Magazine article Artforum International

George Maciunas: Maya Stendhal Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

George Maciunas: Maya Stendhal Gallery

Article excerpt

Between 1957 and 1965, before establishing the downtown artist cooperatives that garnered him the nickname "The Father of SoHo," Fluxus impresario George Maciunas drafted a set of ambitious building plans for newly constructed apartment complexes and single-unit dwellings. Unrealized in his lifetime, Maciunas's Prefabricated Building System was intended not only to outdo the khrushchyovka apartment style--a concrete-panel system for multistory complexes that was used in the Soviet Union and throughout the Eastern bloc beginning in the 1950s--but also to promote a rigorously designed, multi-functional type of architecture that could be used for residential or institutional purposes in various environments at low production costs. Referred to popularly as Maciunas's "Plastic Prefab," the project was the focus of this exhibition, for which a three-dimensional model and virtual tour of a prototypical home based on Maciunas's detailed plans were realized.

The results of this retro-minded experiment were mixed. While the one-to-ten-ratio model revealed a streamlined, alluring plan for a single-story dwelling made up of nine rectangular panels--easily transported modular units that could be arranged in various configurations around a Japanese-style interior garden--the digital renderings and corporate-style animation that accompanied it seemed out of step with and superfluous to the socially motivated context of Maciunas's proposal. Overseen by architect Scott Weinkle, the presentation showed that Maciunas's design was informed by up-to-date fabrication methods of the time and was not only highly functional but also elegant. What was obfuscated, however, by the commercial aesthetic and lack of supplementary materials, was an attuned sense of the urgency and socialist fervor that initiated the design.

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Trained as an architect at Cooper Union and the Carnegie Institute of Technology following his family's forced emigration from Lithuania in the wake of World War II, Maciunas maintained an active interest in the discipline even after turning to graphic design and art. Though Maciunas began developing his building system in the 1950s, he did not publish its details until 1965, when they appeared in a pamphlet that also featured his Fluxus collaborator Henry Flynt's text "Communists Must Give Revolutionary Leadership in Culture. …

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