Irish artist Eamon O’Kane returns to Gregory Lind Gallery with a new series of paintings of the infamous Modernist buildings, many built in the International Style in Europe and Desert Modernism of America. While they are certainly thoughtful meditations on the legacy of early Modern architecture, O’Kane’s depictions are also vital examinations of the grander ideas these buildings evince, such as the aesthetics of space and the ideals and realities within the convergence of the manufactured and the natural, while calling into question the essential definitions of these terms. Not only do they visualise and are a kind of benchmark to a quickly changing world, but show how at times they were an Utopian escape from a tumultuous society in which they were realised.
Kane’s paintings interrogate the relationship between site and building as well as a viewer’s relationship to land as constructed and envisioned by artist-architect. Large scale works like “Haus Feininger Dessau (Walter Gropius)” are a stunning window onto the growth of Modernist architecture. Also among them in the gallery, buildings of the fantastic American West: “Kaufmann Desert House (Richard Neutra),” a wonderful example of Desert Modernism, a vernacular American modern architecture inspired by natural elements that strive to harmonize indoor and outlying spaces. Although devoid of any human or creature, these architectural masterpieces stand as equal counterparts to the forces of nature that surround them, illustrative of the tension between nature and man-made technologies, expounding upon how the artifice of the built environment with its pure elegance and formalism is reconciled by the intensely rough hewn landscape of the outer-lands.
Spanning almost three decades among their time of construction: late 1920s, early 1930s Europe to 1950s post-war America, these buildings also stand as somewhat silent reminisces of the idealism from which they were born and were cast into a historic legacy. Shadows cast from either a late afternoon or an early morning sun falls on the manicured but empty “Dessau Autumn study (Walter Gropius)”. This eloquent depiction feels like a somber reflection not only upon the awesome structure of the buildings, but also upon the rife artistic creativity that once flowed through the Bauhaus school Gropius designed before pressure from the National Socialists forced the “Hochschule für Gestaltung” (school of design) to close in 1932. Similarly, Kane’s depiction of “Farnsworth House in Snow (Mies Van Der Rohe)” with delicately fallen snow on the ground and barren trees ensconcing it may perhap reflect upon the building’s idealistic vision for sustainable living in contrast to its critical review amid 1950s American values and McCarthy-era political history. These “Neues Bauen” (new buildings) espouse the concept of the history of art and architecture as a construct whose multiple layers of artifice are capable of affecting perception and belief in subtle ways.
Eamon O’Kane “Neue Bauen” will be at Gregory Lind Gallery through February 16, 2013