JULY 9 - AUGUST 5, 2015


Joe Shef­tel Gallery is pleased to present E.1027, a group exhi­bi­tion of work con­sid­er­ing Eileen Gray’s mod­ernist villa E.1027.

In 1926, Irish-born designer Eileen Gray, with the assis­tance of Jean Badovici, a Paris-based archi­tect and critic, began con­struc­tion on a sum­mer home on the French Rive­ria. Called E.1027, the house was to cement the couple’s rela­tion­ship, with an archi­tec­ture that responded to the site’s nat­ural beauty with clean lines and sim­plic­ity, cre­at­ing gen­er­ous vis­tas over the sea at its iso­lated loca­tion in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.

As a pio­neer of Mod­ernist archi­tec­ture, Gray had become close with Le Cor­busier. While she shared many ideas with the young Swiss-born archi­tect, she dis­agreed with him on one of his fun­da­men­tal con­ceits: that a house is a “machine for liv­ing.” Instead Gray believed that “[a house] is the shell of man — his exten­sion, his release, his spir­i­tual ema­na­tion. It is not a mat­ter of sim­ply con­struct­ing beau­ti­ful ensem­bles of lines,” adding, “for­mu­las are noth­ing!” E.1027 was Gray’s built proof that a house is, in her words, “above all, a dwelling for peo­ple.”

Through­out the 1920’s and 30’s Le Cor­busier was a fre­quent vis­i­tor at E.1027 and he remained friendly with its own­ers even after Gray and Badovici split in 1932. But it is said that he also har­bored strong feel­ings of pro­fes­sional jeal­ousy towards the thought­ful struc­ture the cou­ple had built for them­selves, of its effort­less sim­plic­ity, and of the way it so sen­si­tively inserted itself in the land­scape.

In 1938, while vis­it­ing, Le Cor­busier decided to grace E.1027’s pris­tine white walls with large-size murals, many of them depict­ing graphic sex­ual con­tent. Pho­tographs of that time show the archi­tect paint­ing them entirely in the nude. It is unknown whether this was an act of admi­ra­tion for the site or sim­ply of paintbrush-centric male hubris. Gray was report­edly dis­mayed by what she regarded as a des­e­cra­tion of the space she had built for her­self and Badovici. Per­haps, as many crit­ics sus­pect, it was his delib­er­ate act of vio­lence directed at her archi­tec­tural legacy.

Eileen Gray and Le Cor­busier epit­o­mize two dia­met­ri­cally opposed con­cepts of archi­tec­ture and space. While both prac­tices hinge on sim­plic­ity and purity, the latter’s rad­i­cal ideas of archi­tec­tural effi­ciency would later, through­out the 20th cen­tury, lead to many ill-conceived hous­ing projects the world over. The former’s more sen­si­tive approach— respond­ing to the needs of peo­ple, to that of nature, to the site, and to love— is the one that qui­etly but ulti­mately pre­vails.

E.1027 at Joe Shef­tel includes artists Gra­ham Collins, Denise Kupfer­schmidt, Sofia Leiby, Mike Pratt, Gary Stephan and Lily Stock­man.

Stephan and Stock­man respond directly to E.1027, with Stephan depict­ing Gray’s house and its walls and Stock­man look­ing at the flora and motifs present at the site. Pratt uses mate­ri­als that are rem­i­nis­cent of this archi­tec­ture and loca­tion. More gen­er­ally, Leiby explores objec­tive ver­sus sub­jec­tive line-making, counter-posing the for­mal con­straints of cur­sive let­ter stamps against those of hand­writ­ing sam­ples. Collins repur­poses found land­scape paint­ings, to sew new sub­ject mat­ter out of old paint­ings and Kupfer­schmidt reacts to the body and its spir­i­tual ema­na­tions.

For press inquiries and images, please con­tact the gallery at mail@joesheftelgallery.com.