Since the 1990s, Andrea Zittel has endeavored to better comprehend and process the human experience by imposing structure and order on her daily life and lived environment. According to the artist, implementing specific limitations—such as wearing a single outfit for six months (as she did with her Six Month Uniforms, 1991-93) or confining living quarters to small modular spaces (as in her A-Z Comfort Units and A-Z Wagon Stations)—can bring one closer to liberation and lend a sense of purpose. Her works have often centered on the exploration of vertical and horizontal planes, and, more specifically, their intersections. Zittel believes that these intersections—encountered daily at almost every moment, on city streets, at morning coffee counters, in home and work environments—are the vital sites at which life takes place.
Zittel’s latest, ongoing body of work consists of sculptural furniture pieces designed in a number of models, called Planar Configurations, that make use of expansive flat surfaces and dramatic right angles. The works evoke Donald Judd’s furniture in their minimal, architectonic shapes and De Stijl in their restricted color palette (though here the colors are deep sky blue, mustard yellow, salmon pink, gray, and black). Zittel’s recent exhibition at Regen Projects (all works 2017) focused on three Planar Configurations and included multiple examples of each. Planar Configuration Two comprises a simple, open cubicle with extended walls, while Planar Configuration Three provides more privacy by way of a mostly enclosed cubicle. Planar Configuration Four is the largest model, with higher walls and extra extensions. In the polished gallery setting, the commanding structures were evocative of chic office spaces or perhaps cozy nooks in a high-design hotel lobby. Fabricated to be displayed and used either indoors or out-, the pieces are modular in design, and, as with many of Zittel’s projects, an aura of Bauhaus utopianism lingers about them. Mattresses, blankets, pillows, and wool rugs in some of the cubbies lend warmth and usability to the constructions, which are made of powder-coated steel and aluminum. Two woven wool tapestries on view feature patterns whose angles and color fields echo those of the furniture pieces.
The gallery presentation was just one portion of the two-part exhibition; the other consisted of a new permanent installation, Planar Pavilions at A-Z West (2017), that comprises ten black cement-block structures dotting the landscape of A-Z West, Zittel’s fifty-plus-acre desert property in Joshua Tree. Since 2000, Zittel has lived and worked at A-Z West, which contains an art studio, a dedicated weaving space, encampments, and more. She hosts artist residencies on the property and opens it to the public a few times a year so that visitors may draw inspiration from the merging of landscape, art, and architecture and the sense of community.
At the gallery, sections of the New York Times and Los Angeles Times from the week of the exhibition’s opening were placed on the beds in a few of the furniture pieces. Meant to signal that the spaces are indeed habitable, the papers, with their dire headlines, also inadvertently reminded the viewer of how far from utopia we truly are. To achieve peace and order, we, like Zittel (and many artists before her), may just have to find our own patch of property far out in the desert. In the meantime, the tucked-away spaces of her furniture can provide at least temporary respite.