Art + Architecture

When we relocated in order to expand our architectural studio, we started AxD Gallery as an exhibition venue for contemporary visual arts. The most frequent question since its opening in January 2007 has been: What’s the connection between the architectural studio and the art gallery? The answer involves a constellation of reasons. Obviously we find a significant overlap between the visual arts and the aesthetic issues that architects and designers face daily. As such, the gallery represents and functions for us as an incubation laboratory for ideas and inspirations. Secondly, we see the gallery as a form of social activism, supporting the arts and bringing community together. And finally, it’s awfully fun to host a reception party once a month and catch up with friends!

The art of any era can provide inspiration for us as designers. Constructivism, Futurism, Abstract Expressionism, Op Art, Minimalism and patterns of various tribal “folk arts” have all been frequently been mined by architects for ideas. Japanese woodblock prints served as a great inspiration to Frank Lloyd Wright. The Pictures at an Exhibition concerto by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky is an obvious example of an artist seeking to transpose a visual experience to a musical one. When we began the Gallery we were thinking exclusively of visual artists, but obviously all art forms influence each other. Consequently, since our opening we have expanded to intermittently include various performing arts – both musical and theatrical as well.

In our own work we have looked to artists such as Sean Scully, Ellsworth Kelly and Agnes Martin for inspiration. For the interior of our gallery we chose to differentiate “service elements” (i.e. restroom and a stair) as abstract objects ‘carved’ out of the whiteness of the gallery. These elements were clad with Douglas Fir wood panels. The panel pattern was inspired by the painting Cite’ by Ellsworth Kelly, which ironically was itself inspired by oblique shadows cast from an architectural feature – a fire escape.

As I am writing this, AxD Gallery is featuring the work of Deborah Sawyer. Her work encompasses a variety of media, including oil paints, charcoal, gouache, found objects, glass, vinyl, rubber and various types of metal – cast, forged and welded. For this body of work, her inspirations come largely from the rusting decay of discarded automobiles. Sculptural pieces include functional furniture, various bowels and containers. Paintings and drawn works evoke a range of emotions, from quiet serenity to foreboding tension or remorse. Her work reminds us that even the detritus of our very existence can be an inspiration.

We’re looking forward to learning and sharing the back-and-forth of how architecture, visual, and performing arts shape and transform one another.

Ed Barnhart, AIA

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