In the House: Laura Davis
September 13, 2014 – January 11, 2015
Continuing the lively exploration and use of the Mies van der Rohe-designed McCormick House from 1952, EAM is premiering an ongoing exhibition series called “In the House.” On a regular basis, artists, designers and architects will be invited to respond to the modernist structure by producing a site-specific installation in the house that takes into consideration its unique space and history. These dynamic and changing presentations encourage conversations between the past and the present, while providing a rare opportunity for artists to work directly with this historic building—an exceptional example of Mies’ residential design.
The first artist invited to participate in EAM’s new “In the House” series is Laura Davis, a Chicago-based artist whose sculpture and installations examine the intersection of craft, design and art. Davis approaches the McCormick House with a passion for the modernist style (minimal form, clean lines, industrial materials) but also an awareness that in order for “less to be more,” certain exclusions were made. Her installation Histrionic Restoration reinserts these omissions into the modernist context, from the drama and stuff of everyday life to the value of things past to the female presence in society and art. Davis alters and combines after-market finds (from jewelry to tchotchkes to mid-century modern furniture), appreciating the narrative and layered history of these used items. When juxtaposed in her sculptures and groupings, they also complicate notions of value. Davis was particularly drawn to the McCormick House as a home, sheltering and witnessing the family activities of the McCormicks, the Ficks and others. Using mirrored paper to cover Mies’ famous windows, Davis directs the focus to the interior where she places domestic and decorative objects from different postwar decades. A sparkly wrap on the back of a powder-coated MR 10 chair frame, an old exercise bike, design and LIFE magazines, ashtrays, a cigar, a rotary phone, a dog and a special aquarium find their way into the house, alluding to real and imagined former residents and challenging viewers to put the pieces together.