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Space Framed: Works and Projects by Richard…

Space Framed: Works and Projects

by Richard Gluckman

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 158093045X, Paperback)

As much as one might like to walk through midtown Manhattan in the early 1950s and regard the Seagram Building and Lever House in all of their modernist boldness, undiluted by the near-unbroken flanks of cheap, boring knockoffs that now obscure them, it would be wonderful to travel back to late 1970s SoHo or early 1990s Chelsea in the same city to look at the work of Richard Gluckman before it became virtually indistinguishable from the interior of nearly every chic restaurant, boutique, or coffee bar to open in Gotham in the last decade. Of course, Gluckman's work--which has transformed the neglected ghosts of our urban-industrial past into light-as-air art/installation "frames" for such projects as New York's pioneering Dia Center for the Arts (1987-1997), Pittsburgh's Andy Warhol Museum (1994), and the galleries of art-world heavies Paula Cooper, Mary Boone, and Larry Gagosian--is interpretable on many honorable levels. As Princeton architecture professor Hal Foster points out in his brief essay, which is included here, these honor the edict of Dia cofounder Heiner Friedrich to "not design--strip the room to its essentials so you know what it's about"; or, as Gluckman himself notes in his own slightly longer essay here, they frame not only the art, but also "the viewer as well," through their sparing, judicious use of beams and columns, or scrims and skylights.

Well, that's all fine and good. But, because so many of Gluckman's projects are preservation-conscious retrofits, instead of ground-ups; and, because minimalism is to him not only a style but a self-imposed mandate in his frequent mission to provide the perfect context for someone else's artistic vision, it's hard to look through the smashing interiors of this beautifully produced softcover book and come away wowed by his choices--which tend tactfully toward the stripping or refinishing of surfaces, redirection of light, and removal and/or retaining of various walls, columns, and other old structural elements. Yes, these vast, dramatically lit expanses of gleaming plaster, blond-wood wall panels, and stainless-steel fittings are handsome; but, in the early 21st century, unfortunately, and despite the thought and care that Gluckman no doubt put into their use and installation, we now can enjoy much the same cold, chicly postindustrial gloss at our local Banana Republic or Starbucks (and it's no surprise to learn here that Gluckman has designed stores for Versace and Helmut Lang that don't look much different from his galleries).

That's why the more interesting work here are the exceptions, such as the private-residence "House for an Artist and a Writer" on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (1994), whose warm gray shingles, massive chimney, and simple "front porch" make one feel right at home, without for a moment suggesting that the house is trying to fit completely into a traditional regional style. Also notable is the little jewel of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe (1997), another renovation project in which Gluckman's hand is no heavier than in his East Coast art spaces, but in which most surfaces are finished in the warm adobe colors of the region--providing a welcome break from the near-ubiquitous shades of gray that Gluckman, it seems, thinks are most appropriate as art backgrounds. These glowing, sandy expanses are also a wonderful counterpoint to the florid color of O'Keeffe's own canvases, and generally make one wish that Gluckman, an admirably context-sensitive architect, would do more work in such warmer and less uptight climes. --Timothy Murphy

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:36 -0400)

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