“No one knows what it is like to live in a glass house,” claimed Edith Farnsworth, the original occupant and owner of the famous Farnsworth House designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. This Modernist dwelling, which is now a museum, has sparked intrigue since its completion in 1951, and the show at Matthew Rachman Gallery is the latest chapter in the conversation about glass-house life explored through thought-provoking artworks and photographs.
“INsite ONview” recalls the 2014 light and sound installation “INsite,” created at the Farnsworth House by Luftwerk, a Chicago-based art practice co-founded by Petra Bachmaier and Sean Gallero, and documented by photographer Kate Joyce. This new exhibition brings together Luftwerk’s artworks and Joyce’s photographs, showcasing the past installation and proposing new perspectives on this much admired house. The accompanying period furniture is a tactful addition that elaborates on the show’s theme.
Joyce’s four photographs depict the house after sundown; they draw the visitor in with an eerie sensation. These privileged views, inside and out, delight the voyeuristic viewer. “INsite ONsite No. 4” captures the house’s interior at night during the 2014 installation. As solitude and stillness pervade, the photograph exposes the emptiness of the uninhabited interior. Luftwerk’s light installation heightens the mental angst of glass-house living captured within the photograph: light reflects off the glass panes, producing an inescapable mirror-like effect.
Luftwerk’s four contributions to “INsite ONview” provide an introspective interpretation of the distinctive architectural details of the Farnsworth House. Take the three horizontal pieces hung side-by-side on a gallery wall: “Reflection #2,” “Reflection #3” and “Reflection #1.” The abstract design and reflective quality in each piece evoke three components of the structure: the house’s glass walls, rigid geometry and surrounding foliage, respectively.
There is a constant exchange between the eight pieces on show: micro and macro, figurative and abstract. Visitors delight in the physical and psychological details, while questioning and reinterpreting elements that make this house iconic. Anyone who has visited the Farnsworth House knows it is an experience. “INsite ONview” provides a new perspective on this uncanny reality. (Amy Haddad)
Through November 8 at Matthew Rachman Gallery, 1659 West Chicago
Elliot J. Reichert is a Chicago-based curator, critic, and editor. He is a currently Curator of Contemporary Art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana Unversity, and Hatch Projects Curatorial Resident at the Chicago Artist Coalition. Formerly, he was Art Editor of Newcity and Assistant Curator at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. His writing has been published in The Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Newcity.