On this most recent, rainy, Thursday night I had a rare and fun opportunity to attend a private reception and gallery show at the Walker Art Center here in Minneapolis. The show was titled Siah Armajani: Follow This Line. Every year Morgan Stanley hosts a client appreciation event, and this year it was held at the Walker! I was able to attend courtesy of my financial adviser, Paul Buckley. Knowing I had a background in art history, Paul secured me a place at the event. It’s a rare person that takes the time to get to know people, learn what drives them and how best to help them achieve their goals. Paul’s caring for his clients and his passion for the business are what sets him apart.
The show was organized by The Walker and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Armajani is a Minneapolis-based American sculptor and architect of Iranian descent. You might know one of his more famous works here in Minneapolis – the Whitney Bridge by the Walker Art Center. I love that the bridge depicts two different bridge styles (suspension and arch) in the same work. It’s absolutely intriguing. Additionally he created the Olympic Torch presiding over the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA, worked on the New York Staten Island tower and bridge.
Follow This Line is the first U.S. retrospective of Armajani’s work. It features his sculpture and many models for architectural projects. I loved the architectural models because it made me feel like he was exploring a specific architectural element just to get a sense of it in the round. I had the distinct impression that I was getting a glimpse into the way the architect’s mind works. An apparent theme in the many works was the concept of building a structure around an existing element. Particularly appealing, to me, was how one bridge was built OVER a tree. When you traverse the bridge, you gain an entirely new perspective on the tree. How often do we get to see a large tree from the top-down?
Perspective is another piece of his artistic vision that I found appealing. He was constantly looking at the subject in a different way – opening new avenues of viewing something. Particularly appealing was a transformation in his work that happened about the time of the moon landing in 1969. This event had a huge impression on humanity’s understanding of the possibilities of technology. For Armajani, it inspired him to look beyond the traditional mediums of painting and sculpture and to make interdisciplinary works that merged art, science and architecture.
Some of the works seen at the show, such as computer generated films, dot matrix printouts are examples of conceptual art, in which the idea takes precedence over the physical object. For example: some works may attempt to give tangible form to abstract concepts like the circumference of the earth or the distance from one geographical border to another.
The centerpiece of the show was Armajani’s sculptural commentary on Falluja and the incredible devastation that the civilian population endured. Falluja is inspired by Picasso’s Guernica. The Picasso work was a large mural depicting the suffering of people and animals by violence. It is considered one of the most moving and powerful anti-war paintings in history. For many years Armajani’s Falluja was censored in the U.S. due to its critical view on the war in Iraq. It was fantastic to get a chance to see it.
Overall, the evening was a tremendous amount of fun, and caused a good deal of reflection. I did have one very interesting take-away. Considering how Armajani looked at his work from varying perspectives, it reminded me of how much we put our own thought processes in a box. We limit how we are willing to examine elements within our lives to either fit a pre-conceived narrative or fit a desired outcome. It stifles creativity and discourages thinking about who we are as a society.