Beyond Environment is published by ACTAR, in anticipation of the LACE Gallery exhibition ( September 4 to November 30, 2014). It is curated by Emanuele Piccardo and Amit Wolf together with Woodbury University and the Graham foundation.
During his first excursions to the United States, the Italian architect Gianni Pettena (b. 1940) produces a series of environments in collaboration with artists Allan Kaprow and Robert Smithson which staged a veritable implosion of fields: counter-events and Happenings, “Radical” design and Land Art, as well as new technological landscapes and the pastoral Midwest. Works such as Ice House I and II (1971-72) saw the development of a new architectural sensibility informed by the incorporations of art and architecture by leisure time, a bourgeoning youth culture, and the discothèque.
With the 1972 MoMA exhibition Italy: The New Domestic Landscape the term “environment” was associated with the radical media interiors of the Italian Superarchitecture movement. In his prolific early career, Pettena produced a remarkably heterogeneous body of work that reached well outside the limits of MoMA’s interiorized environments, but is currently undergoing an enthusiastic reappraisal in Italy, England, and the United States. Captivated by a journey to the USA in 1971, Pettena’s About Non Conscious Architecture series would converse with the American Midwest, a conversation culminating in his meeting with Robert Smithson in Salt Lake City. Earlier, while in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Pettena’s experiments in material transformations helped create some of architect’s most iconic works.
Staged in Minneapolis in an abandoned school and in a non-descriptive suburban house, and titled Ice House I and II, Pettena would pour water into the mold works he created around the buildings’ perimeter walls. Curing during the winter night to a coat of ice, the houses resonated with their conceptual predecessor, Kaprow’s Fluids of 1967, as well as with a newer contemporary architectural sensibly concerned with the effects of variedly compounded, highly eidetic architectural surfaces.