80WSE Presents: “Four Houses, Some Buildings, and Other Spaces,” Jan. 29-March 16

NYU Steinhardt’s 80WSE is proud to present “Four Houses, Some Buildings, and Other Spaces,” curated by Berta Sichel. The exhibition will open on January 29 and run until March 16. The exhibit is an exploration of the bond between architecture and history, delving into the complex relationship between ruins and memories and bringing deeper insight into the nature of the history of places and their social and cultural implications.

The 10 artists in the exhibition — Europeans, Americans, and Latin Americans from different generations — revisit the history of monuments, houses, and municipal buildings – places that were once hallmarks or centers of production and that have become more or less an unseen area in the contemporary landscape. For these artists, revisiting these ruined and forgotten buildings that once held a special significance opens up creative areas of memory, the imagination, and interpretation.

Featured artists and works include:

Bernhard Leitner: “The Saving of the Wittgenstein House Vienna” (1969-71)
Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein designed and built the Wittgenstein structure from 1926 to 1928 in Vienna for his sister. In 1969, with the approval of the Office of Landmarks Preservation and the owner of the building, it was to be demolished and replaced by a high-rise hotel. It was the one-man rescue operation by Leitner, between 1969 and 1971, that ultimately forestalled the tearing down of the architecture. Now an embassy of an Eastern European country, it has lost its prior aura and sense of place in history as documented in this show.

Terence Gower
The New York resident makes a fictional prospectus for the utopian town of Hirshhorn, Ontario, planned in 1955 in the wilderness of Canada, but never built. The town was the brainchild of Joseph Hirshhorn, the uranium tycoon and designed by the celebrated American architect, Philip Johnson, to house uranium miners and Hirshhorn’s famous collection of modern art.

Inés Lombardi: “Past Present – Close and Distant”
The Brazilian/Viennese artist abstractly reconstructs the architecture of one of the landmarks of Brazilian architecture: the house designed for entrepreneur Olivio Gomes in 1949 in Säo Paulo by the rationalist architect Rino Levi.

Esteban Pastorino
The young Argentinean artist, now based in Madrid, presents his travels around the rural communities of Buenos Aires. His goal was to create a photographic survey of the work of architect Francisco Salamone who built more than 60 municipal buildings with Art Deco/Futurist elements. Pastorino’s work explores the symbolic and ideological implications of this building program.

Nina Fischer and Maroan el Sani: “Spelling Dystopia”
The Berlin-based duo presents a two-channel video projection with photography, addressing the theme of ruins. Their work, “Spelling Dystopia,” offers images of an urban planning disaster on an island off the Japanese coast. “Spelling Dystopia” asks how memory operates and how a site wears its history, both physically and metaphorically.

Lara Almarcegui: “Guide to Al Khan, an empty village in the City of Sharjah”
The Spanish-born artist documents processes of urban transformation brought on by political, social, and economic change. Her installation, “Guide to Al Khan, an empty village in the City of Sharjah,” examines a former fishing village first established around 1820 in the United Arab Emirates. It depopulated around 1980 and now resided in by migrant immigrants who dwell in dilapidated housing.

Leandro Lattes: “While Stocks Last: Urban Details from Madrid”
Previously published as a book, Lattes’ work portrays bars and small stores from the Franco years that have a distinctly Madrileno style and are fast-disappearing as the city modernizes.

Peter Downsbrough
The work of the American-born European, and residing conceptual artist, registers the passage of time and the devastation it provokes in architectural structures and constructions. His photographs and videos document deterioration and falloff.

Terry Berkowitz: “Barriers and Beyond”
Collaboration with Varsha Nair and Karla Sachse
The passage of time is approached differently by American artist Terry Berkowitz. “Barriers and Beyond” interleaves images of the Berlin Wall and bunkers built in Denmark during World War II. The trio documents the “concrete blocks” that are “the first throw-offs of the history of frontiers” in military actions all the more poignant now that their function has lapsed.

Carlos Schwartz: “Blind Windows”(2010-2012)
Spanish artist, Schwartz, remains inspired by “Moskau – Moscow” by Günther Förg. Förg’s work consisted of over 100 photographs of Russian avant-garde buildings from the early 20th century. “Blind Windows” focuses on exact details of those buildings’ facades.

Berta Sichel, curator
A Brazilian native, Sichel is an independent curator working internationally. From 2000 to 2011, she was the director of the Department of Film and Video at the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid. In 2006, she selected the Reina Sofia’s historical video collection and presented the exhibition, “First Generation: Art and Moving Image,” which was selected by the Spanish art critics as on of the three best exhibitions of the year in Spain.

Sichel moved to New York in 1979 and graduated from New York University with a master’s degree in media ecology and also pursued doctoral studies at the university. During her time in New York, Sichel worked as an independent curator for North American and European Institutions, including the São Paulo International Biennial and Aperto-93 at the Venice Biennial. Among other prizes and awards, she was a recipient of the l998 Guggenheim Fellowship in Humanities/Fine Art Research.