19 July – 30 September 2021
// Invitation //
Alexis Lowry is a curator at Dia Art Foundation, New York, where she is responsible for exhibitions, collection presentations, and public programs pertaining to Dia’s holdings of Minimal, Postminimal, and Conceptual art across the museum’s various sites. She recently organized the first North American retrospective of Charlotte Posenenske’s work for Dia Beacon, in Beacon, New York, as well as installations by Mel Bochner, Mary Corse, Charles Gaines, Barry Le Va, Lee Ufan, Robert Morris, Michelle Stuart, and Anne Truitt. At Dia Chelsea she has overseen commissions by Lucy Raven, Rita McBride and Kishio Suga. Prior to joining Dia, she was curator of the David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University, Providence. Lowry has recently contributed to publications for the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College, Orlando; Drawing Center, New York; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; in addition to books produced by Dia. She obtained her PhD from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts in 2019.
Last year you focused on the German artist Charlotte Posenenske. Who was she and what fascinates you, as a curator, about her?
She was a German artist who was active between the years of 1956 and 1968, after which she stopped producing art and began a career as a sociologist studying industrial labor practices. In the late 1960s, she developed a form of massed produced minimal sculpture. Her modular objects were based on forms derived from the language of infrastructure. For example, she created a series of elements that resemble the design of ductwork for ventilation systems. The elements of these series were industrially fabricated in unlimited quantities, sold at cost, and could be arranged by her “consumers” into infinitely variable combinations of their choosing (a little bit like Legos for grown-ups). In this regard, she infused her sculptural practice with a sense of play, and a sense of shared authorship. As a curator, the democratic implications of this work are exciting to think about. Both in terms of the historical legacy of the sociopolitical context in which the work was developed, and in terms of its continued resonance today.
Are you continuing your work from last and this year? What new aspects do you hope to see?
I think being in residence will help me to clarify how to think about her work in the specific context of the Bauhaus. I recently worked with colleagues at Dia Art Foundation on another display of her work for Dia Beacon. We invited a cross-section of people from the museum and the public to work with us on the configuration of objects, so that's something that's on my mind. I’m interested in how the work lends itself to an opening out of the curatorial process both within the museum and beyond. The other thing that I'm thinking about is the fact that Posenenske´s first teacher (and very close friend) was Willi Baumeister. In the 20s, he was close to Oskar Schlemmer, whose Master’s House I’m staying in. Baumeister and Schlemmer both worked in theater, and Posenenske was also briefly a set designer in the early 1950s. Baumeister and Schlemmer both explored the language of industrialization and the movement of the body through geometries of convexity and concavity. This legacy is evident in the forms of Posenenske’s Series A, B, and C. Posenenske also took from theater an appreciation for the collective production of an artwork, a belief in the capacity of objects to transcend the conditions of the everyday, and an embrace of change or mutability. They are factors I hope to foreground in this project.
How does it feel to inhabit an entire cultural heritage site?
A little overwhelming. It's kind of amazing to be surrounded by such a deep history. It's interesting to think of the ghosts of the people who lived here. To kind of be with them, and to imagine how the house was lived in almost a hundred years ago. I'm trying to envision what this was like when it was brand new. Because of course, any historic house has a patina, it shows the texture of history. There are also many people who come to visit the houses and who peek in, so you also feel on display, maybe, in a way. This is unusual.
The protection of historical monuments demands certain restrictions in dealing with the building. Especially if you live in it. How do you feel about this fact?
Well, I feel like it's very complicated that my partner and I brought our one-year-old child! Because, of course, there are all kinds of limitations which make complete sense for the preservation of the building, but which are difficult to explain to a small child. However, the buildings are appreciably functional in their form, so there is plenty of space to move around. The atelier is beautiful, and set up ideally as a working space. It feels really charged and exciting to be in. The kitchen has been adapted efficiently, so we’ve been able to settle in. It has actually been a very smooth transition into the space.
How does the tourist environment of the master houses differ compared to your last place of residence? How do you perceive the guests?
The guests can be surprising, and sometimes they don’t notice the signs saying the house Is closed to visitors. One curious person stopped me on my way into the house and asked what I was doing. When I explained I was living here for the residency, he was very excited that this was possible. I feel really privileged that we have this opportunity to spend time in the house. We live between New York City, where there are tourists everywhere, and in a small college town in the Hudson Valley, where we are really in the country. Here, in a small city with great parks, I feel sort of in between those two places.
What are you planning to do? What project are you planning to carry out in the Masters House?
I need a little more time to answer that definitively. I’m trying to imagine how Posenenske´s objects might animate the Gropius House, which in its reconstruction is kind of deliberately provisional. Posenenske’s work is also provisional though differently so. Her sculptural elements formally evoke the language of industrial infrastructure, but actually focus attention on human relations and the collaboration required to produce and assemble them into artworks. In this regard, I’m interested in how her objects have the potential to rearrange the relationship among artist, artwork, and public. This seems especially relevant to me, while in residence here, when thinking about the inherent tensions of the “masters” model of the Bauhaus. I’m looking forward to speaking more with the people who work at the Bauhaus, as well as to the visitors who come here, to figure out how exactly to deal with Posenenske´s work in this context.