Friday, January 03, 2014

On Ando, Integrity, and The Clark

Last month The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute – The Clark – hosted a breakfast press conference at Craft in New York City to discuss its expansion plans and exhibitions set to open on July 4, 2014. ClarkNEXT, as it's being called, consists of a new visitor center designed by Tadao Ando Architects (architect of the 2008 Stone Hill Center at The Clark), an expansion of the Museum Building and a renovation of the Manton Research Center by Selldorf Architects, and a reworking of the grounds by Reed Hilderbrand. Tadao Ando, Annabelle Selldorf, Gary Hilderbrand, as well as Clark director Michael Conforti, were in attendance at the yummy yet crowded breakfast.

[Tadao Ando speaking via a translator at Craft]

More information on ClarkNEXT can be found in the video at the bottom of the post, but here I wanted to discuss what Ando talked about during the breakfast. Rather than going into detail on the visitor center, Ando spent most of his time at the mic (not long, considering the time required for translating his comments) going into his background and influences. In particular I liked how he talked about Kazuo Shiraga and other Gutai artists, an artist and 1960s movement I was not familiar with. Per the Gutai Manifesto, art is about life, about imparting life to matter. Art of the past was "fraudulent," unless it was "ravaged by the passage of time or natural disasters."

[Kazuo Shiraga painting with his feet for Life magazine at the Nishinomiya factory of Jiro Yoshihara, 1956. Photo courtesy the former members of the Gutai Art Association, via SFAQ.]

In a subtle way Ando related the way Shiraga created his artworks – hanging from the ceiling and painting with his feet – to his own work in terms of the artist's integrity and persistence, having painted that way until his death in his 80s. Ando's recognizable buildings – precise and smooth concrete highlighted by an astute use of natural light – could be seen as the architectural equivalent of Shiraga's paintings. Self-trained as an architect, Ando discovered a formula fairly early in his career (with the Row House Sumiyoshi in 1976, I'd argue) that he has been tweaking and expanding ever since. Like Shiraga, he is true to his own vision and will be until the end of his life.