When Helen Allen saw artist Christina Kruse’s weighty geometric sculptures during a studio visit, her curatorial instincts compelled her to place the works in a different, more open context. Luckily, Kruse happened to know just the place. Her friend, creative director and stylist Karl Templer, was planning on renovating his Greek Revival townhouse in Chelsea and was open to vacating the property for the show. Before becoming Templer’s residence, the house was famous for being the locale where Clement Clark Moore penned the iconic Christmas story, The Night Before Christmas. Thus, the idea for Seaman’s House, which grew to include work from nine New York–based artists, was created.
Allen arranged the artworks in each room in loosely related colours, shapes and themes. 'I was inspired by the architectural elements, the decay in parts of the building contrasted with the high level of detail of the medallions and the motifs and 1970s built-ins,' says Allen. Visitors first encounter a diamond-motif painting by Brooklyn artist Gregory Krum, which corresponds to the diamonds on the foyer floor. Nearby are two latex casts of building walls by Columbia GSAPP Professor and Director of Historic Preservation Jorge Otero-Pailos. 'His process removes centuries of grime with latex,' Allen explains. 'He’s looking to our past and to our future, capturing not just the structures, but our pollution and the impact we make as well.'
Alphabet Series, by Anton Ginzburg, 2015
Two more pieces by Otero-Pailos and the hand-carved, yet distinctly Bauhaus forms of Kruse’s meticulously balanced sculptures lead to a burned drawing of Afghanistan by Davide Cantoni with dramatic silver and gold leaf lines. Throughout, Allen crafts a constant dialogue between the artworks and the architecture and the different presentations of past and present, mechanical and natural. This is most apparent in the two films screened in the apartment below, which alternate between Cantoni’s calming, mesmerising three-minute SOL and an eight-minute 'anxious and frenetic' countdown-style video by Chris Klapper and Patrick Gallagher.
Moving upstairs and toward the exterior walls, softer, more colourful paintings by Krum and resin wall hangings by Anton Ginzburg, which at times resemble taffy, charred wood, marble, and even velvet, reflect the garden and greenery outside. Hanging on the interior walls are numeric art pieces by Klapper and Patrick Gallagher displaying the golden ratio.
Fittingly, the house’s interior is slated for a gut-renovation continuing the architectural story of the space and the conversation of the Seaman’s House exhibition. 'All of these pieces are part of monumental projects,' explains Allen. 'So what this looks at is, ‘What happens afterward?’'