Considered a leading figure in public art, Iranian-born artist Siah Armajani merges architecture and conceptual art in his sculptures, drawings, and public installations. Informed by democratic ideologies and inspired by American vernacular architecture, his works include gathering spaces for communality, emphasizing the “nobility of usefulness.” His highly acclaimed public art and architectural projects have included bridges, gardens, and outdoor structures, that have been commissioned and presented worldwide. A retrospective featuring his artistic career spanning over more than five decades was recently on view at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, and inaugurates in March at The MET Breuer, New York.
Taking centre stage in the exhibition, the large-scale installation Sacco & Vanzetti Reading Room #3 (1988) will unfold along its several comprising elements, such as two rooms, tables, chairs, and racks with books, magazines, and pencils noticeably arranged like spikes. The Reading Room is designed as a functional and inviting space for the visitors of the exhibition to use. The books populating the space are by or about the poets, philosophers, and political activists Armajani has dedicated different works to, many from his Tomb series. Initiated by Armajani in 1972, the Tomb series include drawings and models, of which seven are also on view in the exhibition.
The list of authors includes: Theodor Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, John Berryman, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Dewey, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Luigi Galleani, Emma Goldman, Hafez, Martin Heidegger, Thomas Jefferson, Frank O’Hara, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Rimbaud, Richard Rorty, Sacco and Vanzetti, Ahmad Shamlou, Henry David Thoreau, Alfred North Whitehead, Walt Whitman, and Nima Yooshij.
NTU CCA Singapore has selected books by and about the philosophers, poets, and political activists that Siah Armajani has dedicated works to, as part of the installation, which is designed for use by the visiting public as a functional and inviting space. Throughout the exhibition period, the installation will host reading groups or other events that respond to the displayed books.
In addition, NTU CCA Singapore is seeking interested individuals, groups, or organisations to engage with the artist’s works. The Sacco and Vanzetti Reading Room #3 is available to be used for readings, gatherings, discussions, workshops, or other events. Interested parties can appropriate the installation and exhibition space, including the books accompanying the installation, and respond to the exhibition and its title, the artist and the work, or related topics.
Siah Armajani: Spaces for the Public. Spaces for Democracy. is curated by Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director of the NTU CCA Singapore, and Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
The exhibition is made possible by generous loans from the MMK Museum for Modern Art, Frankfurt, and Rossi & Rossi, Hong Kong.
Special thank you to Susanne Pfeffer, Director, and Mario Kramer, Head of Collection, MMK, as well as Fabio Rossi and Josie Browne, project liaison.
With gratitude to Siah Armajani and Barbara Armajani.