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For the week of March 7 through 13, 2001

Art and architecture

Express Arts Editor

From a crude layman’s perspective, art and architecture might be seen as mirror images of one another: the former distills a range of experience and emotion into a single image or concept, while the latter starts with a concept and realizes it in various three-dimensional forms. And no doubt the connections between the two disciplines become more apparent the greater is one’s understanding of the two fields.

The Secord Medical Building, Santa Barbara. Photo by James Chen

Artist, architect and art collector Barry A. Berkus has spent much of his life exploring these disciplines. Just one of the many products of his labors is a recently published book entitled, Art, Architecture, Parallels, Connections.

In a recent phone interview, Berkus said the book was 14 years in the making and with it he is "looking at a broad spectrum of art and relating it to architecture." To elucidate some of the ideas in the book, Berkus will present a slide show and lecture Thursday, 7 p.m., at the Gail Severn Gallery in Ketchum. His watercolors are currently exhibited at the Severn Gallery.

Reading by Pablo Picasso

Berkus’ book is an eloquent expression of one man’s experience in the worlds of art and architecture. He writes in the preface, "This book is best approached, not as a comprehensive monograph, but as a collection of compelling art experiences, moments from key projects with which I have been involved, and the resulting parallels I have observed in other places…I do not intend to account for the fields of architecture and art as a whole, but to reveal some to the connections and parallels that have captivated my imagination."

Berkus places photographs of architectural works next to images of art, for instance, the Secord Medical Building in Santa Barbara and Picasso’s painting Reading, to illustrate a particular parallel. In this case, Berkus refers to the way Picasso and the architect of the medical building "fused several visual perspectives into one."

Other concepts Berkus examines are the ordering of space, boundaries, the use of specific shapes and patterns and the movement of eye and body.

Berkus also considers the idea of tradition and how it can be lead us in new directions in both art and architecture. He focuses on traditional forms found in desert environments, on the farm, in Europe, Japan and in the modernist movement. Berkus writes, "Architects and artists alike participate in the evolution of culture by abstracting from what has come before. Truly original work involves a rethinking of familiar traditions in a way that is meaningful to people in the present."

Throughout the book Berkus presents dozens of parallels between art and architecture that, at first glance, seem quite subtle, but with his insightful commentary suddenly become very apparent. The end result is that the disciplines are revealed to be much more complex both as they relate to one another and as they exist in their own right.

He did point out on the phone, however, that the process by which one approaches the disciplines can differ. "Art comes from some place in the back of one’s mind. There is no responsibility to create a structure that stands…a stage where [people] can act out their lives…In creating art nothing is so precious that you can’t tear it up."



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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc. All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited.