Pritzker Prize winning architect, Richard Meier is known for his international body of work, acclaimed for its timeless, classical, iconic design. The Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, Rome’s Jubilee Church, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Hans Arp Museum in Germany are to name just a few.
Throughout his career Meier has contributed consistently to another important portfolio: the creation of his own artwork.
Richard Meier began experimenting with collage in the early 1950’s, during his undergraduate years at Cornell University. In addition to architecture, he studied art history and painting under Alan Solomon and John Hartell, respectively. Every avenue of Meier’s exploration introduced new and noteworthy collage materials and as his collection grew, so too did his body of work.
In New York in 1961, Richard Meier was hired by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, where he worked under Gordon Bunshaft on the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Bunshaft purchased two of Meier’s early collages, becoming one of his first collectors.
For a short period of time, Meier shared Frank Stella’s West Broadway studio space along with the sculptor, Carl Andre and the photographer Hollis Frampton. Predictably, the studio space proved to be too small for all four artists. Shortly thereafter, Meier met Michael Graves, a fellow architect who also happened to be painting in his spare time. In the summer of 1962, the two rented studio space in the Tananger Gallery on East 10th Street, from the painter Philip Pearlstein.
In 1962, 10th Street, particularly between 3rd and 4th Avenues, personified the downtown art scene in New York. The 10th Street Galleries had been operational for a decade and boasted impressive membership rosters that included Margaret Bartlett, Elaine de Kooning, Willem de Kooning, Al Held, Wolf Kahn, Alex Katz, George Segal and Tom Wesselman. Willem de Kooning’s studio happened to be two doors away from the Graves/Meier studio and one day de Kooning surprised the two artists by walking in un-announced. De Kooning took a look at the work on the walls and, according to Meier, he stalked out without a word. It was on that afternoon that Meier decided he could not succeed as both an architect and a painter. Concentration on architecture, his primary interest, was required. Meier walked away from painting at that time (though he has since returned to it) and a dozen years would pass before he returned to the subject of collage.
Over the years, Richard Meier’s artistic practice has expanded in parallel with his architectural practice. In 1992, Frank Stella introduced Meier to sculpture which resulted in the creation of a dramatic suite of cast, stainless steel works, many of which are on view in the neighboring Model Museum and all of which were inspired by the architectural models that are, in fact, their predecessors. Meier’s collection of sleek, sophisticated designs is equally impressive and includes, among others, furniture for Stow Davis and Knoll International, a wristwatch for Pierre Junod and a grand piano for Rud Ibach Sohn.
Meier’s collages, however, have always been at the forefront of his artistic practice, perhaps because they both record and illustrate his historical thought process. Each collage tells a story or at least, a portion of one. There is magical mystery in Meier’s collage work which, like his architecture, continually explores spatial and social relationships. The compositions are contemplative and they echo one of Meier’s defining principles: Connect the present with the past; the tangible with the intangible.