A-Z West

Posted on Feb 26, 2006

Andrea Zittel has always been one of my favorite artists since I saw her work in NYC in the late nineties.  The NYTImes has a review of her latest work in Rethinking the World by Cutting it Down to Size.

That she puts her money where her mouth is, so to speak, is evident in the ingenuities in “Andrea Zittel: Critical Space,” a show of more than 75 of her habitats, installations, models, drawings and other objects from 1991 to 2005, at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. The show was organized by Trevor Smith, curator of the New Museum, and Paola Morsiani, curator of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Another Zittel exhibition, of her individually customized mobile units, “Andrea Zittel: Small Liberties,” opens on Thursday at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria.

A native Californian who now lives and works partly in Los Angeles and partly in the Mojave desert town Joshua Tree, Ms. Zittel is heir to a long list of 20th-century tweakers of the human environment. They range from Bauhauslers like the German-born weaver Anni Albers and the Austrian architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky — whose prefab “Frankfurt kitchen” was built into 10,000 working-class apartments in 1927 — to Americans like Elizabeth Hawes (“Fashion Is Spinach”), Buckminster Fuller and the furniture designers Charles and Ray Eames.

Among Ms. Zittel’s earliest attempts at controlling space to make life easier is the “A-Z Management and Maintenance Unit” (1992), a three-dimensional setup that maximized the use of her cramped Brooklyn studio; and “A-Z Carpet Furniture,” partly tongue-in-cheek wall-to-floor coverings marked off by rectilinear arrangements that have a Constructivist look. One has a panel that serves as a “drop-leaf dining table,” on which you can serve meals if you don’t mind eating at floor level.

With a footprint of a mere 60 square feet, Model 003, the management and maintenance unit shown here, is built in a steel frame that can be folded up for moving. It contains a restaurant-style dining booth, a plastic sink, a stovetop, a closet, a cot, a stool and some work space, and like most A-Z productions, can be customized to a buyer’s taste and even moved as guest quarters into a host’s home. The use of the square steel grid and simple materials has been carried forward into her later work.