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Darn. Artist vs. Architect Is NOT A Caged Death Match

sean ojpgSean O’Brien, Less is More, binder clips, piano wire, illuminated platform. All photos by Jerome Weeks

Artists and architects have not always been friendly – they’re more like rivals for our eyeballs. But KERA’s Jerome Weeks reports tonight, the auction called Artist vs. Architect will feature photographs, drawings and sculpture by both sides of this particular, long-running disagreement.

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When the architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum in New York, he made it so all the exhibitions could be organized only one way — down a long, circular ramp — and all the paintings could be hung only one way, the way he thought they should be seen, angled as if they were on an artist’s easel. After the Guggenheim opened in 1959, the New York Times critic called the result “a war between architecture and painting.”

So honestly, isn’t it just a little disappointing that tonight, Artist vs. Architect will not actually pit the two sides in a mixed martial arts death match? There’ll be no mud wrestling?

“Noo, no, no, no mud wrestling,” says Vince Wilson, laughing. “And it’s really not a competition between the two. It’s more of a collaboration. The term ‘versus’ is more for the comparison of the two.”

ava vinceeditWilson (left) created Artist vs. Architect last year. He’s the owner of Precast Materials, Inc. which manufactures custom architectural products. He wanted to establish a charity auction that showcased the works of both artists and architects, side by side. For artists, Wilson sees the event as a new platform to display their work, and a new audience to see it.

“For the architect,” he says, “it’s more of a creative assignment. You’ve got a lot of architects that are assigned little bits and pieces of a project where they’re never able to tap into their creativity.”

For this second Artist vs. Architect, the beneficiary is Family Compass, which works to prevent child abuse. And Wilson decided that this go-round would emphasize the collaborations he’d hoped for but didn’t really see the first time. Some two dozen works were chosen from the more than one hundred submitted with the two themes being ‘cityscape’ and ‘less is more.’ The photographs, paintings and sculptures have been on display in the lobby of One Arts Plaza the past week.

But each of the participating artists and architects was also paired off with a member of the opposing team. And each of these artist-architect partnerings was tasked with collaborating on a new artwork.

All of this may sound a little kumbaya, hands-across-the-water, why-can’t-we-all-get-along-and-be-creative. Funny thing: It seems to be working. Carolyn Collins is a freelance photographer; her solo work is a soft-focus, black-and-white photo of a nude printed on a panel of curved, brushed aluminum. She was partnered with Sean O’Brien of O’Brien Architecture (below).

“When I was 10 years old, I wanted to be an architect.” Collins says. “I actually studied architecture in college, and I was told women don’t make it in the field. So I pursued marketing instead. And for me, the possible chance to collaborate with an architect? I was, like,‘Oh, gosh.'”

sean and carolyn cutSean O’Brien says Collins even helped with his solo project. It involves 4,000 binder clips fastened together with piano wire to create a kind of Antoine Pevsner-ish, rolling metal wave. Less is more? It uses re-purposed products.

“Carolyn really helped me look at my piece in a different way,” he says. “Because, as an architect, sometimes you don’t finish things all the way through – when you’re doing design on a 30,000-foot scale. So she helped me bring it down, she helped me figure out how to light it correctly. We pushed each other.”

The two won’t discuss their collaborative effort, other than to say it also employs light and re-purposed materials. All of the collaborative artworks have been kept under wraps until today when they’ll be revealed at One Arts Plaza — and then auctioned off tonight. (The lobby exhibition will remain up through Nov. 24.)

In all this, the inspiration for Wilson, he says, has been Michelangelo. The Renaissance man was a painter, sculptor, poet and an architect although – and many of today’s architects will find this familiar – most of his building projects were never actually finished. Or were finished by someone else.

But for Wilson, he represents a one-man, collaborative-creative ideal: “One true thing that I do want to see happen is that spirit of Michelangelo, that creative spirit that I feel everyone has but is not able to fully tap into.”