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The Architectural Imaginary in Contemporary Art to Open at Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego in September
Julie Mehretu, Immanence, 2004, ink and synthetic polymer on canvas, 72 x 96 inches. Mehretu-Rankin Collection. Courtesy of the artist and The Project, New York. Photo: Christian Capurro.

SAN DIEGO, CA.- The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) will present an innovative exhibition mapping the influence of architecture on contemporary visual art in an international context. Entitled Automatic Cities: The Architectural Imaginary in Contemporary Art, the exhibition sets work by prominent, architecturally engaged artists such as Julie Mehretu, Matthew Ritchie, and Rachel Whiteread in dialogue with that of emerging practitioners including Catharina van Eetvelde, Jakob Kolding, and Sarah Oppenheimer. Automatic Cities is curated by MCASD Curator Dr. Robin Clark and will be on view from September 26, 2009 through January 31, 2010 at MCASD's La Jolla location.

Automatic Cities explores the psychological and metaphorical influence of architecture on contemporary visual art. The title of the exhibition refers to the Surrealist practices of automatic writing and automatic drawing, which sought to access individual creativity by tapping into the unconscious. The exhibition explores notions of architecture in the broadest sense, comprising images of sites and cities both built and unbuilt, rising from collective experience and imagination.

Automatic Cities includes works by 13 artists and one artists' collective hailing from 11 countries around the globe including Michaël Borremans (Belgium); Matthew Buckingham (New York); Los Carpinteros (Cuba); Catharina van Eetvelde (Paris, born Belgium); Jakob Kolding (Berlin, born Copenhagen); Ann Lislegaard (Copenhagen, born in Norway); Julie Mehretu (New York, born Ethiopia); Paul Noble (London); Sarah Oppenheimer (New York); Matthew Ritchie (New York, born London); Hiraki Sawa (London, born Japan); Katrin Sigurdardottir (U.S., born Iceland); Rachel Whiteread (London); and Saskia Olde Wolbers (London, born Netherlands). Artist bios are available in MCASD's Online Press Room (

The exhibition is organized into four thematic groupings: architecture as language, architecture as memory, architecture as model, and architecture as surveillance. Paul Noble's drawings of a fictional city constructed from a typographical font and Matthew Buckingham's installation inspired by the garret where Samuel Johnson penned the first English language dictionary together with Ann Lislegaard's 3-D animation based on J.G. Ballard's novel The Crystal World will address relationships between architecture and language.

Memory projected onto the architectural surround is the topic of videos by Hiraki Sawa and Saskia Olde Wolbers. The exhibition will include examples of Rachel Whiteread's sculptures and related drawings, which make material the idea of architecture as a locus of somatic memory. The third theme, architecture as model, will be revealed through installations by Los Carpinteros, Catharina van Eetvelde, Katrin Sigurdardóttir, and Michaël Borremans. Los Carpinteros' work humorously and poignantly speaks to failed utopian dreams in Cuba, while Sigurdardóttir's installations evoke the coastline and folklore of her native Iceland through the use of models. Paintings by Borremans demonstrate the uncanny potential of architectural models. Drawings by Catharina van Eetvelde that show architectural elements morphing alternately into plant life, computer circuitry, and animal forms are also part of the architecture as model section.

The final section of the exhibition will address the theme of surveillance. Julie Mehretu's layered paintings provide chaotic and polemic images of a militarized urban surround. Sarah Oppenheimer's installation, conceived as a "movie made with architecture" will consist of constructed portals that will frame views, which will in turn be animated by the movement of visitors. Matthew Ritchie will create a three-dimensionally rendered city that viewers may interact with through motion tracking software that translates physical movement into layers of sound and images. While the critical positions of the featured artists are diverse, their collective work reflects the vital influence of the architectural imaginary in contemporary art at the turn of the 21st century.

Sarah Oppenheimer will be artist-in-residence in conjunction with Automatic Cities and will create a new, site-responsive work for the exhibition. Oppenheimer will be the subject of a film created by MCASD's Teen Art Council and will conduct a hands-on art-making workshop with the Teen Art Council. Matthew Ritchie created Remonstrance (San Diego Version) (2009) for the exhibition, where it will be on view for the first time. Ritchie is also making a new wall drawing for the exhibition.

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego | Julie Mehretu | Matthew Ritchie | Rachel Whiteread | Catharina van Eetvelde | Jakob Kolding | Sarah Oppenheimer. |

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