The whole concept of "dwelling" would seem to point more in the direction of stability and permanence than toward mobility and mutability, but the Institute of Contemporary Art, clearly in a nomadic frame of mind as it gears up for its own move to a new building on the Boston waterfront next fall, looks at the surprisingly long history of adaptability in domestic design in "Living in Motion: Design and Architecture for Flexible Dwelling" which opens on February 1 in the ICA’s still-current digs on Boylston Street.
Although the Murphy bed and the ironing board that swings down from its hidden shelf in the wall come to mind as early-20th-century stabs at multi-functionalism in the modern household, rapidly changing living conditions and technological advances over the past century have made these kinds of innovations increasingly relevant to our lives. In 21st-century terms, we’re looking at yurts and laptops, sliding walls and knockdown furniture. Great architects including Frank Lloyd Wright (who incorporated such ironing boards into homes he designed as early as 1897), Charles and Ray Eames, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe challenged the idea of domestic architecture as being necessarily monolithic and fixed, and they delved into design that both foreshadowed and enabled our multi-tasking, on-the-move lifestyles.
In this spirited spirit, "Living in Motion" features objects that help us transport our possessions and ourselves around the house and around the world, including Joe Colombo’s Mini Kitchen, with a refrigerator, burners, can opener, workspace, and storage, all on wheels, and Eduard Böhtlingk’s portable dwellings, called Markies, as well as household furnishings and devices that fold, disassemble, combine, or can be worn. The exhibition also traces the idea of flexible living back through several centuries and several cultures, including Northern African tents and South American hammocks. But, you may wonder, how good was their cellphone reception??
Splendora, Texas, is located at the junction of US Highway 59 and Farm Road 2090, on the Southern Pacific Railroad six miles north of New Caney and 22 miles from Conroe in eastern Montgomery County. Texas-born sculptor James Surls lived and worked for decades on a large tract of land he owned in Splendora; the raw materials and the intellectual inspiration he derived from this remote spot are the guiding force behind the art in "James Surls: The Splendora Years, 1977-1997," which opens at the DeCordova Museum on January 28. Surls creates his dynamic sculpture using the materials, imagery, and forces of nature, whether that means using a chainsaw to hack monumental forms from fully grown trees or carving smaller, poetic wood pieces. The show’s 47 works include pencil drawings and large-scale prints.
“Living in Motion: Design and Architecture for Flexible Dwelling” | Institute of Contemporary Art, 955 Boylston St, Boston | Feb 1–May 7 | 617.266.5152
“James Surls: The Splendora Years, 1977–1997” @ DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park, 51 Sandy Pond Rd, Lincoln | Jan 28–April 16 | 781.259.8355
On the Web:
Institute of Contemporary Arts: http://www.icaboston.org
DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park:http://www.decordova.org