Magazine article Artforum International

Thomas Demand

Magazine article Artforum International

Thomas Demand

Article excerpt

GRAHAM FOUNDATION FOR ADVANCED STUDIES IN THE FINE ARTS

Thomas Demand first encountered John Lautner's fragile, rarely seen cardboard maquettes in 2010 as a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute. His subsequent photographs of the California architect's models, printed in the book Model Studies (2011) and shown throughout 2012 at the Thirteenth International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, Nottingham Contemporary in the UK, and Esther Schipper in Berlin, testify to what an artistic--or specifically photographic--research method can reveal. Besides the series' titles, which, for the most part, name the clients of Lautner's houses--Beyer, Franklyn, Goldstein, Segel, Turner, and so on--Demand's pigment prints (all 2011) provide few clues as to the identity of the iconic structures that the models anticipate. Instead of portraying recognizable aspects of Lautner's Brutalist, space-age buildings, many of which are famed for their appearances in Hollywood films, Demand focuses on sculptural and formal aspects of the models themselves: how the arcing cardboard edges conduct light (Concannon #36, Marina Fine Arts #37) and how rectangular planes assert themselves throughout the structures (Goldstein #08, Segel #2.5). In some cases, he shifts the perspective so that the floor becomes a wall or a ceiling, as in Goldstein #90. In Turner #31, a shallow depth of field illuminates details such as Lautner's synthetic snow, meant to simulate wintry Aspen, Colorado. Demand treats the maquettes not as expendable tools but as objects of visual and historical fascination in their own right.

At the Graham Foundation, the Lautner series appeared as "Model Studies: Thomas Demand with Fernand Leger, Francis Bruguiere, Thomas Scheibitz, and the VKhUTEMAS School." Given six rooms to work with, Demand opted to curate a group of photographs and drawings related to international prewar abstraction. The earliest works were notebook sketches made by Leger during his service in World War I, along with the book Die Chaplinaide, 1920, a collaboration with Yvan Goll, displayed as multiple copies turned to different pages. Here, Leger is seen responding to the trauma of war with abstract figuration, and soon afterward depicting Charlie Chaplin via mechanomorphic imagery that would be used in the film Ballet mecanique (1924). …

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