Critics’ Picks

View of “Big Sign – Little Building,” 2010.


“Big Sign – Little Building”

Office for Contemporary Art Norway
Nedre gate 7
September 15–December 15

“Learning from the existing landscape is a way of being revolutionary for an architect,” authors Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour claim in their collaborative 1972 publication Learning from Las Vegas. “Not the obvious way, which is to tear down Paris and to begin again, as Le Corbusier suggested in the 1920s, but another, more tolerant way: that is to question how we look at things.”

Curated by Marta Kuzma, “Big Sign – Little Building” takes Learning from Las Vegas as a point of departure from which to consider the changing concept of a “landscape” in the age of American highways. The book itself appears page by page as a slow slide show, synchronized to project alongside the pages of Ed Ruscha’s Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966. On the opposite side of the gallery, a third projector presents Jeff Wall’s Landscape Manual, 1969, which chronicles the artist’s experience of a landscape from his car window.

The exhibition builds along this axis, keeping at the Sunday driving speed of its projectors. Video monitors and long walls of slides offer archival materials from the two-week seminar Izenour conducted at Yale while doing research for Learning from Las Vegas. Kuzma skillfully incorporates sketches by Robert Smithson and Claes Oldenburg, drawings and photographs of works by Charlotte Posenenske, and—perhaps most curiously—acrylic paintings by Allan D’Arcangelo, who derived his formal vocabulary from the highway, arranging distilled forms of roadblocks and dividing lines into semiabstracted compositions.