Architectural Fantasyland

April 4, 2009

I've been meditating on nature and artifice. I went on another art experience ... a tour of Philip Johnson's landscape in New Canaan.

A forest was turned to farmland for a century or two, then overgrown. Then for 60 years after 1945, PJ re-cleared fields, restored and enhanced stone walls, built a pond in the valley, and constructed a series of pavilions. Each one is sculpture in the landscape but simultaneously a building that can be experienced from within, and also a container for art.

Like an Olmsted park, there is an illusion of nature, but it's carefully manipulated. PJ's humor is everywhere, from the Poussin painting in the Glass House hinting at nature as artist's canvas, to the cast-in-bronze driftwood sculpture, the mini-pavilion in the pond, and the sampling of all the design fashions of the 20th century. And yet ... what a skillful abstract composition of line, cube, cone, positive and negative, transparent and opaque.

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