The Glass House Blog

Six Panels: Al Taylor (May 31 – July 15, 2014)

6Panels_AlTaylore_Cover

Six Panels: Al Taylor May 31 to July 15, 2014

Six Panels is a new series of exhibitions organized by guest curators in the Glass House Painting Gallery. When the Glass House was the private residence of Philip Johnson and David Whitney, the gallery had an active life as new works were acquired and displayed. Building upon this legacy, Six Panels — named for the gallery’s unique display system — inaugurates the Painting Gallery as a site of temporary exhibitions for the public.
The first exhibition in this series presents Al Taylor (1948 – 1999), an artist whose work Johnson and Whitney collected and knew well. Six Panels: Al Taylor is organized by Robert Storr, a former Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art who worked closely with Johnson and Whitney. 

Taylorism: Lyrical Loopiness and Canny Uncanniness

Al Taylor had a singular knack for making something out of nothing. Of course “nothing” doesn’t exist. Everything is something, and the best artists can take the most meager of means and give them form while imbuing them with substance. But only the best are capable of performing such alchemical feats — and, in the present context, we should consider underlining the prefix “al” while capitalizing the “A”— that is to say, the magic of transforming base matter into aesthetic gold.

Taylor’s mentor Robert Rauschenberg was a past master at the same sort of conjury, and much of the power of his work emanates from the fact that Rauschenberg never gilded a lily, much less a package wrapper, torn magazine photo, shoe, hat, stuffed bird, or any of the found objects and images he incorporated into his work. Rather, he let twentieth-century culture speak in its own vernacular and taught the public to find beauty in the 24-karat “thingness” of the least of things.

Whereas Rauschenberg was an omnivorous scavenger and hoarder, Taylor was the most discriminating and formally economical of recyclers. As exemplified by the works in this exhibition, the ready-made predicates of Taylor’s art range from cardboard tubes to tin cans (Warhol went for the graphics of Campbell’s Soup, Taylor for the ridged shape of its containers), to broom handles, to fishing net floats, to novelty shop collectibles such as plastic shrunken heads. Those heads are among the comparatively rare instances of explicitly figurative, much less overtly Pop elements to be found in his palette of materials. And I use the term “palette” intentionally, since the color of a painted broom handle or the given tones of the scrap lumber Taylor redeployed and sometimes repainted were all factors in the carefully considered spectrum of his sculptures.

Trained as a painter at the Kansas City Art Institute in the late 1960s before moving to New York in 1970, Taylor contributed to a long tradition of painterly innovation in sculpture that started at the beginning of the twentieth century with Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and the Russian Constructivists, notably Vladimir Tatlin, with whose wall reliefs Taylor’s own resonate sympathetically. By contrast, though, Taylor was unconcerned with revolutionizing the world by means of art, but concentrated instead on shifting our vantage point on the commonplaces of the world as it is so as to gently destabilize everything we are inclined to take for granted, including gravity.

Innate whimsicality and formal wit, so Taylor shows us, can be just as metamorphic as programmatic single-mindedness. Likewise, “bricolage” — a French word for making things up as you go along from the resources at hand or, in simple English, “tinkering” — is as fertile a basis for engendering fresh art as the “will -to-form” expressed in “media-specific” terms long advocated by “mainstream” modernism. Moreover, impish charm can be as subversive as argument — often more so — just as the self-effacing trickster is at times a more reliable guide to existential absurdity than the grimly determined hero or antihero — and often more so.

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Al Taylor. [no title], 1987

Taylor was both a deft tinkerer and a sly trickster. Take his untitled relief of 1987 that when confronted head-on from a distance appears to be a conventional abstract construction mounted on a relatively small support but, when approached up close or seen from an angle, reveals itself to be a zigzagging amalgam of various lengths, widths, and colors of wooden dowel that jut far out into the room from its simple plywood backboard like a sprung Jack-in the-Box eager to “get in the face” of the unsuspecting viewer, or, without there being anything overtly representational about the piece, like the very long arm of a party guest waving a lighted cigarette.

Taylor’s floor-bound, hence differently invasive “Pet Stain Removal Devices” (1989 – 1992) — of which Black Piece (for Étienne-Jules Marey) (1990) is a puddling cousin — are similarly unhousebroken. Dedicated to the French scientist who, along with English inventor Eadweard James Muybridge, pioneered the techniques and uses of sequential photography, this stepped or terraced sculpture seems to record a splash in cascading stages. And, given the spontaneity of its structural elaboration and the apparently unstoppable spread of the black enamel, one is tempted to hike up one’s trouser cuffs or the hem of one’s skirt to avoid contamination.

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Al Taylor. Black Piece (for Étienne-Jules Marey), 1990

Other works are more sober in their abstraction, but the essence of their articulation is no less a product of visual play. The untitled cardboard tube variations of 1987 with which this show opens are a marvelous demonstration of some of the many permutations to which an ordinary manufactured form can lend itself. Who has not, at one time or another, toyed with a toilet paper roll after the last sheet is gone, bending it or pulling apart its coiled laminates? But who, other than Taylor, has thought to create such wonderfully syncopated volumes by “deconstructing” such a throwaway item. The Spanish Cubist Juan Gris famously said that while Cézanne had made a cylinder out of a bottle, he aimed to make a bottle out of a cylinder — or words to that effect. Taylor takes a cylinder, slices it like a sausage, unravels it like a rope, and juxtaposing the fragments, utterly reconfigures it like a jeweler working in perishable pulp rather than precious metals.

Taylor was expert at freeing mundane objects from their given identities and settings — tin cans from the pantry shelf, bicycle wheels from the pavement — and suspending or cantilevering them into weightlessness, like so many untethered bits of flotsam and jetsam floating free inside a space capsule. Distill (1988) has this quality, as does Untitled (Night Lessons) (1993), though the wooden armature of the latter is partially anchored to the wall. Exactly where on the wall other reliefs are placed becomes their defining characteristic. Low Fat (1995) sticks out such that it could trip an oblivious passerby, or at least bark at their ankles or calves. Upper Case (Bern) (1992) tips down from on high like a surveillance mirror, except that the plain plywood face of the relief reflects nothing and no one besides the gallery goer is watching. Station of the Cross (1990), Untitled (Mapplethorpe Pc.) (1986), and related pieces hew more closely to traditional modernist concerns but display an improvisatory verve and linear animation that is unique to Taylor’s work.

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Al Taylor. Odd/Even, 1989

For their part, Untitled (Mapplethorpe Pc.) and Station of the Cross redraw, reconfigure, and remodel ambient space, even as the pressure plates of the austere Upper Case (Bern) and kindred pieces such as Untitled (1987) reshape it, and the long arm of the work with no title and the festive Layson a Stick (1989) probe and enliven it. For its part, Shrunken Heads with X-Ray Vision III (1993) hovers disturbingly, but also comically, just above eye level, metaphorically miniaturizing the spectator’s head while calling into question the relative intensity of his or her gaze—is he, is she, or are we gifted with X-ray vision? It also links Taylor to the Funk sensibility that has long thrived West of the Hudson even as it obliquely, teasingly evokes Bruce Nauman’s many beleaguered hanging heads. To be in the company of all these ambiguously assertive presences is to be enveloped in a linear, planar, and chromatic “happening” that prompts participation via one’s own forward, backward, and sideways movement.

Taylor’s prodigious talents with a pencil and a brush have much the same effect in two dimensions as his sculptures have in three. To enter into his drawings — for that is what looking at them entails — is to be caught up in an antic conjugation of charged strokes, bold marks, and subtle delineations that coalesce in the suggestion of expanding and contracting volumes frequently shadowed by rich washes and variously broad or attenuated currents of dilute ink or watercolor. These graphic forces attract and hold the stationary glance only to throw it off-balance. The experience of such pleasurable tipsiness and the equally pleasurable effort it requires to re-establish an elusive compositional equilibrium is what makes his work so memorable. In Taylor’s pictorial universe there is no standing still, indeed no fixed contour without latent flux, no void without the potential for a sudden infusion of palpable form. Everything about his works on paper, like everything about his sculpture, converges on the tipping point between eidetic coherence and dissolution, knitting and unspooling, becoming and coming apart. Scrutinizing Taylor’s drawings is like watching a card shark in action perform serial feats of prestidigitation, dealing at will from the top, bottom, and middle of the draftsman’s deck with such dexterity that one is convinced his every spontaneous move, his every trick must have been rehearsed a thousand times, and yet, one after the other, they remain mesmerizingly impromptu.

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Installation view of Six Panels: Al Taylor.

Finally, it must be stipulated that this selection of Taylor’s work should not be regarded as a systematic survey or art historical summary of his prolific output. After all, the venue was not designed by Philip Johnson — its resident architect — as a museum but rather as a site for intimate delectation. Accordingly, this presentation should be approached as a sampler whose sole purpose other than providing immediate delight is to tantalize those familiar or unfamiliar with Taylor’s achievement and to inspire them to want more. Nevertheless, as the first exhibition in this uniquely conceived private viewing room since Johnson’s death, it is also a tribute to his partner David Whitney, who was an early and steadfast fan of the artist. To that extent, choosing Taylor as the initial focus of the exhibition series “Six Panels” is a salute to both men.

– Robert Storr, 2014

Robert Storr is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Dean of the Yale School of Art. He was formerly Senior Curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, where in 1996 he co-organized From Bauhaus to Pop: Masterworks Given by Philip Johnson. In 2002 he was named the first Rosalie Solow Professor of Modern Art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. He has also taught at the CUNY Graduate Center, the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies, the Rhode Island School of Design, Tyler School of Art, New York Studio School, and Harvard University. He has been a frequent lecturer in this country and abroad. From 2005 to 2007 he was Director of Visual Art for the Venice Biennale, the first American invited to assume that position. The exhibition he organized at David Zwirner in the Fall of 2013 to celebrate the centenary of Ad Reinhardt was voted “Best Show in a New York Commercial Space” by the American Section of the AICA (Association Internationale des Critiques d’Art).

Photographs by Ron Amstutz.

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Summer Party at the Glass House

 

FINAL_EVITE_1The Glass House Summer Party will take place on Saturday, June 14 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. With support from Swarovski, the Summer Party will feature a festive picnic lunch, lawn games, music, and a silent auction along with opportunities to experience Fujiko Nakaya: Veil and the entire Glass House campus.
$10,000 Table Host* (Includes ten VIP seats and two signed benefit edition prints by Candida Höfer).

$5,000 VIP Friend* (Includes one signed benefit edition print by Candida Höfer)

$1,000 VIP Individual Ticket

$500 Individual Ticket

*This level will be acknowledged on the Glass House donor wall as well as all printed and online materials.

For more information, please contact events@theglasshouse.org or call 203.594.9884 x33335.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CLOG Hosts a Glass House Conversation on Brutalist Architecture + Preservation

Image courtesy of CLOG

Image courtesy of CLOG

There are just a few days left to join our online Glass House Conversation on Brutalist architecture and preservation hosted by CLOG!

Brutalism, also referred to as New Brutalism, is a highly controversial topic in modern preservation. A defining architectural style of the postwar era—characterized by severe, abstract geometries and the use of cast concrete, block and brick—Brutalism arguably produced some of the world’s least popular public buildings.

In the latter half of the 20th century critics Alison and Peter Smithson and Reyner Banham defined Brutalism as an ethic rather than an aesthetic. Today the ethical issue of preserving Brutalist buildings, versus contemporary aesthetic preferences, must be considered as many Brutalist structures —Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital, Marcel Breuer’s Ameritrust Tower, Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center, Alison and Peter Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens, and Gillespie, Kidd and Coia’s St. Peter’s Seminary, to name a few—are now threatened with demolition.

Should we consider Brutalism as an ethic or an aesthetic?

The conversation is inspired by the latest issue of CLOG, a publication that explores, from multiple viewpoints and through a variety of means, a single subject particularly relevant to architecture now. CLOG is currently accepting submissions for their sixth issue, CLOG : BRUTALISM which will be guest edited by Michael Abrahamson. The deadline for submissions is November 5.

Share your thoughts–join the discussion, going on now at glasshouseconversations.org!

Prentice Women's Hospital (center) by architect Bertrand Goldberg, Chicago, IL, August 2012. Photo © Jason Smith, courtesy of The National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Prentice Women’s Hospital (center) by architect Bertrand Goldberg, Chicago, IL, August 2012. Photo © Jason Smith, courtesy of The National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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The Architect’s Newspaper Hosts a Glass House Conversation Inspired by the Venice Architecture Biennale

Glass House Conversation

There’s just a few days left to join the Glass House Conversation hosted by The Architect’s Newspaper inspired by the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale!

Visit glasshouseconversations.org to read what everyone is saying and share your reply!
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Glass House Focus Tours: Architecture + History

Glass House Focus Tours: Architecture + History

2-hour guided tour | $45 per person | Select Wednesdays at 2:30pm

BUY TICKETS

Focus tours delve into specifics of the tour topic, including special access and alternate paths. Focus Tours are intended for guests interested in learning more about a key element of the site or for those looking to see the Glass House through a new perspective.

Architecture + History | Explore the history and theory, materials and technologies, influential architects, and preservation challenges of Modern architecture through the lens of the Glass House campus. Visit interiors of the Glass House (1949), Painting Gallery (1965), Sculpture Gallery (1970), da Monsta (1995), and access (through a field of tall grass) the Library/Study (1980), housing Johnson’s architectural library spanning Schinkel to Hadid and overlooking the Ghost House (1984).

For more information on this and other Glass House tours visit
http://philipjohnsonglasshouse.org/visit/

The 2012 Glass House public tour season runs from May 2 – November 30, 2012 (closed Tuesdays). Tickets are available now!  Advance reservations are highly recommended.  Tickets by phone, please call 866.811.4111.


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Hannia Gómez Hosts a New Glass House Conversation

Villa Planchart in 1963. Image from Archivo Gio Ponti Caracas.
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Join in a new Glass House Conversation on modern architecture + preservation hosted by Hannia Gómez, president of Fundacion de la Memoria Urbana, and founder and Vice President of Docomomo Venezuela:


Share your thoughts, join the Conversation going on now at glasshouseconversations.org
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Glass House Focus Tours: Art + Influence

Glass House Focus Tours: Art + Influence

2-hour guided tour | $45 per person | Select Wednesdays at 2:30pm

BUY TICKETS

Focus tours delve into specifics of the tour topic, including special access and alternate paths. Focus Tours are intended for guests interested in learning more about a key element of the site or for those looking to see the Glass House through a new perspective.

Art + Influence | Philip Johnson and David Whitney played a significant
role in cultivating and commissioning the work of world-renowned creative talent that defined an era: enjoy deeper discussion and close observation
of the art works of the Glass House campus, including one of the world’s foremost collections of pieces by Frank Stella. Artists include Andy Warhol, Donald Judd, Cindy Sherman, David Salle, Lynn Davis, Julian Schnabel, Michael Heizer, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Andrew Lord and John Chamberlin. Explore the personal relationships between the Glass House, these artists, and the founding and development of The Museum of Modern Art.

For more information on this and other Glass House tours visit
http://philipjohnsonglasshouse.org/visit/

The 2012 Glass House public tour season runs from May 2 – November 30, 2012 (closed Tuesdays). Tickets are available now!  Advance reservations are highly recommended.  Tickets by phone, please call 866.811.4111.


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Happy Birthday Ludwig Mies van der Rohe!

Illustration by architect Tadao Ando of the Farnsworth House (1945–51) designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. (Image from the Modern Views project, Courtesy of the architect.)

Today, 126 years ago, modern architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was born!

The historic exchange reflected in the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe Farnsworth House (1945–51) and the Philip Johnson Glass House (1949) is considered one of the twentieth century’s great cultural dialogues, and was explored in the recent Glass House commissioned film Points on a Line by artist Sarah Morris as part of the Modern Views project. (View the list of one hundred contemporary artists, architects, and designers who participated in Modern Views.)

Johnson was also an associate of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the 1950s, and worked with the modern master on the design of the Seagram Building and its famed Four Seasons Restaurant. Interested in learning more? Enjoy an exclusive pairing of these two Modern Icons – tour the Glass House and enjoy a three-course dinner at the Four Seasons Restaurant! For more information visit http://philipjohnsonglasshouse.org/visit/#fourseasons

Photo courtesy of the Four Seasons

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What design spectacles – eyewear or event – have had a significant impact on you?How will you celebrate Mies’s birthday?
The Philip Johnson Glass House invites you to join in
the Glass House Conversation on Design Spectacles -
share your thoughts on the design events (+ architect’s eyewear!) that have had a significant impact on you @ glasshouseconversations.org!

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Glass House Pop Up Shop on Fab.com!

Support The Glass House: Visit Fab.com to check out our
Glass House Design Store sale going on now through April!

Bracelets by Jessica Kagan Cushman with quotes by Philip Johnson.

Bracelets by Jessica Kagan Cushman with quotes by Philip Johnson, now available on Fab.com!

The sale includes great gifts and Glass House-commissioned products by Michael Graves, Jessica Kagan Cushman, Moleskine and more!

Sign-up to be a member of Fab.com (it’s free!) to view Glass House Design Store products available now on Fab.com!

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Landscape Architect Raymond Jungles Hosts New Glass House Conversation

1111 Lincoln Rd.

 Raymond Jungles, FASLA

Raymond Jungles, FASLA

Join us for this week’s online Glass House Conversation hosted by landscape architect Raymond Jungles. Jungles and his firm based in Miami design private residential gardens, civic gardens, boutique hotels, and botanical gardens, and have collaborated with leading architecture firms including Herzog & de Meuron, Frank Gehry & Partners and Foster + Partners. See more of Jungles’s work, including 1111 Lincoln Rd. pictured above, on his website raymondjungles.com.

Jungles asks:

Considering the landscape an integral part of an overall architectural solution, we identify regional context and a sense of place as the primary objectives. To us, unity, harmony and human experience are the driving force.

Which architects best prioritize the human experience in their work? How are people responding?

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