A prototype for the modern high-rise, the nick-named “Glass Houses”, ushered in a new era of modern architecture which arguably still exists today. Not only the eye of Neil Harris has focused on the Monika Sosnowska piece entitled “Tower”, now on display at Hauser & Wirth, that was directly inspired by Mies Van Der Rohe’s Lake Shore Drive Apartments in Chicago.
“Tower” is obviously a contrast to the perfectly sectioned and proportioned Lake Shore Apartments or “Glass Houses”, which is a multi- family residential building evoking order, simplicity and uniformity. “Tower” is quite the opposite. A bent and twisted skeleton structure, painted black (exactly like the steel skeleton of the Lake Shore Drive Apartments) and lounging in an open hanger-like art gallery; “Tower” evokes disaster, the chaos of emotion, the remains of something that was once whole and functional but now lies like a cadaver in the stages of rigor mortis. This fallen giant is impressive, nonetheless. The black color reminds this writer of a scorched building, burnt to the ground.
Is she celebrating or commenting on the death of Modernist architecture or architecture as art? Maybe. Is she re-appropriating structures in this contorted form and within a sterile gallery setting to drag feelings out of the viewer? If you look closely at the work you will notice that there are tracks where windows would be all throughout the structure, complete with the latches that would have held a window closed. This appears to be a direct reference to a structure that people would have taken residency in, but obviously the structure no longer serves this purpose.
She could have used any materials to create the works, having done structures like this in the past and not being confined by having to scavenge for materials; all materials used were picked specifically for the work. So what is it she is trying to tell us? Perhaps in the same way that one goes to visit the corpse of a loved one on display in an open casket in order to gain closure for one-self, she is displaying this work as a reference to the corpse of an architectural or societal ideal. Stretching to 110 feet long and weighing 22,000 lbs, the impressive structure reminds some people of a dinosaur’s skeleton, or the hull of a boat and even the remains of a plane crash. I have been told that it is definitely not a reference to 9/11 or the fall of Communism but rather something else entirely.
I posit that she is making a social commentary on architecture and the way it influences those who interact with it, for better or for worse. It is cathartic for this viewer to see what is referencing the corkscrewed skeletal remains of a building initially meant to inspire a sort of futurist and idealized modern human existence. The modern high rises are built in correlation with societal standards of uniformity and order, and the ideals these standards impose upon modern society’s participants can be rather stifling. I look on “Tower” as a sort of release from that. The disorder of the bent limbs of the steel structure seem more natural to this viewer than the building to which it is referencing in all its order and rationality. All this despite knowledge of the labor intensive process of creating the work, which is no secret, as it is displayed in the press release available as you enter the gallery.
Article written by Nick Rogers