_New Affiliates___________
Did you know that J. M. W. Turner taught perspective drawing to architects? As “Professor of Perspective” at the Royal Academy, his course commenced with a lecture on linear perspective and ended with another on landscape painting. He and his assistants produced a number of seminal diagrams on the mechanics of perspectival composition. [1]
Devices to measure and reproduce perspective are etched into our collective architectural psyche; the experiments by Brunelleschi, Dürer, and so many others offer an image of rigor, and help us understand image construction. These apparatuses bridge math, representation, and aesthetics; their instruction manuals are predictable, practicable, and choreographed. Using them is like learning a new dance from a map taped to the floor, or a recipe that you can fall back on whenever imagination fails you. But Turner was better known for disregarding rules than perpetuating them. Think of Tate Britain’s “Late Turner: Painting Set Free.” [2] As the title implies, abstraction is free because it rejects the rules of classical technique. Or does it?
[Light and Color (Goethe’s Theory) – the Morning After the Deluge – Moses Writing the Book of Genesis, J. M. W. Turner, 1843], New Affiliates, 2018.
We’ve had a long-standing fascination with squinting – that is, in understanding the moment something passes from recognizable to not. It’s a game in three parts: first identify something and break it down into parts celebrated and parts disposable. Next, add here and remove there until you end up with something kind of new and kind of known. Finally, send it out into the world to be interpreted, filled in, or completed as a cultural cipher. It is this process of open-endedness that excites us – the life assigned to objects that are no longer our own.
[Norham Castle, Sunrise, J. M. W. Turner, c. 1845], New Affiliates, 2018.
If we understand abstraction as a field of interpretation rather than as a form of artistic authorship, then we might reveal another kind of politics embedded therein. Pier Vittorio Aureli warns of abstraction’s tendency to hide key forms of architectural production and process; but what if we also consider it a field of interpretation, that entrusts a heterogeneous collective as the primary generator of spatial meaning; that implies relations and relationality over a singular reading? [3]
In the spirit of Turner’s teaching, let’s write some rules of abstraction (think: Sol LeWitt for lazy architects) – rules as specific as those for perspective drawing, but somehow less deterministic. Help us! Let’s look to Turner as a learning opportunity, for measuring “fields,” “vectors,” and “atmospheres,” and for inventing a method of seeing in which certain things stay indexical (a fish, a boat) while others blend into a fluid, outline-free miasma of relations and quasi-forms. In other words: let’s learn to read an abstract painting, to produce an abstract drawing that in turn can become an abstract construct.
[Sunrise with Sea Monsters, J. M. W. Turner, c. 1845], New Affiliates, 2018.

NOTES ▓ ▓ ▓ ▓ ▓ ▓ ▓ ▓ ▓ ▓ ▓ ▓ ▓ ▓

[1] Andrea Fredericksen, “Royal Academy Perspective Lectures: Sketchbook, Diagrams, and Related Material c. 1809–28” in J. M. W. Turner: Sketchbooks, Drawings, and Watercolors, ed. David Blayney Brown (London: Tate Research, 2012).

[2] Late Turner: Painting Set Free (September 2014 – January 2015), Tate Britain, London.

[3] Pier Vittorio Aureli, “Intangible and Concrete: Notes on Architecture and Abstraction,” e-flux Journal 64 (April 2015).

Want Avery Shorts in your
inbox? Subscribe!

Want Avery Shorts in your
inbox? Forward!

Too much thoughtful discourse
clogging your inbox?

Want this email in your
browser? View in browser!

░░▒▒▓░░░░ Avery Shorts
▒▓░░░░░▒▓ is a project of
▒▓▒▓▒▓▒▓░ Columbia Books on
▒▓▒▓░▓▒▓░ Architecture and the City

This email was sent to <<Email Address>>
why did I get this?    unsubscribe from this list    update subscription preferences
Avery Shorts · 407 Avery Hall · 1172 Amsterdam Avenue · New York, NY 10027 · USA

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp