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When “architecture could change the world”

Heather McDaniel

Human beings tend to move from one home to the next, taking little notice of the architecture that to them seems just a structure to house all of their possessions. In the latest exhibit at the Mills College Art Museum, Painting the Glass House: Artists Revisit Modern Architecture, we are asked to see beyond the construction of a living space to the more complex concept behind it-the possibility of creating a utopia through modernized living spaces.

This architectural epoch represents the time of Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson, a period defined by its technological advances and copious usage of glass and steel. The mediums used in the exhibit are photography, painting, collage and video. But the exhibit is, in the words of Curator Monica Ramirez-Montagut, primarily “photo based, as photos are part of the history of architecture and how it disseminated.”

One of the pieces, a photo series by artist Luisa Lambri, features pictures of different windows using various forms of light. Another piece is a video installation by David Claerbout titled “The Bordeaux Piece.” A narrative set in a modernist home with glass windows repeats and each time the narrative plays it is cast in a different atmospheric light. The resulting effect is a meditation on how lighting affects our mood and interpretation of the narrative.

In a thoughtful watercolor piece by Russell Nachman titled “Pyramids Put Things Back the Way They are Supposed to Be,” three panels show a view through a window, the window frame surrounded by pieces of everyday existence and memorabilia.

“A common thread in the works,” said Curator Jessica Hough, “is that the artists see modern architecture as having sentimental value, longing for a time when it was believed architecture could change the world.” Ponder thiswhen you check out the exhibt, which will run until March 22.