Jeffrey Sarmiento Soviet Hotel II (Siauliai)
Sarmiento's Translations at Bullseye
is a crisp study in the way certain civic
architecture's volumes and memory, when associated to space can exude and question
imposed power and aesthetics.
Sarmiento (a Fulbright fellow) likes to explore "self imposed mismatches"
and as a Filipino American exploring Soviet-era architecture... this is certainly idiosyncratic
subject matter. I'm glad he's gone and done something so improbable.
His Soviet Hotel II (Siauliai)
is an imposing water cut glass black monolith.
Executed by Sarmiento in coal black this Hotel in Lithuania was built during the cold war. Instead
of actually casting a long shadow, Sarmiento's translation of the structure seems to
be the darkness itself, while its actual shadow on the wall is soft and grey. A shadow more inviting than a hotel?
Soviet Hotel I (Panevezys)
Soviet Hotel I (Panevezys)
, though bone white it is no less imposing as a beautiful
yet severe ribcage of a structure. Using glass only makes it seem more clinical
and deadly, like something in an operating room.
This reminds me that glass was the key material in international
and yet it was its transparent properties that Mies Van
der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius prized. Sarmiento inverts this material
as idea... into idea "as practiced."
Notoriously closed during the cold war, countries in the Soviet block places
like Poland, Lithuania and the Czechoslovakia were littered with this official
My favorite piece in the show is Occupation
Here Sarmiento has taken a building that is probably made of cast concrete
with tiny (think arrow slit) windows and rendered it in poetically opaque black
glass. It is beautiful, severe and immensely autocratic looking. The arrow slit
window crosses could be read as graveyard crosses and it stands as an aesthetic
ethical reminder of the dangers imposed from inflexible intellectual and social
practices. The promises of glass become chilling execution. I doubt the actual
building has as much visual power, which is a great achievement for Sarmiento.
Other works like Hotel Turbulence
and Museum Turbulence
show how adept he is
at layering meaning into fixed volumes but they lack the punch of all the architectural
brutality in the soviet stuff. Anyone who thinks design is just a pastime for
the comfortable and those in need of amusement needs to see this show. Design
With Russia invading Georgia and making threats at Poland this exhibition couldn't
have been timelier.
Through September 27th at Bullseye
I found the silk-screened layered works, especially Bombay Encyclopaedia, equally compelling. The messier, more intimate personal histories told in the timelines in those pieces provides an interesting contrast to the historical Soviet chill caught in the works you describe above. You can see an artist whose work began in a more autobiographical manner moving successfully into intertwining individual experience with the world around him.