An architect, stage designer, and environmental artist long before that term came to be used, Frederick Kiesler (1890-1964) endures as an artist of profound and visionary innovation in twentieth-century art, architecture and design. This exhibition will present the environmental work Us, You, Me (1960-64), the summative statement of Kiesler's entire career and the creative focus of the last four years of his life--years that he spent summers on the East End of Long Island in Amagansett as a vital member of the celebrated artists' community in the Hamptons. This work has never been seen on the East Coast and affords a rare opportunity to experience his environmental work in totality. Kiesler was born in Romania in 1890, but always claimed Vienna, where he studied art and design in his youth, as his birthplace. His inventive stage design first caught the attention of De Stijl artists Jean Arp, Theo van Doesburg, and Piet Mondrian in the early 1920s and he soon became the group's youngest member. He came to America three years later, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1936.
Kiesler moved fluidly among the spheres of avant-grade design, practical application, and academe. In 1937, as associate professor at Columbia University School of Architecture, he founded a design research laboratory dedicated to connecting research on life processes with a scientific approach to design. He designed windows for Saks Fifth Avenue, called for the design of a non-skid bathtub, and beginning in 1932, worked for many years on a plan for modular housing. One of his best known designs was the installation for Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery (1942), where innovations included curved walls, frameless paintings and rocker-like seating suitable for both visitors and artwork.
In August of 1960, Kiesler rented a small cottage in Amagansett, on Long Island, most likely at the suggestion of his dealer, Leo Castelli, who also had a house there. He quickly became part of the artistic community on the East End, particularly with his neighbor, the sculptor Costantino Nivola, and his wife, Ruth. Because he was able to find large studio space in neighboring Springs, he was able for the first time to work on large-scale bronze sculpture. Us, You, Me is an installation-sized summation of Kiesler's entire artistic career, expanding on mythological, utopian, and humanistic themes he had explored for years. The idea of art as a field containing dispersed and scattered elements would come up again in the work of minimalist and environmental artists as varied as Robert Smithson and Joseph Beuys. Us, You, Me endures as a radical conceptualization of what a work of art is and operates as a harbinger of what was to come. If the history of art making in the twentieth century charts a course away from the isolated aesthetic object, Kiesler has mapped this fertile territory as an expanded discourse between the work of art and its environment. Kiesler died in 1965 and is buried at Green River Cemetery in Springs, near his summer home on Long Island. Organized by The Parrish Art Museum, Alicia Longwell, curator.
The Parrish Art Museum25 Job's Lane
Southampton, New York 11968