Mixed media, Site specific installation, 2018
Castles in the Sky:
Fantasy Architecture in Contemporary Art
Curator Bartholomew Bland
October 13, 2018 – January 26, 2019
The buildings in our mind’s eye are limitless.
In our dreams, we unlock doors to unknown passages and climb unending stairs into the darkness of rooms, strange and never seen before. Not tied to the reality of bricks and mortar or ground and gravity, we imagine any structure ― the American “dream home” on a coveted suburban cul-de-sac beyond our reach, or the wild acid-trip floating balloon palace of a magical unicorn.
Jarring the laws of actual architecture, the imagined palace functions as very real foundation, buttress, and pillar for Castles in the Sky. From Claes Oldenburg’s proposal to replace the Washington Monument with a gigantic scissors to Laurie Simmons’ photograph of candy castles atop a cake weathering a blizzard of confectionary “snow,” the 30 artists in Castles in the Sky develop bizarre, impractical, enchanting, and inspiring unbuilt (and likely unbuildable) designs, and gather inspiration from famous sources.
Lother Osterberg draws from the etchings of 18th-century Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the creator of images of dark and cavernous space― the nightmarish side of the architectural dream. Will Cotton’s candy castle represents a fantastical continuum of the art of 19th-century American landscape painter Thomas Cole, who, in Youth (1842), pictures a man rushing towards the mirage of a castle in the sky, the locus of all his youthful dreams. In Salvador Dali’s Gala’s Castle (1974) an elephant on attenuated legs tiptoes across a castle crenellation in Surrealist activity, which we spy, again, today, in Adrien Broom’s improbable scene of a Victorian woman standing in her drawing room open to the sky and filled with a wandering zebra.
This exhibition plays tribute to the ceaseless meanderings of the human imagination and the creative fantasy the hovers in the recesses of every artist’s mind.
The exhibition is organized by the Lehman College Art Gallery.
Like the 18th Century Italian artist Giovanni Piranesi, Sydlowski understands the poetry of architecture. The Rotunda of the Gallery’s space is transformed by her site-specific installation Cobalt Arcadia that represents a pagan mythological Eden. The artist has layered screen printed architectural elements juxtaposed with flora to envelop the curving walls and central columns of the space. These printed elements adapt to Marcel Breuer’s existing architecture, layering traditional Roman arches into a Modernist space, transforming the space into a giant three-dimensional collage. The dark blue ink used throughout the installation directly refers to cobalt, a ceramic colorant and the dye color indigo, a natural, dark blue, plant based dye and the color associated with dreams and intuition. Commonly applied to transferware, cobalt is used in ceramics to obtain a wide range of blues. Transferware is traditionally decorated with bucolic landscapes, architectural follies often set among gentle hills spotted with grazing sheep. The Rotunda’s circular interior becomes a transitory space where visitors themselves become figures on the landscape of a giant round vessel turned inside out.