Critics’ Picks

View of “Jill Magid: Woman with a Sombero,” 2013.

View of “Jill Magid: Woman with a Sombero,” 2013.

New York

Jill Magid

Art in General
145 Plymouth Street
November 2–December 21, 2013

Ours is no doubt an age of privatization as increasingly anything can become subject to private purchase. This transfer of ownership does not only entail the object of sale but also involves ever more elaborate ways of limiting access to its abstract manifestations. Jill Magid has often probed the amorphous definitions of public and private and the liminal zone where they intersect. Her most recent exhibition takes on the legacy of the Mexican architect Luis Barragán, celebrated for his colorful rendition of modernism.

While Barragán’s personal archive is freely available at Casa Barragán in Mexico City, his architectural holdings were acquired by the Swiss furniture company Vitra. The acquisition was largely due to the passion of Federica Zanco, the wife of the Vitra chairman Rolf Fehlbaum, who has made it her personal mission to collect and study Barragán’s architectural oevre. This incorporation into a corporation, meanwhile, has resulted in severe copyright restrictions on the architect’s work, which even extend to photographic representations.

Magid has made these interdictions the subject of her exhibition at Art in General. Skirting copyright limits, and resulting from the rejection of a request to borrow Barragán’s Butaca chair for the show, the artist photographed a miniature of the seat produced by Vitra and blew the image up to the original chair’s actual size. Speaking to how private acquisition concerns not only the desire of the purchaser but also that of an amorphous public who is denied access to a prior commons, a slideshow that features the artist seemingly speaking to the architect functions as a romantically charged ode to Barragán: The architect is here as much a lost object as the structures he dreamed up. Books on his work have been spread open and hung on the wall. Within these texts, Magid has mounted frames around images of Barragán buildings, which, in some cases, exceed the boundaries of the books themselves. Here, the exhibition perhaps makes its point: that ideas and fantasies provoked by an object are stubbornly capable of transcending even private enclosures.