Pablo Bronstein: Herald St. Gallery

By Williams, Gilda | Artforum International, Summer 2006 | Go to article overview

Pablo Bronstein: Herald St. Gallery


Williams, Gilda, Artforum International


Pablo Bronstein's enticing, elaborately detailed ink, gouache, and pencil drawings make no apology for the machismo which, in the long-gone '80s, hideously spliced together retrograde postmodernism with Baroque and neoclassical architecture. His is a pastiche of towering, overdecorated obelisks; vast, giant Corinthian colonnades; tall, endlessly spurting fountains. What is it with architects and their protrusions anyway? "If phallic symbols could fly, this place would be an airport," as Mike Kelley might say. Colluding with the '80s superstar architects like Michael Graves (now designing Disney hotels) were the real-estate developers, constructing corporate headquarters resplendent with salmon pink pillars and neo-Egyptian detailing; nostalgic royals like Prince Charles pining for an old-fashioned regal city to rule over; and the architecture schools, encouraging students like myself to acquaint themselves with the lost arts of perspective, shade, and shadow, and the dramatic rendering of tempestlike clouds swarming overhead. Just before CAD and CATIA took over and architecture students could finally toss out those diabolical Rotring ink pens, armies of overworked students slavishly copied architects like Leon Krier in the hopes of becoming Leon Battista Alberti. Mercifully, the moment passed; computer suites replaced drawing tables and everyone went back to the twentieth century for one last crack at modernism.

Bronstein excavates this embarrassing, testosterone-laden moment in recent cultural history with an acute, almost vicious sense of observation. His hybrid drawings get exactly right that particular, Aldo Rossian shade of pretentious yellow; the awful, cookie-cutter triangles posing as pediments over doorways; the whole self-conscious kitsch pomposity of it all. Yet he shares, without irony, the period's genuine love for the magnificence of eighteenth-century architectural drawings, which, crossed with po-mo fantasies, he executes with lavish skill.

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