Friday, January 25, 2013

Elusive Geometries: Don Voisine and Ken Greenleaf

By Carl Belz

What goes down in the studio, in the coordination between hand and eye, in the blending of passion and intelligence, in the urge toward meaning, generally has little to do with what goes down in art writing and academic discourse in the name of theory. Before there are words there are images, or objects or actions of one kind or another, and that’s been the case in the art of our time regardless of whether that art has been abstract or representational, modernist or postmodernist, installation or assemblage or performance or even conceptual. Yet there persist claims that painting in particular became persuaded during the last half-century to reduce itself to its essence because formalist critics had perceived purity as having been painting’s guide since the whole last century began. Thus did a perception of pictorial development become projected upon, and confused with, pictorial inent.

Which is not to say formal issues don’t matter in the studio, far from it. As surely as images precede words, just as surely are formal issues bound to content, to enabling its articulation and earning its credibility, to testing and stretching its reach while acknowledging its limits and thereby tethering it to lived experience. In a modern world where all experience is problematic, those acknowledgments--of painting’s flatness, for instance--aim not inward to provide hermetic, self-indulgent, art for art’s sake contemplation, as we’re often told, but outward to provide frameworks for the expression of thoughts and feelings that we as beholders are in turn free to know, not in the way we know matters of opinion but in the way we know matters of fact, which is with the conviction that they are neither arbitrary nor merely personal but objective--and true.

Don Voisine, Tumble, 2011-12, oil on wood, 60 x 32 inches (Alejandra von Hartz Gallery, Miami, FL).
Don Voisine knows flatness. Having worked with it and in it and around it for more than three decades, he knows it not as an end but as a beginning, as a place to start. Which he initially grasped via drawings he made in 1980 when, as he says in a highly informative 2009 interview with Brent Hallard, “I began working with imagery derived from floor plans of places I worked in or lived in. It was an attempt to attach a subject matter to abstract shapes. The drawings were basically a quick sketch with marks to indicate the location of certain architectural features, doors, windows, stairs, etc...along the lines of what a carpenter might sketch out to visualize where certain things would go. Over time the paintings became more and more geometrically structured and less about a specific place but retained a reference to architecture.”  In their structuring of fictive space and light, at once precisely limned and intuitively distributed, ordered yet felt, they referenced as well the experience of visually inhabiting such a world. While the process of achieving that effect may have begun with a strictly two-dimensional sketch, it has become realized in Voisine’s mature paintings by means that are altogether pictorial.    
Don Voisine, Full Stop, 2011, oil on wood, 28 x 22 inches (McKenzie Fine Art, New York, NY).
From start to finish the process entails constant adjustments--in determining the saturation of the overlapping black geometric figures, whether matte or glossy, that dominate the center of the pictures; in paring down or building up their size and scale by altering their edges, which in turn necessitates accounting for their impact on the triangular white interstices exposed by the figures’ placement and rotation in the first place; in selecting hues for the coupled horizontal bands, thick and thin, that border the central area, top and bottom, and complete each composition. 
Don Voisine, Carré, 2011, oil on wood, 44 x 44 inches (McKenzie Fine Art, New York, NY).
While each adjustment is undertaken to orchestrate and tighten the relation of each pictorial unit to every other pictorial unit, to secure formally the integrity of each painting as a whole, the overall effect of the process is also to enliven the space, to acknowledge its flatness while simultaneously allowing it visually to twist and warp and bend, to project and recede, to be positive and negative--and thus to explore and personalize what’s become natural to pictorial space since Cezanne and Cubism radicalized it more than a century ago. Don Voisine’s process yields painted worlds that are lucid and dignified, accessible and at the same time reserved, firmly balancing ideas and emotions in equal measure and appearing before us as metaphors for the worlds we fabricate as well as models for our being in them. His geometries offer stately reference to his membership among the American Abstract Artists, and they likewise reference individuals such as Mondrian and Malevich, but no less do they reach back to Ingres and Poussin and the western classical tradition in general.

Ken Greenleaf’s geometries are of a different order. They’re mostly irregular polygons that combine only fragments of the geometries we’re familiar with, triangles, squares, rectangles and so forth, into hybrids whose radical abstractness strongly resists naming. They’re also restless, constantly jostling and probing the flattened spaces they occupy, interacting with and against them, and energizing them in the process. And finally they’re pretty clearly worked by hand, whether in acrylic on raw canvas, charcoal collages, or oil pastels, which in each case imparts to them an aura of physical presence that in turn heightens their immediacy. I think Greenleaf’s welded steel sculpture, on which he focused his studio practice for most of three decades starting in the early 1970s, here becomes relevant. Fully abstract like his paintings and drawings, it everywhere comprises planes and armatures that literally as well as visually overlap or splay and angle into space in order to frame or extend it. Such shared effects tempt us to account for the paintings and drawings by appealing to the sculpture, a reasonable gambit for a stylistic analysis, but only insofar as we’re willing to also allow that the paintings and drawings equally reveal how essentially pictorial the sculpture was in the first place. What I’m suggesting is that Greenleaf’s current work represents a defining aspect of his artistic enterprise and persona, one that’s been there all along but has only become foregrounded with his shift from a three-dimensional art to a two-dimensional art. Which is another way of saying his art has become more fully his own.
Ken Greenleaf, Alea, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 26 x 23 inches.
In probing and jostling and energizing space, Greenleaf’s hybrid geometries generate pictorial worlds in which flatness and depth hover together in dynamic yet ambiguous and even contradictory couplings. His exploration of the challenges and resolutions of those couplings begins with the 2010 acrylic paintings, which mostly comprise irregularly shaped single masses positioned within irregularly shaped canvas supports, the relationships between them suggesting constant optical shifts between flatness and depth, solid and void, interior volume and contour. 
Ken Greenleaf, Blackwork 8, 2012, charcoal on paper, 8 ½ x 11 inches.
The charcoal collages that follow are more loosely and immediately articulated, still basically flat but more visibly physical, more painterly; they appear to have pried open the singular masses in the paintings to expose the complex angled framework within them, as if to reveal them in the process of becoming. 
Ken Greenleaf, Gauge 33, 2012, oil pastel on paper, 8 ½ x 11 inches.
Most recently, color appears for the first time in the oil pastels in which mostly scalene triangles and irregular quadrilaterals float weightlessly in space, delicately touching and occasionally abutting while tilting this way and that, their expansive scale utterly surprising in relation to their diminutive size. Together the series thus offer an impressive range of ideas and feelings, their very fecundity suggesting a breakthrough of some kind to an aspect of Greenleaf’s artistic self that became fully accessible to him, and to us in turn, only when he confronted painting directly and experienced the exhilaration that attends exercising its freedoms in concert with its limitations.

Don Voisine and Ken Greenleaf. Linear and painterly. Intellectual and emotional. Idealism and realism. Being and becoming. Classical and Romantic. I invoke Heinrich Wolfflin here, along with the sweeping generalizations of art’s larger history, and in doing so I take liberties with both artists. But I do so not to contextually aggrandize them, only to suggest that what goes down in their studios, which is the art of modernist painting, is perhaps larger and more expansive than art writing and academic discourse in the name of theory sometimes lead us to believe.   

Carl Belz is Director Emeritus of the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Art News, January 2013

By Charles Kessler

Screenshot from the iPad app, Paris 3-D Saga.
  • The New York Times reports on Paris 3-D Saga, an iPad app that's an interactive 3-D, virtual-reality illustration of two thousand years of Parisian development. (Warning: at 696 MB, it will take up a lot of room on your iPad.) Similar 3-D virtual tours in the form of websites already exist for Rome in 320 CE and the pyramids at Gaza
  • According to Laura Gilbert’s invaluable website, the Metropolitan Museum of Art is in the process of redesigning, re-hanging and expanding (by about 20%) their European painting galleries. You can view a couple of before and after photos on her site. 
  • Laura Gilbert also reported that Sotheby’s and the artist Cady Noland recently won an important court case. According to Gilbert, the New York State Supreme Court ruled that if a work is damaged, an artist can stop a sale. This is due to the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) which gives artists the “moral right” to prevent the alteration of their art by third parties. 
  • VARA is generally a pretty good law. On the other hand, The Art Newspaper reported independent curator Magdalena Dabrowski claimed “Richard Serra threatened to withdraw one of his works from the collection of Eli and Edythe Broad if he was not allowed to rework the drawing.” Serra refused to re-date the work and wouldn’t even include both dates, claiming VARA gave him that right. In an earlier post I referred to Serra as a pompous jerk. There is now additional evidence — as if any were needed.
  • I wrote about the backs of sculptures here and here. Now The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, has organized an exhibition, Backstories (until April 21st), about the backs of 30 paintings from their collection. To quote from the exhibition website: “… the works of art tell their little-known 'backstories' and reveal the ways they were made, the way they have been cared for by collectors, and the many changes they have survived.” The back of this painting by Constable, for example, has layers of oil sketches. Constable ended up painting Willy Lott's House on the other side and in a horizontal format. 
John Constable, Willy Lott's House (recto), c. 1812–13; Landscape Sketches with Trees and Church Tower (verso), c. 1811–13, Oil on canvas, 13 3/4 x 17 1/8 inches (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Gift of the Manton Art Foundation in memory of Sir Edwin and Lady Manton).
  • ArtInfo reports the Vatican has finally published its large database of the art and artifacts of Italian churches. The website contains an astounding 3.5 million objects from 63,773 churches, and it's still not complete — art and artifacts from churches in Florence and Naples have yet to be catalogued. The Vatican promised the database will be regularly updated.
Finally, in spite of the recession, there's a huge amount of development happening in Chelsea, and I believe this illustrates the economic impact of the arts. Some people attribute it to the High Line, but it's probably the other way around. If it weren’t for the arts making the area desirable, they probably would not have been able to raise the millions needed to develop the High Line. On the other hand, it also makes it more difficult for the smaller galleries to survive.
View from the High Line of some construction on 28th Street in Chelsea.
View from the High Line of new residential buildings in Chelsea.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Philadelphia Museum of Art, January 2013

By Charles Kessler

The "Rocky Steps" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
I went to Philadelphia to catch Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg and Duchamp at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) before it closed on January 21st (sorry). It was a densely informative show with lots of work I had never seen before; and the PMA is a great museum, worth a trip by itself (more on that later). If you didn’t get to see this show, you might want to buy the catalog. It includes reprints of important articles about these artists (28 articles by my count), as well as original essays, an impressive 70-page chronology and about 60 reproductions (poor ones, unfortunately). The museum was selling it for $66 but discounted it because Amazon has it for only $34.65.

This was one of those shows that involve a lot of reading, and frankly I only had the patience and stamina to do a small sampling. They had several file drawers you could pull out to look at diagrams, notes and drawings for dances and music by Cunningham and Cage; in addition, installed on the walls were drawn, written and typed Dada musings by Johns, Rauschenberg and Duchamp as well as more work by Cunningham and Cage. They also played Cage’s music, performed Cunningham’s dances with sets by Johns (based on Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass), and showed documentary films; and of course there were a lot of paintings and sculptures. It was a big show!
Walkaround Time by Merce Cunningham staged by Daniel Squire and performed by former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company with sets by Jasper Johns, Philadelphia Museum of Art, January 18, 2013.
I don’t know enough about music and dance to say anything of value about Cage and Cunningham, so I’ll quote from the PMA exhibition website:
The dance program consists of twenty-five to forty-minute Cunningham Events, as well as solos, duets, trios, quartets, and quintets. Merce Cunningham's Events—dance performances, usually ninety-minutes in length, consisting primarily of sections excerpted from his repertory—have been described as the dance versions of readymades. Traditionally, Cunningham would cast dice on the day of the performance immediately prior to the rehearsal to establish which readymade sections of dance would appear, in what order, and (in non-proscenium instances) where "front" would be for each section. In this way, Cunningham's methods echoed those of Duchamp, embracing chance and freely recombining and reconfiguring previously existing material to create something new.
I am, however, qualified to complain about the sitting area for the dance. They had the audience sit on steps (a reference to Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase?), and aside from it being painfully uncomfortable, getting in and out was precarious if not dangerous. The steps did look imposing though. Oh, and one more thing: the dancers seemed awfully shaky holding poses. They are former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company so maybe they're getting a little old for this.

My main take-away from the show: Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg are good artists, but they look lightweight next to Marcel Duchamp. I know I’m not being fair. The intent of this exhibition was to demonstrate specific ways Duchamp influenced these artists, it was not to appraise them in comparison to him. It’s just hard not to when they're presented side by side.
Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), 1915-23, oil, varnish, lead foil, lead wire, and dust on two glass panels, 109 ¼ x 70 x 3 ⅜ inches (PMA #1952-98-1).
Let’s start with an extreme case. Work by Johns and Rauschenberg was installed in the room where the PMA has their extensive collection of Duchamp’s art. Duchamp had a window constructed in that room to place his masterpiece, The Large Glass, in front of, and next to that window they installed Rauschenberg’s Untitled (Venetian), 1973, presumably to make a point about the similarity. (I would have taken more and better photos, but a guard stopped me.)
Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (Venetian), 1973, cardboard and string (Robert Rauschenberg Foundation).
I don’t want to get into the complexity, profundity and aesthetic innovation of  The Large Glass. (For a fun animated explanation of it, see the website Understanding Duchamp and navigate over to 1923. Unfortunately there’s no direct link.) Suffice it to say The Large Glass makes this work look as insubstantial as cardboard. The Rauschenberg has beautiful funky materials and a nice casual presence, but come on.

A better match, except when you look at the dates, are these:
Left: Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (Late Kabal American Zephyr), 1985, rubber cycle wheels on metal structure with hand crank, 73 ½ x 24 x 28 ¼ inches (The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation); and right: Marcel Duchamp, Bicycle Wheel, 1964 replica of 1913 original, wheel, painted wood, 51 x 25 x 16 ½ inches (PMA, 1964-175-1).
The Rauschenberg is clever and funny, and again it has an appealing funky hand-made quality; but the Duchamp, aside from the radical and profound implications of a Readymade, is mysterious and elegantly simple.  (It's unclear from the museum website if Duchamp included the pedestal when he made this replica. MoMA exhibits one without a pedestal and think it's better — more direct, not so arty.)

As to the Dada objects, musings and pataphysics of Johns and Rauschenberg, as well as Cage and Cunningham — they are cute and sometimes insipid compared to the subtlety and sophistication of Duchamp’s 3 Standard Stoppages, for example.
Marcel Duchamp, 3 Standard Stoppages, 1913-14, wood, glass and paint on canvas, wood box 11 ⅛ x 50 ⅞ x 9 inches (MoMA, 149.1953.a-i)
MoMA website’s has a simple explanation:
It is "a joke about the meter," Duchamp glibly noted about this piece, but his premise for it reads like a theorem: "If a straight horizontal thread one meter long falls from a height of one meter onto a horizontal plane twisting as it pleases [it] creates a new image of the unit of length." Duchamp dropped three threads one meter long from the height of one meter onto three stretched canvases. The threads were then adhered to the canvases to preserve the random curves they assumed upon landing. The canvases were cut along the threads' profiles, creating a template of their curves creating new units of measure that retain the length of the meter but undermine its rational basis.
I also explored (for about the tenth time) the PMA’s outstanding collection.
Paul Cezanne, Group of Bathers, c.1895, oil on canvas, 8 ⅛ x 12 ⅛ inches (PMA, 1950-134-34).
Cezanne’s The Large Bathers, 1900-1906, one of the PMA’s most famous paintings, was being cleaned, so I paid particular attention to his small Group of Bathers, c.1895 (above) and was amply rewarded. The photo isn’t out of focus, it’s painted that way. It shimmers with vibrating light; colors appear transparent, and they glow and pulsate; the brushwork and drawing rhythmically play over the entire surface; and space becomes as palpable (or as un-palpable) as the landscape and figures. It’s as if Cezanne combined the best of his painting and watercolors. Whew, what a great little painting!

Nearby is his Bay of L'Estaque, 1879-83, a typical Cezanne landscape, but I was taken by the clouds in the upper right of the painting which struck me as very Chinese.
Detail, Paul Cezanne, Bay of L'Estaque, 1879-83, oil on canvas, 23 ¾ x 29 ¼ inches (PMA, 1963-116-21).
I don’t know why I didn’t realize this before, maybe because I was paying too much attention to the Mondrian paintings in the same room, but the PMA has a huge collection of twenty Brancusi sculptures, and they’re beautifully displayed.
Constantin Brancusi room, Philadelphia Museum of Art.
And speaking of Mondrian, let no one ever say his work is impersonal. Check out the rather crude frame he made for the painting, and that touching dab of red paint on it.
Detail - Piet Mondrian, Composition with White and Red, 1936, oil on canvas (PMA, 1952-61-89).
Also currently on view are small exhibitions of Ellsworth Kelly’s early work (no link), Sean Scully’s paintings, and Cy Twombly’s sculptures.

The PMA is less than a mile from the Barnes Foundation, and you can get there pretty much the same way:

Take a New Jersey Transit train from either Penn Station New York or Penn Station Newark to Trenton, and easily transfer (usually within a few minutes, and on the same track) to SEPTA, the Philadelphia rail system, which will bring you to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. It costs just $10 - $15, a little more than the Chinatown bus would cost (and a lot safer and more comfortable), and about ¼ of what the cheapest Amtrak fare would be. The trip takes about two hours (as compared to one hour via Amtrak).

From the 30th Street Station you can take a taxi for about $10, or it's an easy and pleasant mile or so walk from the 30th Street Station. To walk, leave the station through the 29th Street exit, cross the somewhat challenging street in front of the station, go straight over the bridge that crosses the beautiful Schuylkill river, and as soon as you’re on the other side, walk down the stairs to the Schuylkill River Trail, then go north (the river should be on your left) about ⅔ mile. The museum will be on your right — you can’t miss it. Either take the “Rocky Steps” (named for the movie) to the front entrance, or go up the hill and around the museum to the back entrance.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925" at MoMA

By Charles Kessler
František Kupka. Localization of Graphic Motifs II. 1912–13. Oil on canvas, 78 3/4 x 76 3/8 inches (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington). 
Aside from the hyped-up Edvard Munch: The Scream (until April 29th), the main attraction at the Museum of Modern Art now is Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925 (until April 15th).

I remember seeing an exhibition at the Met a while back about the origins of photography (it may have been The Dawn of Photography, French Daguerreotypes, 1839–1855, but I'm not sure) and being amazed at how quickly the possibilities of the new medium were explored. I felt the same way at this MoMA exhibition. The show contains early very large paintings by Leger, Boccioni, Picabia, Kandinski, and this one by Morgan Russell:
Morgan Russell, Synchromy in Orange — To Form, 1913-1914, oil on canvas, 135 x 121 ½ inches (Albright-Knox Art Gallery Buffalo, New York). Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr. (© 2012 Peyton Wright Gallery, photo courtesy of Albright-Knox Art Gallery/Art Resource, NY).  Note the painted frame. 
And this:
David Bomberg, In the Hold, 1913-14, oil on canvas, 78 ½ x 93 inches (Tate).
There are early color paintings and even shaped paintings in the exhibition. This for example:
Giacomo Balla, Iridescent Interpretation no. 7, 1912, oil on canvas, with original artist's frame, 32 11/16 x 32 11/16 inches, (Galleria d'Arte Moderne e Contemporanea, Turin). 
And of course minimalism:
Kazimer Malevich, Suprematist Composition - White on White, 1918, oil on canvas, 31 ¼ x 31 ¼ inches (MoMA) — cool white on warm white, to be more precise.
Here's a thought: after the initial great leap, maybe it's not all that difficult to explore a new style or medium. Maybe the real difficulty, the real achievement, is to make profound meaning. Innovation is important only when it's used to that end. Just a thought.

The exhibition has justifiably received critical raves, but there have been two valid objections. Jerry Saltz wrote:
Only an institution this besotted with its own bellybutton would title a show “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925.” Abstraction wasn’t invented in the West in those years. Abstraction has been with us since the beginning. 
Of course! There's aboriginal, prehistoric and iconoclastic art (art made by people who literally obey the commandment against making "graven images" — early Christian and Islamic art, for example) and most pottery, rugs, blankets and clothing — just to mention some of the abstract art that's been around for hundreds of years (thousands in the case of prehistoric art). And it makes sense that abstraction has been around for such a long time. Why make something that you can see everyday when you can make something altogether different —  something perhaps more magical or holy or decorative than everyday things.

Tyler Green forcefully pointed out that they omitted Matisse. Sure one can always come up with artists that should have been included in a show like this, but to leave out Matisse  — come on! I know Matisse never went completely abstract, but neither did Picasso, and they placed him in the first room (albeit with only two small paintings). Certainly Matisse was every bit as important as Picasso in the "invention of abstraction."

Henri Matisse, Palm Leaf, Tangier, 1912, 46 x 32 inches, (National Gallery of Art, Washington).
And I have my own quibble. While it was thrilling to see video of some avant-garde dances from this period, especially the visceral and intense  Hexentanz (Witch Dance) by Mary Wegman, I don’t understand what these particular dances have to do with "inventing abstraction." That they broke away from the traditional conventions of ballet doesn’t necessarily make their work abstract any more than Cezanne breaking from academic art made his paintings abstract. These dances were still narrative.
Hexentanz (Witch Dance) by Mary Wegman.

Finally, here are a few MoMA developments, of more or less interest, that have nothing to do with art:
  • The food in the 2nd floor cafe is better, and waiters take your order now.
  • They have a member’s line for The Scream, although it wasn’t at all crowded last time I went anyway - perhaps people are wising up. 
  • The member’s coat check is more crowded than non-members'. 
  • The escalators are not as dangerous anymore. I've been complaining about them for years and they finally installed rope stanchions to induce people to move forward when they get off the escalators so there's less of a chance of a pile up.

But there's still my other pet peeve — MoMA's obnoxious wall along 54th Street.
They obviously need something there for security, but part of the wall is screening (see photo above); why not all of it?  As far as I can tell, it's to shield the sculpture garden from pedestrians and traffic (eeeuw, city life — can't have that). As if the museum isn't already like a busy shopping mall anyway. In any case that's not reason enough to blight a city street. Be a little generous, MoMA — allow pedestrians to enjoy the sculpture garden as they walk by instead of insulting them with a blank wall. At least put some art on the damn thing, for God's sake.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Ada Louise Huxtable, 1921 - 2013

By Charles Kessler
Ada Louise Huxtable with Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times, in 1970, when she won the first Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism. (Photo: Librado Romero/The New York Times.)
Ada Louise Huxtable became the first architecture critic for the New York Times in 1963 — the first architecture critic anywhere for that matter. In 1970 she won a Pulitzer Prize for criticism, the first such award they ever granted, and in 1981 she won a MacArthur Fellowship.  The Washington Post published an excellent obituary here.
Update: a better obituary, i.e. one that agrees with me, just came out in The New Republic.

Prior to her writing about buildings, newspapers would just print the press release puff provided by the developer; but, to her credit, and that of the Times (and to the dismay of developers), Ms. Huxtable could be harsh in her criticism. She had particular scorn for watered down, prettied up modernist buildings. She infamously called Edward Durell Stone's Kennedy Center in Washington a “national tragedy,” and wrote that Nazi chief architect “Albert Speer would have approved” of it. And Stone's museum on Columbus Circle that housed Huntington Hartford's collection of bad art, she called “a die-cut Venetian palazzo on lollipops.” It became derisively known as the lollipop building ever after. (It's now the radically resigned Museum of Design — see Huxtable's balanced critique here.)
Edward Durell Stone's 2 Columbus Avenue before and after redesign by Brad Cloepfil.
She was not only concerned with the aesthetics of a building but also its civic responsibility; as such she fought to save Penn Station and other historic buildings, and was an influential ally of people like Jane Jacobs who were fighting against Robert Moses for the life of urban areas.

I believe that how a building addresses the street is more important than how the building looks (not that they're mutually exclusive), and in this I disagree at times with her and other architecture critics. Cities are hurt far more by bad city planning than they are by bad architecture. Sometimes great architecture can be overpowering, even desolate; as a result they can be street-life killers. Case in point, look at two of the buildings Ada Louise loved most:
 Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles, Boston City Hall and Plaza
I. M. Pei, East Wing of the National Gallery of Art, Washington D. C. .