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info@grahamfoundation.org

2019

Tracing the emergence of architecture as a wellspring of creativity and theoretical exploration for the artist Arakawa (1936–2010) and poet and philosopher Madeline Gins (1941–2014), this exhibition features over 40 drawings and other archival materials that illuminate a pivotal moment within a practice that spanned nearly five decades of collaboration.

In the early 1960s, Arakawa and Gins began a remarkably original and prolific partnership that encompassed painting, installations, poetry, literature, architecture, urbanism, philosophy, and scientific research. Complementing their independent artistic and literary practices, their collaborative work launched with visual, semiotic, and tactile experiments that questioned the limits and possibilities of human perception and consciousness. During the 1980s—a critical juncture in their careers—this line of inquiry became increasingly spatial as Arakawa and Gins together developed a series of speculative architectural projects that sought to challenge the bodily and psychological experience of users. Through these investigations, the artists began to articulate their concept of “Reversible Destiny,” arguing for the transformative capacity of architecture to empower humans to resist their own deaths. This exhibition uncovers a little-known body of this visionary work that anticipated the artists’ subsequent commitment to architecture and their realization of various “sites of Reversible Destiny,” in Japan and New York between 1994–2013.

Eternal Gradient originated at the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) and is made possible, in part, by the Estate of Madeline Gins and through a partnership with the Reversible Destiny Foundation.

The exhibition was curated by Irene Sunwoo, GSAPP director of exhibitions and curator of the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery, with Tiffany Lambert, GSAPP assistant director of exhibitions. The Graham Foundation presentation is organized by Sarah Herda, director, and Ellen Alderman, deputy director of exhibitions and public programs. The exhibition design is by Norman Kelley, a Chicago & New Orleans architecture and design collective founded by Carrie Norman and Thomas Kelley.

(Shusaku) Arakawa (1936–2010) was born in Nagoya, Japan and attended the Musashino Art University in Tokyo. Renowned for his paintings, drawings, and prints, as well as his visionary architectural constructions, Arakawa was one of the founding members of the Japanese avant-garde collective Neo Dadaism Organizers and was one of the earliest practitioners of the international conceptual-art movement of the 1960s. After moving to New York from Japan in 1961, Arakawa produced diagrammatic paintings, drawings, and other conceptual works that employed systems of words and signs to highlight and investigate the mechanics of human perception and knowledge. Throughout the following decades Arakawa continued to exhibit at museums and galleries extensively throughout North America, Western Europe, and Japan, with works that grew in scale and visual and intellectual complexity.

Madeline Gins (1941–2014) was an American poet, writer, and philosopher. She grew up in Island Park, NY, and graduated from Barnard College in 1962 where she studied physics and philosophy. While studying painting at the Brooklyn Museum Art School in 1962, Gins met Arakawa and she would become one of the primary interpreters of Arakawa’s work. With Arakawa, Gins developed the philosophy of “Procedural Architecture” to further its impact on human lives. These ideas were explored through three books that she co-authored with Arakawa: Pour ne Pas Mourir/To Not to Die(Éditions de la Différence, Paris, 1987); Architectural Body (University of Alabama Press, 2002); and Making Dying Illegal – Architecture Against Death: Original to the 21st Century (Roof Books, New York, 2006).

The Reversible Destiny Foundation was founded in 2010 by Arakawa and Madeline Gins to promote their work and philosophy in the areas of art, architecture, and writing. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting research and greater public interest in the ideas and artistic practice of Arakawa and Madeline Gins through a range of initiatives to further advance and preserve their legacy.

Irene Sunwoo is an architectural historian and curator based in New York. She is Director of Exhibitions and Curator of the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). Her exhibitions at Ross Gallery include Model ProjectionsNo. 9 by Frida EscobedoLiam Young: New Romance, and Offsetted, a forthcoming exhibition by Cooking Sections. Prior to joining GSAPP, she was Associate Curator of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial (2015). Her book In Progress: IID Summer Sessions was published in 2016 (AA Publications/Graham Foundation), and her writing has appeared in Grey RoomJournal of Architectural EducationAA FilesGetty Research Journal, Domus, and The Avery Review, among other journals. Currently she is preparing a book on Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association, and a separate publication on Arakawa and a Madeline Gins.

Tiffany Lambert is a curator, educator, and writer based in New York. She is Assistant Director of Exhibitions at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Pratt Institute. Previously she was Assistant Curator at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and Managing Editor of PIN–UP Magazine. Her writing is published internationally, including in Artsy, Cultured, Disegno, Domus, Surface, TANK, and The New York Times. Her research on the Japanese designer Sori Yanagi is supported by grants from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the Design History Society, and is compiled in a forthcoming book published by Phaidon.

Norman Kelley, a Chicago and New Orleans based architecture and design collaborative, was founded by Carrie Norman and Thomas Kelley in 2012. Norman Kelley’s work seeks to explore architecture and design’s limits between two- and three-dimensions. Along this spectrum, their work re-examines architecture and design’s relationship to vision, prompting its observers to see nuance in the familiar. The practice has contributed work to the 14th Venice Architecture Biennial (2014) and the first and second Chicago Architecture Biennials (2015, 2017), in addition to being the recipients of the United States Artist’s Architecture and Design Fellowship (2018), and the Architecture League of New York Young Architect’s Prize (2014). Their collection of American Windsor chairs is currently represented by Volume Gallery in Chicago.

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Arakawa and Madeline Gins, “Screen-Valve,” 1985-87. Graphite and color pencil on paper. 30 x 22 1/2 in. Photo: Nicholas Knight. © 2018 Estate of Madeline Gins. Reproduced with permission of the Estate of Madeline Gins ; Arakawa and Madeline Gins, “Critical Holder Chart 2” (detail), c.1991. C.G. print. 19 x 18 in. (total dimensions) © 2017 Estate of Madeline Gins. Reproduced with permission of the Estate of Madeline Gins