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Posts about Architecture

Dancing through a mansion

Posted by: Claude Peck Updated: June 25, 2014 - 4:18 PM
The performers of "KOM HIT!" gather near the end of the piece for an ensemble scene in the Turnblad mansion's small top-floor theater. Photo provided by American Swedish Institute.
 
A young woman, barefoot and wearing all white, invokes the spirit of Sweden's literary hero August Strindberg, then opens the heavy wooden doors of the Turnblad mansion on Park Avenue in Minneapolis to begin "KOM HIT!" In the hour that follows, audience members (no more than 35 will be allowed at each performance) poke their heads into nearly all of the mansion's 33 rooms, where they witness snippets of modern dance, mime, music and a small amount of narration. Don't expect to learn much about Strindberg, as the dance-theater piece is "loosely inspired by," and not directly drawn from his life and obsessions.

While immersive, site-specific dance-theater has been popular in New York and elsewhere for several years, as evidenced by such long-running shows as "Sleep No More" by Punchdrunk Theater, it is more rarely seen in the Twin Cities.

In "KOM HIT!" Audience members, who are encouraged to wear stick-on moustaches a la Strindberg, may wander freely from room to room, up staircases and into hallways. You may be invited into a room for a solo performance by a singer playing electric guitar, or witness a thrashing dancer in a "mad scene" through the window of a what looks like a walk-in closet.

Here a woman gazes at her reflection in a mirror, there a teenaged girl plays electric bass with an angel-wing-wearing guy on the accordion. Feathers drop into the foyer from above. A sad creature writhes alone on a bare wood floor.

The troupe numbers more than 14 performers, but co-creators Sally Rousse and Noah Bremer are showcased in certain "episodes," including a group scene in the American Swedish Institute's top floor that involves posing for photographs and passing through a large picture frame. Well-known Ballet of the Dolls dancer Stephanie Fellner gets a lot to do, and does it well. In the end, however, the piece is more about mood and movement, perhaps the ephemeral nature of souls and old houses, than it is a coherent narrative.

See "KOM HIT!" at 6 and 7:30 p.m. on June 26 and July 1, 3, 8 and 10. $20, 612-871-43907, or go here.

Dancers in a room that also has a visual art exhibit on view. Photo by Claude Peck.

The performances are timed to the opening of a terrific small photo show in the new wing at ASI. Turns out old August S. was both a fashion hound and a fan of selfies (well before the term came into vogue, and almost at the dawn of photography itself). The photos of Strindberg come from Fotografiska, Sweden's preeminent photo museum.

 
 
Strindberg
 
"KOM HIT!" dancer on the rooftop of the new wing of the American Swedish Institute.
 
Dancer on the mansion's second floor.
 
Below, trailer for "KOM HIT"

Former Minneapolis "Monuments Woman" to talk at St. Thomas U.

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: February 11, 2014 - 6:02 PM

Cori Wegener, art preservation expert

Cultural preservation expert Cori Wegener

With the George Clooney film "Monuments Men" now in theaters, the topic of cultural preservation in war zones and other disaster areas (manmade or natural) is a hot topic. The Clooney film tracks a group of art historians, restorers and aesthetes charged with saving cultural treasures in Europe, Japan and elsewhere during WWII.

The need for such skills remains, especially in the Middle East which is about equally rich in archeological artifacts and violent conflicts. Former Minneapolis Institute of Arts assistant curator Cori Wegener, a U.S. army vet, was an "Arts, Monuments, and Archives Officer" stationed in Iraq for 11 months during 2003-04 following the looting of the national museum and other cultural repositories there. She now bringsl that experience to bear as a cultural heritage preservation officer in the Office of the Undersecretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smthsonian Institution in Washington, D. C. A major in the U.S. Army Reserves, she retired from the service in 2004 after 21 years.

Wegener will talk about her experiences at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21 in the O'Shaughnessy Educational Center Auditorium, 2115 Summit Av., University of St. Thomas campus, St. Paul. The event is free. For accessibility information call 651-962-6315.

Former Walker Art Center curator to head Los Angeles Museum

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: January 16, 2014 - 12:25 PM

Vergne in a Thomas Hirschhorn 2006 installation at the Walker. Star Tribune staff photo by Tom Wallace.

Philippe Vergne, who was curator and later Deptuy Director and Chief Curator at  Walker Art Center, has been picked as director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. He follows Jeffrey Deitch, a former New York art dealer, whose controversial leadership of MOCA ended with his resignation last September after three years on the job.

The 35 year old museum in downtown Los Angeles has struggled financially in recent years as it tried to manage three sites and to develop an artistic vision that would please artists and excite support from wealthy collectors and potential donors. Within the past year board members raised $100 million to shore up an endowment that had dropped to $6 million in the 2008 financial crisis. The money is expected to produce income of at least $5 million annually to support operations.

Vergne,47, is fondly remembered in Minneapolis for his indelible French accent and his venturesome exhibitions which included more than 25 international shows including solo show and installations by Yves Klein, Thomas Hirschhorn, Huang Yong Ping and Kara Walker.

His decade long association with the Walker (1998 - 2007) was briefly interrupted by a return to his native France to run the private Francois Pinault Foundation in Paris. When the foundation's namesake mogul decided to relocate the foundation to Venice, Vergne in 2005 returned to the Walker as Deptuy Director and Chief Curator.

In 2008 he moved to New York to head the Dia Art Foundation which focuses on massive installations, conceptual, and earth-art primarily by mid-20th century Americans. He is credited with strengthening Dia's board of directors, consolidating its operations, and developing long range plans to stabilize its finances and artistic ambitions.

Artists have been deeply involved with MOCA since its founding in 1979 and their vociferous criticism of Deitch as overly commercial contributed to his departure. Conceptualist John Baldessari heartily endorsed Vergne's selection, saying in a statement issued by the museum, "I am 100% excited that Philippe Vergne will be the new director of MOCA. MOCA is very fortunate. I think it's a perfect marriage."

Other artists who touted Vergne in the museum's statement include Barbara Kruger who cited his "intelligence, vision, and ambition to lead MOCA forward;" Catherine Opie who declared herself "personally thrilled;" and Ed Ruscha who dubbed him "the most artist friendly and at the same time the most community friendly" candidate.

Richard Koshalek, a MOCA director in the 1980s, told the New York Times that, "The most important challenge for the new director is to raise the standard of expectations of the museum within this community and beyond, and that means new, original ideas for the future. If you don't raise expectations in every sense -- in terms of leadership, programs and such -- you will not have the chance to raise the funding needed for the museum to sustain itself programmatically and operationally going forward."

Koshalek, who began his career as a Walker curator in the 1970s, recently returned to L.A. after running the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D. C. for several years. In one of those small-world, musical-chairs coincidences endemic in the art community, the Walker's current director Olga Viso preceded Koshalek as director of the Hirshhorn.

Victoria Theater to be rehabbed

Posted by: Kristin Tillotson Updated: January 16, 2014 - 9:47 AM

 The Victoria Theater at 825 University Ave. in Frogtown will be refurbished to put on live shows once more. Photo by Kimmy Tanaka.

If the walls of the Victoria Theater could talk, they'd sing. And dance. Singing and dancing will be happening there again if a neighborhood booster group can raise enough money. The century-old space with a colorful history in St. Paul's Frogtown won't become a parking lot, said writer/director Tyler Olsen, founder of the St. Paul troupe Dangerous Productions. The Twin Cities Community Land Bank will buy the Franklin Ellerbe-designed theater on behalf of the Victoria Theater Arts Initiative, a group that wants to restore the vacant eyesore, most recently a lamp store, and turn it into a combo-use space including an intimate (200-seat) theater and possibly elements of a community center.

Built in 1915, the theater originally showed movies before becoming a nightclub and then a speakeasy during Prohibition."Moonshiners' Dance: Part One," an historically influential song included in the American Anthology of Folk Music, was recorded there in 1927.The St. Paul City Council granted the Beaux Arts building historic designation in 2010.

The bank paid about $275,000 for what is “right now, a shell,” Olsen said. “No furnace, no bathrooms, but if you look hard, you can see a theater.” He said that while Bedlam Theatre’s move to Lowertown is a good thing, the closing of Gremlin Theatre on University last year leaves a need for another small performing space in St. Paul. “This brings theater out to a part of the city that thousands of people will be commuting through every day, the Central Corridor. Our goal is to engage those people as well as the neighborhood.”

A fundraising campaign is being planned, Olsen said.

Minneapolis' Lakewood Mausoleum wins national architecture award

Posted by: Mary Abbe Updated: January 10, 2014 - 3:44 PM

Star Tribune photo by Tom Wallace

Designed by Joan M. Soranno and John Cook, vice presidents of HGA Architects and Engineers (HGA), the Lakewood Cemetery Garden Mausoleum is a breakthrough concept in funerary architecture, a serenely minimalist building nestled into a hillside overlooking a reflecting pool in a garden-like Minneapolis cemetery.

Soranno was the Star Tribune's 2013 Artist of the Year.

It was given a national 2014 AIA Honor Award for Architecture, top recognition in the field. Nearly 3/4 of the 24,000 sq. ft. building is concealed in the hillside, yet the white interior is suffused with light from skylights and south-facing windows. The exterior is clad in gray granite and the entrance surrounded with an abstract mosaic in white-marble. 

This is the second AIA Honor Award won by the Soranno-Cook team and the fifth for the HGA firm. Prevous AIA Honor Awards went to HGA's designs for the Bigelow Chapel at the United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, MN (2006; also by Soranno and Cook); the Colonial Church of Edina in Edina, MN (1980); New Melleray Abbey in Dubuque, Iowa (1977); and Saint Bede's Priory in Eau Claire, Wisconsin (1967).

The Garden Mausoleum has won 26 additional awards including the Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design National Honor Award, and the IIDA Best of Competition Award.

See a Star Tribune video of Cook interviewing Soranno here.

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