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January 6 - February 24, 2007 at Koplin Del Rio Gallery, Culver City

by Marlena Donohue

“Entropy: The Art in Architects,” is a multi-media exhibition of Southern California architects showing whimsical free-hand studies, fantastic drawings of dreamy moon spaces inhabited by communities of shapes (George Yu), geometrically-based fashion design that relates nicely to the large show on architecture and fashion at MOCA.

The objects have been gathered to remind us that at the core of the ephemerally symbolic canvas, the conceptual performance and that stalwart soaring box of glass you walk into to get your teeth cleaned lays the identical, mysterious creative wellspring: a hairpin dialectic between the license of chaos and the resolution of order.

“Architecture is the triumph of human imagination over materials, methods, and men, to put man into possession of his own Earth.  It is at least the geometric pattern of things, of life, of the human and social world.  It is at best that magic framework of reality that we sometimes touch upon when we use the word ‘order’.”
Frank Lloyd Wright

George Yu, "Primative," 2002,
flatlite electroluminescent lamp,
aluminum, 57 1/2 x 33 1/2 x 33 1/2".

Elena Manferdini, "Clad-Cuts
Collection--Gold," 2005, laser cut
fabric, mannequin, dimensions variable.

The ancients would find this great show frankly redundant; they “got” the idea that buildings are necessarily part techne, as Plato called it, and part visionary inspiration.  Vitruvius’ “Ten Books on Architecture” was required reading for sculptors and builders alike, and architects were integrated organically into institutions of both fine art and functional material culture.  I think this is why Michelangelo said that architecture was the “noblest” art, because designing great structures (or just half baked ones for that matter) requires at minimum empathy for the human, sensitivity to rigorous mechanics (even the blighted mall must honor the laws of physics) alongside flights of imagination that allow one to see a thing in fantasy before it actually exists.

Steven Ehrlich, "Farrell Residence," 1993,
zip ink and zipatone on paper, 28 x 28".

Eric Kahn, "Ocean's 3," 2001; "Ocean's 4" 2001, diptych-collage, oil, ink, wax, found objects and thread onpaper, 5 x 7" each.
“It is indisputable that the limbs of architecture are derived from the limbs of man.”

“Art in Architects” showcases a wide range of playful creative work, and a variety of professional levels.  Pritzer winners like Thom Mayne, to well known names like Michael Rotondi,  Eric Owen Moss, Steven Ehrlich share the stage with less hyped talents like Rob Quigley, Wes Jones, Eric Kahn, Michele Saee, George Yu, Teddy Cruz, Lorcan O’Herlihy, Hector Perez, Elena Manferdini, Jennifer Siegal, Marcelo Spina and Neil Denari, Karl Chu, Hernan Diaz Alonso, Greg Lynn, Marcos Novak, Gary Paige, David Erdman and Georgina Huljich.  We are asked to note the romping invention in all.

This taking note is necessary because for the most part today we move through, use, and apprehend buildings the way we take in everything else--as sight bites, with the utilitarian briskness required of all experience these days.  Buildings--the good, the bad and the ugly--house us, harbor our loved ones, enshrine our possessions and obsessions, sit in our space, force us to engage them with our bodies, and--in a pretty fleeting world where change is the only constant, they endure.

“A doctor can bury his mistakes, but an architect can only advise his clients to plant vines.”
--Frank Lloyd Wright
There is thus an inchoate awareness across time that structures are chronological, present, ponderous and hierarchic, yet for the most part today we only stop to consider what a building is and means from a creative, social or ideological standpoint when Spectacle, experts, and media instruct us to fix our awe on huge, expensive examples of ‘artnessfulness’--think Meier on Sepulveda or Gehry on Grand Avenue.

This show argues that artfulness is a given in the discipline, the young curators want us to see that creative experiments done in relation to or independent of finished  commissions engage and bubble up from messy and mysterious things like metaphor, philosophy, whimsy, desire and intersect disciplines like music, literature and science in ways that we tend to not associate with those functional structures we use and pass daily.

For example, Elena Manferdini shows dresses designed with the same laser cutting technology used to fabricate architectural templates.  Made from fabrics that look solid, the 3-d couture opens  along bodily axes with hinged flaps that look like windows, fish scales or corrugated steel.  Jennifer Siegal of Jennifer Siegal, Mark Stankard and Matthew Fellows shows a model for “Globetrotter,”  a portable, almost living amphitheater that could be assembled and dismantled in any open field, with self sustained simple seating, movable backdrops, and billowing, ribbed “sacks” projecting from the rear as possible green solutions to temperature control, lighting and acoustics.

The events of human life, whether public or private, are so intimately linked to architecture that most observers can reconstruct nations or individuals in all the truth of their habits from the remains of their monuments or from their domestic relics.”
--Honore de Balzac

Previous shows took up this thesis of building as fine art.  A while back the Santa Monica Art Museum showed architect’s drawings in a show that was nothing short of illuminating.  You saw hardboiled, no nonsense space shapers doodle surrealistically, and (heaven forbid) emotively as they imagined form and meaning in ways not one bit different than the intensely creative process a sculptor or poet might use.

Jennifer Siegal, Mark Stankard and
Matthew Fellows, "Globetrotter 2,"
2006, laser print on paper, 18 x 24".

The message I hope to have sent is just the example of being yourself.”
--Frank Gehry

In this provocative little show, the message is not so much looking at the precious doodles of the stars, but rather realizing the relationship between that ordered obdurate thing we see in our midst made of steel or wood, and a kind free thinking creative entropy that fragments, explodes, invents matter and time before resolving these into the ordered scale, symmetry, flow we see and use as axial halls that direct us, clearstories that light, courtyards and living rooms where we feel a repose.

The show’s title “Entropy” refers to the second law of thermodynamics: systems move toward disorder, naturally reaching a maximum and random dispersion before by some magic they coalesce into a state of optimum stability and cohesion…only to repeat this breaking and forming again and again. A good building breathes through such cycles of enclosure and freedom from constraint, exists between pleasure and utility; so do the cool works in this exceptional show.