How To Spiff Up Your Outdoor Area With Art - Kanebridge News
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How To Spiff Up Your Outdoor Area With Art

The next step in decorating your outdoor space with personality to entertain? Filling it with paintings, sculptures and more.

By Christina Poletto
Wed, Apr 7, 2021 10:35amGrey Clock 3 min

You might be eyeing your outdoor area, wishing it were a bit more remarkable, a bit less overfamiliar. Festive, even.

One answer, say interior designers, is art, a therapeutic fix for spaces we’ve spent too much time in. Emily B. Collins, director of the New York Design Center’s Gallery at 200 Lex, has noticed intense interest in “items that contribute to a beautiful, functional setting outdoors.”

Homeowners and design pros are discovering that outdoor spaces are loaded with blank walls waiting to be decked out with paintings, mirrors, sculpture, decorative tiles—the same arsenal of art you’d use inside.

To liven up her outdoor’s seating area, Liz Lidgett, a gallery owner in Des Moines, Iowa, hung a painting on a nearby exterior white-brick wall with screws and wire. The glassless, wood-framed painting of pink and blue florals (above) was a $10 secondhand-store score, preserved with a coat of Rust-Oleum’s water-repelling NeverWet to withstand the weather. Guests, she said, seem to enjoy the unexpected element.

In Palm Springs, Tamara Hill, who rents her midcentury home on Airbnb, saw a blank canvas in the cement bottom of her kidney-shaped pool. She commissioned Brooklyn artist and designer Alexandra Proba to paint her trademark madcap—and suitably biomorphic—designs under the waterline. “It’s magical,” said Ms. Hill. “It brings the whole style of my home together far more than I imagined.”

Don’t have the coin to fly in an artist to paint a mural on a wall, fence or pool bottom? You can search for experienced artists near you on sites such as thumbtack.com. Plug in your postcode, view past projects, read client reviews and get in touch.

PHOTO: RACHEL MUMMEY FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Wall sculptures of metal, wood or fired clay can dress up naked swaths of siding and fences. For a home in Los Angeles, New York designer Miles Redd invited ceramic sculpture artist Carlos Otero to reimagine a blank courtyard wall. “It called for something spectacular,” said Mr. Redd. The artist delivered a cream-coloured conglomeration of textures that evokes the surface of the moon, inspired by bas-relief panels of the 1960s architecture in Buenos Aires, Mr. Otero’s childhood home.

“Ceramics can live safely outdoors in most climates given some degree of protection,” said Juliet Burrows of New York’s Hostler Burrows Gallery, which represents Mr. Otero. History is full of examples of ceramics-ornamented architecture, she noted.

Dallas designer Jean Liu likes the midcentury modern metalwork of American duo Curtis Jere, which she installed in the lounge space of a client’s covered outdoor area. These cost thousands, but more than passably chic vintage wall sculptures can be found on sites like Etsy and eBay for less than $300.

Bryan McKenzie, a landscape designer in Jacksonville, Fla., is a fan of tiles and “exquisitely patterned walls.” He dolls up vertical surfaces with disks, squares and other polygons from G. Vega Cerámica, in Marbella, Spain. Against whitewashed surfaces, he hangs the Moroccan-style tiles glazed in shades of blue and green.

Another pro move is to hang a tapestry or fibre art in an alfresco space. Occasionally, on a side patch of her Fairfield, Conn., yard that’s visible from the street, Pam Poling exhibits one of her handmade quilts, which dangle from a stand she Macgyvered using photo equipment. The fair-weather exhibition started as a way to inspect her sewing in a natural light and snap a clean photo to share. Now, she says, neighbours look forward to the rotating show of coverlets, whose geometry and bold colours vibrate against her verdant landscaping.

In the front yard of her Phoenix, home, artist Kyllan Maney draped a tree with a necklace of solar lanterns she hand painted with whimsical stripes and dots. “Some of my neighbours have had visitors ask if we are having a party.”

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: April 7, 2021.

 



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I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”