Welcome to Julie Langsam’s Bauhaus
Painting images of famous 20th-century architecture and then overlaying those pictures with colorful geometries, Julie Langsam riffs on modernism’s utopian visions through her own brand of historical, artistic free association. “Tomorrow-Land,” her third solo show at New York’s 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel, features recent paintings and floor-based sculptures. In some, Langsam openly proclaims her references, while in others they remain veiled, inviting the viewer to parse her work and its links.
In the oil-on-wood painting, Gropius Floorplan: Palace of the Soviets, (Violet) (2015), Langsam reproduces a floor plan submitted by German Bauhaus architect Walter Gropius for a 1931 Soviet design competition. She has colorized the original image, adding various geometric swaths of paint for each space represented in the blueprint. The odd shape floats on a miasmic fog of yellow and purple color, like a kaleidoscopic talisman. A similar 2015 piece, Gropius Floorplan: Bauhaus, (Purple), shows another modular space attributed to Gropius. That boxy schematic resembles the type of building that the architect considered to be the utopian ideal of functionality.
Gropius Landscape (Master’s House Kandinsky/Klee II) (2015) depicts one of the houses designed by Gropius for Bauhaus faculty to live in. It is isolated among dark clouds at sunset, and below it are reproductions of abstract paintings that resemble those made by painters such as Josef Albers, Ad Reinhardt, and Ellsworth Kelly. Likewise, in Gropius Landscape, Master’s House (2014), a different Bauhaus design is juxtaposed with paintings resembling works by Brice Marden, Peter Halley, and Henry Codax.
Perhaps the most exotic work here is Gropius Floorplan: Director’s House (2014), a carpet-and-wood construction that has been placed on the floor. It resembles the other works on display, but its vivid and painterly texture (created by swatches of carpet) is a sort of textile mosaic, bringing in allusions to craft and stereotypically gendered modes of production such as knitting, sewing, and embroidery. Its ground-level placement reinforces the allusions to architecture, recalling scale models and floor plans. Such complex chains of references form the rich space in which Langsam works, where careful studies of art and architectural history are freely remixed.
“Julie Langsam: Tomorrow-Land” is on view at 532 Gallery Thomas Jaeckel, New York, Apr. 30–May 30, 2015.