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‘The Human Drift’ is a must-see

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Internationally renowned architect Bart Prince, sculptor and political activist Steve Barry, gallery owner, general contractor and artist Sheri Crider and artist Nina Dubois have assembled “The Human Drift,” a breathtaking knock-your-socks-out-of-your-Sunday-morning-shoes installation at SCA Contemporary. The multimedia show runs through April 10.

The show’s title was derived from an 1894 book by the same name written by King Camp Gillette, who questioned the wisdom of achieving personal material wealth at the expense of everything and everybody else. All four artists in this exhibition are environmentally conscious and have a reverence for the landscape, materials, space and light.

Prince is an architect’s architect who approaches each project as a unique opportunity to challenge his imagination, his ability to fulfill his client’s needs and to further his understanding of construction materials. Hence, no two Prince-designed buildings are alike.

This collection of Prince’s drawings and architectural models is a treasure trove of ideas and is a truly once-in-a-lifetime chance for the art-loving public to gain insight into the inner workings of one of the world’s most innovative architects.

Though Prince would like to build monumental public buildings, his niche has been found in designing homes and work places for individuals. With no restrictions beyond local building codes, home and office designs allow Prince a free rein to gallop across the prairie of his imagination.

The results are gorgeous living structures inspired by the biological and botanical architectonics of sea creatures, insects, plant forms and seed pods, as well as historic architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright and Bruce Goff, who both embraced the surrounding landscape as an element in their final designs.

Several years ago, I visited the Prince-designed Christopher Meade and Michele Penhall residence in a quiet suburban Albuquerque neighborhood. Though it is radically different than any other house in the area I drove right past, on my way back I was awestruck by the stunning complexity of the imposing metal-sided structure that is setback just far enough to remain anonymous to casual passersby.

Prince designs his structures according to the individual needs of the client, which means that each concept grows from the inside out. The final building is a reflection of how it is being used by the owner and is meant to fit into its location.

Meade is an architectural critic, author and art historian while Penhall is a photographer, curator and author. The interior is perfectly rendered to house a very nice art collection, office space, a library and comfortable, beautifully lit living quarters.

Surprisingly, the Meade/Penhall residence is dwarfed by most of the other projects in the exhibit. This show’s a true jaw-dropper, folks.

Barry is one of the most interesting sculptors in Albuquerque, and before he retired was an uber-popular studio arts professor at the University of New Mexico.

His main piece in the show celebrates the lotus blossom as it relates to the Buddhist philosophy of spiritual perfection and nonviolence. Each lotus pedal rendered in clear plastic can be removed and carried as a shield.

Though the piece is accompanied by photographs of people carrying the petals across the landscape and reforming the lotus blossom in the Rio Grande, the work contains an element of political protest.

Those same petal/shields could be used to fend off rubber bullets, rocks or bottles during a protest march. A short video describes the work’s political implications.

Crider and Dubois worked as a team called T. Fitzallan to create an ambitiously fluid structure that is at once architecture and landscape feature. The piece, constructed from discarded hollow-core apartment building doors, fills an entire corner of the gallery. Though it could be compared to one of Antonio Gaudi’s Barcelona buildings, the piece is a reflection of Southwestern rocky mesas and an organic approach to architectural design.

Did I mention the dozen or so Prince drawings, some of which are in living color? Don’t miss this one.

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