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Indepth Arts News:

"Tadashi Kawamata: Boston Project, Plan in Progress"
2001-03-01 until 2001-04-30
Sert Gallery, Harvard University Art Museums
Cambridge, MA, USA United States of America

As part of a collaboration among several Boston area colleges and universities, the Harvard University Art Museums will bring acclaimed Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata to the Sert Gallery, at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, to transform it into a working studio where approximately twenty students will be assigned specific design tasks in the research and planning of one or more site-specific public structures to be built in the Boston area next year. Between March 1 and April 30, 2001, the gallery will showcase drawings, photographs, posters, catalogues, and video documentation of earlier Kawamata projects while also serving as a working studio for the research and planning of these future Boston projects. The gallery will be open to the public during its normal hours throughout this period.

Bringing Kawamata to the Fogg Art Museum to work closely with students, faculty, and curators is a fabulous opportunity for everyone involved. He is a challenging and intelligent artist, well known for his generous collaborations with students. We hope this will be the first of many opportunities for our art museums to serve as a catalyst for such original creative and educational collaborations, said James Cuno, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard University Art Museums.

Kawamata is known for his ephemeral architectural structures and for the unusual research and planning that precedes their construction. His working method is collaborative, requires extensive preliminary research and documentation, and ends in a ritualistic dismantling of whatever gets built.

The open, scaffold-like structures that Kawamata builds appear to grow out of the buildings that serve as their site, while the sites themselves are invariably selected for their embodiment of some aspect of a city's social history. Kawamata tends to choose sites that serve or once served as civic institutions -- hospitals or shelters or houses of worship. Frequently these sites have been abandoned, marking the absence or demise of once vital structures; sometimes they are buildings reclaimed, such as a synagogue in northern France that was abandoned and later restored as a secular cultural center. His temporary structures are generally built of scavenged lumber (or chairs or doors), materials that have a relationship to the building site and that add to a sense of prior use. Kawamata's structures function less as public sculpture than as commentary on the demographics, architectural style, and social habits that characterize a particular urban milieu. He has described them as interventions that act on a neighborhood like so much noise.

Kawamata, like Robert Smithson or Gordon Matta-Clark or Richard Serra – artists with whom he has often been compared – is intensely engaged with the relationship between the design and planning of urban structures, spaces, intersections, and neighborhoods and the ways in which their inhabitants use such structures and spaces. Like these older artists, he is involved in the analysis of urban terrain and the development of radical structures of his own. What differentiates Kawamata is his collaborative approach to research and building, the way he burrows into the history of each town or city he takes on, and the enthusiasm with which he involves local participants in each stage of his public projects. Kawamata has a keen sense of what characterizes a given city, so it's not surprising that he wanted to work with university students in Boston, said Linda Norden, the Barbara Lee Associate Curator of Contemporary Art, Fogg Art Museum. I think he realizes that the student population in Boston simultaneously reflects and works against the city’s entrenched hierarchies. He also has enormous energy, which invariably works to galvanize a community, so I am especially excited about the potential this project has to bring together students from disparate institutions and to use their varied contributions to make a larger statement.

Tadashi Kawamata: Boston Project, Plan in Progress involves students from the Massachusetts College of Art, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Brandeis University, as well as Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD). All of the students participating in this stage of the Boston Project are enrolled in a graduate seminar sponsored by Harvard’s GSD that meets weekly in the gallery. Kawamata will be in residence in early March and again between April 16 and April 30.

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