Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Everson Museum of Art

I.M. Pei designed the Everson Museum of Art, which was constructed between 1965 and 1968 in Syracuse, New York. It exemplifies the beginning of Pei's stylistic maturation as a museum architect. Intensely suggestive of a work of sculpture, it can be said that the exterior of the Everson is too heavy-handed in its adherence to the minimalist aesthetic. It is essentially four blocks of reinforced concrete cantilevered out from a central core, and “arranged in a plan rather like the wings of a pinwheel.”[1] Despite the bunkerish exterior appearance (which extends a stoic, almost cold welcome), the interior space has a heightened air of sculptured form in its use of the interplay of solids and voids.[2] A spiral staircase dominates the central sculpture court by disrupting the rectangular symmetry with the welcomed use of curvilinear line. The stairway, along with the balconies and catwalks, is an integral part of the interior plan, inviting the visitor to explore the galleries while dictating his direction.

The Everson Museum elucidates Pei’s statement that “to be complete [as an architect], one has to make the most out of the two realms [of technology and aesthetics].”[3] Technologically, Pei’s buildings are meticulously crafted, but it is his aesthetics that have generated the most criticism. Pei’s architecture follows many of the minimalistic ideas exhibited in the painting and sculpture of the 1960’s. Typically, minimalism in painting, sculpture, and architecture avoids “the virtual qualities of illusionism and conforms to the holistic, or nonrelational, form...to make a unified total impression that negates all ambiguity.”[4] The paintings of Frank Stella, Robert Ryman, and Dorthea Rockburne, as well as the sculptures of Donald Judd, are all exemplary of the type of minimalist aesthetic that is visible in Pei’s architecture.

[1] Carter Wiseman, I.M. Pei: A Profile In American Architecture (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990), p.161.

[2] G.E. Kidder Smith, A Pictorial History of Architecture in America (New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc., 1976), p.254.

[3] “I.M. Pei: A Feeling for Technology and Art,” Technology Review, 98 (1995), 62.

[4] Sam Hunter and John Jacobus, Modern Art, (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1992), p.322.

No comments: