When Art and Architecture Meet, the Results Can Be Wild

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By Heather Corcoran / Published by Dwell
A series of exhibitions and performances at the Savannah College of Art and Design spark creative conversations across disciplines.

The relationship between fine art and design tends to be understood on a continuum. On the one side, the two fields are seen as totally separate and unequal; on the other, they’re inextricably linked. Whether you feel that architecture should be side-by-side with art in museums or that design exists in a world of its own, it’s impossible to ignore the dialogue between them.

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Carrie Mae Weems, Galleria Nazionale D’Arte Moderna - Rome, Digital C-print ©Carrie Mae Weems

In her keynote speach at SCAD's deFINE ART festival, artist Carrie Mae Weems looked back on her career, noting that the longer she practices, the more she sees the impact of architecture on her work. From intimate domestic scenes to her pilgrimage to the world's most famous museums, the built environment is often a silent player in her photographs.

At the Savannah College of Art and Design, the deFINE ART exhibition series underscores the impact that art can have on other design disciplines, architecture included.

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Installation view of Daniel Arsham's The Future was Then.

For his SCAD exhibition, Daniel Arsham took a long, narrow corridor of the museum and transformed it into a dizzying installation. His Wall Excavation, made of styrofoam and joint compound, is an example, he says, of making "architecture do things it's not supposed to do."

As SCAD founder and president Paula Wallace puts it, "Architecture, it is often said (particularly by architects), is the mother of all the arts. The principles and elements of art taught and learned at SCAD include rhythm, texture, repetition, form, space, harmony, scale, balance, and more. All of these principles and elements are exemplified in architecture of the highest order."

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The Beau Geste dance troupe performs Exceptional Transport: duet for a dancer and an excavator.

A building tool is transformed into a dangerous partner for a pas de deux in a performance by French dance troupe Beau Geste.

The deFINE ART program of lectures, exhibitions, and events—spread over the school’s campuses in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong—centers on a series of exhibitions at the SCAD Museum of Art. The museum, an adaptive reuse project designed by members of the school’s Building Arts faculty, is an active part of the campus. As students pass through it between classes each day, the conversation between disciplines continues.

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Installation view of Robin Rhode's exhibition The Moon is Asleep.

In a dramatic performance, South African artist Robin Rhode used everyday items as tools for mark-making with a three-dimensional series of suspended objects titled The Philosophy of Furniture.

"Architecture envelops, shelters, presents, and incorporates all art forms, including sculpture, painting, photography, film, performance, installation, projection—and whatever artists will invent in the future," Wallace says. "Art elevates architecture, and architecture elevates art. SCAD deFINE ART is one of the many ways we encourage our students to seek inspiration in different creative mediums and traditions, enhancing their learning experience as they strengthen their artistic knowledge."

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Alec Soth, Near Gainesville, Georgia, archival pigment print, 2014. Commissioned by the SCAD Museum of Art.

In Alec Soth's photographic exploration of the United States, architecture contributes to his narrative about the nation.

Click through the slideshow to see highlights from the museum and discover the ways art and architecture influence one another. 

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Corinne Wasmuht, Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, oil on wood, 2007.

In her large-scale oil paintings, artist Corinne Wasmuht layers found images of urban landscapes until they break apart into pixelated abstraction.

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Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt (R&R Studios), A Poem in the Form of Flowers, 2016.

Trained as architects, Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt of R&R Studios create lively work that engages the public space, like this installation of flowers in the windows lining the SCAD Museum.

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Installation view of Steven and William Ladd’s exhibition Blood Bound.

Brothers Steven and William Ladd use a variety of techniques and tools to create their jewel-box installations, often working in collaboration with young people to turn recycled materials into art. They're currently building one of their biggest installations yet—a massive 3D mural to be installed in downtown Brooklyn this spring.

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