“Endnote, Ledoux” is Ian Kiaer’s most recent investigation of the utopian architectural projects that litter the long history of modernity, taking its lead from the work of the French neoclassicist Claude Nicolas Ledoux (particularly his speculative Maison des gardes agricoles). Although Ledoux designed a variety of buildings for wealthy patrons before the Revolution, he is better known for a series of theories and designs toward ideal cities and unbuilt dwellings. To revisit Ledoux is to reckon with nascent forms of utopian ambition that problematically reprise the power structures of the Ancien régime.
Kiaer’s previous projects have included meditations on Frederick Kiesler and Aldo Rossi. Each installation attends to the chosen architect’s distinctive understanding of the relations between structure and space, usually deploying ephemeral materials and carefully calibrated historical references through images, titles and arranged objects. Here, the works are cunningly scaled from the very large to the minuscule. A vast yellow bag hangs from the ceiling, wheezing away, while a bent yellow tube describes a right angle on the floor beside it. The composition’s estrangement of line and volume is mirrored across the gallery in a more intimate gathering: a rough black sphere squats next to a black arc with a small tributary branching off.
Although the show fairly sweats erudition, it’s also a trove of tiny ocular pleasures. As such, it is worth contemplating in relation to Peter Wächtler’s “Secrets of a Trumpet” at the Renaissance Society across campus. Both artists attend equally to the dialectics of large and small, of intense detail and blank space. Both use art to bring history to account in ways that this reviewer appreciates. (Luke A. Fidler)
Ian Kiaer’s “Endnote, Ledoux” shows through April 22 at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society, 5701 South Woodlawn.