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Artworks Engage Architecture at Virginia Tech’s Moss Arts Center

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Designed by the award-winning architectural firm Snøhetta, Virginia Tech’s Moss Art Center, which was named for artist and philanthropist Patricia Buckley Moss, contains a performance space, visual art galleries, an experimental venue dubbed The Cube, and an extensive space for research.
The Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech, designed by the Oslo-based firm Snøhetta, opened in October 2013.
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Odili Donald Odita, REM, 2011; acrylic on canvas, 50 by 60 inches. Collection of Valentino D. Carlotti.

The Moss Arts Center at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University just celebrated its one-year anniversary in October. Designed by the Norwegian firm Snøhetta, the 150,000-square-foot building has a distinct glass facade comprising numerous hexagonal panels, a recurring geometric motif that shaped the theme of “Evolving Geometries: Line, Form, and Color,” curated by Margo Crutchfield.

SCAD - Derrick Adams

The exhibition [September 25- November 20] features works that engage the building’s architecture by Patrick Wilson of Los Angeles, Odili Donald Odita of Philadelphia, and German-born, New York-based Manfred Mohr. (One could just as easily have selected examples by such female artists as Sarah Morris, Franziska Holstein, or Tomma Abts.)

Patrick Wilson, The Clown, 2012; acrylic on canvas, 72 by 67 inches. (Collection of Valentino D. Carlotti, Photo: Robert Wedemeyer)
Patrick Wilson, The Clown, 2012; acrylic on canvas, 72 by 67 inches. Collection of Valentino D. Carlotti. (Photo: Robert Wedemeyer)

Glimpses of Odita’s mural beckon from outside. The mural has two prominent, fairly symmetrical forms that could be two flowers, each trapezoidal petal composed of a patchwork of color. The opposing directionality of these colors between each petal suggests movement, as if each were a slowly rotating pinwheel. The overall pattern is suggestive of the traditional pinwheel motif in quiltmaking, but the exacting execution and sharp edges elegantly integrate with the architecture.

The intense, variegated palette of Wilson’s paintings draw visitors into the ground-floor gallery. His geometric shapes of choice are the square or rectangle, overlapping or side-by-side in each canvas. Many of his paintings read as trompe l’oeil renderings of modernist plastic shelving units, with areas receding and projecting to varying degrees. But the surfaces are meticulous compositions of color and line made with thin layers of acrylic paint.

A staircase ascends to a meditative arrangement of work by Manfred Mohr, the most seasoned artist of the group, who was a digital art pioneer as early as 1969. The converging lines and geometry of the stairs and the ceiling anticipate the digitally printed paintings and videos of morphing geometric compositions. The shapes moving around on the screens suggest shifting architectural floor plans or 3-D renderings.

Following the natural flow of the rooms, the space opens up again into a large, well-lit area, displaying several paintings on canvas by Odita. The dynamic combinations of geometric shapes in vivid colors and repeating patterns share an affinity with his mural. The space is long and wide with views on two sides overlooking the campus. The sharp horizontals in the vertical paintings echo the lines of the room, creating an engaging 360-degree landscape, with Odita’s paintings offering satisfying interruptions.

Caetlynn Booth is an artist and arts administrator living in New York. Recently, she was based in Berlin as both a Fulbright and DAAD fellow for a research and painting project focusing on the little-known German artist Adam Elsheimer. Originally from California, she earned her MFA at Rutgers University.  and had a studio in the North Bay for several years while she served as an administrator for the di Rosa Art collection before relocating to the East Coast. 
Manfred Mohr, Screen still from P1411-I, from “Resonance” series, 2010-2014; LCD screen, Mac mini, custom software,18 by 14 by 4 inches. (Courtesy of bitforms gallery, New York City)
Manfred Mohr, Screen still from P1411-I, from “Resonance” series, 2010-2014; LCD screen, Mac mini, custom software,18 by 14 by 4 inches.