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Archive for the ‘ART’ Category

BY ZACH MORTICE

Judith F. Baca, The Great Wall of Los Angeles, detail with Baby Boom. Image courtesy of SPARC Archive.

Murals, wherever they’re deployed, can be sites of cultural empowerment, protests aimed at the dominant culture, commemorations of heroes, or simple, subversive proclamations of existence.

 In their ability to reappropriate neglected space on a large scale, murals can be defining elements of landscape design. To thousands of landscape architects who will be in Los Angeles this month for the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO, Oct. 20-23, this will be good news: The Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA—Latin American and Latino Art in LA festival of thematically linked art exhibits will feature six installations that show how murals (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Fazal Sheikh, Jada Maiwand, one month before Taliban conquest of the city, Kabul, Afghanistan, 1996, from the series The Victor Weeps. © Fazal Sheikh

There’s a searing, intimate quality to photographer Fazal Sheikh’s portraits, now on display at the Denver Art Museum. In a round-the-world survey of displacement, conflict, inequality, Sheikh’s posed portraits distill lifetimes (both short and long) of defiance and inhumanity into a single gaze. But their full immediacy doesn’t snap into place until you zoom out much further, to the scale of landscape photography, included as a vital counterpoint in the exhibit Common Ground: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh, 1989–2013, on view until November 12.

Organized by Eric Paddock, the curator of photography at the Denver Art Museum, the exhibit includes 171 images from East Africa, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, the Netherlands, and more, split into eight sections divided by geography. These images take a 1:1 approach at connecting museum-goers to thorny and unfamiliar global conflicts (more…)

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Olana, the estate and landscape designed by Frederic Church–America’s foremost landscape painter of the 19th century–might be the painter’s deepest and richest creative act.

This hillside on the banks of the Hudson River in Upstate New York was a work of art that became Church’s own studio for painting the landscapes that made him a national celebrity—a mutually reinforcing circle that tied this land to his fantastical, but finely grained, depictions of it. “I can make more and better landscapes in this way than by tampering with canvas and paint in the studio,” Church wrote of his stewardship of Olana.

As detailed in this summary of what led Church to the Hudson Valley and what kept him there, Church’s landscape accentuated the stunning beauty of one of the Hudson River Valley’s most dramatic sites. To accompany the Persian-themed house he built for his family starting in 1872, Church planted trees to frame views, added a system of carriage roads to ferry visitors from one to another, and installed a lake that echoed the shape of the river. For his house, he mixed colors he would use to paint its rooms on his own palette.

A new plan for Olana by Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects won a 2017 ASLA Professional Award for Analysis and Planning for its sensitive approach to encouraging greater public engagement and its deep research into the site’s soil, hydrology, land use, and topography. The jury praised the plan for allowing the estate’s essential beauty to shine through, free of overwrought design and unnecessary flourishes.

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BY SARAH COWLES

At Washington University, students document and memorialize a landscape in flux.

FROM THE SEPTEMBER 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The crane whined, the cable tightened, the tree swayed, and the crowd murmured. But Tree B5, an 80-year-old, 85-foot-tall, 15-ton Quercus palustris, did not budge from its place in the Brookings allée. Earlier, a crew used high-pressure hydro-excavation tools and a giant vacuum to daylight the oak’s filigree of roots, and arborists jumared up with four cable slings to steady the crown. The audience in front of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis was transfixed by this massive marionette, anticipating the moment the formidable machine might pluck it like a weed. After the failure of the initial tug, the crew phoned the crane supervisor to ply more tension, and yet some grounding force would not let go. B5 was defiantly planted.

Choreographing this potent—and at times absurdly moving—tree-removal ceremony was Jesse Vogler, Affiliate ASLA, a 21st-century Fitzcarraldo and an assistant professor of landscape architecture at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. Vogler and his team of students thought this act of landscape demolition (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

A basin and spillway near Las Vegas. Image courtesy of the Center for Land Use Interpretation Photo Archive.

On the outskirts of the parched city of Las Vegas are dozens of basins dug into the earth, connected to hundreds of miles of arterial concrete channels that weave through the city to Lake Mead, some 30 miles to the east. Begun in the mid-1980s, this $2 billion land works infrastructure project is now 80 percent complete. The full plan calls for 121 basins and 800 miles of channel.

What’s the purpose of all this megascaled trench work? Las Vegas, plopped arbitrarily in the Mojave Desert with no permanent source of surface water and annual average rainfall of four inches, is prone to flash floods. These basins, spillways, and channels collect rainwater and whisk it away just every so often.

This paradox is the subject of Desert Ramparts: Defending Las Vegas from the Flood, at the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) in Los Angeles. Up through mid-September, its eerily steady gaze (more…)

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BY LAUREN MANDEL, ASLA

Artist Zaria Forman’s large-scale pastels describe a vanishing Antarctic.

FROM THE AUGUST 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

The Brooklyn-based artist Zaria Forman draws in fine detail to capture expansive corners of the Earth. Her large-scale, hyperrealistic pastel works feature, most recently, Antarctic landscapes affected by climate change. “I’m trying to offer people a time and a place to connect with these very far-flung places,” Forman says. “If they can fall in love with [these places] in a similar way that I have, then that will lead them to want to protect and preserve them.” Forman has been completing a drawing series and video installation for an upcoming solo exhibition, Antarctica, inspired by her first trip to the polar continent as an artist in residence aboard the National Geographic Explorer in winter 2015.

Whale Bay, Antarctica no. 4 captures the fragility of a remote harbor off the Antarctic Peninsula that is filled with melting icebergs that calved, drifted, and ran aground on the shallow seafloor. Forman says that as the icebergs melt, “it’s like the wind and the water are just hands, just making these most incredible shapes that you can’t even conceive of until you’re there.” Bays that enclose icebergs like these are called iceberg graveyards, a term that “captures the eerie solemnity of the site,” Forman says, “but (more…)

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BY MIMI ZEIGER

A new biography of James Rose explores his difficult brilliance.

FROM THE AUGUST 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

“Words! Can we ever untangle them?” reads James Rose’s opening salvo in Pencil Points. Appearing in the definitive journal of modernist design thought, the landscape designer’s 1939 essay rejects preconceived ideas of formal or informal design and makes the case for an organic and materials-based approach—an argument approaching revelation at a time when Beaux-Arts methodologies held sway.

Reading the text today, Rose’s words cut through the decades, carrying with them equal doses of wit, creativity, and frustration with the status quo. An uncompromising designer from his time in and out of Harvard (he was expelled in 1937, later returned but never graduated) to his death in 1991, Rose is the subject of the latest volume of the Masters of Modern Landscape Design series published in association with the Library of American Landscape History and the University of Georgia Press. It’s the first biography dedicated to the landscape architect, who although a prolific writer throughout his career and author of four of his own books, has yet to receive the kind of canonical recognition bestowed on his Harvard classmates Garrett Eckbo and Dan Kiley.

As director of the James Rose Center for Landscape Architectural Research and Design—a nonprofit located at Rose’s Ridgewood, New Jersey, home—the book’s author, Dean Cardasis, FASLA, is well-placed to untangle the competing forces of Rose’s career. Few of Rose’s works survive in their original form, and a spare eight are presented as illustrated case studies—a fraction of the more than 80 projects produced in his lifetime. Much of the book is devoted to advocating for Rose’s achievements while trying to (more…)

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