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Alexandra Lange

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It made the Approval Matrix this week, so I suppose it is not too late to pile on and highly recommend the Museum of Arts & Design’s Slash: Paper Under the Knife, as the must-see of the winter season. I have many problems with MAD (the new name, the new building, the new mark, I could go on) but this show includes some truly spectacular work. Everyone seems to be nattering on about the Gabriel Orozco show at MoMA, which I thought revealed him as a bit of a one-trick pony, with lots of weak conceptual and two-dimensional work. I only like the car and the ‘shroom.

Given the many exploding, foliated and frilly works in Slash, few of the reviews focused on the more subdued architectural works, largely stashed in a single gallery. There’s an extremely weak Thomas Demand photograph. There’s the utterly charming Olafur Eliasson Your House, a flip-book cutout that works much better as a film than as a volume (who could ever flip fast enough to make it interesting?); everyone who paused in front of the monitor let out a little laugh of delight. There are Beatrice Coron’s Heavens and Hells (2009), site-specific Tyvek works that make use of the building’s pointless slot windows to create detailed worlds that seem like a combination of Breugel, Chris Ware and Kara Walker. And most importantly, there is Rob Carter’s Stone on Stone (2009), a film which shows Le Corbusier’s La Tourette turning into St. John the Divine. And vice versa. I am not even sure what the message is, but you can make up almost anything. Is it a commentary on the fact that the two projects are essentially contemporaries? Is it a suggestion that they would each look better on each other’s site? Whatever the answer, I loved it.

What I did not love was the work, one floor below, by Sangeeta Sandrasegar, overlaying images of torture and destruction on iconic modern chairs. The wall text suggested that this was a commentary on consumer society, that designers are fiddling while Rome burns. If this were an original point, which I don’t think it is, Sandrasegar could better have made it had she not chosen chairs designed by people who fled war (Breuer), or contributed to the U.S. war effort (Eames). They were by no means disengaged from reality, making her chair selections seem themselves without history.



Posted in: Museums

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Alexandra Lange Alexandra Lange is an architecture and design critic, and author of Writing about Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities. (Princeton Architectural Press, 2012). Her work has appeared in The Architect’s Newspaper, Architectural Record, Dwell, Metropolis, Print, New York Magazine and The New York Times.

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