View Finder by Chandler Ahrens is a faceted, gem-like installation inspired by 17th century catoptric viewing boxes that used mirrors and reflection to form images. This interactive work at the 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis celebrates the city’s streetscape and historic buildings, combining art and architecture with active observation and distortion of perception. Looking into View Finder, a series of kaleidoscopic, reflective tubes highlight a selection of views of the surrounding environment, fracturing and flipping the imagery in a collaged tableau. Blurs of traffic are perceived alongside nearby architectural elements, and pedestrians on the sidewalk are inverted, appearing to walk in and out of the sky. Visitors are at once viewers and participants in the interactions within the surrounding environment amplified in the artwork.
21c Chief Curator Alice Stites invited Laumeier Sculpture Park, working with Via Partnership, to commission a work by a St. Louis-based artist for the outdoor patio of the new 21c Museum Hotel, a boutique hotel that includes a contemporary art museum open to the public. With Laumeier staff, we researched artists for the project and identified three finalists with whom we worked to develop concepts for the artwork. The selected work, View Finder, by Chandler Ahrens, was unveiled at the museum opening in July 2023.
Ahrens’ inversion and distortion of the architecture, activity, and views surrounding 21c Museum Hotel St. Louis offers a reminder of how human visual perception functions: our eyes take in the world upside down, but the brain reverses that perception so that we see the world right-side up.