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.
For decades this suburban university gallery has presented exhibitions of a quality and field-wide significance well beyond what one might expect, given its size and location.
This month in Fellows Friday news: Vera Nakonechny is named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts, Alex Da Corte exhibits at White Cube, and much more.
Artist-in-residence Teresa Jaynes will curate a multisensory exhibition based on the Library Company’s extraordinary collection of pre-Braille texts for the visually impaired.
The Fabric Workshop and Museum is an internationally renowned artist residency program with an active exhibition program.
Andrea Clearfield is an award-winning composer of music for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensembles, dance, and multimedia collaborations.
Paola Antonelli, senior curator of the architecture and design department at the Museum of Modern Art, is one of the world’s foremost experts on design.
“You can do what you want within the space of the paper,” says visual artist and 2009 Pew Fellow Ben Peterson. “Whereas in the three-dimensional world, there’d be limitations.”
The Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change hosts Dr. Mary Moran—professor of anthropology at Colgate University, a specialist in gender, conflict, and post-conflict reconstruction, and in Liberian studies—and Dr. Ruth Stone, ethnomusicologist at Indiana University with expertise in the music of Liberia.
Megawords (run by Dan Murphy and Anthony Smyrski, both Pew Fellows) is self-described as “an experimental media project” that takes the form of a biannual photography magazine, as well as related installation projects and public events.
People’s Light & Theatre Company undertook a long-range plan to align future programming with its mission of integrating art and education.
The Preservation Alliance promotes the importance and appropriate use of historic buildings and landscapes in the Philadelphia region.
Ron Tarver is a visual artist and a 2001 Pew Fellow.
A conversation with psychylustro curator Elizabeth Thomas and artist and writer Douglas Ashford, associate professor at Cooper Union and former member of Group Material.
The White Box Residencies, a project devised by 2011–13 Center Visiting Artist Ain Gordon, invited outside artists to creatively explore and interact with the Center’s physical space.
Alex Da Corte appears twice in Interview and Karen M’Closkey & Keith VanDerSys are singled out in Metropolis. Plus, news on Brian Phillips, Zoe Strauss, Matthew Mitchell, and CAConrad.
The Institute of Contemporary Art is widely known for giving artists exhibitions at critical points in their careers.
In 1998 the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 12 Philadelphia-based artists, and grants to 52 dance, music, theater, and visual arts organizations in the greater Philadelphia region.
Sarah Lutman has worked in the arts and nonprofit sector for the past 35 years, and she is currently an independent consultant and entrepreneur.
Obie award-winning playwright Ain Gordon will “embed” himself in the Historical Society’s daily functions, in order to reflect on the processes of how history gets documented and preserved.
In his review, Nicolas Linnert describes Sze as a “contemporary hunter-gatherer processing information and aesthetic value for sustenance.”
Lonnie Graham is a visual artist and a 2002 Pew Fellow.
“I curate for curious people. I curate for people who love some other field or subject the same way I love art. I curate for those people who need to be won over, but are willing.”
Iain Low is an architect and a 1993 Pew Fellow.
Marketing specialist Marnie Burke de Guzman sat down with us in early 2013 to discuss exhibitions as platforms for audience engagement.
Cora Mirikitani is the president and CEO of the Center for Cultural Innovation, a California-based knowledge and financial services incubator for individual artists.
The Fabric Workshop and Museum presents new work by Artist-in-Residence Sarah Sze in her first solo exhibition in the Philadelphia area.