Art and architecture: which comes first?

CHAPTER 5: Abstract architecture

Even when an artwork references an architectural structure explicitly, it isn’t always visually obvious. Stuart Davis’s Lawn and Sky, for example, requires a long, focused look at the vivd planes and shapes in order to begin to read them as a landscape. Louise Nevelson’s sculpture, on the other hand, naturally coheres as a built structure, but its cluster of towers and steeples confound identification—as she once said, she considered herself “an architect of shadow…and light,” perhaps even more so than of tangible objects. Finally, works like Jim Campbell’s Street Scene and Ellsworth Kelly’s soon-to-be-built Austin fuse abstraction with architecture in new and unexpected ways, prompting us to reconsider the parameters of the built environment and how we exist within it.

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Image credit:
Stuart Davis
Lawn and Sky, 1931 (detail)
Oil on canvas
The Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin
Gift of Mari and James A. Michener, 1991
1991.205

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