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CCS Bard Hessel Museum of art presents "If you lived here, you'd be home by now"
Installation image from If you lived here, you'd be home by now. Photo: Chris Kendall.

ALBANY, N.Y.- This summer, the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS Bard) presents If you lived here, you’d be home by now, an exhibition about the life of the art object in domestic spaces. Co-curated by artist Josiah McElheny, CCS Bard Executive Director Tom Eccles, and Dia Art Foundation Curator-at-Large Lynne Cooke, the exhibition offers visitors to the museum a unique opportunity to view artworks from the vantage point of historically important furniture and seating arrangements. Conceived as a complement to Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964-1977 (concurrently on view in the adjacent CCS Bard Galleries and at Dia:Beacon), it includes a number of new site-specific works by New York-based artist McElheny. These wall works draw upon the legacy of Palermo, an important German artist who often worked within domestic or formerly domestic spaces.

If you lived here, you’d be home by now presents a number of works on loan from Marieluise Hessel’s private collection—works which she has lived with over a number of years—including paintings and sculpture by Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Agnes Martin, Louise Bourgeois, Carl Andre, and Dan Flavin. Hessel’s engagement with contemporary art began in the mid-Sixties in Munich, Germany, where she first encountered (and collected) the work of Palermo and his contemporaries. A number of these early acquisitions are on public view here for the first time. Also included in the exhibition are a series of recent additions to the Hessel Collection, which is housed at the Center for Curatorial Studies. These works by Chantal Ackerman, RH Quaytman, Moyra Davey, Saul Fletcher, Jason Simon, Michel Auder and others, highlight notions of intimacy and raise issues of privacy, obsession, and how we experience both interior spaces and our inner lives.

If you lived here, you’d be home by now is also an investigation of how an exhibition contextualizes objects within a given space, and how new meanings for objects are produced by the vantage points from which we experience them. The exhibition is based on a series of inversions and infiltrations: from transposing how the work of art is viewed in a collector’s private home into a public space to physically shifting and personalizing the sometimes passive viewing experience of a museum; from recreating aspects of the domestic interior to choosing artworks that speak about the psychic interior to new works that intentionally blur the relationship between abstraction and décor. In this vein, the Hessel Museum’s architecture has been reconfigured to echo a series of domestic settings; various galleries have been converted into spaces that suggest a living room, bedroom, dining room, hallway, vestibule, and library or study.

Significantly, the exhibition does not present the viewer with a series of period rooms; instead, visitors are invited to use or inhabit examples of relatively unique domestic furniture while they look at the art on display, an interactive opportunity virtually unheard of in a museum setting. Here they can sit and relax in the Hessel Museum’s public spaces that are now furnished with important designs by R.M. Schindler, Frederick Kiesler, Jean Prouvé, Paul Evans, and Charlotte Perriand, among others. Kiesler’s historic chairs, the Correalist Instrument and the Correalistic Rocker—designed specifically for looking at paintings in Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery/museum Art of this Century in 1942— are available for use, as is R.M. Schindler’s King Road’s series—Sofa and two Sling Chairs, designed in 1922 for his private residence in Los Angeles and later reconstructed by Donald Judd for looking at painting in one of Judd’s environments in Marfa, Texas.

A sleek table and subtle desk lamp by Perriand forms a horizon from which to view a series of drawings on shelves; making reference to Hessel’s installation of drawings in her own private study. Elsewhere in the exhibit, the historical suppression of Perriand’s authorship is acknowledged in another recent acquisition for the Hessel collection: Josiah McElheny’s sculpture Charlotte Perriand (and Carlo Scarpa), Blue (2010) consists of hand-blown glass on polished lacquer paint shelves, shelves which are not by Prouvé, as some might mistakenly claim but rather of Perriand’s own design.

Paul Evans’ limited edition Cityscape Bed and Side Tables of patchwork chrome form the bedroom landscape, where the viewer can lounge on the bed to view Gerhard Richter’s 1965 painting of a pillow entitled Kissen, just as Ms. Hessel has done in her own home. Also included are well-known designs still in regular production, such as Prouvé’s Standard Chair, and the classic leather tubular steel LC7 Swivel Chair designed by Perriand in collaboration with Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret.

In addition to these examples of production furniture, the exhibition includes John Chamberlain’s Thordis’ Barge (1980-81) on loan from the Dia collection. Visitors are encouraged to lounge on this enormous foam and fabric-covered couch while watching Chantal Akerman’s Dans le miroir, one of her earliest 16mm films from 1971, here showing a young woman critically questioning her own body while viewing herself in a mirror.

On view in the museum’s large center gallery are artworks by Valerie Jaudon, Jaqueline Humphries, Andrea Zittel, Rosmarie Trockel, and Roni Horn’s two-part photographic installation, This is me, This is You (1999-2000). For Horn’s work (and for others in the exhibition), McElheny has “re-designed” and built Donald Judd-like furniture from which to view this specific artwork. Titled Temporary Platform for Roni Horn (After Donald Judd) and constructed out of “engineered lumber,” this double-sided couch or bed is based upon some unusual furniture that Judd built for his personal use in his home and studio in Marfa, Texas. Surprisingly, he designed and constructed a few pieces of furniture for the express purpose of looking at other art while using them. Here, McElheny’s temporary, rough constructions are built with specific artworks from the Hessel Collection in mind, providing the visitor with a chance to experience a version of Judd’s remarkable and little known practice of utilizing furniture as a “platform” for viewing art.

Occupying a second large gallery is the other major loan to the exhibition, Franz West’s Echolalia (2010) from the Amalia Dayan and Adam Lindemann collection, an enormous installation of seven sculptures on dolly wheels which can be repositioned by the viewer and is accompanied by a couch, chair, and love seat built by West. From these perches, the visitor can survey the results of their “play” with the sculpture, as well as four important paintings by Christopher Wool from the Hessel Collection.

For this exhibition, McElheny participates not only as curatorial collaborator, but also as an artist. He stages a number of interventions in the galleries, wall paintings and drawings that investigate ways of “remembering” or perhaps even “collaborating” with Blinky Palermo. In the process of creating these works, McElheny has attempted to inhabit the working methods of Palermo—as he has done earlier with the work of Allan Kaprow— responding to space, place, and cultural situation today, all the while interpreting the logic of specific, historic temporary wall works executed by Palermo from the late Sixties and early Seventies.

Cross-referencing, both explicit and implicit, is also present in the exhibition's title. The title of the exhibition makes reference to Martha Rosler's ground- breaking three-part project for the Dia Art Foundation in 1989 (If you lived here), which, in a different vein, addressed homelessness and housing, as well as architecture and planning, in New York City and elsewhere.

Also exhibited in the galleries are a series of three-dimensional molded abstract objects that McElheny has created, inspired by four specific two-dimensional shapes that Palermo returned to repeatedly.

In spring 2012, CCS Bard will publish a book connected to the exhibition, constructed as a broad “reader,” that will be edited by Lynne Cooke, Josiah McElheny, and Johanna Burton (Director of the CCS Bard Graduate Program). This volume will take up the expanded context of the exhibition and include new and reprinted essays on the themes of intimacy and interiority.

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