With what may be considered a slightly unorthodox move, Kansas City–based el dorado, inc. has named a curator and writer as a new partner. As a means of enforcing the intersection of architecture and contemporary art—which the firm has long explored—noted curator, Hesse McGraw is joining the office. His role will largely be to integrate curation and writing into the 20-year-old firm.
Art installation Moving In Moving Out, Topeka, Kansas, by el dorado inc in collaboration with Hesse McGraw and Jim Woodfill, 2004. (Courtesy Mike Sinclair)
With an interest in alternative practices, el dorado has long included architectural fabrication as part of their services. The firm also has maintained a gallery for installation-based artwork. Outside of the office, el dorado has had a productive relationship with art institutions and curators including McGraw who has worked on past projects. In 2004 the firm worked with McGraw on the MOVING IN MOVING OUT exhibition at the el dorado-design FLEX Self Storage in Kansas City. el dorado also worked with McGraw as part of the multidisciplinary consultant team for Phase II of The City of Calgary Utilities and Environmental Protection Department’s (UEP) public art plan.
In addition to this, McGraw has extensive experience working in architecture, including collaborations with Min | Day on the Bemis Center in Omaha, Nebraska, Theaster Gates and the Rebuild Foundation on the Carver Bank in Omaha, and with BNIM on the Paragraph Gallery in Kansas City. Currently, McGraw is serving as the Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Programs at San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), where he commissioned his most controversial and uncanny architecture related piece.
In 2014 McGraw and SFAI commissioned artist Jill Magid’s ongoing project The Proposal. The project centers around an attempt to retrieve the professional archive of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Luis Barragán. The archive is currently owned by Federica Zanco, art historian and wife of Vitra founder Rolf Fehlbaum. Fehlbaum acquired the archive as an engagement gift for Zanco in lieu of a ring. In the hopes of negotiating a trade for the archive, Magid has produced a ring set with a diamond made from the Barragán cremated remains. The diamond has subsequently been displayed in Zurich, Switzerland, home of Zanco, at SFAI, McGraw’s institution, and in Mexico City, Barragán’s home. So far, Magid’s attempts at retrieving the archive with the ring have not been successful. The Architect’s Newspaper covered the story as it developed in 2016.
“For the past decade, Hesse has redefined the role of a curator,” said el dorado Partner Josh Shelton in a press release. “He has stepped outside the walls of the gallery to activate the city and supported artists as they engage intractable problems at a global scale—and he does so with infectious optimism. The range of his curatorial expertise and fearless approach will expand the growing scope and reach of el dorado’s practice.”