Candida Höfer’s resplendent and breathtaking photographs delve into history, bringing into sharp focus architectural splendors of the past. Her magnificent interiors of grand libraries, palaces, opera houses, and theatres reference human achievement of the highest order, yet are devoid of human presence. Infused with this uncanny yet profound paradox, these extraordinarily works signify far more than literal representations of place.
James Casebere too speaks eloquently to history as well as to memory and place in his stunning large-scale photographs of Thomas Jefferson’s most acclaimed architectural achievement—Monticello. Casebere represents Jefferson’s interiors as gorgeous dreamlike spaces flooded with light and shimmering pools of water. But in a conceptual twist on both history and reality, what he portrays in these photographs is not real. These hauntingly beautiful works are created with table-top models that the artist builds, lights, and photographs, essentially reinventing and reconstructing Jefferson’s iconic architectural spaces. “Everything l photograph is a fabrication,” Casebere says. “There’s nothing ‘real’ in my work. I am interested in how photography creates and reconstructs reality.”
Amy Casey’s meticulously detailed acrylic paintings on paper or panel also “reconstruct” the built environment into wild representations of reality. Her fascination with cities and “urbanscapes” is conveyed in these works by surreal clusters of houses whirling in space, precariously suspended at the brink of impending disaster. Less concerned with phenomenology than Casebere, Casey’s depictions of a teetering, chaotic world elicit a very real socio-economic commentary on the uncertain state of affairs in 2009 during the midst of a recession and housing bust. In Hold On, a painting from 2016, elements are more firmly interconnected and bound together, conveying struggle but also resilience and endurance in the face of continuing and pervasive uncertainty.
Jean-François Rauzier’s monumental photographs, or “hyperphotos,” as he terms them, are gigantic, hyper-realistic photographic reconstructions of architectural locations, ranging from the galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to the halls of Versailles, France. Taken from multiple angles and distances, each of his compositions is made up of hundreds and often thousands of digitally composed and reconstructed images with unusually high resolutions. What this achieves is a visual language of extraordinary detail that allows the viewer to zoom in on the most minute details in the midst of vast scale. Compounding the complexity of these works is how the artist juxtaposes, duplicates, and manipulates images to create “hyper-real” architectural fantasies where the real and unreal collide.
More elusive and steeped in richly tactile, almost viscous surfaces are Matthew Kolodziej’s abstract canvases. His paintings are initially based on his perceptions and documentation of actual archeological and/or architectural sites that he photographs, renders into computer drawings, reconstructs conflating multiple points of view, and then projects onto canvas as a foundation for thick, densely layered paintings. The results are a complexity of tenuous, ever-shifting spatial perspectives that seem to alternate between expansion and contraction, creation and destruction, stability and chaos. In these mesmerizing paintings Kolodziej explores the archaeology and architecture of space, metaphorically probing sites of construction, demolition, transition, and catalytic change.
Realistically depicted and anchored in specific locations are Dionisio González’s stunning panoramic vistas of Vietnam’s Halong Bay in the Gulf of Tonkin. Situated along the spectacular coastline in northern Vietnam, this formerly isolated geographic area is inhabited mainly by impoverished,once secluded people living in houseboats on the water. González captures the extraordinary beauty of this area in expansive digital photographs, into which he interjects imaginary modern and contemporary architectural structures. Likewise, in the Brazilian slums of González’s Favela (2004-2007)series the artist creates the same kind of hypothetical intervention, digitally reconstructing photographic space to comment on the significance of place, social inequities, the collision of global cultures, or, as the artist suggests, a reimagining of possibilities or future utopias.
This projection, convergence, and intersection of architectural images into alternate pictorial realities also characterizes Jennifer William’s site-specific photographic installation, Blacksburg Unfurled (2016-2017). Created specifically for this exhibition and based on the history, architecture, and community of Blacksburg, this 120-foot long mural installation is composed with hundreds of photographs that the artist took of architectural sites and historic locations in town. She then digitally altered, reconstructed, and composed the architectural images into a dynamic photomontage printed on Photo-tex in a wildly imaginative reconfiguration of the built environment that speaks to history, memory, and place.
By incorporating architectural images and ideas in their work, the artists in this exhibition, from James Casebere to Jennifer Williams, engage in collapsing real and fictive imagery, and in so doing, uncover a depth of ideas and perspectives about our world, both past and present. Large in scale and visually seductive, their art takes the intersection of architecture and life as a platform to explore, ponder, and heighten awareness of a variety of ways that architecture and the built environment impact the human experience.
Margo Ann Crutchfield
Curator at Large