‘Radiant Body Globs,’ Ball-Nogues Studio
Installation view of “Almost Anything Goes: Architecture and Inclusivity” at Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara
‘Eye Candy Table (detail),’Atelier Manferdini
Museum of Contemporay Art Santa Barbara photos
In the 21st Century, things have gotten wiggly. Where once a discipline hopper like Warhol was an anomaly, it’s now rare to find an artist working in one medium. The new exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara asks whether a similar breakdown is happening in the architecture and design world, and if affording firms and designers museum space changes the way we see them, or how they see their audience. “Almost Anything Goes” explains the title of the exhibit that opened last week and runs through April 13.
The focus is on Los Angeles artists trained in architecture, the majority with a link to the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-ARC) in downtown L.A. Along with MCA’s Miki Garcia, the exhibit has been curated with Brigitte Kouo, a SCI-ARC graduate.
“This is not a typical architecture show,” says Ms. Garcia, standing in front of a work that makes her statement obvious. It’s a musing on materials by Design, Bitches, the duo of Catherine Johnson and Rebecca Rudolph, who have covered the floor with concrete clouds and floated bags of cement in the air above. A mirror on the nearby wall gives an illusion of depth.
SCI-ARC foments experimental work, and Design, Bitches represent the kind of “investigative, inquiry-based practice” that Ms. Garcia wanted in the show. They’ve also included a series of parody portraits of their favorite architects — I.M. Pei, Charles and Ray Eames — with them standing in for their idols.
Equally intriguing, DO/SU Studio Architecture founder, Doris Sung’s work greets people on the way in. It’s the base of what could be a 30-foot tower, made of interwoven thermo-bimetal. The work is an investigation into this material, which can shrink and contract in the heat. (Don’t expect that to happen in MCA’s controlled environment.)
“The final context for my pieces is not a museum at all,” says Ms. Sung. “Because I apply a lot of aesthetics to it, I think some people see it as art . . .. It’s hard, though, because there’s not that many venues that show architectural work.”
Ms. Sung sees MCA’s exhibit as good for public exposure and feedback, but also sees the others in the show as making work for a museum environment.
That’s definitely the result of L.A.’s Amorphis and Ramiro Diaz Granados teaming up with Matthew Au on a room in the museum, where metal frames have “slipped” down the wall and bent the paper “canvas” unfurling onto the floor. There are other subtle designs in the room, too, from wall color to shadow.
“What does it mean for an architect to engage at the scale of production that artists do?” he asks rhetorically … with no answer. “Installations have been a strong venue to explore materials. There have been a lot of opportunities for this new generation of architects.”
Elsewhere, the museum devotes its back room to Miles Kemp’s walkthrough of a Le Corbusier house, turned digital and meant to be viewed on an Oculus Rift virtual reality headpiece. Mr. Kemp works at Digital Physical/Variate Labs, and though he started in architecture, he moved over to interactive software. His exhibit piece merges both “the digital and the physical.” He’s worked with a Santa Barbara company called WorldViz, which builds virtual reality experiences in order to allow architects and designers to walk around their own work. Viewers will get a chance to walk through a classic of modernism, and Mr. Kemp says he promises to return throughout the exhibit’s run to upgrade the virtual building, adding furniture and maybe playing around with it. He says he may make the whole building out of glass, or stack another building on top.
Other artists in the show include Benjamin Ball and Gaston Nogues of Ball-Nogues Studio, who provide a series of amorphous lamps made out of paper pulp; and tables from Elena Manferdini of Atelier Manferdini.
All the pieces start conversations about art and creation. But whether or not it “is” art is a question long settled by Ms. Garcia.
“Yes, it’s art,” she says. “But all these works all (come from) concerns that are really specific to people who are building things.”
‘Almost Anything Goes: Architecture and Inclusivity’
When: Through April 13
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, 653 Paseo Nuevo
Information: 966-5373, mcasantabarbara.org