You can see the history of 20th-century art in Zoe Zenghelis‘s paintings – every ‘ism’ from Constructivism to Expressionism. Yet as a founding principal at OMA alongside Rem Koolhaas, Madelon Vriesendorp and her husband Elia, the Athens-born Brit is equally known for her versatility as an architect.
In the early days of OMA, she combined both métiers, illustrating the team’s large-scale works for exhibitions, publications and clients. Starting in the 1970s, a generation before architectural photography became a genre unto itself, she energetically brought the complex schemes to life in her signature ‘sun-drenched palette’, as she called it – talents she’d share in her role at the Architect Association’s Colour Workshop in London.
Now 85, Zenghelis will show her solo and collaborative work at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center. While many of the paintings in ‘Fields, Fragments, Fictions’ are clearly inspired by modern and postmodern design and feel very much rooted in a place, their abstractions take time to understand. Indeed Zenghelis has said that her representations are ‘out of place’.
‘My affinity with architecture is thematic and goes into a genre that could be called pure fiction,’ she’s said. ‘The straight rendering gets reduced to conceptual elements that are of a different nature… My buildings and houses have no connection with reality. They poeticise the urban environment.’
The exhibition runs from 26 March to 24 July 2022. Curator Theo Issaias will moderate a panel discussion with Zenghelis on 30 April at the Carnegie Museum of Art Theater.
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