Post

Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien on Paul Evans

1/5: Paul Evans (1931–87), Sideboard (Wavy-Front), ca. 1966. Welded and patinated steel, colored pigments, gold leaf, and slate top; 21 x 80 x 20 inches. Signed: “PE.” Collection of Dorsey Reading. Photo by Jason Wierzbicki.
2/5: Paul Evans (1931–87), Cabinet (Skyline Cabinet), ca. 1966. Welded and patinated steel, colored pigments, and brass; 30 1/4 x 75 x 18 5/8 inches. Conn Family Trust. Photo by Jason Wierzbicki.
3/5: Paul Evans (1931–87) and Phillip Lloyd Powell (1919–2008), Bar Cabinet, ca. 1963. Welded and perforated steel, copper, bronze, pewter, colored pigments, 23-karat gold leaf, electrical components, and felt; 81 3/4 x 60 x 23 inches. Cafesjian Museum Foundation Collection. Photo courtesy of Wright.
4/5: Paul Evans (1931–87), Cabinet (Cityscape II, Faceted) (PE 370), 1973. Chrome-plated steel and wood with fiberglass top; 23 x 94 x 24 inches. Collection of Dorsey Reading. Photo by Jason Wierzbicki.
5/5: Paul Evans (1931–87) and Phillip Lloyd Powell (1919-2008), Cabinet, ca. 1962. Welded and patinated steel, colored pigments, wood, 23-karat gold leaf; 32 1/4 x 46 1/8 x 24 1/4 inches. Collection of Merrill Wright. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s.

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.

Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. Photo by Jason Smith.

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.

Founded in 1731 by Benjamin Franklin, the Library Company of Philadelphia is America’s oldest cultural institution and was once the largest public library in America, until the Civil War.

People

M. Ho is a visual artist and a 2005 Pew Fellow.

Demetrius Oliver: Canicular is an innovative exhibition of newly commissioned works that will transform the Print Center’s galleries, including a live telescope projection of Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.

FringeArts will present the United States premiere of After the Rehearsal/Persona by director Ivo van Hove and his Dutch theater company, Toneelgroep Amsterdam, at the 2015 Fringe Festival.

Lamont B. Steptoe is a poet and a 2006 Pew Fellow.

Molly Sheridan is a writer, editor, and producer specializing in classical and experimental music, with a focus on multimedia content designed for the web.

As of April 29, Berlin-based artist Katharina Grosse has begun working with a team of installation artists to paint seven predetermined sites along a five-mile stretch between 30th Street and North Philadelphia stations.

Filmmaker and artist Miranda July is one of seven artists included in Alien She, a Center-funded exhibition on the history and continued influence of Riot Grrrl. She answers a few questions about the 1990s feminist movement and what it meant to her.

Mural Arts’s A Love Letter for You was featured in the Guardian in 2011 as part of a collection of photos of the ten best street art works.

We asked Pierre Bal-Blanc, director and curator of CAC Brétigny in France, to answer the question: “Why are so many interested in the issues of restaging now?” He responded provocatively.

Bruce Laverty of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia will lead a trolley tour that explores the lineage of the Philadelphia row home, from the 18th century to the present day.

People

Romi Crawford is an assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She previously worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Project Row Houses’ founder Rick Lowe discusses Art Making and the Future of Presentation, as part of Gray Area’s Preservation Provocateur speaker series.

People

Robert Pinsky is a poet, essayist, literary critic, and translator. From 1997 to 2000, he served as poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress.

The Institute of Contemporary Art set about organizing the first posthumous survey on the art of Jason Rhoades, consulting with the artist’s colleagues and collectors.

People

Honor Molloy is a playwright and novelist, and a 1993 Pew Fellow.

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.

Tacita Dean speaks about time’s myriad forms, from the geological and the celestial to the biological or the structural.

Richard Torchia is a visual artist and a 1994 Pew Fellow.

Following closely on the heels of revolutionary events in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya in 2011, Marginal Utility’s exhibition explored the topic of protest through the work of five artists.

Organization

FringeArts presents, develops, and commissions a range of high-quality contemporary performing and visual arts in Philadelphia.

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.

The oldest art museum and school in the United States—founded in 1805—the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts includes among its notable faculty and alumni Mary Cassatt and David Lynch.

Rebecca Rutstein is a visual artist and a 2004 Pew Fellow.

The Penn Institute for Urban Research develops knowledge in three critical areas: innovative urban development strategies; building the sustainable and inclusive 21st-century city; and the role of anchor institutions in urban places.

Grants

The first artistic collaboration between New Paradise Laboratories founding company members and newer, younger members, The Adults premiered at the 2014 Fringe Fringe Festival in Philadelphia.