Author: Peter Fend --- Date: 4/23/97 --- Copyright: ThingReviews NYC



March 25 - April 20, 1997

22 Wooster Street, NYC

a review by

Peter Fend

Nils Norman.

It is nice that Nils Norman has been doing a show at American Fine Arts, but it is not good enough.

He should be having this show where people in New York City make decisions about the future.

When art starts getting real, and when it starts getting serious, it no longer belongs in the gallery (at least not only) and it certainly should never be part of anything called "public art." Whenever the art is in the context nowadays provided for art, guess what: the art fails. It fails to be taken seriously, it fails to build (except as a one-of-a-kind) and it fails to ever happen. His exhibiting makes plain a sad state: whatever vision an artist has of the world, once placed in the art context, if principally staying there, will surely never happen. Except, at best, in a watered-down appropriation by the advertising, architecture and industrial design industries.

Nils makes excellent models of possible constructions and improved land use. If his work had no name attached, one would have thought it was a slick presentation by a New Age architecture firm, or by some urban planning spinoff of Richard Bronson's Virgin company. Art-world etiquette requires that his name be attached, and the art-market elevates the works to Objecthood, but we must recognize about them two facts: (1) only a real-world manifestation of Norman's models will make them art-historically important; (2) the kind of people who buy and collect art will not want any of Norman's models to be functionally realized. So, the condition of a show at American Fine Arts, an allegedly trendy venue, creates a tension.

Will the artist, after this exhibition, be able to go forward, triggering the latent social forces ready to build his collectivist, ecological structures, or will the artist, after this exhibition, end up in the dust-bin of art history--together with other architectural visions like Archigram, Paolo Soleri, and Charles Simonds.

Peter Fend

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G.H. Hovagimyan --

Gee, and I thought I was nasty & hypercritical. If I'm not mistaken Mr. Fend is represented by that "trendy art venue" American Fine Arts. On a certain level I agree with Fend about applying art prototypes to real world situations. Let's think about this further. Does Chris Burdens "Pizza City" do anything? Should it?

LW, RP, KH --

right on peter more! you should write more you so good me want more

Peter Fend --

To Jerry Hovagimyan, To whom I must first recite (in private) a hope that death be dealt with differently in the art world. I wrote about Burden's piece for ArtNet, but will write again: it's Burden making fun of the profession for which he trained, but never took up: architecture. Toy cities with toy wood- block model buildings, along with HO senibilities, govern architectural thought, but property developers manifest archi- tectural reality. That reality is visible from an airplane. One sees the hacking away of wilderness, sprawls of single- family homes, a giant desertification due to asphalt, concrete, pollution, monoculture, smog. There is much more SPREAD, with attendant "scorched earth" ruin than is visible in Burden's agglomerations of models. But Burden is not dishonoest. He would probably agree. In any case, he is upset about the failure of our culture--of art in general--to get its act together and organize our habitat. Now, Gerald, since I know you have a healthy aggressiveness, I think we should follow up on Matta-Clark's initiatives and launch a GENERAL ASSAULT on the Architectural Profession. It does not do its job, and it uses legal barriers to prevent anyone else, like artists, from competing with it. Seeing these barriers, I tried to be a good boy and enter a quality school of architecture. I was rejected. Inquiries on why were met with the answer, You are operating outside the frame of what we want. The colossal irony is that cutting-edge architects, the ones getting prizes as Young Architect of the Year or putting on shows at the Storefront for Art & Architcture, are purchasing and USING my book, "Ocean Earth", and they are upgrading their work to the global scope of my book, and they are even inviting me to undertake crits. of graduate architecture students' end-of-school projects, alongside professors from Yale, Harvard, Columbia and the AA. So, I, coming from the art world, bring to the architecture world valuable new ideas, valuable new critical angles, but--because I come from the art world with this scope--I am deemed unacceptable for their gateway to the legally-required training and license. I am able to show and teach, but not to do. Not even to compete. That must change. Which means, that the energies of Chris Burden, like those of Gordon Matta-Clark (through whom I met Burden, in 1977), and the energies of other artists expanding their work out into architectural space, must be organized to TAKE OVER FROM THE ACADEMICS. This sort of process has taken place in the past. It is normal, even, in history. Now, let's do it. ASAP.

Adam Simon --

Peter, come to Four Walls this Sunday, 6/8 at 6:00 pm. 138 Bayard St, Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I'll be having a public conversation with Nils and whoever else shows up. We'll try to address your complaint. Nils will also present a model of Four Walls as an economically viable, self-sustaining entity.