David Hartt, Carolina I, 2017, archival pigment print mounted to Dibond, print size 36 x 54 inches. Courtesy of Corbett vs. Dempsey and commissioned by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts

Borrowing its title from a chapter of Claude Lévi-Strauss’ 1955 memoir Tristes Tropiques, this multi-part installation by artist David Hartt.continues Hartt’s investigation into the relationship between ideology, architecture, and the environment by revisiting architect Moshe Safdie’s unfinished 1968 Habitat Puerto Rico project.

Begun just one year after the resounding success of Safdie’s visionary design for Habitat 67 in Montreal—a model housing development created for the Expo 67 World’s Fair—Habitat Puerto Rico was an experimental housing development designed to provide 800 low-cost dwelling units for moderate-income families in a system of stacked prefabricated concrete modules cascading down an undeveloped hill in the densely populated Hato Rey neighborhood of San Juan. The project was originally intended to occupy the Bosque Urbano de San Patricio, the former site of U.S. Navy housing, and now an overgrown tropical forest used as an urban park. Consistent with Safdie’s approach to other Habitat developments, Habitat Puerto Rico was designed to provide inhabitants with a sense of community, privacy, and access to green space, where each unit had a private garden and views of the city.

Nearly fifty years after it was initiated, David Hartt returns to the original sites of Habitat Puerto Rico where parts of the unfinished project still remain. Central to the exhibition is a meditative film that captures the remains of Safdie’s project. Featuring long takes of the weathered modules surrounded by the encroaching jungle, and environmental recordings layered with a composition by electronic musician Karl Fousek, Hartt’s piece offers a study of this unrealized experimental project—and the optimism from which it was conceived—recontextualized within the political and economic struggles of contemporary Puerto Rico.

in the forest will occupy the first and second floors of the Graham Foundation galleries and its outdoor courtyard. Through film, photographs, sculpture, tropical plants, ambient sound, and hexagonal ceramic objects that serve as both planters and seats, Hartt crafts an environment for contemplation of the Habitat project.

David Hartt (b. 1967, Montréal) lives and works in Philadelphia where he is Assistant Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at The Art Institute of Chicago; LAXART, Los Angeles; and Or Gallery, Vancouver. His work is in the public collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; The Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Hartt is represented by Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago; David Nolan Gallery, New York; and Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin.


Graham Foundation
for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts
Madlener House, 4 West Burton Place
Chicago, IL 60610 | U.S.A.