The exhibition explores the fundamental role of drawing in the work of Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001), one of the most important avant-garde composers of the late twentieth century. Originally trained as an engineer in his native Greece, he also worked as an architect – notably in Le Corbusier’s atelier, where he contributed to the designs of several iconic buildings, including La Tourette and the Philips Pavilion.
Drawing was central to Xenakis’ working method as a designer of sound and space, and the meticulously hand-rendered scores and graphic studies, both architectural and musical, on view in the exhibition express a spatial understanding of the page as much as they do a palpable sonic quality. These innovative drawings reveal a radical visualization of sound and give insight into this extraordinary innovator’s process of “thinking through the hand.”
The exhibition is thematically organized into musical compositions in one space and “polytopes”, or musically-conceived environments, in another. The majority of this material comes from the Iannis Xenakis Archives at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and from the personal archives of his widow, the French novelist Françoise Xenakis. This is the first North American exhibition to explore the role of drawing in Xenakis’s work and much of this material has not been seen before.
The musical documents on view are evidence of one of Xenakis’s signature innovations, which was to integrate advanced contemporary mathematics as a compositional tool. In particular, he crafted “stochastic” or apparently random instrumental works developed using probability theory and characterized by “sound masses”, and pioneered the genres of computer and electro-acoustic music.
“Polytopes” are designed environments in which lighting, colour, and architecture overlap (from the Greek words poly meaning many and topos meaning place). The Polytope de Montréal, designed for the central space of the French pavilion at Expo 67, is one of Xenakis’s best known works of this type. Le Diatope (1978) is a more complex iteration of this work. Replacing the floor with glass and using 1600 flashbulbs and four lasers guided by four hundred adjustable mirrors, Le Diatope was a synthetic experience of light and sound in a pavilion outside the Centre Pompidou in Paris.
Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary is curated by Sharon Kanach and Carey Lovelace. The exhibition, which opened on 14 January 2010 at The Drawing Center in New York, will be on display in Montréal between 17 June and 17 October 2010 before its presentation at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA) from 7 November 2010 to 30 January 2011.
The following events are presented at the CCA in conjunction with this exhibition:
Sharon Kanach and Carey Lovelace
17 June, 7 pm
NEM: Anaktoria and Charisma X
Performance and Film Screening
15 July 2010, 7 pm
Orient-Occident and Something Rich and Strange
12 August 2010, 7 pm
Sixtrum: De rythme et de timbre
2 September 2010, 7 pm
Transmission: It’s All Xenakis
23 September 2010, 7 pm
30 September 2010, 7 pm
Eric Lewis with Myra Melford, Stefan Smulovitz, and Lori Freedman: Improvisations
Discussion and Performance
14 October 2010, 7 pm
12, 19 September; 3, 17, 24 October 2010
Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary is organised by The Drawing Center, New York and made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, The Grand Marnier Foundation and an anonymous donor.
This exhibition has been produced with the exceptional cooperation of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.