Armory Week Reflection

March welcomed the first frost-free days, a new project in studio to work on, and arguably the biggest week of the year for art in New York City. Armory Arts Week, from March 6th through 9th officially consists of the Armory Show in Piers 92 and 94. In addition to the cavernous space of the piers which houses booths of contemporary and Modern art, Armory week extends itself throughout the city with a range of associated exhibitions and arts events. One of these semi-affiliated exhibitions is The Independent Art Fair—an offshoot of the Armory designed to showcase galleries and nonprofit spaces through a more curatorial and less market driven perspective. The Independent was an interesting departure from the somewhat fatiguing commercialism of The Armory. Headed by gallerists Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flook and in collaboration with creative adviser and director of White Columns gallery, Mathew Higgs, it was more intimate and featured artworks that may have been overlooked in the Armory.

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BFA students gather examine work at the Armory Show. photo by Danni Shen.
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Professor Jane Benson gathers students for discussion at the Armory Show. photo by Danni Shen.

We visited the Armory Show together as a class when it opened on March 6th. Accompanied by professors Jane Benson and Jane Farver as our guides, we wound our way through endless booths and even got the chance to meet a few of the artists and curators along the way. The Armory show was a spectacle of equal parts giddy wonder and smothering disillusionment. The truth is art fairs are not amazing venues for viewing art. In contrast to the gallery and museum settings most of us are used to experiencing, there is a disheartening department store feeling in which paintings are stacked from floor to ceiling with little consideration of content or form and carted off by the highest bidder. However, this is the art world in which we exist today and I think it was an amazing experience and opportunity as an aspiring artist to see another, very real side of what it means to create work for an increasingly global art market.

Second year Fine Arts major, Sara Cheong at the Independent Show. photo by Danni Shen
Second year Fine Arts major, Sara Cheong at the Independent Show. photo by Danni Shen

M. Arch Studio – LTL Architects

The second studio of second-year Masters of Architecture students is being taught by Marc Tsurumaki of LTL Architects. This studio requires a design for a site situated along the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, directly adjacent to the Culver Viaduct and the Smith and 9th Street subway platform. As an integrated design studio, the goal is to take students through all the aspects of architectural design – from conceptual idea to the networking of systems (structural, mechanical, etc.) within the design. In simpler terms, the goal is to create an architectural design in which the integration of the building systems augments the architectural concept, rather than simply coexisting abstractly beside it. The studio thus stresses the complex and profound interaction of use values, environmental consideration, technological systems, site conditions, and economics and their influence on the architectural practice. One of that studio’s students, Lucas Greco, shares:  “We are currently working through initial designs of an Urban Maker Lab and Market. The challenges include rectifying the needs of the project brief with the specificities of the machinery, material flows, public engagement, and site-unique conditions.” Students are given the opportunity to more specifically define the program of their design based on their individual analysis and on ideas about the demands for fabrication space in the emerging “Brooklyn Maker” culture. Midterm review for the LTL studio is quickly approaching and designs are being strategically formulated and specified – we will share an update and student work following the review.

 LTL StudioLucas Greco and Nick DeMaio presenting their work during a critique.

(photo by Luke Erickson)

Crit Day

The B.F.A.’s had our first formal studio critique last week. Studio professor John Jurayj introduced a new format for the critique that allowed the work to speak for the artist, and resulted in critical conversations forming around the pieces. To establish this dialogue, each student wrote up a short statement about the piece that they were presenting, and was then only responsible for answering minor technical questions (vs. the typical critique structure in which artists formally present their work and answer questions throughout). This structure turned the discussion away from the artists’ perceptions of their own work, and towards a more objective view of the work itself; thus mirroring the gallery setting where artists are unable to defend their work, and viewer’s questions and concerns can result in gaps of confusion and the piece falling apart conceptually. The reality is that in the gallery world it is extremely rare to be able to stand beside one’s work and answer such questions.

Each crit was a 20-minute group-oriented dialogue led by John Jurayj as well as guest critics Jane Benson and Jane Farver. In addition to teaching the New York City Seminar and Professional Practice courses at AAP NYC respectively, Benson is a working artist in her own right and Farver a respected curator.  Their unique perspectives on the art world helped round out the discussions and provided valuable professional insight.

The theme of the project was “The New York Times.” While incredibly open-ended, it gave us a new way of approaching a project in which the concept came first, and then the search for the right medium to represent it came second. This is a shift from our typical strategies of focusing on one material or technique first and then on the idea. Indeed, works spanned a variety of media including sound, installation, sculpture, painting, and performance reflected the reality of contemporary art-making within the predominantly post-genre art world of today.

Emily Teall's large scale painting and collage piece, "Bombshell Beauty." photo: Danni Shen
Emily Teall’s large scale painting and collage piece, “Bombshell Beauty” references post-cubist collage and expressionistic drawing techniques. photo: Danni Shen
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Jae Hee Cho’s ephemeral ice sculptures melted slowly over the 20 minute crit revealing their contents. photo: Danni Shen
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Jessica Chu’s embroidered towel installation incorporated aspects of sculpture, drawing, and sound installation. photo: Danni Shen

M. Arch Studio – Bade Stageberg Cox

This semester, the second-year Masters of Architecture students are divided into two sections.  Half of us are being taught by the principals of Bade Stageberg Cox, a Brooklyn-based architecture studio.  (The other studio section will be the topic of another blog post).  The project brief requires the design of a new branch library for Brooklyn.

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(photo + exposure:  Catherine Joseph)

Located on the corner of Williamsburg’s summertime flea market, Brooklyn Flea, the space must assimilate modern and often digital ideas of a library with the continuing need, and nostalgia, for paper books.  All of these considerations are also affected by the state park in which the site is located (bustling with the market during summer, cold and desolate in the winter), the connection to the urban fabric of the Williamsburg neighborhood at the street corner, and finally, the waterfront and its relationship to the Manhattan skyline.

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(photo:  Luke Erickson)

It’s safe to say that each of us has a different idea of what form a branch library should take, of how it should relate to the surrounding neighborhood, of how the book should be conceptualized, and of how people will flow through the space.  More updates on the studio progress to follow throughout the semester…

Four Freedoms Park

A sunny and (relatively) warm President’s Day saw a few Masters of Architecture students out on Roosevelt Island, enjoying some time out of the studio and taking in the work of the late master architect, Louis Kahn. Kahn’s FDR Four Freedoms Park, located on the southern tip of the island, was not finished during his lifetime. In a respectful turn of events that every architect can only hope for, the design Kahn completed in 1973 was constructed posthumously, opening for the first time in 2012. The park has a magnificent view of the city – Brooklyn to the east, the Williamsburg Bridge to the south, the United Nations on the immediate west bank and a detailed Manhattan skyline behind it. With the Cornell Tech Campus that will soon grow up behind it, Four Freedoms Park maintains an important historic legacy in a place that will soon become a hub for the future.

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photo by Luke Erickson