Italian-born, Los Angeles-based architect Elena Manferdini has become adept at creating vibrant architectural installations that employ complex patterns, luscious colors, and rich textures to introduce new spatial and visual narratives that challenge the clean lines and abstract forms of architectural modernism.
exhibition: “Elena Manferdini: Building the Picture.”
Saturday, 03/07 – Sunday 09/20 // Gallery 286
Art Institute of Chicago
111 S Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60603
For this new work for the Art Institute, Manferdini drew inspiration from the iconic orthogonal geometries of the design of Mies van der Rohe, including his 860–880 Lake Shore Drive apartments in Chicago. By digitally manipulating images of this internationally recognized building, whose structure is an ode to Chicago’s strict urban grid, Manferdini has created an immersive environment that builds off of this design. Although the image is rendered in two dimensions, the play of light, color, depth, and perspective invites the user to experience the work up-close as well as from a distance.
This exhibition is part of a series in which the Department of Architecture and Design enlists contemporary architects and designers to organize installations that investigate critical issues within their practices. Manferdini began with Mies’s simple gridded facade treatments. After tracing an image of his facades to create digital drawings of the grid, she developed her own unique patterns. This process entailed multiple versions in which she multiplied the grid, wove the lines, and infused a range of colors and line weights. As seen in this exhibition, a series of intimate studies—printed on both vinyl and metal—explore multiple patterns in small scale, while a video animates these studies. Transforming the ideas to a large-scale landscape to the left, she then began to explore how this pattern could take three-dimensional form in the center of the gallery. Manferdini’s manipulation of the grid blurs lines between fashion and pattern in an architectural context and introduces a new contemporary landscape that has strong ties to the past. Using history as a starting point, Manferdini has developed new visual and spatial narratives that challenge perceptions of architectural environments through the use of decoration and ornamentation.
Elena Manderdini: Building the Picture is part one of a two-part series of special commissions generously supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.
Thanks to Southern California Institute of Architecture in Los Angeles and to Arktura for in-kind support.