Houses as Design, Politics, and More at Mead Art Gallery

House: Selections from the Collection of John and Sue Wieland
Mead Art Gallery, Amherst College
Through July 1, 2018

What is a house? It is, of course, a domicile in which we live, but it’s also a refuge, a center of social life, and a place often that walls us off from the outside world. The Mead Art Gallery of Amherst College shows houses—in photographs, models, drawings, and in artistic rendering—in a work that doesn’t ignore politics, social class, or access to capital, but chooses instead to consider the aesthetics of houses. In other words, the house as design.

There are works from such well-known artists as Louise Bourgeois, Cindy Sherman, and Ai Weiwei, though you’ll probably be more intrigued by the thoughts of those whose names are less famous.  Here are a few things that struck my fancy.

I liked the colors and sereneness of Ai Weiwei and its idea of a shelter as a place of contemplation. 

The Dujardin captivates my imagination. It is, of course, a fantasy complex—of sorts. Dujardin fashioned it by seamlessly stitching together various photographs.

Politics comes into play in Goldblatt's photo from South Africa. Somehow we doubt this development will ever be built or that this dark-skinned African man will even live in such a place. It is wry commentary on the remnants of apartheid.

Speaking of wry commentary, Simons' assemblage challenges us to think about how homes are made into fetishes that are tied into sexual and domestic life fantasies that (in this case literally) weigh heavy upon women.

Muniz gives us a home covered in dripping chocolate. He's actually more of a chocolatier than an artist, but this one appeals to my inner cocoa-flavored Hansel and Gretel memories. 

Verona Walk is scary because it's a real aerial photograph. The gallery notes go on about subtle differences showing through, but that's rubbish! This is the ultimate nightmare--cookie cutters in the Galdes from where I sit. Or call it the massing of the masses--all decked out in their mortgages with nowhere to go. 

My favorite was the mixed media assemblage from Radcliffe Brown--wood, paint, and tin types he inherited, some of which go back to the Civil War era. It's a powerful reminder that "home" was often makeshift for slaves, to say nothing of being ephemeral and changing.  
Ai Weiwei
Filip Dujardin, D'Ville 2012

David Goldblatt, Johannesburg, 2002              

Laurie Simons, 1989, Walking House

Vik Muniz, 2009 (From his Pictures of Chocolate series)
Edward Barttynsky, Verona Walk, Naples, FL 2012

Radcliffe Brown, Seven Steps East, 1993




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