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Collaboration -- the you-write-the-words-and-I'll-do-the-music alliance between art and architecture -- usually has less harmony than its lyrical counterpart.

Works of sculpture or paintings, which try to add melody to the scrip of the streets afterm the fact of a building, work as discordantly in the environmental arts as they would in the musical ones.

The inevitable Calder stabiles stastioned beneath so many slick structures become little more than jungle gyms, toy concessions for the art crowd. The yellow form dropped before, say, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank Building as part of the half-a-percent-of-a-building-cost-for-art program, looks like that stilted structure simply laid an egg.

Even Chicago's famous Picasso fails to humanize the plaza it adorns; it performs best in photographs where the camera makes the high-rise architecture dwindle in favor of the sculpture.

No wonder, then, that one designer declared that "labor" was the operative word in the title of an exhibition of art and architecture called "Collaboration ," now making the rounds of the US.

The traveling show, which finishes the first of 13 stops in New York June 7, called on 11 teams of artists and architects to create joint works in honor of the contennial of the New York Architectural League.

Born in an era when the "American Renaissance" tried to re-create a namesake era, the Architectural League sought to knot all the arts and crafts in the rich tapestey of a single building. The noble goal and the architectural teamwork subsided in the early 20th century and seemed extinct in its second half.

Securing the alliance anew for the "Collaboration" show was more part frustration than exhilaration: less inspiring than exasperating.


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