For the architectural icon Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, his impact continues to resonate throughout the worlds of design, architecture, and art. For our spotlight series, we’re happy to introduce the most recent exhibition of Chicago conceptual artist David Wallace Haskins, Landscape + Light, at the Edith Farnsworth House, which engages in a fantastic dialogue with one of van der Rohe’s most legendary homes.
The Edith Farnsworth House, formerly the Farnsworth House, is an historical house designed and constructed by van der Rohe between 1945 and 1951. The house was constructed as a one-room weekend retreat in Plano, Illinois. A rural community 60 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, and was opened to the public in 2004 as a National Historic Landmark.
Over the past decade, Haskins has had the opportunity to create experiential sculptures and architectural interventions in response to various works by van der Rohe. Haskins is one of the few midwestern artists working in the tradition of the Light & Space movement and considers Mies to be one of its earliest pioneers as he was creating minimalist works of light and space thirty years before the movement took hold in southern California in the 1960s.
As part of the solo exhibition for his 2022 artist-in-residence — Landscape + Light is composed of three installations across the Farnsworth wooded property including The Memory of Glass, Image Continuous, and Stone Landing.
Memory of Glass examines the recent scientific discovery that certain types of glass retain memories in a form resembling neurons. It envisions Farnsworth House as hearing and remembering an ambient soundscape that has washed over it for the last 70 years. Haskins engineered a way for these sonic memories to emanate from the house. The structure’s 12 large glass panels to reverberate as floor-to-ceiling glass speakers. Sound is both sent inward and outward, further blurring the lines between the indoors and outdoors. “Dissolving the boundary between the interior and exterior world” Haskins notes.
Landscape + Light is also the world premiere of the site-specific sculpture, Image Continuous from Haskins’ Skycube series — fabricated from a ton of skyscraper glass, which is actually half of the glass van der Rohe used to glaze Edith’s home. This visually perplexing sculpture turns the sky inside-out. Thus engaging the spectator as a participant as their position in space shifts.
Concerning its sculptural presence, Haskins explains: “We tend to ignore the sky as it enwraps and illuminates the landscape, but with Image Continuous, the dynamic is reversed — the landscape enwraps the sky, giving it presence and form. We forget the sky, or troposphere, starts at the ground and rises 10 miles high. Here, we see ourselves in the landscape in relationship with the sky. Whilst allowing us to behold its presence in a truly personal and embodied way.”
The final installation of Landscape + Light consists of a large meditative monolith from Haskins’ Stone Koan series, made from the original Italian travertine that van der Rohe used to cover the stairs and terrace of Farnsworth House from 1951-2021. Due to severe weathering, these stones were replaced in 2021, allowing Haskins to utilize them to create a number of Stone Koans and a smaller Skycube.
With our heads and hearts firmly rooted in the Modernist tradition. It’s a joy for the Optima team to see how the legacy of Mies van der Rohe continues to inspire contemporary artists. And if you’re a lover of all things Modernist, you won’t want to miss this extraordinary experience.
Landscape + Light continues through May 2023. Visit the Edith Farnsworth House website to learn more about visits and tours.