I’m a design snob - I admit it but it sounds worse than it is (or am I rationalizing again?)
I appreciate objects and places imbued with history and memory. I admire objects and places that surprise with their unexpected ingenuity - the expressions of some makers’ peculiar insights. I love being startled wide awake by the everyday raised to heights of fine art.
It isn’t the labels or the makers' names that get me and certainly not the price tags. And like cataracts, jadedness lowers a curtain over mature eyes - all the more reason to appreciate those experiences of discovery. And so, to head my list of Things I am Grateful For, 2017, I list “Thoughtful Design” - timeless surprises.
In my next life - right after becoming a worldwide sensation as a nightclub singer - I plan to practice architecture - building, planning spaces, solving problems. Architecture can enhance lives in the most intimate ways or orchestrate the movement of entire populations. Architecture can endure for generations to tell stories of what cultures valued most - it writes history with “bricks and mortar.”
Like other professions, architecture can serve as a gateway to another career path and often trained architects become full-time sculptors and painters. Two exhibits now on view - one in Chicago and the other in New York City - attest to that professional switch.
|"First Responders," Amanda Williams|
Amanda Williams is an architect-turned-artist whose eye turned to commentary on the social implications of how and why buildings are destroyed. Her collages and photographs are on view at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art in a show titled “First Responders.”
A big red X marks the ceiling at the top of the stairway entrance at the museum - a reference to city markings on condemned buildings slated for demolition. A suite of photographs called “Color(ed) Theory” document houses to be torn down in predominantly distressed African-American neighborhoods where aggressive marketing techniques target this population. One condemned house was painted fiery orange - the color of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Another is Crown Royal bag purple.
|The Cheetos House|
I’m not too sure how I feel about this interpretation of condemned housing. I flinch at a possible too-easy, stereotypical perception that African-Americans somehow partner in the demise of these neighborhoods.
The exhibit is up through New Year’s Eve.
|The Crown Royal Bag House|
On the other hand, I have no such reservations about the 270 photographs on view at the Architectural League of New York - “All the Queens Houses.” Houses in Queens, a borough of New York City, were photographed during a five year span beginning in 2012 by Spanish born architect Rafael Herrin-Ferri.
|"Three Musicians" homage to Picasso's work of same name|
Queens is as multicultural as any community in America and the result is a laissez-faire attitude about building: Live and let build! How different from the homogenized zoning restrictions in most of our cities and especially, suburban subdivisions. The richness and quirkiness of individual style demands an embrace of multiculturalism and challenge those of us who are “design snobs” to set aside preconceptions of “beauty, balance, and good taste” and dive head first into joyful celebration of otherness. Re-read my second paragraph. This is what it’s all about.
|City Rustic Entries|
View All the Queens Houses on its own web site.