In today’s modern world, two interesting phenomena seem to be occurring: To begin, there is a new preoccupation with design. Households that were once decorated with mundane browns and nauseating retro-shades of green and yellow have now been changed to an aesthetic in bold patterns and daring colors, courtesy of mega-chain stores such as Target and K-Mart. Even with Martha Stewart behind bars, the world will continue to buy towels embossed with floral patterns and stripes due to their visual appeal at reasonable prices. Furthermore, television shows such as “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” and “Trading Spaces” show the quickly spreading “design fever” that is sweeping the nation. From residential homes to bathroom towels to personal style, design as well as attention to artistic detail has infiltrated almost every aspect of the visual world in which we live.
Yet at the same time, our fast-paced, convenience-driven society has denied us the opportunity to appreciate the architecture and design elements that comprise our 10-minute walk to class or work. Staring straight ahead, iPod in one hand and cell phone in the other, there is little time to ponder the construction of buildings that flank our either side. And once at class or work, there is even less time to consider the structure and ingenuity of the furniture we sit in as well as the spaces by which we are surrounded.
Thus after viewing both new shows related to the acclaimed architect Frank Gehry at the Corcoran Gallery, I found beauty in his ability strike a delicate balance between the two phenomena. In Gehry’s new show, “Frank Gehry, architect: designs for museums,” as well as his complementary show “The Furniture of Frank Gehry,” the viewer is able to experience the relationship between the practical, everyday nature of architecture and the artistic design that Gehry challenges his viewer to not only see but also to become a part of. Showcased is the process and the completion of Gehry’s architectural visions in the forms of models, design drawings, plans, photographs and video, providing the viewer with a chance to celebrate architecture in an artistic context. Rarely do we look at architecture in exhibition format, but this exhibit causes viewers to realize that architecture truly is art realized in three-dimensional space. While celebrating his previous buildings, this show also highlights future projects that have yet to be realized.
What is perhaps most intriguing about Gehry’s new show is its impeccable timing. After being chosen as the premiere architect to design a massive addition to the Corcoran Gallery, this show comes in time for the beginning stages of remodeling and construction, which will transform the Corcoran into one of Gehry’s unmistakable manifestations of living art. This makes Gehry’s exhibit particularly significant, as it shows Gehry’s projected plans for the fate of the Corcoran Gallery. As a member of the D.C. community, one should attend, if merely to formulate his or her own personal opinion of how the landscape of the new Corcoran will contrast with the old.
The exhibit includes photographs of Gehry’s Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, juxtaposed with actual models laden with messy glue-gun stains, pencil markings and roughly cut edges. Whether you are a fan or not, the show is an indisputable homage to the artistic process and emphasis on the design principles that we so often overlook. It is not often we consider museums that showcase art as artistic entities themselves. However, the emphasis on architectural process, evident from sketches to elaborate models, hints that every construction is a collaboration of imagination, practicality and adaptability, not to mention vision. Even those self-labeled as “not artistically-inclined” should attend the Gehry show.
The exhibit opens Saturday, Oct. 2 and runs until Feb. 21. The Corcoran Gallery of Art is located at 500 17th St, N.W. Admission is $3 for students, with pay-as-you-wish Mondays and Thursday after 5 p.m.