Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien have distinguished themselves in the field for their attention to materials, surfaces, tactility, and craft. You can see it most clearly in their hand-treated façade for the soon-to-be demolished American Folk Art Museum in New York City, or the interior courtyard of the new Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.
Given the nature of their work, we thought of the pair recently when viewing a Center-funded retrospective of art-furniture designer Paul Evans at the James A. Michener Art Museum. Perhaps—just perhaps—Williams and Tsien are aware of Evans’ work? We asked them, and indeed they are.
What do you think of when you look at Paul Evans’ art-furniture, with its patterned, textured, and often deliberately overwrought surfaces?
To us the work is fascinating because it takes us out of our comfort zone.
Is there an architectural equivalent for this type of surface treatment?
Not really. It seems to fly in the face of architectural protocol—in the face of design as it used to be taught, in fact, and how it still is both taught and practiced. But as our definitions of society and propriety have been challenged, so too has architecture.
No one comes to mind?
Well, it recalls the experimentation and freedom in Paul Rudolph’s later work: from his School of Architecture at Yale to his own home in New York, with its theatrical mirrored mylar and glass. This was work for which he was much admired and roundly criticized. Also Philip Johnson’s follies and much of the work of Bruce Goff; these are architects whose career trajectories, like Evans’, sometimes seemed to veer out of control, without a direction or sense of rigor.
We might also look at the way Philip Guston’s work developed. It moved so dramatically from abstraction to brute forms and cartoon figures of the Ku Klux Klan.
Also very much out of the mainstream are the great window dressers who must come up with bold concepts seemingly overnight and on a shoestring budget. Robert Currie comes to mind. We were always excited to see his windows at the old Henri Bendel store on 57th Street.
Do you think Evans would have made a good architect?
His interests were so widespread; we think he would have been far happier with interiors and homes. He needed a patron with incredibly strong convictions, who might have supported his eclectic tastes.
Architecture, by contrast, is very much a collaborative profession. And Evans seems to have never cared for context; he wanted to control the entire panorama.
For you, is Evans a proto-postmodernist, a regional modernist, or something else entirely?
We never like to classify designers, though we are sure we have. And Evans, we think, is particularly unclassifiable. In fact, were he alive and classified, he would flee your classifications.
We like the description of him wandering the edge of a volcano. He was neither conscious of the safety of set standards, nor of the danger of being a slave to fashion.
Are there any labels that have been applied to your own work that you have found fitting?
We are also architects who don’t want to be classified. We are attracted to many things and many materials and are always attempting to be connective—bold in our choices but sensitive in our use. We are on a rigorous search for the heart in all we do.
Visual artist and 2014 Pew Fellow Brent Wahl works primarily in photography and time-based mediums, transforming everyday materials and detritus into mesmerizing compositions.
Marginal Utility’s Five Acts: Chronicles of Dissent was featured on Artforum’s website.
By connecting people with wildlife, the Philadelphia Zoo creates joyful discovery and inspires action for animals and habitats, and is home to more than 1,300 animals, many of them rare and endangered.
Tobin Rothlein is a dance artist and a 2006 Pew Fellow.
John Dias is a respected dramaturg with extensive experience working on a broad range of new plays and classics, and the artistic director of the Two River Theater Company in Red Bank, NJ.
This exhibition of contemporary art by seven artists will serve as the complement to another exhibition of the library’s outstanding collection of Fraktur: Pennsylvania German folk artworks from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Charles Burns is a graphic novelist and a 1994 Pew Fellow.
Kukuli Velarde is a visual artist and a 2003 Pew Fellow.
Canuso’s new solo work Midway Avenue built on research initiated with UK-based choreographer Wendy Houstoun, premiered in May 2014 as part of FringeArts’ year-round programming.
Performing arts expert Diane Ragsdale, a frequent panelist and keynote speaker at arts conferences, is pursuing a Ph.D. in cultural economics at Erasmus University in the Netherlands.
Bryn Mawr College’s Performing Arts Series presented a month of free events to expand audience’s knowledge of Cambodian dance, music, and culture that culminated in a performance of The Lives of Giants by the Khmer Arts Ensemble.
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts exhibited the first career retrospective for this American figurative painter of African descent, born and educated in Philadelphia.
Rudolf Staffel (1911–2002) was a ceramist and a 1996 Pew Fellow.
Edgar J. Shockley III (Pew Fellow, 2008) sees his unique contribution to the world as reconciling African and European theatrical aesthetics, making us all more aware of what it means to be human.
Paul Schimmel responds to the question: “Do you think exhibition-making bears any resemblance to theater directing?”
“The major concern of my work is to paint the invisible,” says Joy Feasley, a painter and a 2011 Pew Fellow.
At the final community meeting, Gray Area invites the public to join in further testing and refining its in-progress preservation toolkit.
Philagrafika presented The Graphic Unconscious as the thematic centerpiece of Philagrafika 2010, a citywide festival.
Berlin-based visual artist Katharina Grosse will transform one of Philadelphia’s major transportation thoroughfares with a series of seven bright, bold installations.
Philadelphia Mural Arts Advocates has produced over 3,600 murals since 1984, making it the largest public art program in the United States and earning Philadelphia the nickname “City of Murals.”
The Fabric Workshop and Museum shares this piece from the upcoming Sarah Sze exhibition catalog, in which the late art critic and philosopher considered Sze’s past and future art works.
One of the first venues in the United States dedicated to the appreciation of limited edition prints, the Print Center has expanded its purview to include photography and ephemera.
The Fabric Workshop and Museum is an internationally renowned artist residency program with an active exhibition program.
This month in Fellows Friday news: Alex Da Corte prepares for a major exhibition at ICA Philadelphia, and new albums from Orrin Evans, Mary Lattimore, and Chris Forsyth have generated buzz. We also say goodbye to jazz violinist John Blake, Jr.
JG, a 26 1/2-minute work in 35mm anamorphic film, was made possible by Center funding in 2010. This week Dean’s film will be shown at Film Forum in New York City.
Mural Arts and SEPTA’s “Love Train,” featuring Stephen Powers’ Center-funded Love Letter project, received national media coverage from news outlets including CNN and MSNBC.