Hammer Projects: George Raggett

Hammer Projects: George Raggett

Los Angeles artist George Raggett presents his sculptural installation of an off-kilter gazebo in the Lobby Gallery. Poking fun at false cheer affected by popular, Westernized interpretations of the Chinese art of feng shui, Raggett’s radically asymmetric gazebo calls attention to its own disfunction. This giddy garden getaway cultivates myriad other references—to the history of landscape and park design, the tradition of the English Picturesque and English garden follies, religious festive objects and modernist plinths, for example—all of which visually collide in a dizzying, disorienting architectural enclosure which undermines expectation of the gazebo as a calming space of meditation and retreat.

Co-organized by James Elaine, curator of Hammer Projects, and Claudine Isé, former assistant curator at the Hammer Museum and now associate curator of exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio.

Hammer Projects: George Raggett. Installation view at Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. March 14-June 27, 2004. Photo by Joshua White.

Biography

George Raggett was born in 1972 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and received his B.A. from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1996. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles. He has shown at Acme and at Cirrus Gallery, both in Los Angeles, and at White Columns in New York. Reviews of his work have appeared in Time Out New York and the Santa Barbara News Press. This Hammer Project is Raggett’s first museum exhibition.

Essay

By Claudine Isé

A gazebo is supposed to be a place of tranquil reflection framing a "perfect view," but Gazebo! (2004), George Raggett's off-kilter version of this classic garden idyll, subverts these ideas at every turn. Gazebos are a type of garden "folly," so named for their extravagant and essentially useless nature. Gazebos are places of contemplation, rest, and quiet conversation, often of a romantic nature. Generally they are tucked into slightly out-of-the-way garden locales so that it seems as if one is happening upon them by chance rather than design. For his architectural installation in the Hammer's Lobby Gallery, Raggett draws on the history of garden follies along with that of the English Picturesque style, which is characterized by a pastiche of different architectural idioms—most typically those of Late Medieval cottages and country houses from the Tudor, Elizabethan, and Jacobean periods—brought together in harmonious balance. In contrast, the asymmetry of Raggett's garden folly cum site-specific museum environment calls attention to its own dysfunction. Devoid of either curves or right angles, Gazebo!'s wood-frame exoskeleton is crystalline, even appearing at points to thrust menacingly toward the sitter's body rather than to symbolically embrace and protect it. Projecting outward from one side of this structure is a long plank or bench that bridges the gazebo and the gallery walls while also providing a conversation and lounging area for Raggett's viewers/guests. Carpeting flows out from the gazebo toward the gallery's entrance, providing a literal pathway for viewers that also serves as a material bridge between the interior and exterior of the gallery proper.


Gazebo!
 

Raggett's architecturally inspired sculptures and site-specific environments also make reference to the protoplasmic, organically inspired contours of contemporary architecture and design--forms that often appear to ooze and spread, in complete antithesis to the modernist tropes of cube, stack, and grid. Today architecture and product design speak the language of intimacy, particularly with respect to the human body; contemporary design objects are often pocket- or palm-sized and portable in nature: think iPods, cell phones, and Palm Pilots. In fact, this new breed of designer objects are a lot like pets: companionable, soft to the touch, eager to please.

 Nightlight 1, 2, 3  The Pet  The Climb  Nightlight 1, 2, 3 The Pet  The Climb

Gazebo!

 Gazebo! 

Claudine Isé, former assistant curator at the Hammer Museum, is now associate curator of exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio.

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Hammer Projects are made possible with support from The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The Annenberg Foundation, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, and members of the Hammer Circle.