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An Architect's Dream, a group exhibition curated by Todd Levin opens at Curator's Office
Joseph Cornell, Untitled (Celestial Navigation), 1958. Mixed media, 13.5" x 17.5" x 5". Private Collection, NYC.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Curator's Office presents An Architect's Dream, a group exhibition curated by Todd Levin. The exhibition takes its title from a Kate Bush song about creation and focuses on the concept of arrangement and presentation as the unifying formal device used by four diverse artists. Within this context, the shelf becomes a mini-stage upon which objects become surrogates for ideas. This 'framing' stratagem transforms each work into an arena of potential discourse ranging from the personal to the universal.

With its stellar potency Joseph Cornell's Untitled (Celestial Navigation) (1958) is the cornerstone for the exhibition as his box constructions opened doors for subsequent generations of artists to explore combinations of humble yet talismanic objects, whether from natural or manufactured sources. A self-taught artist who limited his physical travels to New York City and Long Island, Cornell instinctively combined objects and images in his magical hand-made wooden boxes that allowed his imagination to soar through time and space. One of the most inventive 20th century American artists, his work influenced such pop artists as Rauschenberg and Warhol as well as contemporary installation artists.

Young African-American artist Rashid Johnson explores the nuanced transformations of black history and culture between his own family's generations. Known for a diversity of approaches to sculpture, photography, and sound, Johnson often uses the shelf format because, he has publicly stated, "I am interested in something to put something on." Entitled, Run, Archie, Run (2012), his tiled mirrored shelf work features his trademark black wax, cracks in the mirrors, an oyster shell filled with shea butter, two artist-designed books entitled Run, and a record album of avant-garde jazz legend and controversial playwright Archie Shepp. This work continues his interest in the intellectuals and creative provocateurs of African American history.

Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist is known for her lush immersive video works and multimedia installations that are unabashedly and joyfully feminist. When she scales her work down to a more domestic physical size, Rist believes that the objects that surround us contain memories and have stories to tell. The small, silent video installation Sparking Of The Domesticated Synapses (2010) consists of shelf with a vase of flowers, a watering can and diverse household items. Projected onto one side of the vase, a small ethereal video appears showing a woman's hands destroying and arranging flowers, and sensuously washing vases. This installation was originally shown in a museum that had once been a private house with many servants, whose 'helping hands' were an essential part of the villa's hidden life.

Haim Steinbach blazed a path in the early 80s with his signature pristine shelves and their precise arrays of found or purchased objects. The calculated theatricality of presentation upon machined and minimalist shelves elevated everyday consumer items to the stature of art objects. Context and relationship through both form and function became a hallmark of his work. In the witty work juicy salif kong 1A (2008), Steinbach continues this lifelong exploration, allowing elegance and humor to share the stage in a Philippe Stark designed lemon juicer and a doggie chew toy.

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