Inbox: Clorindo Testa

Nov 20, 2016–Jan 3, 2017


Installation view of Inbox: Clorindo Testa at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Shown: Clorindo Testa. Habitar, Circular, Trabajar, Recrearse. 1974. Enamel on fiber board. Gift of Andres von Buch, Claudia Quentin, Andrea Woodner, and Committee on Architecture and Design Funds. © 2016 Clorindo Testa. Courtesy of the Estate of Clorindo Testa. Photo: John Wronn
  • MoMA, Floor 2, Marron Atrium The Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium

This mosaic of more than 100 panels imagines the daily life of a resident of Buenos Aires. In 1952, the Argentine architect Clorindo Testa participated in a government study that sought to implement modernist urban planning techniques in a working-class area known as the Avellaneda District. Inspired by a functionalist code for city building called the Athens Charter (1933), put forth by the influential Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM), the new plan proposed separating the district into four basic functions: living, circulation (transportation), work, and recreation. Twenty-two years later, Testa returned to the project, reimagining the life of a boy he had met and drawn playing on the city streets. The first three panels, made during the study, document the existing urban conditions. The following panels, made in 1974, show the boy, now grown-up, inhabiting an overcrowded Buenos Aires that has suffered successive modernizing efforts. Broad, gestural strokes, referencing street art or graffiti, combine plan and elevation views in nearly life-size images that follow the sequence of his day: at rest, rising to bathe and eat, commuting aboard a crowded bus, returning home in the evening to his living room and television. These spaces are compact and oppressive, illustrating how the problems that the Athens Charter sought to eradicate, and potentially aggravated, remained in place in the contemporary city. The commanding scale of the mural coupled with its intimate portrait of ordinary life powerfully critique modernism’s functional city, while the juxtaposition of presentation styles highlights Testa’s background as both an architect and a painter.

Organized by the Department of Architecture and Design.

  • This installation is part of Inbox.
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