Artist Daniel Arsham and architect Alex Mustonen combine their talents as Snarkitecture, a collective that has realized interdisciplinary projects spanning monumental public sculptures in honor of Miami’s demolished Orange Bowl and a collaboration with choreographer Jonah Bokaer.
Their pop-up for fashion label Richard Chai was built through excavation rather than construction, a technique that has become a Snarkitecture trademark. They filled the entire available space with architectural foam and carved out an enchanting, cave-like structure by hand. “Much of the work plays with architecture and causes it to act in ways that it shouldn’t,” Arsham says. “In some ways, my role is to propose these scenarios, and Alex can often find ways to realize them or expand on them.”
The team met while studying at Cooper Union—Arsham studying art, Mustonen architecture—and each also has a successful career in his respective field (Arsham is represented by Emmanuel Perrotin, has recently shown at OHWOW and Art Basel and created set designs for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company). The collaboration stems from a mutual respect for and admiration of each others’ specialties: “I studied architecture in high school and failed drafting,” says Arsham, the formally trained artist. “I studied art in high school. I was never very good though,” says Mustonen, the architect.
Snarkitecture’s first solo show opens next month at Volume Gallery in Chicago, featuring some of the collective’s classic pieces like the Cast Light—a single bulb cast in solid white gypsum cement with light shining through its cracks and holes—as well as objects in rich materials like marble sculpted to look like liquid.
Shelve, commissioned by Grey Area, is an all-white custom display made of lacquered wood, fiberglass, and EPS, offering a smooth, rectangular shelving surface with a textured, inverted landscape looming below. Shelve derives from Snarkitecture’s Slab Table, also featured on Grey Area. “It has its foundation in the idea of casting a functional object in the ground," Arsham says, “as if you dug a hole in the ground, poured cement into it, and the top of that level plane became a table.” “It’s called Shelve, Mustonen adds, “which, aside from a shelf for putting something on, is also an overhang or outcrop. They have that architectural relationship to the wall’s mass, somehow extruded or pulled from the wall. The idea is that they create a seamless relationship.”