On view beginning September 22, 2012
Sometime in the mid-1960’s, a rail-thin white plaster sculpture called Night (1947), by Alberto Giacometti, walked away from the Glass House and never came back.
One of very few artworks ever displayed in the Glass House, Night’s rawboned figure was granted pride of place atop the Mies van der Rohe glass coffee table. Over time, the sculpture began to shed its outer layer and was eventually sent to the artist’s studio for repairs. But Giacometti died before the work was restored and the sculpture never returned. Neither repaired nor replaced, its absence still lingers; a Modern ghost.
In place of a traditional artist-in-residence program, Night (1947 – 2015) is instead a sculpture-in-residence program; an unfolding sculptural exhibition held in the same spot where Giacometti’s Night once stood. A series of contemporary artists will contribute works that contend with the legacy of Giacometti’s sculpture and Johnson’s architectural opus. On display for three to six months at a time, the sculptures in Night (1947 – 2015) will “disappear” after their run, making room for new work and new absences.
Although world-class painting and sculpture populate Johnson’s property, Night (1947 – 2015) is the first formal art exhibition to be held on-site. The slowly unfolding exhibition places Johnson’s collection in dialogue with contemporary sculptural practice while positioning the architecture itself – long a site of critical discourse – as both backdrop and collaborator.
Night (1947 – 2015) is primarily comprised of never-before-seen works by a number of mid-career and established artists. Special attention will be paid to artists who grapple with themes raised by Giacometti’s vanished Night -- themes that largely work in contrast to those of Johnson’s transparent temple. Works will explore unreliability, looping, curving, transparency, reflectivity, and doubt. Additionally, works will have a significant relationship to architecture and design.
Artists will be selected and announced each year through the completion of the exhibition in 2015.
Jason Dodge, A tourmaline and a ruby inside of an owl
On view: August 29 - November 30, 2013
The following exchange took place on a 1978 episode of Alexander Scourby’s television program “Connecticut Profiles”:
Scourby: I want to ask you one question that I think must come into the mind of anyone who sees [the Glass House] -- what about birds?
Philip Johnson: It's amazing you would ask. In the first few years the birds used to die, especially during migration, because they hadn’t been able to hear from the other birds about it. But even migratory birds have now learned, and I haven't had a bird crash [into] the glass for the last ten years.
I find it amazing. Word probably has got out -- "in New Canaan, look out...look out, there's a place there where you can get killed and I don't know why." I don't know how they talk, but they do.
Jason Dodge uses materials and language to explore the gap between the real world and an imagined one. His objects are often paired with purely descriptive titles that shed light on their backstories while simultaneously deepening their mysteries.
The third member of Night (1947 – 2015) appears forthright at first glance, even if a bit out of place: a dead owl, or perhaps a sleeping one, beak down on the table. But this ordinary bird, we're told, has precious stones placed inside. While those physical contents can't be seen, the work is doubtlessly filled with questions about how we instill objects with meaning and tell stories in order to build narrative coherence.
Dodge does not catalogue his work with a year or a medium, placing it out of time and space — a perfect fit for the Glass House. And like Giacometti’s Night, Dodge’s owl is both nocturnal and no longer with us. There in the center of the room, it embodies the magic and substitution at the core of this ongoing exhibition. As the artist notes, “the living part has been replaced with something precious.”
Tauba Auerbach, Gnomon/Wave Fulgurite I.I, 2013
On view: May 2 - August 28, 2013
Fulgurite is a natural glass formed spontaneously when lightning strikes sand. Also known as petrified lightning, fulgurite is light made tangible. A gnomon, on the other hand, is the shadow-casting arm of a sundial, silently transforming light into shadow. It reveals by interrupting.
Like Giacometti's Night, the original tabletop gnomon, Tauba Auerbach's Gnomon/Wave Fulgurite I.I isn't a timekeeper. Both works have more to do with appearance and disappearance than the slow, steady movement of minutes.
Auerbach’s recent “Weave” paintings--not on canvas so much as of canvas--are patterned backgrounds interrupted at odd and impulsive angles by rippling wave forms. The elemental works are meant to mutely evoke the play of light across a surface. For Night (1947-2015), the artist isolated one of those waves and made it physical, using roughly 25 pounds of sand—a material, like light, marked by its particulate and unstable nature.
Deftly crafted, the grainy wave appears to have formed itself. Watch it hover, timeless, somewhere between a paradox and a riddle. The principle component in common glass forms a light-wave that casts a shadow on and through a clear, glass table in a clear, glass house.
Ken Price, Doola, 2011
September 22 – November 30, 2012
Ken Price's kaleidoscopic sculptures are all lump and curve, the antithesis of the clean lines and spare aesthetic of Philip Johnson's Glass House. But Price and Johnson both shared a preoccupation with the architecture of transparency.
In the late 1990’s, Price began applying countless coats of paint to his ceramic forms before meticulously hand-sanding their surfaces in tiny, irregular ovals. Like an archeological dig, his technique revealed a glimpse into the past, uncovering multi-colored layers of paint along the way.
Johnson, too, sought to look through surfaces, but where the sculptor looked inwards, the architect looked out. If Johnson’s glass offers a clear view through space, Price’s clay offers a clear view through time.
In the end, little is known about why Giacometti's walking man never made it back to New Canaan. Stepping into the shadow of that decades-old mystery, Doola can't provide any answers. But its sausage factory waves can speak to the rounded edges of history and the nature of what's left behind.
Philip Johnson’s partner, David Whitney, was an avid collector and presenter of Price’s work, mounting the artist’s first solo New York exhibition at his gallery in 1971. Twenty years later, he curated Price’s first retrospective at the Menil Collection in Houston and the two remained close until Whitney’s untimely death in 2005, just six months after Johnson.
Last February, at age 77, Ken Price passed away at his home in Taos, New Mexico. Doola is among the last works he created and has never before been shown. Between Johnson's reflective walls, it works like a perfectly constructed echo; simultaneously a debut, a reunion, and a replacement.
A retrospective of Ken Price’s work is on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through January 2013 and will later travel to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Jordan Stein is a curator, programmer, and researcher based in San Francisco, CA. His recent projects have appeared in the New York Times, Artforum, Frieze, and NPR. He is an Assistant Curator at the Exploratorium, a museum of human perception, and is a co-founder of Will Brown, an experimental exhibition and program space. He also operates Glass, house, a collaborative operation concerned with transparency.
He has twice been awarded the Alternative Exposure Award from Southern Exposure, and—with Will Brown—was a 2013 artist-in-residence at Headlands Center for the Arts. He received his MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2005.
His latest project, The Best Things in Museums are the Windows, a four-day trek with Harrell Fletcher to the top of Mount Diablo, takes off from the Exploratorium in July, 2013.