The spell cast by Ian Monroe's mixed-media architectural renderings is entirely due to their ambiguity. Neither construction blueprints in the accepted sense, nor traditional paintings (comprising mostly vinyl strips on Perspex or aluminum), they somehow evoke the real presence of buildings and what inhabiting them might actually feel like. At first glance, these colorful spatial arrangements challenge the phenomenology of depth and perspective, making little sense or connection. A line inviting further investigation only leads to a gap between floors or to an impossible horizon. In "All Possibilities Are Visible But Unknown," all accepted rules and definitions of architectural design, engineering, and load bearing are meticulously suspended. Structural elements disassemble themselves and hover erratically, and a single vanishing point can suddenly multiply and throw everything out of skew, dissolving the borders between inside and out, fragmenting walls, and making discernible hitherto unimaginable places. In the mainly green and brown Ascender (2006), time and music seem to play in the spaces between the lines, their measured visual "sounds" slowly fading into that single fragile note heard at room's end.
The Riddle of Depth (2006) draws one into a fantastical expanse of infinite variety, ever beckoning, yet whose ultimate exploration would demand impractical time and effort, like climbing a tower to nowhere, walking through a labyrinth, or down into subterranean chambers. By contrast, the deep focus and color intensity in The Multiple Elsewhere (2006) conjures a spiraling, off-kilter well, continuously shifting the design in and out of frame. In turn, we too become reframed standing before its mammoth dimensions, drawn into Leibniz's "windowless," self-enclosed monad of Baroque theater, emptied of all content and detached from fixed perspective.
"I solicit complicity from the observer," says Monroe, "not with myself but with the 'semi-illegal' manipulations of space without gravity." Hence, too, the unpredictable bending of language caused by spatial distortions, as with his paper, steel and aluminum screen, The Faint Signal (2005), suspended diagonally from the ceiling, spelling out in continuous script: "We are silicon harvesters all nomads of the microchip (...) we worship the faintest signal ...." Such a critical warping of human time and space is made even more pressing by the very fact that each line and tiny shape has been carefully applied by hand, involving skillfully placed colored vinyl cuttings on perplex (the smaller wall pieces) or aluminum (the larger ones). The result is so picture-perfect as to make the viewer automatically assume a digital process has been involved and is thereby brought to question it.
Monroe grew up in a Chicago housing project. But his real love of architecture came from his grandfather who, in the 1970s, designed Catholic churches, monasteries, and hospitals. Oscar Niemeyer, the Brazilian architect, recently expressed his preference for "architecture that initiates exchange" between the inside and outside, and between people. Hence his round and sensuous style, which Rem Koolhaas once described as "feminine" after seeing a photograph of a naked woman on Niemeyer's desk. Yet even though Monroe's designs are rectangular and not curvilinear, he shares a similar tendency toward baroque excess and magic, conjuring social awareness and multiple entrances and exits--a built heterotopia open to all.
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|Title Annotation:||art exhibition|
|Author:||Brendel, Maria Zimmermann|
|Date:||May 1, 2007|
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