Museum Row, a dense arrangement of cultural institutions along Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, has always been a work in progress. Within the last few years alone, the Petersen Automotive Museum underwent a major redesign, the historic May Company building doubled in size in its transition into the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, and half of LACMA was demolished to make way for its successor.
Given the row’s penchant for demolition and renewal, it is all too easy to mistake the newest installation in the courtyard of Craft Contemporary, designed by San Francisco-based architecture firm Figure Office, as one construction site among many. Supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts and the Pasadena Art Alliance, Veil Craft appropriates the aesthetics of construction itself as a symbol for the growing pains the city is currently experiencing (and might never escape). “Referred to often as construction tarps or debris netting,” Figure Office co-founders James Leng and Jennifer Ly explained, “these robust, porous, and colorful textiles have inadvertently become a near-permanent facade aesthetic through the ubiquity of construction in the city of Los Angeles.”
Yet, unlike the construction sites it emulates, Veil Craft is far from a hard hat zone. The scaffolding textiles displayed throughout, typically put in place to contain debris and the day-to-day activities of a construction crew, are here reimagined as shading devices to create a pleasant pocket park amid the city’s typically sunny weather. “There’s a very exclusionary or exclusive type of mentality when it comes to putting up a boundary between the public and something that’s in construction,” Leng told Craft Contemporary We thought it would be really interesting to invert that, to remake the courtyard in a way that invited people into this seemingly unfinished site of construction — but then to use it as a venue to begin discussing these topics of building in LA, who are we building for, things like that”
Beyond the fact that the simple repurposing of these materials as public offerings powerfully subverts their common function as elements of private development, Figure Office achieved flashes of ephemerality within the banal and the overlooked by likening the utilitarian fabrics to those of handicraft. Walking past its green-netted facade, the installation surrounds the entire perimeter of the courtyard with long panels of white debris netting that have been pleated to create varying effects of transparency and texture. “The various spaces perform a continuously shifting and unfolding act of veiling and revealing as one navigates through the courtyard,” said Figure Office, “and the careful stitching and assembly of the textile panels juxtaposes references to domesticity, body and garment, and ornamentation alongside typical construction practices.” As the first in a new series of collaborations between Craft Contemporary and the local non-profit cultural organization Materials & Applications, and among some of the latter’s first initiatives completed under the new directorship of Kate Yeh Chiu, Veil Craft recalls the ambitions for expanded materials, methods and tools for creative fabrication expressed by both institutions.
Veil Craft is open to the public through September 12.