jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons

jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons

the architect’s birdhouses by jason sargenti at phx gallery 

 

The PHX Gallery in Chicago has launched The Architect’s Birdhouses, an exhibition by NYC-based artist and architect Jason Sargenti. Composed of eight whimsical birdhouses, the project is a totemic embodiment of architecture, design, and pop culture icons (such as Beetlejuice, Philip Johnson’s AT&T building, Hans Hollein’s brass palm trees, and Memphis’s Flamingo side-table). Sargenti created these birdhouses during the restrictive COVID-19 quarantines in 2020 using only available materials. ‘The motivation for making these birdhouses came from a desire to provide some contrast in my surroundings. Initially, I would purchase ugly birdhouses and renovate them. […]The proceeding iterations, made during quarantine, were less for distribution to a hostile community and more to maintain my own sanity. The resulting constructions are fantasies, speculations, and inspiration that continue a discourse in speculative design,’ he shares. 

jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons
exhibition view of The Architect’s Birdhouses | all images courtesy PHX Gallery

 

 

from beetlejuice to memphis group: explore all eight models 

 

The first prototype displayed for The Architect’s Birdhouses exhibition at the PHX Gallery is The Manhattan Birdhouse. Inspired by Philip Johnson’s AT&T building in NYC, this model replicates a tall, 41cm building facade protruding off a more traditional birdhouse back. The facade stands on the birdhouse like a single-faced Hollywood movie decor. Painted pink with blue-grey stencil, the avian AT&T building stands high, straight, slender, and cool in a Mendini-esque pink with blue windows.

 

Next up is The Patrick Birdhouse, an homage to the life-size brass palm trees of the Austrian Travel Agency headquarters in Austria (completed 1978, demolished 1987) designed by Hans Hollein, whose metallic gold palm trees are a radical design element that became a flag-like sign in design language, like an emoji. The bright lilac body of this birdhouse with its arched top stands behind two painted sand-paper columns acting as trunks for the brassy, generous palms handmade by Jason Sargenti (see more here). Shiny silver rings adorn the columns, topped with teal rectangles underneath the palms, resembling massive art-deco flower pots. 

jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons
The Manhattan Birdhouse | large carved birdhouse,  painted pink with grey stencil, 16” x 6-1/2” x 5

 

 

The Vermonter Birdhouse, meanwhile, pays tribute to movie director Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice. This design is Sargenti’s mind-image of the house where the movie takes place — a house famous for being decorated with unafraid Pomo taste, boasting radical design classics paired with outrageous aggressive sculptures that are now icons of pop culture and design. The sets of the movie were designed by Bo Welch. The movie’s house borrows from Stanley Tigerman, Robert Venturi, and Frank Gehry’s early architectural works, symbolizing the new, outrageous money of bourgeois Bohème New Yorkers moving to the country to disfigure the local traditional homes into avant-garde facades perceived as intrusive, cold and lifeless by the locals and people in general. Sargenti was inspired by the parody of the wealthy real estate rush in his native Vermont state, where new money levels the local landscape like a bulldozer. 

jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons
The Manhattan Birdhouse

 

 

Coming in fourth is The Flamingo Birdhouse, a brilliant re-interpretation of the landmark Memphis Group Flamingo side table designed by Michele de Lucchi. This iconic furniture piece has been entirely remodeled by Jason Sargenti, who made it stand like a Z-shaped Flamingo silhouette. All the original elements of the Memphis Flamingo side table are there but re-arranged like a puzzle into a flamingo, a renewal of the radical design tradition.

 

Beyond architecture and design, Sargenti’s inspiration also alludes to music, as seen in The Temperance Birdhouse, inspired by a flyer from the mythical dance club The Haçienda in Manchester, UK, run by the cult label Factory Records. An unusual format among the series, this model reveals a cross chopped off of a caution sign is painted in staggering yellow and black oblique stripes; the architect tilted the caution sign into a Christian cross with three perches on the facade. The resulting composition calls for the Trinity in Christianity: the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead.

jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons
The Patrick Birdhouse | subtle geometric pattern, painted wood, sand paper & metal highlights, 8” x 5 3/4” x 6”

 

 

The Damrack Birdhouse is a whimsical temple to songbirds in a Studio Alchimia-esque blue painted on sandpaper. In the vein of the Memphis Group and Studio Alchimia’s asymmetrical furniture structures, the temple is fronted by two columns made of a multicolor combination of cylinders, cubes, and spheres in harmonious imbalance. The temple columns support a pediment in the style of Italian Carrara marble, evoking Italian design’s past and present.

 

Inspired by the opulence of the Galleria Mall in Georgia in 1987, The Atlanta Birdhouse is a massive green, marbleized pedestal resembling stone and supporting a golden egg on a golden topper. The golden egg symbolizes fertility as an offering on the top of an Inca temple painted in dollar-green. Like Ettore Sottsass, this birdhouse takes its massive presence from ancient and sacred stone structures.

jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons
The Patrick Birdhouse

 

 

Last, the Laura Birdhouse unfolds as a sphere with a large, Wesselman-esque geometric relief of three wide overlapping stripes painted in beige, grey, and burgundy brown. Unlike other birdhouses in this exhibition, the Laura features two bird-doors, suggesting a type of cohabitation or implying a high-traffic home with an entry and exit door. All birdhouses on display are handmade architectural birdhouses, hand-signed by Jason Sargenti and dated (USA 2020). The exhibition at PHX Gallery is running until September 13, 2023; you can book your visit by appointment here

jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons
The Laura Birdhouse | a birdhouse and a large Wesselman-esque geometric relief, 9” x 5-3/4” x 6”

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The Laura Birdhouse

jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons
The Damrack Birdhouse | a birdhouse & various shapes coated in playful color & marbleizing, 9” x 5-3/4” x 6”

jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons
The Flamingo Birdhouse | made of inpainted sandpaper & somber pattern painted wood, 8” x 5” x 6”

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The Vermonter Birdhouse | made of a birdhouse and painted wood, 8” x 5 3/4” x 6”

jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons
The Vermonter Birdhouse

jason sargenti's whimsical birdhouses at PHX gallery pay tribute to pop culture icons
The Temperance Birdhouse | a bbirdhouse & caution sign with red bollard perch, 8” x 15” x 4”

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The Atlanta Birdhouse | a green marbleized birdhouse & plinth with gilt egg cup & chicken egg toper, 14” x 6” x 1/4”

 

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exhibition info:

 

name: The Architect’s Birdhouses

location: PHX Gallery | @phx_gallery, Chicago  

architect: Jason Sargenti 

running dates: Augst 31 – September 13, 2023 

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