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 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.