Justin Beal Discusses the Life and Impact of Architect Minoru Yamasaki

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Minoru Yamasaki and assistant with model of World Trade Center. c. 1969 Balthazar Korab, photographer (courtesy of the Library of Congress).

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., the Parrish Art Museum presents an illustrated talk by artist/author Jason Beal on “Sandfuture” (MIT Press, September 2021), his forthcoming publication about the life of World Trade Center architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912–1986), followed by a book signing. The program, on Friday, September 10, takes place from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Lichtenstein Theater and will be introduced by Parrish Art Museum Director Kelly Taxter.

“Sandfuture” presents a thorough portrait of Yamasaki, who remains on the margins of history despite the enormous influence of his work on American architecture and society. From the central thread of Yamasaki’s life, the book spirals outward to include reflections on a wide range of subjects: the perils of sick buildings, transformations in the contemporary art market, the figure of the architect in literature and film, and the broader social and political implications of how — and for whom — cities are built. But the book is also about Beal, an artist who is interrogating art and architecture’s role in culture after the drastic changes in New York following a decade bracketed by terrorism and natural disaster.

Minoru Yamasaki (undated). Photograph: John Peter Associates, courtesy Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University.

The son of Japanese immigrants in Seattle, Minoru Yamasaki overcame endemic racism in both his country and his profession to rise to prominence with a humanistic approach to modern architecture — an unorthodox style exemplified by projects including the McGregor Memorial Conference Center, the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, and the Dhahran Airfield in Saudi Arabia. In 1963, Yamasaki appeared on the cover of Time magazine, but the critical rebuke of the World Trade Center and the spectacular demise of the Pruitt-Igoe apartments in St. Louis pushed him to the margins of the profession in the latter half of his career. Today, Yamasaki remains largely unknown despite his enormous influence on the history of American architecture and the astonishing coincidence that his two best-known projects were both destroyed on live television.

Beal is an artist with an extensive exhibition history in the United States and Europe. He graduated from Yale University with a degree in architecture and design and continued his studies at the Whitney Independent Study Program and the University of Southern California. His work has been reviewed in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Artforum, Frieze, Art in America, Interview, and the Los Angeles Times and is included in the permanent collections of the Albright Knox Museum, the Hammer Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. Beal currently teaches at Hunter College.

Beal’s program at the Parrish coincides with the opening of Joel Meyerowitz “AFTERMATH: Images from 9/11” — deeply moving photographs drawn from his extensive archive that documents the devastation of the World Trade Center. The exhibition features 40 exclusive images by Meyerowitz — the sole photographer given unimpeded access to the site in the wake of the tragedy. Attendees at Beal’s talk and book signing will have a first look at the exhibition, which will be on view at the museum from September 10 to November 7.

All tickets for the September 10 event are sold pre-event and online only at parrishart.org. No tickets will be sold at the door. The talk will also be livestreamed. Medical grade masks are to be worn by all guests inside of the museum. Masks will be provided to anyone who needs one. The Parrish Art Museum is at 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill.

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