Anish Kapoor is known as one of the world’s great living artists. Since he won the Premio Duemila Prize at the 44th Venice Biennale back in 1990, his sculptural installations had a significant presence in many cities, including London, at the Tate Modern, Paris, at the Grand Palais, and Jerusalem, at the Israel Museum.
Anish Kapoor was born in Mumbai in 1954 to an Iraqi-Jewish daughter of a rabbi who immigrated to India from Baghdad with her family when she was an infant. His Punjabi Hindu father was a hydrographer for the Indian Navy. This mixed and complex background had a powerful influence in his attraction to dualities: concave and convex, matter and void, light and darkness, negative and positive, earth and sky, mind and body. The range of materials he uses and pushes to their limits is astonishing: stone, steel, concrete, fabrics. Many of his projects are at an architectural scale. He collaborated with architects Frank Gehry in Chicago’s Millenial Park, Arata Isozaki in Japan, and engineer Cecil Balmond at the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Olympic Park.
Although his reflective artworks in highly polished stainless steel are easily recognizable, it would be a mistake to pigeon-hole Kapoor into this style only. His crude artworks in sculptural painting and amorphous concrete tell us of an artist in continuous research for new forms of expression.
The exhibit of Kapoor’s stainless-steel Double S-Curve at the Regen Projects gallery in Hollywood is good art news for Southern California.
This short documentary tries to connect dots between three disparate experiences that happened in a single day, 12/12/2019. The dots are a brainstorming session with old friends, a visit to a new working environment in Hollywood, the discovery of an art studio by the Los Angeles River dedicated to environmental art, and three piano performers.
It all started with a scheduled breakfast at Coffee Cup, a reunion of four former members of a group known as “Rethinking Greater Long Beach.” At the table were Professors Alex Norman (UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs,) Jack Humphrey (Demography) Bill Crampton (Education) and myself.
After ordering sunny side up eggs for breakfast – out of the ordinary for me – and updating ourselves – we had not seen each other several years – we started our brainstorming session. This time, instead of rethinking Long Beach, we posed several questions at a global level. China thinks and plans long term, why can’t the US? Is Singapore urbanity number one, as Jack thinks after his recent visit? How many people can planet Earth take sustainably? What revolution is needed in education to face the future’s challenges? What are the dangers generated by Trumpism beyond Trump? Summarizing the results of our discussion, we voted. “Optimistic vs. Pessimistic.” The result: 1 to 3, respectively.
In the afternoon, Ruth and I made an unplanned visit to Second Home Hollywood. I only knew that it had been designed by the same architects that designed the Serpentine Pavilion near LACMA, Jose Selgas, and Lucia Cano, from Madrid. They had recently completed this new kind of working environment in London and in Lisbon.
We found Second Home Hollywood’s design impressive. Built with low-cost materials, and making intensive use of planting, the place is full of light, spatially vibrant and stimulates socialization. It is out-of-the-box thinking. Its success with young people is evident.
In the evening, we went for a first visit to Metabolic Studio, by the Los Angeles River, close to downtown L.A. Once again, we were surprised to discover a stimulant space to produce arts and crafts within an existing industrial warehouse.
Inspired by these three events in a single day, I decided to produce a short documentary, included here. While watching the Kennedy Center Awards 2019, I discovered Yuja Wang. Immediately it triggered the idea of bringing into the film the piece that she performed, “You Come Here Often?” by Michael Tilson Thomas. While researching for another two piano pieces, I first discovered Marco Mezquida, from Barcelona. He has played in many international jazz festivals. Then I discovered Joanna MacGregor. She is a British concert pianist, conductor and composer, who is also Head of Piano at London’s Royal Academy of Music. I found her playing of a Piazzolla arrangement fantastic! I couldn’t resist connecting the dots through a film collage.
On a recent event at U.C.L.A., the 43rd Congress of the Romanian Academy of Arts and Science, I was invited by its Interim President, Prof. Ileana Costea, about what I do as an architect-filmmaker. I decided to edit “an extended trailer” of selected segments from my films. I called it “Doc Snippets.”
Beyond some short notes on my architectural practice and of my passion for film since I was a student, I saw the question “Why are architectural documentaries important?” as the most relevant. Why?
The transformation of the planet to accommodate 10 billion people by 2050 will demand the active input of all its inhabitants, which would include self-help. Architecture awareness is critical to confront planetary challenges such as climate change, sustainability, population growth, mobility, food production, conservation of natural spaces, visual pollution, and over-crowding.
My films, most of them on architecture-related subjects, try to inform the viewer about the relationship between quality-space and human scale, and about meaning in the configuration of spaces.
The playful Serpentine L.A. Pavilion, erected in-between the La Brea Tar Pits and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, brings a smile to an area characterized by an eclectic architectural mix. Designed by Spanish architects José Selgas and Lucía Cano, a design partnership known as SelgasCano and based in Madrid, was initially commissioned by the Serpentine Galleries in London and installed at the Gallery’s site in London’s Hyde Park back in 2015. Thanks to a partnership between creative workspace Second Home and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, the 866-square-foot area in an X-shaped plan is wrapped with fluorine-based plastic in multiple colors.
Creating temporary pavillions a subject suitable for experimentation. Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Buckminster Fuller, Frei Otto, Carlo Scarpa and hundreds of architects designing for world fairs took their commissions as an opportunity to experiment. The SalgasCano team methodology echoes Gehry’s playful studies of space. And yet, unlike Gehry’s costly end-products, the Serpentine Pavilion gives the feeling that everyone could do it, even children. And why not?
What is this work’s main message? First and foremost, it is experimental. “Architecture as an isolated episode, a gesture, doesn’t interest us. We believe in total freedom to try and respond to concrete needs, which we express via play and the use of color,” says Salgas. “We have no set forms, styles, or concepts; our architecture is generated by reading the places and the lives of those who will live there. We have worked to free ourselves of all the clichés absorbed during our university education, dogmas that have blocked us without us knowing why. Designing is spontaneous and natural. Rejecting stereotypes allowed us to grow and become what we are today.”
“Impacting” is what first comes to mind when visiting Paul McCarthy’s wood sculpture exhibition at the Hauser & Wirth Gallery in LA’s downtown Arts District.
The combination of crafted wood at a large scale and the integration of a Baroque language speaking a surrealistic critique of the contemporary world signals an art mutation
McCarthy titled his works “WS Spinoffs,” ”Wood Statues” and “Brown Rothkos.” The word “spinoff” is precise. In media, a spinoff is a radio or television program, film, or any narrative work, derived from one or more already existing works, that focuses in more detail on one aspect of an original work. In this case, the Snow White tale and Rothko’s paintings.
The gallery’s website includes a well-written description of McCarthy’s show, and also an 8-minute video presentation by Donatien Grau. See: https://www.hauserwirthlosangeles.com/exhibitions/paul-mccarthy-20170701
My reaction to the exhibition was more visceral than intellectual and so is my short documentary, “Tangoing with Paul & Amigos.” I made a sort of non-scripted “spinoff” that includes free association with like-minded artists and some memories from my Argentinean upbringing. The tango music is a metaphor of a dynamic nonlinear fluidity.
I tried to imagine the statues made out of white marble. The conflicts, sarcasms and subtleties they contain would become more evident, such as Bernini’s positioning the “Rio de la Plata River” sculpture in Piazza Navona as fearing that the facade of Borromini’s church of Sant’Agnese would crumble over him. Yet McCarthy’s choice of dark walnut wood is intentional. It makes harder to see the thematic at first sight. The eye is caught first by the craftsmanship and by the large scale as macro-layers of a complex composition.
The abstraction of the hanging Brown Rothkos, made of foam and sprayable polyurethane coating, resemble melting lava and brings a powerful contrast to the statues. They are both at an architectural scale.
A Brief Story of a Vision
“While doing research on solutions for sustainable mixed-use urban corridors, I came to foresee the advantage of incorporating a food-growth area integrated to the common spaces of the habitat at arm length of people’s home.”
In a brief story of her vision, Ruth brings us the case of urban farming as a growing movement to tackle problems that the world faces in the 21st century. Her story is personal. She tells us how her vision evolved from childhood experiences in the Romanian countryside, to her life in Rome, to the mentorships of Zevi and Pellegrin, to her fascination with Wright’s thinking and works, to her practice as an architect, to her discovery of Permaculture, to her new passion for urban farming and local edible gardens.
She posed to herself some critical questions:
- How can urban farming contribute to make the world a better place?
- What is the connection between architecture, planning and urban farming?
- What can each of us do to become self-reliable on the food we put on our table?
- How can edible gardens become a design component integrated to urban development?
- How can urban farming provide a stage for social interaction?
Some facts may help to put a global problem into perspective:
- The First Agriculture Revolution started about 10,000 years ago. As nomads settled, cities were born. Until about a century ago, they were surrounded by farms, which supplied its population with fresh food.
- As the world’s population grew from 1.6 billion in 1900 to 7.5 billion today, the way we feed ourselves was transformed radically. Industrialized farming brought us ecological degradation, aggravated by the massive use of toxic chemicals. In addition, the path of food from the farm to the city became dependent on carbon-based fuel for transportation.
- As the temperatures will continue to raise, climate change is likely to expand the areas of drought hurricanes and floods, diminishing the existing cultivable areas.
- Today’s global growth is about 75 million a year. We are likely to reach ten billion around by 2050. Too far away? Not really! That is just “around the corner.” By 2050, children born today will be in their thirties.
- One acre of land is needed to feed one person for one year. By 2050 we will need additional not-yet-existing cultivable land of about 10 million km2, equal to the size of the United States.
How shall we continue to feed the planet? How shall we invent the future while we free cultivable land from the voracious appetite of urban sprawl? If we want to create a decent living environment, action is needed NOW. Here are some possibilities:
- Increase mixed-use urban density along urban corridors.
- Create cultivable areas within residential multi-family buildings, office buildings, schools, factories, hotels, etc.
- Design common edible gardens as places for social interaction.
- Design workspaces that provide edible gardens to its tenants.
- Plan neighborhoods that include collective cultivable areas.
- Build multi-story farms.
Vertical Farming – Rendering: Blake Kurasek
No single solution can fit all needs. The use of eco-friendly lightweight hydroponic systems that consume 90% less water than traditional farming can be incorporated into the built environment.
On the other hand, permaculture, first developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, brings a holistic approach that combines agricultural and social design principles. By increasing our awareness of “thinking globally and acting locally,” each of us can contribute to make the world a better place to inhabit.