The beau ideal of modern architecture does not usually include art in the form of sculpture or the mural. Gone were the days when architects were artists, when Michelangelo designed St. Peter’s Basilica dome and sculpted his “Pieta” for it.
Modern master-builders http://www.examiner.com/article/modern-to-a-fault-an-architecture-storystopped using art because they don’t like any distractions from their clean lines. Rare exceptions include the 26-foot standing mobile called “Horizontal” by American sculptor Alexander Calder, which has a permanent place in front of the Centre Pompidou, thanks to Pompidou architect Renzo Piano, who placed the work there.
Now comes something new. Call it art ON architecture. Twenty-nine giant and vividly colored figures titled “Flossis” by celebrated German artist Rosalie literally scale the façade of the former warehouse Roggendorf-Haus in Duessuldorf, West Germany – as if to reach the top. The figures, though clearly human, are without features, which give the impression that they are as blank and without individuality as is modern architecture itself.
Talk about modern architecture’s disregard of art. In 1956, 21 of the most celebrated painters of the day, including Willem de Kooning and Robert Motherwell, signed a letter of complaint about Frank Lloyd Wright’s cylindrical stack known as the Guggenheim Museum. Wright’s conceit that the Guggenheim would make the Metropolitan Museum “look like a Protestant barn” didn’t go over too well, either.
These painters’ main objection was that Wright’s helical spiral walls make hanging square and rectangular canvases difficult. “The interior is not suitable for a sympathetic display,” their letter said. “The basic concept of curvilinear slope indicates a callous disregard for the fundamental rectilinear frame of reference necessary for the adequate visual contemplation of works of art.”
But in many modern buildings, you get the “rectangular frame,” often in white, that closes in on you like dense fog. Modern architecture is meant to liberate us from distracting decoration. But the void that is, say, the new Tampa Museum lobby is so sterile, it distracts anyway. And you find yourself longing for the picturesqueness of a Romanesque or Renaissance building to remind you that you’re in a treasure house - something, anything, to break up the monotony. With the outward appearance of an airport terminal, the simplicity of the lobby is so brutal, so coldly impersonal that it seems refrigerated.
“Flossis” is welcome news.