December 7, 2008

Michael Govan almost made my head explode.

I spent a recent Friday night and most of Saturday at a symposium on museum and exhibition design called From Jurassic Park to Rothko's Chapel, sponsored by U of T's newly re-named faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design.

Leading American curator Michael Govan was the keynote speaker, and there was such a buzz in the air while he was speaking. He led us through his experience bringing art to post-industrial spaces - like Dia Beacon - and how working with artists like Robert Irwin and Walter de Maria changed the way he thought about 'the gallery' and 'the object'; he became more interested in the way that the actual space changes and affects how the visitor sees. He worked closely with Irwin to renovate the Dia Beacon from an old Nabisco factory to a contemporary art space, and the results are, of course, remarkable:

Photo by Listen Missy! on Flickr.

Photo by Darrell Silver.

Photo by tud5000 on Flickr.

His experience working with an artist (Irwin) as opposed to an architect to shape the space made him realize how alienated most artists are from the very spaces in which they show their work, and how he wanted to break that model.

And I say: ROAD TRIP.

As a side note, Govan collaborates with Irwin extensively, and if you're interested in Irwin's work, or even if you're not, I urge to read Seeing is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees
by Lawrence Weschler. I actually encourage you to read anything by Weschler. Have I written about this book before? I think so, maybe.

Anyway, Govan's experience as Director and CEO of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art is quite the counterpoint to his earlier work. He has always resisted working in the white box of the contemporary gallery space, and now he is finding new ways to be inventive within that frame. Exhibits like the Magritte exhibition designed by John Baldessari and Jorge Pardo's highly controversial Pre-Colombian installation have challenged the traditional view that exhibition design should emphasize the object, not contribute to the meaning of the exhibit itself.

I nearly squealed when Govan talked about Chris Burden's Urban Light installation, which features solar-powered antique streetlamps that Burden collected from all over Los Angeles in a design that recalls an ancient temple.

There were so many more ideas and images to process, but I imagine I'll have more to say in pieces over time.

Any exhibits/artworks that have been inspiring you lately?

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