March 14, 2012

Be Here Now

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When you step into the John Hartell Gallery this month, you might think that this space is home to a sculpture exhibition. Upon further inspection, however, you’ll realize that these pieces are, in fact, models of buildings. Simon Ungers ‘80 was renowned for his unique ability to fuse the disciplines of architecture and fine art through the production of unconventional and profound sculptures. In fact, to use the term sculpture is misleading.  Ungers’ work can be considered sculpture only insofar as Donald Judd’s minimalist floor pieces (a famous example would be Untitled, 1963) qualify as such. Born in 1957 in Cologne, Germany, Ungers is the son of accomplished architect Oswald Mathias Ungers. Simon Ungers began a five-year architecture course at Cornell in 1975 — the year his father, a professor of fine art at the college, retired.  While Ungers may have spent his early college years in his father’s shadow, his talent in architecture quickly shone thorugh. Ungers believed that architecture is a product of the mind resulting from intensive spiritual and intellectual exercise. In other words, the procss is a high art in its own right. Guided by this philosophy, Ungers created works that pushed the boundaries of modern architecture and challenged its relationship with the fine arts.Heavy Metal II: An Exhibition of Simon Ungers’ Work consists of a selection of eight projects out of a great number in a series produced during the years preceding Ungers’ untimely death in 2006.This exhibition, like his many others, explores myriad spaces such as museums, theaters, churches and libraries. The eight pieces are divided into two distinct groups. The first group is a series of four projects called “Silent Architecture.” These four are condensed into basic geometrical forms: There is a square shaped Museum, circular Theater, cross-shaped Library and triangular Cathedral. Each piece is simple, but wholly unique. The second group consists of three pieces depicting the Museum for Russian Revolutionary Art, Museum for Contemporary Art and Alte Pinakothek. These three works of art share the formal techniques of bending, tilting, stretching and cantilevering.The work “Art City” falls into a category of its own. In it, Simon Ungers brings fragments of his individual building forms together into an ensemble, attaining quasi-urban conditions. This structure truly blurs the distinction between architecture and sculpture. In this interdisciplinary sense, “Art City” is one of Simon Ungers’ strongest projects. All eight pieces are crafted from Ungers’ preferred material, corrosive steel. This fabric interacts with the atmosphere and continuously changes over time. He deliberately chose this material over something impervious to time such as titanium because his work had — and still has — the chance to become reality “here and now” and not remain static.Through this exhibition, it is quite clear that Simon Ungers approached architecture in a way that was uniquely his own. He did not reinforce or conform to the existing system. His pieces pushed the limits of what was widely perceived as artistically feasible.Simon Ungers’ work strives to uncover the theme or identity of each building. Doing so makes his architecture an intellectual exertion. All of his projects represent a form of architecture that has radically condensed into an idea, exploring the innermost realm of architecture. Simon Ungers’ work expresses a universal theme — a longing for a world beyond what is currently technologically possible and presenting an advanced perspective on what we might one day accomplish.Heavy Metal II is a truly inspirational exhibition for anyone in need of a reminder to always think outside of the box.The exhibition runs till March 30 at the Hartell Gallery, Sibley Hall.

Original Author: Samantha Delouya