Trained as both an architect and a sculptor, Beirut-based artist Rayyane Tabet (b. 1983) investigates peculiarities of the built environment through multifaceted installations that play with the perception of physical and temporal distance. Weaving together personal stories with official accounts, Tabet’s work often provides another lens with which to view the past as well as its unexpected connections to the present.
For his first commission at a US museum, Tabet is creating a new installation focused on the intersections of architecture, design, and technology. His research began with a site visit to a former IBM facility in Rochester, Minnesota. Designed in the 1950s by architect Eero Saarinen, the building was emblematic of the midcentury shift from industrial to postindustrial labor in the United States. From there, the artist unraveled a web of curious connections that includes Saarinen, architect Edward Larrabee Barnes (who designed the Walker’s 1971 building), and designers Paul Rand and Charles and Ray Eames.
Informed by this research, Rayyane Tabet: Deep Blues features a new multipart sculptural, light, and sound installation in which the gallery, bathed in blue light, cycles through the 10 shades of IBM’s corporate color spectrum. Decommissioned IBM Eames chairs are suspended from the ceiling in a kind of memory theater. A sound piece, performed by an artificial intelligence trained to read a script, mirrors the modulations of the artist’s voice.
The exhibition also expands beyond the space of the gallery via a site-specific architectural intervention in the Walker’s public spaces. In an echo of the famous two-toned blue IBM Rochester building, Tabet has transformed the Walker’s 60-foot-long glass curtain wall into a transparent blue landscape—superimposing Saarinen’s patterned design onto the museum’s facade. Through both environments, Tabet creates a probing space that blurs the boundaries between dematerialization, identity, and objecthood.
Victoria Sung, associate curator, Visual Arts; with William Hernández Luege, curatorial fellow, Visual Arts.