Argentinian artist Adrián Villar Rojas has created a site-specific installation for The Met‘s Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden. Villar Rojas—known for his large-scale installations—has transformed the Cantor Roof. Sixteen sculptures that fuse human figures with replicas of nearly 100 objects from the Museum’s collection, occupying a new black, white, and gray tiled floor, the installation also encompasses an environmental transformation of the space, including an extension of the existing pergola and new plantings, public furniture, and a newly designed bar.
“This is the fifth year of the Museum’s newly redefined series of Cantor Roof Garden commissions. For his project, Adrián Villar Rojas took on the colossal task of investigating the Museum’s collecting practices from a personal socio-historical viewpoint, laying open his reinterpretation of the collection free of the usual underpinnings of curatorial interpretation and historical reference,” said Sheena Wagstaff, Leonard A. Lauder Chairman of Modern and Contemporary Art. “In the process, he holds a mirror up to what we do at the Museum, questioning how we elect to present cultural history over time.”
To realize the project, Villar Rojas immersed himself in the Museum’s history and collections, holding conversations with individuals across the institution, including curators, scientific researchers, objects conservators, and imaging specialists. He has also reconciled the Cantor Roof’s many functions as a gallery, a bar, and a popular vantage point from which to view Manhattan’s expansive skyline. The artist integrated these aspects of the space into his installation by working each element—from the floor to the bar—into the conceit of a fantastical event in which white tables are punctuated by black sculptures, all coated in a layer of dust.
In accepting the commission, the artist encountered a history of human culture that emerges from the Museum’s galleries. The Theater of Disappearance presents a story of objects presented without historical interpretation. Using 3D scanning and advanced imaging techniques, the Museum scanned and replicated objects from the collection. In parallel, using the same technology, human figures were also scanned; the models’ bodies and gestures captured as if they were objects.
The 3D models were then spliced together with the artifacts to form sculptural amalgamations, resulting in sculptures that absorb and re-present the imagery of Museum objects, being held and touched, unconstrained by demarcations of culture or time. In probing the Museum’s role in framing historical truth, Villar Rojas succeeds in questioning its traditional presentations, allowing for the reactivation and a reinterpretation of art and human culture.
The Roof Garden Commission: Adrián Villar Rojas, The Theater of Disappearance will be on view from April 14 through October 29, 2017 (weather permitting). The exhibition is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.
all images © Mario Caporali