Even as a child, Daniel Arsham dreamed of building cities, of impossible constructions and futuristic landscapes. The young American, born in 1980, studied at New York’s Cooper Union, a college with art, architecture and engineering programs. Exposure to such a variety of disciplines helped Arsham explore new vocabularies.
He made dream-like gouaches with the illustration tools and techniques used by city planners, using mylar film and watercolor, and paying attention to perspective and subtle nuances that seem to make light shimmer. In his dark gouaches, he imagined a cosmogony in touches of gray and black, a melancholy world full of monolithic ruins or islands battered by apocalyptic tornadoes. His drawings evoke antiquity and the Renaissance, the dramatic engravings of Piranesi and the radical purity of modernism. In this way, Arsham built his own language. With architectural forms that move from paper toward reality, he interrogates the surface of things, eroding the structures that surround him and deconstructing and remodeling them. His white fiberglass sculptures distort walls, stretching, draping, melting and exploding them. And, in his gouaches, he continues to experiment with materials with his clean lines and meticulous details.
Arsham’s enigmatic artistic approach quickly attracted the interest of institutions and art world figures, including Bonnie Clearwater, director of MOCA Miami, Hedi Slimane, when he was creative director for Dior Homme, and the choreographer Merce Cunningham — who asked him to design the set, lighting and costumes for “eyeSpace,” a piece for which the young artist conceived of space as an ephemeral performance. Through his Snarkitecture studio, he creates spaces that combine art, architecture and design. His deliberately multidisciplinary projects remain difficult to define. He plunges them in the mystery of ruins and lost civilizations, and then projects them into the future, like an architect turned archaeologist.
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Images via Louis Vuitton