The Stedelijk Museum presents Something They Have To Live With: a new installation by Brussels- based Scottish artist Lucy McKenzie (b. Glasgow, 1977). It is the artist’s first solo exhibition in Amsterdam. The installation reflects the diversity of McKenzie’s artistic practice, in which painting, craft, fashion, and architecture intertwine in a dynamic relationship. McKenzie transforms the historic building’s IMC gallery (formerly the ‘Hall of Honor’, where all routes in the museum culminate) into a synthesis of contrasting visual forms and modes of presentation. As if browsing in a department store, the visitor can wander past various ‘displays’.
The installation is anchored by two monumental statements. On one side of the gallery, large paintings reproducing geometric patterns from the Alhambra palace in Granada dominate three walls, creating a dazzling juxtaposition of decorative forms. The opposite side of the gallery presents a large model of an interior of the Villa Müller in Prague by architect Adolf Loos. Painted using the trompe l’œil technique, the walls are treated with illusionistic marbled effect. McKenzie’s pairing of the archetypal Alhambra palace and the Villa Müller invites us to consider monumental, closed structures as spaces where the world within is explicitly separated from the world beyond the walls. She explores how architecture can insidiously influence power relations and sexuality. In both Loos’s Modernist design and the Arabic architecture of the Alhambra, women can lead a confined, sheltered existence, and the female body is both hidden from the world and displayed to a select few.
McKenzie also looks at how exemplary interior design translates to more day to day living and working. This is shown in a series of small, detailed architectural models presented on plinths. In the middle of the gallery, on a folding metal screen and two metal mannequins, McKenzie presents a series of new fashion designs by Atelier E.B., the label she launched in 2008 with Edinburgh-based textile designer Beca Lipscombe (www.ateliereb.com). This is their second collection in collaboration with local textile industries. Conceptually, the fashion label is rooted in the artists’ shared interest in traditional, small-scale production processes and new ways to engage with both the art and fashion worlds. Clothes engage directly with the human body. It is the journey from the trace presence of dwellers in Unesco protected interiors, via the stylization of fashion mannequins to the artist’s own corporeality itself that is the underpinning theme of the show. The exhibition is organized by Stedelijk Museum curator Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen.
Selected by Ingrid Melano