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Fine Art PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

You Are Here Architecture and Experience – Candida Hofer and Cyprien Gaillard at the Carnegie

The Carnegie Museum of Art presents the powerful work of two contemporary artists—Candida Höfer and Cyprien Gaillard—who explore architectural environments and how they influence experiences and perceptions of the world. Exhibition open through May 29, 2011 at The Heinz Architectural Center.

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” With that simple but profound insight, Winston Churchill conveyed people’s complex relationship to architecture: The physical form of a building is controlled by its designer, but the impact a constructed environment has can be unpredictable, emotional, and even visceral. That dynamic is evident in the upcoming exhibition You Are Here: Architecture and Experience, which brings together the photographs of German artist Candida Höfer and a video and etchings by French artist Cyprien Gaillard. Both artists express the formative power of architecture in different but complementary ways, according to Tracy Myers, curator of architecture at the Heinz Architectural Center and organizer of the exhibition.

Candida Hofer’s lush color photographs of ornate historical and contemporary interior spaces are usually devoid of humans, yet they reveal details that draw the viewer into a consideration of what each place means. Höfer’s photographs usually focus on spaces of cultural and social activity. Printed very large (from about 4 x 4 feet to a massive 6 x 8 feet), the 17 photographs in You Are Here represent the range of Höfer’s work in terms of scale, point of view, building type, and geographical location.

By contrast, Cyprien Gaillard’s video Desniansky Raion and his meticulously detailed etchings probe the human legacy of Modernist high-rise housing blocks. Constructed after World War II throughout the United States, Europe, and the Eastern Bloc to provide decent housing, these buildings often became warehouses for the poor and incubators of crime and antisocial behaviors.

Named for an administrative district in Kiev, Desniansky Raion poignantly reflects on the gap between the utopian Modernist aspiration for universal housing and the banal reality that instead prevailed. It comprises three parts. In the first section, weekend fight clubs of 50 or 100 people face off against each other in a pugilistic ritual set against the backdrop of housing towers in St. Petersburg, Russia. The second part shows the implosion of a similar tower in Meaux, a small city near Paris; the demolition of the building was treated by the city government as a literal spectacle, with a light show and fireworks preceding the destruction. The final third is a very long panning aerial shot of seemingly endless ranks of virtually identical housing blocks in Kiev, Ukraine. The video is accompanied by a soundtrack composed by Koudlam, a young musician born in the Ivory Coast. Also featured are six etchings by Gaillard, collectively titled Belief in the Age of Disbelief, in which the Modernist housing tower is placed in classic picturesque landscapes.

“Gaillard’s video packs a powerful and direct emotional punch: each time I view it, I experience physically the anticipation that ebbs and flows through the course of the work,” said Myers. “By contrast, Höfer’s photographs embody a kind of quietude that encourages slow, sustained exploration of the meaning that builds through accumulation of detail. But both works are equally affecting and bring the viewer with compelling intensity into the realm of architectural experience. Höfer and Gaillard capture the constant oscillation between what we make of our buildings, and what they make of us.”

Located at 4400 Forbes Avenue in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, it is nationally and internationally recognized for its distinguished collection of American and European works from the 16th century to the present. The Heinz Architectural Center, part of Carnegie Museum of Art, is dedicated to enhancing understanding of the physical environment through its exhibitions, collections, and public programs.

Image: Candida Höfer, Fundação Bienal de São Paulo XI, 2005. Chromogenic print, 81 3/8 x 71 7/8 in. Sonnabend Gallery.

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