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Zaha Hadid/ The Bride Stripped Bare, Bared

When the spheres of art, architecture and design collide as they do in the works of Zaha Hadid, the result is a tectonic shift in the notion of how form can be depicted. Albert Gleizes and Marcel Duchamp hinted at an idea of the fourth dimension in art in the early 20th century, but Hadid has gone further in representing such a concept; the result is Cubism in space. Nothing is taken as a given in an installation, including the interior walls of a gallery or the distinction between what is public and private, inside or outside—with Zaha Hadid all previously held beliefs are suspended, blurred and ultimately overturned, but with mathematical precision. Here we have a vision of the elusive 4th dimension but in observable form. Duchamp’s “Bride Stripped Bare” is a sculptural trope exploring the division of modalities in art, striving for new methods of artistic creation, physical, cerebral and allegorical. Hadid’s work is a similar exploration, devoid of the contrived psychosexual allusions. But beyond the Broken Glass, with Hadid, we have been sucked into another dimension of experience, redefining our visual orientation.In Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” we are faced with an abstracted female figure who’s shattered geometric fragments call forth the idea of movement, as in a Futurist work of art. The shock was in the nomenclature he utilized, calling an assemblage of what appeared to be nothing other than a collection of painted geometric fragments a nude was a conceptual affront to the senses of the art-going public. With the art of Hadid, we have form itself, shapes spun into space seemingly willy-nilly, but with inherent accuracy in calculation and aforethought. There is no nudging the viewers, winking to them in collusion or provoking them with intellectual high jinks; rather with Hadid, we are witnessing the purity of Platonic forms as they relate to extrapolated architectural elements, giving rise to new life and beauty in the process. Since her early influence by hard-edged Constructivist art, I would say there has been a shift to a more naturalistic articulation, a position that relates to constantly conjuring a sense of motion derived from nature. Like Duchamp, who also competed as a chess master and wrote extensively on the subject, Zaha Hadid is fiercely rational, but also playful, humanistic, and filled with wonderment. With Hadid, you get less wordplay and more a focus on the manipulation of volumes.The Suprematist grammar of Malevich in such works as “Suprematism. (Supremus #50”), 1915 “Suprematism (Self-Portrait)”, 1916, “Suprematism, Museum of Art”, 1916, could pass as studies for early Hadid works such as The Peak in Hong Kong in 1983 and any number of drawings and studies since. Malevich was influenced by aerial photography that was reflected in a topographical quality to the schematic layout of the shapes and compositions he painted, which in turn lent a very architectural flare to the early works. It is no surprise that he was such an influence on Hadid who seemed to be moved by the distilled and reductive summing up of art and its content that Malevich pioneered. It was an art devoid of gratuitous emotion, decoration or narrative; but could also been seen as touching and essential.Though physically static, the reliefs, paintings and sculptures of Hadid are imbued with a tangible sense of rhythm, like a Merce Cunningham choreography or Matisse’s dancers. In these works, we are experiencing not so much the distilled, reductive shapes employed by the Suprematists, but rather Hadid’s personal expression of organic forms and fluidity. The newness of her constructed world, from the materials usage reflecting the present means of technology and fabrication methods at hand, to the ways in which she puts them to use, is nothing less than breathtaking. With walls askew, the intensely analytical interpretation of a three-dimensional area can be unsettling and confusing like an amusement park ride, but always thought provoking and unnerving. Hadid makes meaning out of chaos, ordering a world characterized by an unruly, fierce bombardment of information. With the rapidity of scientific and technological change accelerated at a pace felt as never before, Hadid translates this whirlwind into a digestible, international language understandable by all. She sees through the morass of tumult and shifting perceptions and shepherds us like a sage, helping and guiding us to clarity. Zaha Hadid makes order out of distorted reality and gives birth to a new material expressionism.The world of Zaha Hadid is a masterplan for life, a macro view imbued with the aesthetics of art, design and architecture. Making your way through an exhibit or building of hers is like driving through explosive weather formation that is simultaneously calming and reassuring. Hadid is busy filling voids, controlling space and constantly morphing and transforming. You don’t typically think of a city square as a malleable device pushing and pulling you into and out of an art gallery, but that is exactly what Zaha has done in her work for Galerie Gmurzynska. Using the public square as fodder for her art, Hadid has bracketed an entire gallery and it’s contents with the streetscape as a frame—the street is seen to bleed into the exhibit and vice versa.The materials she employs from Plexiglas, mirror, fiberglass, vinyl graphics, to metals are as diverse as the objects she crafts like a mad alchemist, and they get reconfigured and recycled time and again. Drawings and past works are layered and layered atop one another like sedimentary rocks to make new works in an act of relentless recycling, and regurgitating. A drawing becomes a walk-in environment, a sketch becomes a large-scale canvas work, or printed directly onto the fabric of an upholstered couch. Compositionally, Hadid is similar to a rap musician, but rather than lifting and quoting from the works of others (like so many have done with Zaha’s works) she samples her own history and past. The results are new definitions of art: reimagining and redrawing space and what is seen to go on inside of it. In “Victoria City Metal Pespective” thin metal tubing is used to make a perspectival drawing in thin air with an assuredness that recalls Hans Namuth’s famous film of Jackson Pollack painting on glass.The reliefs, sculptures and models of Hadid expose her working processes via prototypes put on view as if in a state of undress. The individual items are voluptuous and seductive revealing a sublime, primal sensibility. She has no fear displaying what could be construed as unintentional or unavoidable accidents, as these are works in progress illustrative of her means and methods. Like nature, like life, imperfections are unavoidable. The shapes are at the same time bulbous, futuristic and retro. By having a dialogue with the past she climbs into the future. Somehow these pieces appear abstract, figurative, obscure and concrete all at once. The interplay of color and form bounce around in your mind like an atom smasher. It’s a wild act of creative destruction.Some of these works hark back to the biomorphic curves from the 1960s but could equally be imagined in the 2060s. There is a distilling of the mystification of nature accompanied by a palpable sense of energy that seems to be missing a musical score for full dramatic effect. In the exhibit, there is a prototype for a fireplace resembling a vessel, a female form both sensuous and dynamic. Hadid doesn’t take the gallery as static, but engages in an active conversation that is both lyrical and fantastical. There are correlations, juxtapositions, conversations, actions and reactions; it’s a lot to take in. For her it’s a normal way of thought. This is not art in vacuum but a proactive dialogue within space, it’s gallery as laboratory, theme park and think tank all at once.With relief works like “Lunar Triptych”; “Performing Arts Center, Abu Dhabi”; and “Guggenheim Vilnius Museum, Lithuania”, Hadid breaks through the picture plane in more than intent. Here we see her broadening, stretching, and testing our perceptions. With works like “Kloris”, “Sofa” and the “Crater” table, we have buildings as furniture and in these works we see childlike play in the distortions and fissures of reality. What at times appears a lack of correlation between disciplines twist and turn into a convergence of all of the above. It’s a truly magical and unique thing to behold. Jeff Koons recently designed an art car for BMW, a graphic explosion painted onto the exterior of a Le Mans racer, but Hadid one-upped him long ago by democratizing the BMW factory in Leipzig by way of having the traditional automotive conveyor belt pass overhead through the cafeteria and executive offices. Her body of work translates into an accessible, populous art form, and whithin the context of a gallery serves to domesticate architecture for home use.It is said Picasso worked every day for more than 70 years, evidenced by his prodigious output in every available and imaginable medium at hand; still only in mid-career, Zaha has already accomplished the production output of many lifetimes. She is nothing less than Picasso-esque in her outpouring of creativity in every realm she pursues. Making the leap from one practice to another as seamlessly performed by Hadid is no easy task: but she glides through architecture, design and art, making it all seem so effortless. There is no one in her rear view mirror. Whatever was previously conceived in relation to the glass ceiling in societies inherent condescension and prejudices have, in the case of Hadid, been violently and forever overthrown. Zaha’s work is at times construed as futuristic and outlandish, but the reality is that it is entirely grounded in natural concerns. Hadid uses geometry as an artistic medium to paint pictures and craft sculptures of the physical world around us.Witnessing the fractured objects in a Hadid installation is akin to a controlled explosion, like a broken dam with the charging liquid instantly contained. Hadid and her works are bold, proud and strong, displaying no fear in the territory they tread. The confidence is inspiring and unflinching: Hadid is a provocateur only in the sense of a probing intellect that knows no bounds or compromise. She loves to flourish and prod like a peacock with flaring feathers. Walking into a Hadid building or exhibit is like a blast of air, a gale force burst of action, creativity and personality. She is nothing less than a daunting physical power. All the planets must have aligned to give birth to such a star, a breadth of talent. Zaha Hadid is a maverick instigator, sharing more with punk than the establishment that has belatedly embraced her after a criminally overdue journey.

-Kenny Schachter

From Zaha Hadid and Suprematism by Hatje Cantz

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