更新时间:2020-02-21 13:50:52 作者:王晓昕


An architect of international renown, Richard Meier often turns to other art forms as outlets for talents that range far beyond the drafting table. Meier’s art, like his architecture, builds on solid modernist foundations. At the beginning of his architecture career, Meier spent evenings and weekends in lower Manhattan painting alongside other young artist attracted to the dynamic outpouring of older abstract expressionists including Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline. The collages he constructs out of papers gathered while traveling grow out of the work of Picasso, Schwitters, and others. Most recently, Meier has focused on sculpture, turning out assemblages that seethe and throb with a barely controlled vitality, recalling the charged creations of the constructivist, futurists, and even surrealists.

Meier’s foray into found-object sculpture began, appropriately, by chance. Several years ago, Meier’s longtime friend Frank Stella invited him to visit the Tallix Foundry in upstate New York, where Stella was working on large-scale works in cast stainless steel. While waiting for Stella to finish working, Meier busied himself in a corner, assembling wax elements and refuse into complex composition. Eight hours ago, when Stella had packed up to leave, Meier wanted to stay on. Thus began an passion that would consume his spare days and hours for the next three years, resulting dozens of sculptures.

Meier soon expanded his found objects to include scraps of architecture models collected from his architectural model shop in Los Angeles. He binds his elements and items from the foundry together with string, and then dips the whole bundle in wax. This is used to create a ceramic mold, which in turn provides the shell for casting the pieces in stainless steel. Meier thus uses the relics of his own design process, occasionally mixed with found objects, to create new works. He see this kind of artistic cannibalism as a way of breathing new life into the abandoned models: recycling as reanimation. The method also has a poetic slant. Meier calls old model parts, such as the rotunda from the Getty Museum that appears in several sculptures, “ruin.”

Meier further underscores process process by leaving remnants and scars of the casting in the finished works .The serpentine tubes that coil around many pieces are the “gates” through the liquid l flows into ceramic mold; the solid cylinders that anchor certain sculptures are the cups into which the l is poured.

Rather than sawing these off, Meier allows them to enliven his composltions. Creases and drips from the casting line the surfaces; elsewhere the tentacular gates have been tom off like weeds, their edges left raw. Meier was attracted to stainless steel because the surface comes out differently each time: variations  in heat make it impossible to predict the finish. Thus chanc--which models and scraps happen to be available, how the heat colors the steel on a given day--turns the creative process into a sequence of discoveries. Even “errors” such as the “flashes” of liquid l than occasionally fan out from broken gates attract Meier’s eye In his works they morphose into delicate leaf or petal forms. In his sketchbooks of collages, Meier works and reworks each page until the entire volume is filled. Nothing is ever fixed or certain about the sculptures until they leave foundry--and even then, he has been known to change his mind and send a piece back for revision.

The  works in series are named after southern German towns featuring baroque churches. Meier believes that the forms and the quality of light in these structures, many of which he has visited, loosely inspired his sculpture. He also acknowledges, however, that the list of names simply provided an interesting device for cataloguing the group. The next body of work will adopt a different rubric.

Meier doesn’t set out to make figurative or representational works, and the results are extraordinarily diverse, given the consistent materials and method. Nonetheless, it’s hard to resist seeing forms and figures in the pieces. Many resemble large flowers or undersea plants, their stalks and leaves and petals bending with the wind or current. Stalks and leaves and pieces play a flirtatious hide—seek omid more stolid masses. Others look like miniature factories or industrial compounds places that make things. Gabled roofs, leaning towers, and gridded walls, linked by webs of shoots and ladders suggest assembly lines run amok. In one piece, three “floors” held in place by certical “beams” hint at a plausible building—except that the middle floor twists vertically, a hinged platform swings out flamboyantly into space, and dangling staircases lead from nowhere to nowhere. Still others, like elaborate machines, contraptions that do God knows what. Whether mechanistic or organic. man-made or natural, teem with life. It is as if, animated by invisible forces, the sculptures have wriggled out of the artist’s hands and continue to evolve before our eyes.

Indeed, sitting amid the crisp white of Meier’s New York apartment, where neat stacks of art and design books form columns aligned with coffee tables and bookcases, the sculptures introduce a wild energy: heathens dancing in the temple Meier states that he struggles to achieve “some sense of order” in the sculptures (he is the butt of iokes at the foundry for his meticulous habit of squaring off horizontals and verticals with a carpenter’s level), but it is the disorder of the pieces that first strikes those familiar with Meier’s highly controlled architecture. While Meier incorporates elements from models for actual buildings in the sculptures, as often as not he turns them upside-down or sidewavs. or lets them dangle precariously from rickety armatures like tree houses about to topple from their perches. Elsewhere bundles of odd fragments defy gravity, swirling up into space like lumber caught up in a cyclone. Moreover, the smoky, molten surfaces couldn’t be further from the pristine white and glazed facades of Meier’s buildings, and the furious dynamism, as suggested above owes more to futurism and surrealism than to Le Corbusier.

Though Meier has looked at art throughout his life he has had no formal training in sculpture and acknowledges no conscious influences on his current works Here too his art and design practice seem to diverge: as the landmark New York Five book pointed out early on, Meier’s architecture consciously builds on the more idiosyncratic products of modernism: Le Corbusier’s baroque variations on the International Style and the distinctive contributions of Aalto, Asplund, Mackintosh, and the Viennese Jugendstil. Finally, Meier’s predilection for found objects in his sculpture no parallel in the architecture, which is created rather than assembled, invented rather than collected.

Significant parallels between the sculpture and the architecture emerge on second thought and second glance, however Meier’s buildings are “alive” Their classical geometries and pristine surfaces belie dynamic curves, undulating spaces, and modulating natural light. Moreover, every new building is in a sense composed of “found objecs”: standard program elements that, through centuries of architectural production have been cast into formal typologies familiar to even the casual observer of design. Rotundas, colonnades, triumphal arches,great halls, even half-baths and fire stairs, which the architect learns and then learns, to adopt and adapt to each situation. The stylistic and formal motifs that Meier borrowed from early modernism constitute such a set of found objects that he reworks into endlessly inventive new configurations, just as he imbues the old model pieces and other castoffs with new energy in creating the sculptures. Meier has worked with the finest architectural materials available, ancient and modern, from travertine to porcelain-enameled steel panels, In the sculpturss he transmutes distinctly modern assemblages through the time-honored method of casting—albeit in contemporary stainless steel rather than bronze.

Finally, the increasingly complex programs that have engaged Meier’s architectural talents over the past decade demand the same sort of accretive process enacted in the sculptures. The mammoth Getty Center curtly under construction is an architectural assemblage of disparate elements—museum, library, auditorium, research laboratories, offices—loosely grouped on a hillside overlooking Los Angeles like some modern Acropolis or perhaps it is more like Hadrian’s Villa, an elaborate estate designed dy the Roman emperor ornamented with structures copied from existing buildings all over the sprawling empire. Meier also cites examples of  how the sculptures have begun to influence his architecture. The skylight dropped into the recently designed Museum of Television & Radio in Los Angeles is skewed, following its own rebel logic over the order of the whole.

Cross-referencing the sculptures and the architecture is interesting and informative only up to a point, however, for Meier’s sculptures stand apart and stand on their own. They are neither studies for nor auxiliaries to his architecture. Rather, the sculptures are the work of a versatile artist who has found vet one more way to give form to his visions. Meier possesses the curiosity and the courage to follow a new path, giving way to each turn of an imagination that constantly rediscovers him. In the process, he infuses each work with a playfulness—while making it clear that he is not just playing around.

Lois Nesbitt is an artist and writer living in New York. Her essays on art and architecture have appeared in Artforum, A+U, The New York Times Book Review, ANY magazine; and other publications.