“My paintings became influenced by my architectural experiences, but they work differently as conceptual views of my own world of images. My affinity with architecture is thematic and goes into a genre that could be called pure fiction. The straight rendering gets reduced to conceptual elements that are of a different nature; they are in a state of dematerialization to enter the world of imagination.”
Zoe Zenghelis: Fields, Fragments, Fictions, presented in the galleries of the Heinz Architectural Center, is a solo exhibition that celebrates the artist’s work at the intersection of painting and spatial imagination.
Born in Athens in 1937, Zoe Zenghelis studied stage design and painting in London, where she has lived and worked since the late 1950s. In 1975, Zenghelis—alongside architects Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis and artist Madelon Vriesendorp—co-founded the architectural practice Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). OMA’s early projects were realized through images as visual manifestos and provocations that offered a polemical critique to the discipline of architecture. Instead of a single totalizing vision of the city, OMA celebrated the multiplicity of metropolitan life and the surrealism of the everyday. This collaborative work and Zoe Zenghelis’s approach to artmaking redefined the visual culture of architecture and opened new possibilities for thinking about space and the built environment through the medium of painting.
For more than 60 years, Zenghelis’s practice has remained consistent. With thick layers of paint, abstract geometries, assemblies of forms, and eruptive color palettes, she meticulously composes pictorial surfaces on stretched canvas or card. Populated with building fragments, abstract tectonics, and metropolitan landscapes, Zenghelis’s paintings construct worlds of imagination and fiction. From seductive metropolitan formations and dystopian landscapes to floating buildings and cityscapes of disturbing stillness, the poetics of Zenghelis are an inquiry to the city and its architecture.
Zoe Zenghelis: Fields, Fragments, Fictions will be anchored by four narratives and areas of practice. These include: the artist’s independent projects from 1982 to today (“Cities of Our Choice”); Zenghelis’s work as a teacher and a learner (“Spaces of Learning”); the urban projects of OMA and the modes of collaboration and creative exchange between the four founding members (“Metropolitan Affairs”); and the lesser-known projects of OMA in the Mediterranean islands in relation to Zenghelis’s long-standing engagement with landscape paintings of her homeland, Greece (“Arcadias Inverted”). The show is punctuated with objects from the museum’s permanent collection, selected by the artist to situate her work in a constellation of influences and relations between her students, friends, and teachers—real or imaginary.
Zoe Zenghelis: Fields, Fragments, Fictions is organized by Theodossis Issaias, Associate Curator, Heinz Architectural Center and Hamed Khosravi, educator at the Architectural Association School of Architecture. This exhibition will be accompanied by a publication.
The programs of the Heinz Architectural Center are made possible by the generosity of the Drue Heinz Trust.
Carnegie Museum of Art is supported by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.