Highlight Gallery unveiled its latest ambitious exhibition over the weekend. The gallery typically exhibits international artists, yet this current project is closer to home -- in every sense of the phrase. The project, "3020 Laguna in Exitum," is a site-specific installation located at -- and created from -- the house at the eponymous address.
The single-family residence, which has stood in Cow Hollow for 150 years, has recently been declared structurally unstable and will be demolished within the next two months. Rather than see the house go directly to the scrap heap, gallery founder and director Amir Mortazavi invited local artists Andy Vogt, Chris Fraser, Christine Peterson, Gareth Spor, Jeremiah Barber, Jesse Schlesinger, Jonathan Runcio, Randy Colosky, and Yulia Pinkusevich to use only the materials they found inside to create artwork.
"I wanted to give artists an alternative space to work in," Mortazavi says of the project space. "The work that was created at this project was only manifested once the artists saw the space, chose their room, and came up with a concept. This is in contrast to the traditional ways galleries work, where the artist creates a work in the studio and then brings it into a gallery environment."
The installation draws inspiration from renowned artist Gordon Matta-Clark, who is best known for his "building cuts," site-specific installations in which he sliced away portions of various structures. The project continues Matta-Clark's tradition of exploring and manipulating abandoned residential spaces. Matta-Clark termed his own work "anarchitecture," a word that could easily be applied to the works found within 3020 Laguna.
Although it has been deemed no longer suitable as a home, 3020 Laguna can still house art. The building has been transformed into an artist's playground. The rooms of the house quite literally capture the imagination of viewers. Though they share a minimalist aesthetic, they still have a cramped feeling. A visitor cannot have any distance from the art; the visitor must enter it to see it -- and as a result can never see it wholly, but rather only in fragments.
The floor in the main room is bisected by a ramp that slants away from what was once the kitchen toward a large, narrow hole cut in the wall. The ramp cuts into the floor, exposing the basement. Some viewers were afraid to step onto the ramp for fear that it might collapse, while others jumped up and down on it, enthusiastically testing its strength. One man said he went into the basement to make sure the supporting beams had not been severed before stepping onto the ramp. The supposed frailty of the floor, combined with the knowledge that the building is structurally unstable, created an anarchistic vibe that kept its audience giddy with the risk.
Other notable features include a lagoon in the garage, a plaster cast of a door, an intricate net woven from electrical wire, periscopes running from the roof through the chimney, and a closet lined with mirrors and gravel.
But "3020 Laguna in Exitum" needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. As one viewer remarked, "It's hard to tell what's art and what's just house," and only visiting will let you determine the answer.
"3020 Laguna in Exitum" will be open again on Saturday, Feb 11, from 2-7p.m. and on Wednesday, Feb. 15, from 3-7p.m. and by appointment. Visit highlightgallery.com for details.