Carnegie Museum of Art – White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes September 22, 2012–January 13, 2013 Heinz Architectural Center

The Carnegie Museum of Art: White Cube, Green Maze

The art institutions of the near future may very well be the agents of a green curatorial revolution. With White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes, the Heinz Architectural Center at the Carnegie Museum of Art seeks to capture this emerging zeitgeist by documenting six museum sites across four continents. These sites, documented through small-scale mock-ups, video, and immpecable photographs by renowned architectural photographer Iwan Baan, blur the line between architecture and landscape. In doing so, they eschew the contemporary sensibility of white, cubic gallery spaces, preventing artworks from being viewed in a sterilized context separate from the outside world.

The show asserts that sustainable architecture can break down and transform existing membranes between the public, the environment, and art institutions. For example, The Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, Washington has pedestrian paths that cross the city’s transportation routes to the sea – partially built on what was once a contaminated Unocal fuel yard. In another example of reclamation, the Stiftung Insel Hombroich Museum of Neuss-Holzheim, Germany has reappropriated an obsolete NATO rocket base. Meanwhile, the rounded structure of the Tashima Art Museum, in Naoshima, Japan, has two apertures on its roof that mix the imagery of nature and structure. The models that depict all of these, while immaculately crafted in wood and plastic, exude a certain clinical detachment in their scale. The dense documentation of the sites through wall texts and touch-screen displays is essential for context but does little to reduce this.

Iwan Baan’s photography provides a truncated sense of what it is like to actually stand at each site, which does aid in dispelling the impersonal atmosphere somewhat. Baan captures architecture as a stage for the activity of people, often lending his images an unorthodox impression of movement. Take one photograph of the interior of the Adriana Varejao Gallery at the Instituto Inhotim in Brazil. In the foreground stand the crumbling remains of a tiled wall. Further back, a concrete floor gives way to a wall of windows. Making a diagonal across them is a lone visitor climbing stairs, framed against the botanical park outside.

Despite Baan’s considerable efforts, White Cube, Green Maze cannot convey the direct, visceral experience of travelling to any of these museums without walls. These are places whose purpose is to bring artworks into the public eye, but these artworks cannot be experienced by the viewer in proper fashion. In a way the show is acting partially as advertisement, encouraging visitors to roam these sites in person in order to absorb what documentation of architecture cannot grant alone. Part of the problem may be that Pittsburgh has no “green mazes” of its own which viewers can draw on– the gallery space in which contains the exhibition is itself an architecture that isolates its contents from the outside environment. Considering the city’s industrial history, the creation of such a museum may be long overdue. In this way, the show’s limitations serve to highlight essential questions concerning future developments of art architecture everywhere.  → Leave a comment

White Cube, Green Maze

“Today a new type of museum is emerging – a hybrid form that fuses architecture, art, and nature” (Carnegie Museum of Art). Providing viewers with aerial photography, sketches, and plans of museums fitting the category, White Cube, Green Maze offers a simultaneously clinical, categorized, and well laid-out informational exhibit of what the future of museums will (and are beginning to) look like. Well-documented current and planned museums from around the world are color-coded in presentation, alongside copious amounts of information. One does not merely walk into this exhibit, glance around, and successfully get the idea of what is presented; only through exploration and investigation can the viewer get why these museums are fundamentally different from yesterday’s museum. Each of these sites is distinct and unique, though presenting a small subset can help shape the bigger picture.

Looking forward, green construction and reusability are more important than usability itself. From Brumadinho, Brazil, the Inhotim section of the gallery presented works from around the world in Nine New Destinations, like the Sonic Pavilion – a circular, glass building in atop a hill surrounded by trees which offers listeners the chance to hear a continuous live feed of sounds captured a few hundred meters below via geological microphones. Another incredible piece is Chris Burden’s Beam Drop, in which over a span of 12 hours, a construction team dropped 71 I-beams from a height of 45 meters into a pit of wet cement. The resulting abstract sculpture is a massive deconstruction of construction of the past. The nine pieces come together as a reminder of the precious natural world. “If successful, there is no clear distinction between where botany ends and art starts” said Jochen Volz, curator.

In Seattle, Washington, the Olympic Sculpture Park transforms a coastal, industrial region of production into a blooming park of grass, flowers, and art. The Z-shaped park spans railroad tracks and road in a bridge like fashion, though the surface of the bridge feels more like a park. Offering an extreme juxtaposition visually from the industry around it, this park acts both as a reminder of what once was here, and through contemporary artwork and construction style what the future of green construction will look like.

The Benesse Art Site Naoshima is a modern art island in Japan. Within the frame of nature and the culture of the area, contemporary and modern artists alike have been allowed to exhibit their work at various locations throughout the island, since it first began in 1989. As it continues to grow, the buildings themselves support a more natural reminder to recycle. As an act of recycling, Seirensho, a previous copper refinery, was restored and preserved as a modern art gallery. “I would like to send out a message to the world, a new view of civilization for the twenty-first century: Use what exists to create what is to be.” Soichiro Fukutake, Director.  → Leave a comment

White Cube Green Maze: New Art Landscapes

White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes, presented by the Heinz Architectural Center of Carnegie Museum of Art proposes that we begin to put the interior into the exterior, and ask the art gallery to liberate its art from what has traditionally been a place of exclusion. Through museum fees or the inherently problematic architecture of a ‘white cube’ gallery, whitewashed and exclusionary, contemporary art has been quite largely confined to rooms reserved for the intellectually rigorous or financially able. Curator Raymund Ryan presents a factual display of architectures that are integrative, sustainable, and that shatter our tendency to equate the culturally superior with the human-made cleanliness of a whitewashed room. Through case studies of six new art sites that are either inspired by, incorporate, or elaborate upon natural settings, the locations in this exhibit demonstrate how art can be more organically incorporated into nature.

Focusing on the common conception of the art institution as an exclusionary enterprise, the exhibit gives a refreshing glimpse into alternatives being implemented worldwide. The exhibition urges the viewer to question what role the art institution plays in a community; and if it actively betters the environment it inhabits. Some of the spaces on exhibit highlight biologically inspired landscapes/ design, while projects such as Seirensho on the Island of Inujima are focused on the repurposing of previously misused or abandoned sites that were a potential hazard to the community. Seirensho had been a copper refinery, but has since been converted into a museum. Previously a contaminated brownfield on the edge of Seattle’s landscape, the Olympic Sculpture Park is now a sculpture park, free and open to the public and managed by the Seattle Art Museum.

The exhibition itself is organized into a maze of displays each dedicated to a different art institution and that provide information about the work that went into planning each site, as well as the work currently or to be displayed at each location. The exhibition is highlighted by commissioned photographs by Iwan Baan, a newly famed architecture photographer known for his departure of the pristine, uninhabited nature of architectural photography[1] for a more people oriented and natural view of buildings and landscape: one that includes real people and displays buildings within a habitat instead of as isolated objects.

The ‘white cube’ is the separation of art from common dialogue; by clearly defining a space that is to be used for art, most commonly, this ‘white cube,’ a separation of culture and nature is enforced. Art becomes fetishized, an ideal separate from the human’s natural environment and viewed a culturally superior. This exhibition is showcasing examples of how to break this boundary.

The institutions included in the exhibit are Raketenstation Insel Hombroich near Neuss, Germany, Benesse Art Site Naoshima in Japan, Inhotim near Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Jardín Botánico in Culiacán, Mexico, Grand Traiano Art Complex in Grottaferrata, Italy, and the Olympic Sculpture Park, Seattle, USA.

White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes at The Carnegie Museum of Art

White Cube, Green Maze at the Heinz Architectural Center invites visitors to re-imagine the role and purpose of museums themselves through its documentation of six ‘museums without walls’ from all around the world. This new breed of museum, according to curator Raymund Ryan, signifies a shift towards the synthesis of architecture and natural landscape. Photographs by Iwan Baan are displayed alongside videos and models by the architects themselves in an attempt to engage visitors in both the development and deployment of these new spaces. This exhibit explores the ways that art and the environment can interact and transform each other, although its reliance on documentation is slightly disappointing.

I felt overwhelmed throughout by the sheer amount of data conveyed through the plaques, touch-screen computers and wall text, although it was necessary as an attempt to contextualize each piece in its history, such as the Olympic Sculpture Garden of Seattle’s Neukom Vivariam. This piece by Mark Dion consists of a real Western Hemlock “nurse log” preserved in a custom-built greenhouse. Its creation is documented through an Art21 video, depicting the staggering amount of effort required to enable such a leafy giant to exist in an urban environment. This struggle is directly related to the history of the site itself, which used to be the fuel-storage grounds of the Union Oil of California company. Dion’s piece was one of several in this exhibition which utilized art and architecture as means to reclaim areas once tarnished by industry, while creating a new kind of space for visitors to experience.

In a way, it seems as though museum visitors have access to perspectives that visitors to these spaces themselves do not, such as aerial views and works in progress. They can observe master-plan of the Jardín Botaníco de Culiacan in Mexico by architect Tatiana Bilbao and note the resemblance of its pathways to the shapes of shadows through leaves, and the Grand Traiano Art Complex of Italy by the firm Johnston Marklee, which has not even been constructed yet. The collaged photographs and models that are dispersed throughout the exhibition were the dominant artifacts in the Grand Traiano display, creating a tension between the sketches and the visitor’s interpretation of what the space would become. This tension between replication and actuality is throughout the rest of the exhibit as well. Baan’s stunning photographs do much to enable visitors to ‘travel’, but I still felt that much of the power behind such works is lost in their translation to tiny models and displays.

I did wonder how the impact of the exhibit would change if such a blend of architecture and nature were created in Pittsburgh’s own environment, and this implication also highlighted the Carnegie Museum of Art in comparison to the spaces depicted. How does the museum interact with its environment, if at all? What does the rise of such ‘museums without walls’ signify for other, more traditional establishments? White Cube, Green Maze ensures that its visitors re-imagine the definition of a museum, even though it does so through documentation rather than real-life pieces.

Bibliography:

  1. Carnegie Museum of Art.” White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Oct. 2012. <http://web.cmoa.org/?page_id=5994&gt;.
  2. “The Collection.” Seattle Art Museum. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/emuseum/code/emuseum.asp?collectionname=WEB.Olympic%20Sculpture%20Park&style=single¤trecord=8&page=collection&profile=objects&searchdesc=WEB.Olympic%20Sculpture%20Park&gt;.
  3. Roberts, Lindsey M. New Museums Blur Lines Between Indoor and Outdoor. N.p., 27 Sept. 2012. Web. 22 Oct. 2012. <http://www.architectmagazine.com/exhibitions/new-museums-blur-lines-between-indoor-and-outdoor.aspx&gt;.  → Leave a comment

White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes

In the parched, windowless landscapes of contemporary exhibition halls, the void of setting has become integral to the artworks. Since Brian O’Doherty published Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space in a 1976 issue of Artforum, sterile contemporary gallery spaces have been evaluated and criticized many times over. Consciously blocking out reality, they rely on the lack of context to have autonomy and create their own rules.

The exhibit, White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscapes at the Heinz Architectural Institute, is a showcase of six museums that are challenging the boundaries of the cube. The Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, Stiftung Insel Hombroich in Germany, Benesse Art Site Naoshima in Japan, Instituto Inhotim in Brazil, Jardín Botánico de Culiacán in Mexico and Grand Traiano Art Complex in Italy are each featured with an area of the gallery floor. Through architectural models, blueprints, photographs, videos, and touch screen kiosks, this exhibit challenges the idea that a sterile “white cube” environment is in fact what is best for art. These six museums are exemplary of a growing trend in museum design that posits integration and inspiration from nature as favorable and fruitful for both the art and the audience.

So the psychological Ziploc of the museum has been ripped open to let the foliage in. But what exactly is the “green maze”? The term conjures images of pristine forests, green spaces that sprawl beyond human fingertips. However, that is not true in the case of these six sites. They’re all built on former brownfield or industrial sites, a fact that was perhaps not celebrated enough in the exhibit, considering the legacy of industrial cleanup for which Pittsburgh has become the poster child.

The sites chosen for this exhibit are unique and monumental, and require someone like the Julius Shulman Photography Award winning photographer, Iwan Baan, to document them. Although his focus in architectural photography only began in 2004, he has become well known for his ability to capture a building in a narrative manner that illustrates the function of a space, not just its form. In the glossy museum prints, children play with bright yellow umbrellas by Dan Graham’s mirrored work in the Jardin Botánico and the sun sets on families picnicking at the inlet at Olympic Sculpture Park.

Aside from the multitude of prints that document the sites, the meticulously crafted architectural models give visitors a sense of the museum space and physicality. At Benesse Art Site Naoshima the water droplet inspired Teshima Art Museum is nestled in between once fallow rice terraces, but the exhibit gives viewers the unique opportunity to see it stripped down to its basic form as the architects originally conceived it. Linked to increasing devotion to ecological issues and global conversations about sustainable and engaging architecture, this exhibit is a small but comprehensive sample of a much larger trend. With growing concern over messages of priority imbedded in museum architecture, this is a taste of the greener future ahead.  → Leave a comment

White Cube Green Maze: New Art Landscapes

In contrast with the typical monolithic museum building, those presented in this exhibition are built specifically for the landscape – sunken into hills, their existence subtle. Six institutions from around the world, huge collective efforts between patrons, curators, artists, landscape architects, and architects, are dissected into a maze of sketches, blueprints, models, 3d renderings and videos. We try to get a grasp of each place by perusing them and piecing them together. Each site is vastly different – a few islands, a former NATO missile base, a botanical garden – but is brought together by a common ground in sustainability, and a different approach to viewing art.

The idea of immaculate white walls and concrete floors are discarded in Instituto Inhotim (Brazil), Jardín Botánico de Culiacán (Mexico), and the Grand Traiano Art Complex (Italy). Usually museum visitors don’t go astray or out of order when going from one cold enclosed room to another, but these parks let visitors create their own path and wander from large installation pieces to spaces for temporary exhibitions; the walk between each of them a moment of contemplation. Images and models boast a wide range of contemporary works, including a video documenting one of Chris Burden’s Beam Drop (Instituto Inhotim), but a common agenda of biodiversity, environmental preservation, and education are also clear.

The Olympic Sculpture Park (Seattle) and Stiftung Insel Hombroich (Germany) are two projects that have revitalised communities by reinventing brownfield land local citizens aren’t so proud of, into parks they might come to value. The architecture has a connection to the unique surrounding landscape; it couldn’t be constructed anywhere else. Barricades, halls, and hangers are altered and added to by sculptors and architects for a place where artists, composers, scientists and scholars can be creative.

None of these sites are focused on a single piece of architecture; they consist of several indoor spaces that are seamlessly integrated with the space outside. Most notably, the buildings of the Benesse Art Site, Japan, barely disrupt the serene terrain of the islands that they inhabit. In a room full of straight-walled, flat-roofed models with meticulous detail, the organically shaped models of the Teshima Art Museum stand out. Artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa were inspired by a droplet of water to create this smooth concrete membrane that envelops the visitors. Unlike ones we’re used to, this art museum is nearly devoid of art. Building, landscape and art are made inseparable in all the projects exhibited.

The exhibition brings a more open-minded way of presenting art to the extravagant and intimidating interior of the Carnegie Museum of Art, showing us an innovative future for architecture, not just for museums. The conventional white box is a vacuum that cuts out any context from the art, making art untouchable and unrelatable. With the exception of the one in Italy, all the sites are already functioning institutions have taken art from this isolation and integrated it with life.  → Leave a comment

White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscape

Facing persistent debates on the future of art museums, Raymund Ryan, curator of architecture, gives us a progressive suggestion on how museums should physically appear. His recently curated exhibit in the Heinz Architecture Center of the Carnegie Museum of Art White Cube, Green Maze: New Art Landscape explores the global trend of dissolving the physical—as well as ideological—opacity of art museums. Above all, the development Ryan subjects to scrutiny centers on ways of bringing Nature into the interior of the museum and inviting Art into the open air, which innovative practices in Architecture have recently sought to make possible. While the idea of making a transition from the “white cube” to the “green maze” sounds farfetched, the exhibition showed viewers specifically how this transition unfolds, with six examples that had implemented the idea successfully. Among them are Olympic Sculpture Park, Stiftung Insel Hombroich, Benesse Art Site Naoshima, Instituto Inhotim, Jardin Botanico de Culiacan, and Grand Traiano Art Complex.

For the exhibition, the Heinz Architecture Center—itself a rather traditional “white cube”—had a quick make over, adapting the look of a “green maze”. The show transforms the exhibition space, and makes it a parallel to the exhibited sites. Rather than displaying art in minimalist environs, the exhibited sites break apart the experience into multiple pavilions, highlighting the role of landscape, as well as enticing the visitor to circulate between and within the pavilions. Visitors to White Cube, Green Maze are encouraged to roam and explore as if they were at the exhibited sites. At the entryway of the Heinz Architecture Center, temporary walls covered with photographs of green plants divided the central axis into several blocks. Together with a beige colored, thinly woven screen made of silkworm cocoons hovering overhead, they create an enclosed space that invokes the feeling of navigating through a piece of wild land.

Each site occupies a tight exhibition space, in which the show explores the site through multiple means; these include models, videos, interactive devices, text panels, drawings, blue prints, and photographs. In the exhibit of Benesse Art Site Naoshima, shown in the right wing of the Architecture Center, the waterdrop-shaped model of the Teshima Art Museum, replicated four times in different materials, powerfully represents the structure and its emphasis on free curves. Accompanying the models are quotes from the Architect Ryue Nishizawa, and panoramic photographs taken by Iwan Bann of the “water drop” in harmony with the undulating landform.

At the end of the exploration, regardless of how they may habitually imagine museums, visitors will realize that certain of the six sites had not simply been “white cubes,” but had rather been transformed from “brown fields.” The Olympic Sculpture Park (USA) was occupied by the oil and gas corporation Unocal until the 1970s and subsequently became a contaminated brown field, before the Seattle Art Museum transformed the area into one of the only green spaces in Downtown Seattle. Stiftung Insel Hombroich (Germany) incorporated into the domain of the museum in 1994 a former missile base right next to Hombroich island. For this reason, these are not only architectural projects, but also ecological projects that base themselves on the coexistence of nature, art, and architecture.  → Leave a comment

 

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