Art for Architecture’s Sake | AspenTimes.com

Art for Architecture’s Sake

The Wyly Annex is filled with abstract painting and drawing, furniture, sculpture, charcoal landscapes and one whimsical art-making machine. You likely know the names of the artists who've made these works, though you probably don't know them as artists.

The show, "4 Architects," is a demonstration of what happens when leading architects are set loose of the creative constraints of their profession. The Roaring Fork Valley has become a respected, often award-winning home for progressive building and design. Four prominent men from today's Roaring Fork Valley architecture scene — Glenn Rappaport, Harry Teague, Larry Yaw and Will Young — are spotlighted in the Annex show.

"Architecture is practical," Teague said during a recent walk-through of the exhibition. "So this is what you do when you don't have to be practical —when you can make art that doesn't have to stand up and not leak. You get to experiment with ideas and things you can't do in three dimensions."

A revelatory retrospective of Teague's iconic local architecture at the Red Brick Center for the Arts this summer displayed dozens of the sketches and paintings he undertakes at the beginning stage of designing a building. His portion of the Wyly Annex show complements those, showing where Teague's creative instincts take him when he doesn't have to reach a brick-and-mortar goal.

Teague's work at the Wyly includes a watercolor of birds and two untitled triptychs of graphite drawings, one portraying abstract fruit-like forms and another of abstracted body parts.

Teague has also made two curious bleached-wood tables. Standing on 10 angled legs, they can support the weight of a dancing human (a theory Teague said he has tested). He made them in the wood shop at the Anderson Ranch Arts Center as prototypes for mass production.

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Yaw, a founding partner of CCY Architects, painted seven abstract acrylics on canvas and made an oak and steel bench. Conceived as two series, the paintings portray abstracted natural scenes in "Earth Forms" and are inspired by the Native American experience in "Once Proud."

"Not unlike the conceptual phase of architecture, I approach a painting with a series of sketches until an image evolves that seems to capture both purpose and conceptual promise," Yaw says in his artist statement.

Rappaport, of Black Shack Architects, contributed large charcoal drawings on paper, portraying rural scenes. His four pieces are among the most architecturally inclined in the Wyly Annex show, with houses in stark landscapes of black shadow and white sky.

Will Young, of Charles Cunniffe Architects, also looks at architecture from an artistic perspective in some of his work. It includes blocky sculptures of homes with gable roofs — reminiscent of Monopoly's hotel board game pieces — made from concrete, wood and cast glass (which plug into the wall and light up). One of the sculptures has a winding piece of metal beside it, suggesting a "Wizard of Oz" styled twister.

Other materials in Young's pieces include cast bronze, steel, wood and ceramics.

"I am passionate about materials and try to bring out the inherent beauty found in each," Young says in his artist statement. "It is true, I have never met a material I did not like."

One of the highlights of the "4 Architects" show — and among the most far-flung from architecture — is Young's steel and aluminum installation piece, "Toto" (the title another nod to "The Wizard of Oz," perhaps).

The piece is like a Rube Goldberg machine that creates art.

It includes a metal windsock connected to a drawing utensil, which spins and makes its own wind-powered drawings. Also on the whimsical low-tech "Toto," a small house-like sculpture with windows carved into it is filled with light-sensitive paper — as sunlight enters, it creates shapes on the paper (and in one case, a silhouette of a dragonfly, which flew in and sat while Young had it outdoors). A bowl on "Toto" collects rain water and slowly filters it down toward a piece of paper, leaving abstract forms out of rust on it as it drips and dries. Along with the installation itself, Young's portion of "4 Artists" includes three examples of artwork that "Toto" has created.

The architects' art show is the latest at the Wyly Annex, which opened this summer in downtown Basalt. The town gave the vacant space to the Wyly Community Art Center, and the nonprofit is planning to exhibit work there at least through 2015.

The architects will take part in a panel discussion in the gallery, Nov. 19. The last art talk at the Annex, with Jody Guralnick, drew more than 80 people. Wyly staffers hope such events are early signs of a revitalization of downtown Basalt driven by art and artists.

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If You Go …

What: ‘4 Architects’

Who: Glenn Rappaport; Harry Teague; Larry Yaw; Will Young

Where: Wyly Annex, 174 Midland Ave., Basalt

When: Through Dec. 6; panel discussion Nov. 19, 5:30 p.m.

More info: http://www.wylyarts.org