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Building Images

A meditation on the Breuer building
Matthew Gengler, Head, Access Services, Ingalls Library
June 14, 2018
Building Elements

Building Elements, Installation view in the east wing glass box of sculpture by Marlon de Azambuja and photographs by Luisa Lambri

For An American City, the inaugural edition of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, the CMA invited Italian artist Luisa Lambri to produce a site-specific work at the museum. The result was a series of photographs of the Marcel Breuer building, designed by the influential architect, which opened as an education wing in 1971.

Lambri states that she is not an architectural photographer. Although her photographs focus on buildings designed by modernist architects of the past century, the resulting work is not an image of a building, but rather a meditation on moving through a built environment. In her photographs, Lambri invites the viewer to enter a space as she does, feeling both its emotional and physical weight. Buildings are not shown in their entirety; instead, the artist draws the viewer’s eye to minute details—a wall of closets or light streaming through a window—that create abstract compositions of a moment in time.

Concrete Images
Concrete Images, This photograph made soon after the Breuer wing opened emphasizes the material qualities and geometry of the construction. Courtesy CMA archives

As part of her practice, Lambri researches the buildings she photographs. While perusing the CMA archives, she selected photographs of the Breuer building to create a display in the Ingalls Library that complements her exhibition in the east wing glass box gallery. The archival photographs were initially made to document the completed building, but the artist considers these as-built photographs works of art in and of themselves. “They do document the construction process from beginning to end and offer precious insights into it and that moment in history,” she says, “but they are also very sophisticated, beautiful, and often abstract images.”

The photographs on view in the library also afford a rare opportunity to view the original design of the Breuer building. In many ways, the museum’s renovation completed in 2013 softened the building’s brutalist architecture. Lambri seeks to make the viewer see it differently.