Friday, July 31, 2009

Art Review; Moss, Kipnis and the Box

By Orhan Ayyuce

I almost didn't go if it wasn't for a business meeting I had near SCI Arc right before the much anticipated gallery installation talk between Eric Owen Moss, architect and school's director and his friend and critic Jeffrey Kipnis about ; architecture related, grid related, art related, poetry related, related over the top and 'what's inside of me' personal installation of aluminum produced cube, precariously hanging from the ceiling above, bondaged with finite, centered circular flat bars, fighting a war against orthographic and infinite grid.

An integral part of the visual concept, the exhibition incorporated a boxing ring or some other theatrics influenced seating arrangement, demanding your focused attention to the work uber alles. If you were sitting in the gallery, you were either an actor or an audience, a part of the performance piece that was half there half was not. And like me, if you were watching the whole set up from up above, you were the overflow looking at the work from an eye level, sort of up close and personal way.Down below, the uncompromised wooden chairs similar to those depicted in the rendering were full.The conversation started with few anecdotes and talk show jokes to get the people relaxed.

Predictably, the territory of art and architecture challenged as the first conceptually 'serious' issue. I have seen that before and done it myself. That is usually and rightfully a typical argument of architect produced installations when dressed as art in a gallery for not art but for architecture.
Under the 8'x8' cube bondaged with circular ribbons:“What's inside the cube and what you don't see, what this work is about,” answered the author to a question that could be summarized as, “what is this?” Yes, and no surprise to me at that point, it was declared “art.”The audience was asked to go 'inside the box' and find out for themselves.

Sure, I will go see what is inside "The Center of The Universe” by Bruce Nauman in University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque, but do I want to know what the 4'x8' aluminum sheets are screwed to? And bother to know the lyrics of the bondage song? Perhaps I would, but rendering of the bigger scheme of things at the gallery entrance hardly left any curiosity in this reviewer's mind.

Obviously and as stated by the architect that was what resided in the box. Like the attendees, I knew.Yes, most art is autobiographical but architects are architects. We have buildings. It is less interesting when it is both ways. And sometimes that goes for artists declaring their work architecture with no convincing text or function.
In fact, for me, the territory of art and architecture is not that casual and easy. There is precedent.
As for the grid discussion in art, I will stick to Rosalind Krauss' “Grids” essay I read many *Octobers ago. Recommended to all interested in art via grid related way...

Getting back to the gallery talk, the rest of the apologies of courage and bravery to inspire the students etc., did not make the free fall of the cube any less harmless or any more meaningful.
There was even a Jenny Holzer comparing / compensating attempt at one point when I said “oh no.”

And as if by default, this crowd's go-to guy Peter Eisenman with his 'easier piece' was the anchor at one point, even in his physical absence. He was still ruling maybe because the audience could see what's inside his box, I was pondering on the freeway, driving home.

However, credit does go to always vulnerable Mr. Moss for fearless and semi stable homecoming. Courageous, yes. Exposed, yes. Mediocre as art, yes.

Jeffrey Kipnis, the interviewer, the conversational theorist, an insider, is cynical, yet so sweet...

“Architecture needs an enemy,” says Eric Moss, but does art need a friend?

*"Grids" from October #9, Summer 1979 pp. 9-22 MIT Press.

The article was originally published at

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