Ideal Acre at island ⍛
Adriana Furlong, Hings Lim, Alex Callender, Adam de Boer
January 28 – March 4, 2023
PR NY – island is pleased to present a group show titled, “ideal acre” with works by Adam de Boer, Adriana Furlong, Alex Callender and Hings Lim. The show will be on view from January 28 to March 4, 2023 at our 83 Bowery, 2nd floor location.
The show draws its title from Alex Callender’s research at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture where she found an archive of architect and urban planner Joseph Black’s writings on “Ideal Acre Development” from the 1970s. It posited a theory of architecture and urban design that was unmoored from the European ideals and imagined an architecture that was sensitive towards and tailored to the needs of the black community. Apart from Black’s writings, Alex looked through hundreds of tenant building complaints and relocation forms that tell the decades long story of slum clearance, relocation, and mid-century modern housing programs, which effectively produced the segregated urban and suburban corridors we live in today. Working from the Schomburg library collection, her project foregrounds narratives from tenant-based organizations, labor groups, and local agencies to tell the story of federal housing policy and community resistance to renewal and relocation programs. Alex started this research to better understand the 1949 Housing Act and the FHA mortgage system that created two radically different outcomes to American housing access and the promises of public investment, which have resulted in our current housing crisis. Her works in “ideal acre” scaffold images and texts from these archives into a porous installation that is infused with Alex’s own drawings.
Where does architecture end and housing begin? This seems to be an overarching question that many works in “ideal acre” are charged with. Adriana Furlong’s works are materially complex, deriving from offcuts and scraps collected from construction sites, salvage yards and metal shops. Adriana also incorporates blueprints from the 1948 edition of American Builders: Blueprint Series, where the quarterly presented low cost schemas for housing. These post-war designs and ideals become illegible in Adriana’s works as overlaid rusted copper tones and hand-made tiles obscure details and tend towards incompleteness. Peeling away the exoskeleton of buildings, Adriana seeks covert gestures rendered by hands stippling surfaces to investigate how the body exists within structures ever in flux. Her work reminds us that the utopian impulse leaves ephemeral residues behind, a residue of memory. By amplifying the traces of those who handled, breathed, and made the materials, Adriana generates an organizing schema of a new urban architecture that remembers.
Adam de Boer paints observational landscapes from his Los Angeles studio, transforming sprawling cityscapes into tidy, hard-edged blocks of color through wax reliefs made in the traditional Indonesian batik technique. In “Rosemead Reflection”, a highway and the hills in the distance are mirrored in the glassy facade of an anonymous LA office building with a few cursory palm trees. Using the batik technique, which is used primarily for textiles, the vernacular of urban sprawl is reclaimed into a more domestic space. The seeming contradiction is a by-product of Adam’s own experience as a Eurasian who has traveled throughout Indonesia, studying its histories and craft techniques. The other work in the show, “Tegel Buitenzorg”, is based on the floor of his studio in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The painting, made atop a traditional ‘tikar’ floor mat of hand-woven pandan leaves, depicts a jumbled arrangement of salvaged so-called ‘Portuguese’ tiles. These pressed cement tiles, made from volcanic ash, are actually English in origin, and were introduced to Indonesia by the Dutch to bring hygienic surfaces to the colonies. Featuring imagery and designs from around the globe, they are, in fact, a sanitized visual index of European colonial projects. The loaded signs and symbols contained within them form a story about colonial conquests, religious expansions and exported histories of beauty. In effect, the piece contains two distinct surfaces, the physical relief of the pandan weaving and the painted illusion of the tiles. The juxtaposition calls into question distinctions between high and low, local and foreign, handmade craft and mechanical production. “Tegel Buitenzorg” captures these tiles in their latest incarnation, reclaimed by contemporary Javanese builders for their utility; their original power subverted in service of the contemporary home.
For the series “Cleaning,” Hings Lim hired Malaysian cleaners, a workforce often defined by its invisibility. Centering the workers’ bodies within the nexus of the house, he casts a spotlight on the normally hidden labor that is needed to maintain it. Large urban centers, such as the one in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, require a large populace of low waged workers to maintain their unsustainable role as markers of modernity. A house is a home to some, a work place to others. Implicit within the works seems to be a question by the artist: is there a difference between a mark laid by an artist versus a mark left by a cleaner? In this work, Hings adopts the intimate, domestic scale of a small house, using intricate mark-making as an embodiment for utopic ideals of cleanliness. These large canvases have a topographical scale, they unfurl into room-sized installations which recall a network of roads or a blurred vision of a busy urban crossing. In the context of “ideal acre”, the pieces are direct contributions by non-artists, they represent the bodies often subsumed by the system.