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May 4, 2024

Layered Visions: Assaf Evron Discusses the Edith Farnsworth House Installation

Assaf Evron, Collage of the Edith Farnsworth House (rendering)

Assaf Evron has a penchant for larger-than-life installations. Intertwining geological marvels with the structural elegance of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s designs, Evron has been transforming Chicago’s architectural landscape by overlaying monumental photographs of natural terrains onto Mies’ modernist masterpieces, creating a dialogue between the organic and the constructed.

A look into Evron’s ongoing project that started in 2019: The McCormick House at the Elmhurst Museum is wrapped in images from Germany and the Middle East on its exterior, while the Esplanade Apartments appear nestled in the majestic calm of mountain ranges, their palette evoking the serene beauty of pastel-colored rock formations. At the Illinois Institute of Technology, the S.R. Crown Hall stands as a testament to this fusion, displaying a vast 650-square-foot photograph of a stark desert landscape. This sequence of outdoor interventions was followed by the artist’s first interior installation, with Evron taking on the Arts Club of Chicago’s Mies’ “floating” glass staircase. There, the image of the semi-transparent conch shell right on the glass windows echoes the ancient past and geological history of its stone cladding.

Fast-forward to today, and the fifth chapter of the artist’s journey is an installation at the Edith Farnsworth House in Plano, where Evron is an artist-in-residence, promising to further explore the intersection of natural imagery and architectural form. For this iteration, he designed a 500-square-foot photographic print for the southern glass façade of the house, drawing inspiration from a Georges Braque painting, whose art was integrated into Mies’ own collages. Building on the architect’s original vision—Mies incorporated photos of landscapes, various materials and artworks into his collages to explore and redefine modern architecture and interior design since the 1930s during his American period—Evron is taking Mies’ collage technique a step further by integrating it into Mies’ own completed buildings.

In conversation, the artist dives into the layers of his project. He provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse into his creative process, but also heralds a celebration of the enduring impact of Mies’ architectural philosophy, reimagined through his unique perspective. Ultimately he urges the viewer to reconsider the Edith Farnsworth House and its interaction with its surroundings as they immerse themselves in a world where architecture and nature merge and morph into striking visual narratives.

Assaf Evron, Collage for the McCormick House

What led you to select Georges Braque’s painting as the foundation for your photographic print in the “Collage for the Edith Farnsworth House” project?

The choice of Georges Braque was already made by Mies van der Rohe, who used details from Braque paintings in his own collages. I’m particularly drawn to “Houses Near l’Estaque” for several reasons. It is a proto-cubist painting by Braque a moment before he completely deconstructs the plane of the painting. It is an interesting work that abstracts the representation of nature and architecture and painting itself which serves as a focal point for examining the Edith Farnsworth House. 

Assaf Evron, Collage for the Esplanade Apartments

How does this choice reflect the interplay between art and architecture in your work?

My deconstruction of the painting turns both the painting and the house to a camouflage razzle-dazzle prairie pattern.

How do you navigate the challenges of integrating modern photographic techniques with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s historical collage method in your series of architectural interventions?

It is interesting that Mies in the 1940s and 1950s was working on registering patents for large-scale mural printing, a project that never came to fruition. With contemporary technologies and media this process is much simpler to a level that I can print in my studio photographic wall paper that I made for the Edith Farnsworth House. 

Assaf Evron, Collage for S.R. Crown Hall

Can you discuss the significance of using the southern glass façade of the Edith Farnsworth House for your installation, particularly in relation to the themes of transparency and reflection in your work?

The southern façade is the iconic side of the house, representing how the house presents itself and making it an ideal candidate for this intervention. Moreover, this project invites a reevaluation of both the house and its surroundings. The camouflage pattern introduces a new layer to the idea of transparency, a topic frequently associated with discussions about the house.

In expanding upon Mies van der Rohe’s collage strategy, how do you aim to reinterpret his architectural philosophy for contemporary audiences through your intervention at the Edith Farnsworth House?

I think the image of the architecture of Mies and especially that of Edith Farnsworth House are so iconic—they are engraved into our collective memory. This project serves as an invitation to revisit and rethink Mies’ work from a fresh perspective, focusing on lesser-known aspects of his approach. In doing so, I highlight various historical and contextual dimensions of the buildings. Specifically, for the Edith Farnsworth House, I explore themes of transparency and camouflage, examining their intersection with nature and architecture. Additionally, I address the concept of the house as an artwork itself. Despite its architectural significance, the Edith Farnsworth House has limited capacity to accommodate artwork, inviting the use of its windows as a platform for showcasing Braque’s painting, thereby merging the realms of architecture and art in a unique and thought-provoking manner.

How does your artistic exploration of the tension between architecture, nature and representation evolve with each project in your series of interventions in Mies van der Rohe-designed buildings?

With each project in my series of interventions in Mies van der Rohe-designed buildings, my exploration of the tension between architecture, nature and representation takes on new dimensions, tailored to the distinct characteristics and stories of each site. 

At the McCormick House, my focus was on transforming the structure into a geological layer, reflecting on the concept of modular architecture and Mies’ Heimat. The Esplanade Apartments project delved into the themes of vertical living and its origins, using the architecture of Chicago as a stand-in for a mountainous landscape in a flat region. For S.R. Crown Hall, the emphasis was on the building’s monumental qualities, drawing parallels with the vermilion cliffs that echo the building’s form, serving as a testament to the abstracted modernist temple. At the Arts Club, I examined the objecthood of the staircase and a seashell, exploring their interaction between the interior and exterior spaces. 

Each intervention responds to the unique narrative and typology of the building, allowing me to further investigate and express the intricate relationships between architectural form, the natural world, and the way we represent these connections.

Assaf Evron’s Collage for the Edith Farnsworth House is on view through June 23. 

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