Bicycle for Picnicking, 2019. Dinnerware, napkins, tablecloth, insect repellent, wood, bicycle, and enamel, 40 x 65 x 24 in. Photo: Courtesy the artist

Creating Problems: A Conversation with Allan Wexler

A quintessential social sculptor, Allan Wexler uses architecture as a transformative tool, triggering the alternating joys and anxieties we experience whenever we step into a new space and teasing us with simple but provocative questions: Do I want to deal with social etiquette? Would I rather slurp a cup of coffee alone? His queries transport us to equivocal spaces, where alienation and intimacy, the profane and the sublime, the visible and the invisible converge. Like Gaston Bachelard, Wexler crosses mundane and ethereal thresholds by meandering between familiar domesticity and spiritual ritual. For him, it’s been a five-decade-long odyssey defined by the never-ending problems he sets for himself, conundrums that prevail in his new installations for the 2021 Venice Biennale Architettura, “How Will We Live Together?” (on view through November 21, 2021). With uncanny currency, Wexler’s solutions remain as profound and timeless today as they were in the 1970s, when he first daringly blurred the lines between architecture and fine art.

Joyce Beckenstein: Years ago, you realized that you shared your initials with Andy Warhol and declared it an “incredible coincidence.” You then aspired to be the Andy Warhol of architecture. Why?
Allan Wexler: I learned to be a “bad boy” during my years studying architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design, where Dirk Bach, an inspiring teacher of contemporary art, encouraged original thinking . . .

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