DeCordova Explores the Psychology of Architecture in Lived Space


Starting April 4, 2018, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum presents Lived Space: Humans and Architecture, which features photographs, paintings, and drawings that explore our psychological and physical attachments to the spaces we build and inhabit. The exhibition will be on view through September 30, 2018.

The artists featured in Lived Space examine the link between architectural elements and our inner world. In their work, interior rooms function as receptacles of memory, emotion, and identity. Some artworks show the human body merging with the built environment, while others present imaginary structures that exist solely in the artist’s mind. Drawn from deCordova’s permanent collection, the exhibition addresses our impulse to adapt and relate to our architectural surroundings, as well as the ways in which these spaces shape and inspire us.

Shown in the Dewey Family Gallery, Lived Space also considers deCordova’s architectural history, which has undergone several transformations since its original construction. Inspired by their travels abroad, museum founders Julian and Lizzie de Cordova remodeled their summer home in 1910 to resemble a European castle. When the building became a contemporary art museum in 1950, the gallery transitioned from a private to public space. These architectural shifts, prompted by Julian and Lizzie’s personal history, dreams, and passions, suggest an intimate exchange between humans and their spaces that extends far beyond one of basic needs.

“From its humblest manifestation as a source of shelter to an art form that activates the imagination, architecture permeates our daily lives,” says Scout Hutchinson, Curatorial Assistant at deCordova. “The work in Lived Space encourages us to consider how the built environment affects, shapes, and in some cases reflects us. We hope visitors to the exhibition are inspired to think about their relationship to their own ‘lived spaces’—whether at home, at work, or in a dream.”

The exhibition explores three main themes:

  • Figure and Form: The artworks in this section feature the human figure interacting with and inscribed by architectural forms. While some of the artists address harmonies between the body and the built environment, others accentuate the contrast between organic and human-made, soft and rigid, vulnerable and stable. For example, in Arno Rafael Minkkinen’s photograph Self-Portrait, Castello Tancredi Gate, Bibbiano, Tuscany, Italy [pictured above], an arch in the background appears to rest on the artist’s shoulder as he aligns his body with the surrounding architecture— creating an unusual and intimate relationship between the body and the physical space it occupies.
  • Interior Worlds: In these works, interiors—specifically domestic spaces—function as reflections of the self. Some show humans surrounded by their personal belongings. Others feature rooms empty of human life, allowing décor and inanimate objects to speak for the people who live there. Sarah Malakoff’s Untitled Interior (Lion In Stairwell) [pictured right], for example, features wildlife (a lion figurine surrounded by floral wallpaper) in a domestic space, creating what Malakoff calls a “psychologically charged, uncanny space.”
  • Architectural Fantasies: The photographs, paintings, drawings, and prints in this section present buildings that often exist solely in the artist’s imagination. They include surreal spaces, architectural follies of the mind, and wild musings on the urban landscape.

The exhibition will also feature a slideshow of archival images that trace the history of the Dewey Family Gallery as it transformed from a room in a private residence inhabited by the de Cordova family to a public museum open to visitors from around the world.

Related Programs

Cardboard Architecture: Flip, Fold, Tie, Tape
Sunday, May 6, 1–4 pm (drop-in)
Free with admission
Inspired by Lived Space: Humans and Architecture and the new interactive furniture projects by Boston Society of Architects’ MakeTANK committee, we will design and construct imaginative functional sculptures with cardboard in the Park. For children (and adults!) of all ages.

Julian and Lizzie De Cordova’s Lived Space: An Art, Architecture, and History Tour
Saturday, May 19, 11 am–12 pm
Free with admission
Take an indoor/outdoor tour of the history and art of the Sculpture Park and Museum located on the former estate of Julian and Lizzie de Cordova.

Artist Talk: Sarah Malakoff
Wednesday, May 23, 6:30–7:30 pm
Lived Space artist Sarah Malakoff’s color photographs examine the home and its psychologically charged spaces and objects. Malakoff will discuss the inspiration behind her portraits of interior spaces and offer a close look at some of the works from this series.

Kokedama: Living Sculpture
Thursday, May 24, 6–8 pm
$35 members, $45 nonmembers
Kokedama is a form of Japanese garden art in which the roots of a plant are encased in mud, then wrapped in a hanging ball of soft green moss. Invite a friend, enjoy a glass of wine, and create a Park-worthy sculpture for your home!

Curator-led Tour of Lived Space
Thursday, June 28, 12–1 pm
Free with admission
“Space that has been seized upon by the imagination cannot remain indifferent space,” wrote philosopher Gaston Bachelard in 1957. “It has been lived in, not in its positivity, but with all the partiality of the imagination.” Join Curatorial Assistant Scout Hutchinson for a look at how the complex relationship between humans and architecture sparked the imaginations of the artists featured in Lived Space.

Process Gallery: Lived Space
Open during Museum hours on the 3rd floor
Taking cues from the Museum exhibition Lived Space: Humans and Architecture, explore the ways in which we are inspired and informed by architecture, both real and imagined. Insert yourself into deCordova’s history—past and present, inside and out.

Image Captions (top to bottom)

Arno Rafael Minkkinen, Self-Portrait, Castello Tancredi Gate, Bibbiano, Tuscany, Italy, 2000; printed 2005, silver gelatin print, 3/25, 24 x 20 inches, Gift of Arno Rafael and Sandra Hughes Minkkinen and the Robert Klein Gallery, Courtesy Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York.

Sarah Malakoff, Untitled Interior (Lion In Stairwell), 2002, C-print, 1/12, 24 1/2 x 21 inches, Museum Purchase with funds provided by Joyce and Edward Linde, Courtesy of the artist and Howard Yezerski Gallery.

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