Close out the year with these architecture- and design-focused exhibitions

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Close out the year with these architecture- and design-focused exhibitions

Beautiful City—Empty City is on view at the Architecture Center Houston through January 2024. (Leonid Furmansky)

As the holiday season approaches, mark your calendars to check out these architecture- and design-focused exhibitions featured in our October/November issue. From a meditation on the African diaspora in New York to an alternative future for the city of Detroit, to photography shows highlighting the languor of suburban life and emptiness of downtown Houston during the pandemic, these four exhibitions resonant with themes of our time.

SIGHTLINES on Peace, Power & Prestige: Metal Arts in Africa (Da Ping Lou/Courtesy Bard Graduate Center)

SIGHTLINES on Peace, Power & Prestige: Metal Arts in Africa
Bard Graduate Center
18 West 86th Street
New York
Through December 31

Curated by Drew Thompson and featuring exhibition design by Emanuel Admassu and Jen Wood of AD—WO, Sightlines on Peace, Power & Prestige: Metal Arts in Africa marries contemporary artists with lineages of their mediums originating in Africa. The show offers a meditation on the African diaspora and centuries of innovation in metalworking, sculpture, photography, and textile arts. These historic precedents are then brought into conversation with emergent forms and groundbreaking Black artists, like Amanda Williams and Otobong Nkanga, among many others.

Jimmy DeSana, Suburban (© Jimmy Desana Trust/Courtesy The Jimmy Desana Trust, P·P·O·W, New York, and Document, Chicago)

Jimmy DeSana, Suburban
1709 West Chicago Avenue
Through October 28

The queasiness of suburban ennui has been the subject of Jimmy DeSana’s photography since the 1970s, and this debut solo exhibition at DOCUMENT Chicago showcases 12 of the artist’s images made from 1979 to 1985. DeSana was a key figure in New York’s ’70s downtown scene, exploring gender and queerness in his photography, and had a retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum in 2022. The act of challenging accepted binaries and labels is centered in the images. Some subjects are bathed in neon light from gelled tungsten bulbs, with the rays illuminate the uncanny nature of suburban living and identities shaped by consumerism.

Beautiful City—Empty City (Leonid Furmansky)

Beautiful City—Empty City
Architecture Center Houston
902 Commerce Street
Houston, Texas
Through January 19, 2024

Before the pandemic, the image of a desolate downtown sounded like an impossible contradiction. But in 2020, cities emptied out, leaving behind an eerie feeling of isolation. Photographer Leonid Furmansky documented this moment in Houston with a portfolio of photographs titled Oil Towers. Selections from this work, curated by AN’s executive editor, Jack Murphy, freeze this moment: The context of Houston’s oil and gas legacy feels particularly chilling now that we can look back on the era with some distance. A set of programs—including lectures by Jessica Varner, Jesús Vassallo, and Daniel Barber, and a walking tour led by Stephen Fox—will explore and extend the show’s ideas.

Marshall Brown Projects: Dequindre Civic Academy (Don Ross/Courtesy SFMOMA)

Marshall Brown Projects: Dequindre Civic Academy
151 3rd Street
San Francisco, California
Through May 27, 2024

Originally commissioned for the 2016 Venice Biennale, this exhibition posits an alternative future for the city of Detroit. Utilizing imaginative combinations of collage, architectural drawing, and model making, architect Marshall Brown considers the potential for—and even responsibility of—architects and designers to revitalize areas that have historically been overlooked and marginalized. The gallery centers around a large site model encased in glass. The interplay between the model and details presented as collages, photographs, and drawings on the surrounding walls offers visitors a dynamic, zoomed-in and -out experience. Brown’s vision is a colorful and evocative meditation on a utopian “what if.”