Deconstructing Architecture for Fun

by Edgar Allen Beem December 4, 2008

When a New England artist attracts attention it usually starts locally and spreads regionally. If the artist is fortunate and talented enough, that attention sometimes leads to great visibility around the country. One of the New England artists getting a lot of attention at the moment is Kirsten Reynolds of Newmarket, New Hampshire.

A Virginia native who did her undergraduate work at Syracuse University and earned her MFA at Maine College of Art, Kirsten Reynolds is an installation artist. She creates sculptural environments that might be described as deconstructing architecture for fun. There is a playfulness about her colorful, jerrybuilt installations that suggests a child building a make-believe house of cards and blocks and then knocking it down. In 2007, Reynolds was awarded a $26,000 Artist Advancement Grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. Earlier this year, one of her site-specific installations entitled “What You See Is What You Get” was featured in the 2008 DeCordova Annual at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

In her artist’s statement for “What You See Is What You Get,” Reynolds described her work by writing, “Architectural structures, poised in a moment between imminent collapse and perpetual construction, suggest a strangely funny and dreadful event on the verge of becoming.”

Currently (through February 1, 2009), Kirsten Reynolds is the featured artist in the inaugural Spotlight New England exhibition at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire. The new Spotlight New England series “focuses on innovative art of exceptional caliber produced in New England, with special attention given to artists working in New Hampshire.” Kirsten Reynolds certainly fills the bill.

Entitled “The Former Mistake,” Reynolds’s Currier installation is her largest and most complex to date, filling the gallery with brightly colored and patterned panels propped up by and falling in on faux timbers of polyurethane foam. There are white heart-shaped flowers on baby blue, a kind of diamond pane fleur-de-lis design in shades of purple, blue and white starbursts on black, and pink and red sun on yellow, all of which contribute to what has been described as a “Dr. Seuss-like atmosphere.”

These gauche and gaudy patterns are the same visual vocabulary Reynolds has used in recent years in creating constructions all over New England and the Northeast – “At This Last Moment” (2005) at the Firehouse Gallery in Burlington, VT; “Another Possible Ending” (2006) at Vox Populi in Philadelphia, PA; “The Other Last Moment” (2007) at Hallwall Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo, NY; and “Labor” (2007) at Fort Andross in Brunswick, ME.

What is so appealing about Kirsten Reynolds’s installations is their comic theatricality. They are like collapsing theater flats, leftover sets from cartoony little dramas of the absurd. They might even be taken as satire as several major contemporary architects (Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Rem Koolhaas, Zaha Hadid) actually design and build deconstructed buildings of this very nature. Post-Modern art with a retro Pop Art feel. Very cool.

Currier Museum of Art, 150 Ash St., Manchester NH, 603-669-6144.

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