by Daniel Fox
Exhibition: Responding to Kahn: A Sculptural Conversation
Location: Yale University Art Gallery, on view through 07.08.07
Curators: Timothy Applebee — M.Arch. candidate, Yale University; Sonali Chakravarti — Political Science Ph.D. candidate, Yale University; Shannon N. Foshe — History of Art B.A. 2006, Yale University; Kate Howe — Graphic Design M.F.A. candidate, Yale University; Harriet Salmon — Sculpture M.F.A. 2006, Yale University; Catherine Sellers — Education Intern, Yale University Art Gallery; Sydney Skelton — History of Art 2007, Yale University; under the direction of Pamela Franks — Curator of Academic Initiatives, Yale University Art Gallery
Bricks the size of his hands make up the walls. Concrete columns bearing the scars of their creation hold up the suspended ceiling of tetrahedrons. A circular stairwell capped by a dark floating triangle completes the geometry of the space. These are cues we, as student curators, took from the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) building for the Responding to Kahn: A Sculptural Conversation exhibition. Connections are made between Louis Kahn’s history and the building while providing a space for conversation between architecture and art.
In representing Kahn’s architecture in the form of a sculpture exhibition, we focused on bringing the visitor to the architect through art. Specifically positioned lights cast the triangular shadows of an Alexander Calder mobile onto the broad cylindrical stairwell behind it. The artwork moves gently with the movement of the building — from door drafts, air conditioning, or passing visitors — connecting elements of Kahn’s vision: the city, the building, and the viewer. Christian Boltanski’s three towers of La fete de Pourim are constructed of biscuit tins that visually mimic the intimately measured bricks of Kahn’s walls.
The concrete columns in the gallery express their construction with imprints of the wood framework — which we saw as translations of Kahn’s physical scars (caused by a fire from his childhood). Likewise, Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled bears the rawness of its creation in her plaster casting, and Lynda Benglis’ Hitch glass sculpture clutches the sand in which it was formed.
Maintaining the life of a building and rejuvenating the spirit of its architect, especially an icon like Kahn, is a challenge. After the recent renovations by Polshek Partnership Architects (see Un-cluttering a Kahn Classic, by Kristen Richards, eOCULUS 07.25.06), the life of YUAG continues, and hopefully we, as curators, have heightened its spirit as well.
Shannon N. Foshe is the Development Associate at the Center for Architecture, and a member of the curatorial team for the Responding to Kahn exhibition.