James Casebere’s Solo Pavilion for Two or Three, an imposing new work by the photographer and installation artist, will be unveiled at PS21 on May 30, in conjunction with Upstate Diary’s Art Trek ’21, the magazine’s annual curated tour of noteworthy art happenings in the region. PS21 is one of thirty participants in this year’s edition, which also includes Art Omi, the sculpture and architecture park and gallery in nearby Ghent. The installation also heralds the opening of Pathways, our annual pas de deux between nature and the arts.
Earlier this month, Casebere was in Chatham to select the site for Solo Pavilion and oversee its placement on a hill overlooking the theater. The artist, who now lives and works in Canaan, NY, guided the handlers from Func Art Design as they lowered the lustrous cherrywood-hued structure, an enticing mazelike prism, onto its base a short distance from the trail that crosses the meadow.
With Solo Pavilion for Two or Three Casebere extends the interrogation of the constructed environment that he began in 1975. Like his earlier works, it is rich in ambivalence: luminous yet portentous, offering protection but open, exposed to the elements while shielding its occupants. To Casebere, the result is “a playful atmosphere . . . an expression of the indomitable human spirit.” In a recent conversation about his 2020 exhibition On the Water’s Edge, he observed, “The best architects have always built for the poor and less privileged and I would love to collaborate with others to get things built for the more vulnerable around the globe.”
Witnessing the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 marked a turning point for Casebere’s art. Inspired by courageous people undaunted “by a life spinning out of balance,” he started to think about “designing structures as sanctuary for people at risk of displacement—temporary shelters that are a bit like hostels . . . pavilions of peace, where every refugee can find refuge.”