THE ARTLESS DRAWING: NEIL DENARI, 1982-1996.
For Archinect, Eric Chavkin reviews architect's current exhibition curated by Sylvia Lavin for ACE Gallery in Los Angeles.
Image courtesy of MOMA
Free drinks and slick drawings are a sure bet to bring in a crowd of architecture students to view the Ace Gallery show on Wilshire Blvd. Although much of the work is from older projects from the 80 and 90s for me it was a chance to view his work anew, with fresh eyes.
What there was to see was literally illuminating. The drawings, mostly acetate transparencies, are displayed backlit, and mounted on fluorescent panels. The collection is arranged on an array of tall vertical free-standing light boxes, the kind one would use view photo slides, but exaggerated. Screen printed on the plywood edged sides are titles, media-type, and your typical museum- art-gallery information. It was like one was shipping crates of light.
Architecturally the drawings are excellent and well conceived; snapshots into a complex system, with numbers and callouts that refer to other parts. Typography, line drawing and pantone all work together to communicate a neat graphic solution. It has the detailed precision of a plastic injection prototype.
As a gallery spectator, I am seduced by the verisimilitude of exactness. Looking at these mechanical inspired illustrations, one wants to pursue the parts, get into it and see how it all fits together.
Overall the viewing experience has a strange clinical feel, like looking at x-rays. The cool glow throughout the space emits an antiseptic quality. My philosopher friend remarked that it didn’t feel human. I thought it worked well within Denari’s future themed designs. I am more forgiving.
But a crowded gallery is not the place to contemplate detailed drawings, or even look closely, so I have to ask questions.
Where is Neil Denari coming from? Or more to the point of what interests me, from where does his architectural imagery derive?
My friend Larry Totah gave me an answer. “Neil Denari is from Texas. He started out working in aeronautics; drafting, designing for airlines. That’s where the imagery comes from”. Of course. The Pantone shading, the emphasis on skin, the prominence of numbers… these all reference the shape and look of aerospace design. It’s space-age aesthetics.
The philosophy that generates the ideas stems from a belief in technological-positivism. I’m taken by it myself. The imagery is sublime if not beautiful. It’s a kind of science fiction film fetish that gave birth to the cult of Archigram and Buckminster Fuller. They are the parents. Jan Kaplicky, Luigi Coloni, and Syd Mead are the children. Each of them and Neil Denari too, are the great, great, great, great grandchildren of Jules Verne.
THE ARTLESS DRAWING: NEIL DENARI, 1982-1996
Ace Gallery June 6 – July 15, 2010
Reviewed by Eric Chavkin