Archive for July, 2016

Exhibitions | Drawing the Great American Automobile

Friday, July 29th, 2016

Cadillac Eldorado Proposal,
Wayne Kady, c 1970

Magic marker, watercolour,
gouache, and graphite
pencil on paper




Future Retro:
Drawings from the Great Age
of American Automobiles
Redwood Library and Athenæum
Newport | Rhode Island | USA
> 30 October 2016



Convertible Admired by
Tennis-Playing Couple,
Robert Hubbach, 1962
Gouache/graphite
on illustration board



In the jet-set era of the 1950s post-war American car designers looked to the skies for inspiration. With fins borrowed from jet aircraft, the previously mundane family car was transformed into a dynamic, futuristic vision that looked as if it might literally, take off. It was the beginning of what became known as the ‘Great Age’ of American automotive design, which would extend into the 1970s. But, as the functional byproduct of the car design process, the vast bulk of designers’ drawings, considered as non-art at the time, were routinely discarded. Not all of them met this sad fate, however.

From concept car projects to production car illustrations, from sketches of exterior ornaments to interior styling proposals, each produced using various combinations of materials that include magic markers, watercolour and gouache paint, and graphite pencil, Future Retro: Drawings from the Great Age of American Automobiles at the Redwood Library, is presenting 53 items rescued from the bonfire by enthusiasts and collectors, Jean S and Frederic A Sharf, that now form part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s holdings.

Along their drawings, the majority of the designers, would also vanish or fade into obscurity, but a few, such as the highly-influential Carl Renner, would achieve lasting fame – not least amongst designers – most especially for his rendering on which the much-admired Corvette grille was based. Renner had worked as a cartoon animator at Walt Disney’s design before joining General Motors. From 1950 to 1955 he would play a very significant role in the design of all 1952 to 1957 Chevrolet models.

GM Convertible Proposal,
Carl Renner, 1946
Coloured pencil, gouache
on black paper



GM Buick Interior Proposal,
Electra, with Girl,
Carl Moravick, c 1970
Coloured pencil on tracing paper



Chrysler Front End Proposal
– Red Sedan,
Robert S Ackermann, 1971
Magic marker and ink on paper



Rear End Dodge
Charger Proposal,
Model Year 1969,
Harvey J Winn, 1965
Magic marker on board



Of the early ‘Great Age’ cars, the 1955 Ford Thunderbird had a wrap around windscreen and the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air sported bombsight ornamental details, but after 1959, styling was refocused to emphasise the ‘muscular’ aspects of speed and sheer engine size – one model of the Charger, for example, had a 7.2 litre capacity. And, as the Space Race quickened, culminating in the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing, designers shifted their sights to the stars, drawing  new inspiration from the prospect of interplanetary space travel. Emblematic of this era, Wayne Kady’s circa 1970 Cadillac Eldorado Proposal sketch included in the exhibition is a sleekly contoured manifestation of high-performance combined with the sinister detachment of a spaceship. By contrast, Robert Hubbach’s Convertible Admired by Tennis-Playing Couple, has a softer, romantic edge. Somewhat more suggestive, Carl Moravick’s erotically-charged GM Buick Interior Proposal, Electra, with Girl from around 1970, indicative of society’s changing moral attitudes, places the viewer in direct eye contact with a sexily dressed young woman perched in a wildly patterned car interior. Both designs, along with the other selections shown here, can be seen at the Redwood.

Future Retro: Drawings from the Great Age of American Automobiles at the Redwood Library is mounted in tandem with Newport’s Audrain Automobile Museum, which is concurrently presenting Classic & Fantastic: Automobiles 1945 > 1965, until 16 October, 2016, featuring production cars in addition to concept cars, and including a Batmobile.

All  images from the Sharf Collection at the MFA, Boston, courtesy Redwood Library & Athenaeum


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Exhibitions | Visions of Architectopia

Friday, July 22nd, 2016

Archigram (Ron Herron),
Instant City – Local parts, 1970
© Deutsches Architekturmuseum




Constant – New Babylon
Gemeentemuseum den Haag
The Hague | The Netherlands
> 25 September 2016

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Superstudio 50
MAXXI Museum
Rome | Italy
> 4 September 2016

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Yesterday’s Future
Visionary designs by Future Systems and Archigram
Deutsches Architekturmuseum / DAM
Frankfurt am Main | Germany
> 18 September 2016

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Frederick Kiesler. Life Visions
Museum für angewandte Kunst / MAK
Vienna | Austria
> 2 October 2016




Frederick Kiesler,
View of the Raumstadt (City in Space), 1925,
Exposition internationale des Arts
décoratifs et industriels modernes, Paris, 1925
© 2016 Austrian Frederick and
Lillian Kiesler Private Foundation, Vienna



Unconsciously coordinated and complementary, a cluster of exhibitions this summer in The Netherlands, Italy, and Austria, celebrates the utopian visions of Constant, Friedrich Kiesler, Superstudio, Future Systems and Archigram, respectively. Once considered outlandish, even silly, the avant garde experiments of these early and late twentieth century architect pioneers is exerting a strong influence on mainstream contemporary architecture and city planning.

Artist, designer, architect, set and exhibition designer with revolutionary, utopian concepts, Frederick Kiesler (1890>1965) was born in a remote corner of the then Austro-Hungarian Empire, (now Ukraine), and studied architecture and painting in Vienna, where, amongst luminaries that included Otto Wagner, Josef Hoffmann, and Adolf Loos, he would become obsessed with the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk. Developing out of his experimental theatre ideas that dissolved the separation between spectators and actors and integrated both in a unified space, in his Raumstadt (City in Space) (1925) Kiesler proposed a model for the city of the future. Having drafted his Manifeste du Corréalisme during a trip to Paris, at the invitation of Marcel Duchamp and Andre Bréton, he wrote that the elements of construction – whether for a city, a chair, or a house – should be a ‘nucleus of possibilities’ developed and transformed in relation to its environment. In 1926, he relocated to New York, where he would eventually install a model of his Endless House at New York’s Museum of Modern Art 1960 show, Visionary Architecture. Meanwhile, Frederick Kiesler. Life Visions at Vienna’s Museum für angewandte Kunst / MAK, is a portal into Kiesler’s complex world and thought processes.

Future Systems (Jan Kaplický + Amanda Levete),
Manhattan with ‘Coexistence (Project 112)’
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 1989
© Kaplicky Centre, Prague



With 44 exhibits from each group, Yesterday’s Future: Visionary designs by Future Systems and Archigram at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum / DAM focuses on detailed technical drawings, brightly coloured collages and original models. The works by Czech architect and founder of Future Systems, Jan Kaplický, who emigrated to London in 1968, date from the 1980s and 1990s and are juxtaposed against designs created 20 years before by the Archigram architectural group that comprised Peter Cook, Ron Herron, and Dennis Crompton. The space architecture by Archigram was created around the time of the Moon landing in an era shaped by new beginnings. In contrast, Future Systems designed its self-sufficient, machine-like living capsules for a gloomy world at the height of the Cold War. Whereas Archigram conceived organic architecture that ensured survival in inhospitable environments, Future Systems technologically sophisticated designs were located in more accessible natural surroundings or in concentrated, built-up cities. Intended as suggestions for living, working and for survival at times of social upheaval, the majority of the utopian designs by both groups never left the drawing board.

Installation at the exhibition
Adolfo Natalini Superarchitettura,
Galleria Jolly 2, Pistoia 1966
Photo C Toraldo di Francia
Superstudio 50, MAXXI Museum



Founded in 1966 by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, who were later joined by four others, Superstudio was one of the most influential groups in radical twentieth century Italian architecture. Superstudio 50 at Rome’s MAXXI Museum presents 200 items, ranging from installations to objects, from graphic works to photographs, with publications covering the entire career and development of the group. The exhibition includes the most important drawings, photomontages and installations from The Continuous Monument series (1969), the Architectural Histograms (1969-70) and The Twelve Ideal Cities (1971), projects through which the Superstudio attempted to demonstrate the possibilities and the limits of architecture, and were intended as a critique of contemporary society.

Constant Nieuwenhuys,
Klein Labyr, maquette, 1959
New Babylon, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag



Constant Nieuwenhuys (1920 > 2005), a leading member of the CoBrA group, expressed his ideas for a new world in New Babylon (1974), one of the largest and most visionary projects in post-war architectural history. The vast majority of the works associated with it are in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag collection, but have never before been displayed in all their diversity. Constant – New Babylon at Gemeentemuseum den Haag, including extensive documentation and reconstructions, is one of the largest exhibitions ever presented on this key work.

All images courtesy the respective exhibition venues


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Art | Abstract China

Friday, July 15th, 2016

Qian Jiahua
Blue Space, 2016
Acrylic on canvas



The World is Yours, as Well as Ours
White Cube Mason’s Yard
London | UK
15 July > 17 September 2016



Liang Quan
Looking for Another Earth,
2016
Ink, colour and paper collage on canvas
Photo © White Cube (Ben Westoby)



The modernisation policies instituted in the late 1970s by Deng Xiaoping, offered Chinese artists opportunities – albeit limited and carefully-controlled – to explore and learn about the art that was being produced elsewhere in the world. At the same time, they were given the chance to work independently of state commissioning and outside the hitherto exclusively sanctioned socialist realist style. The result was work in a profusion of different styles, including abstraction.

If Kazimir Malevich’s abstract painting Black Square (1915) had symbolically blanked out Russia’s past, Chinese abstract art would develop into a symbolic way of welcoming back China’s.

A selection of contemporary Chinese abstract art goes on show from today at White Cube Mason’s Yard, where it can be seen that in terms of approach and materials, the artists have chosen to reference the values and artistic creations of their own history that had been systematically eradicated during the Cultural Revolution.

Zhou Li
Enjoyment of Water No.5,
2016
Mixed media on canvas



Jiang Zhi
The world is yours, as well as ours – Display 31,
2015>2016
Oil on canvas



Yu Youhan
Abstract 2007.12.1,
2007
Acrylic on canvas



Liang Quan (b 1948), for example, creates mixed media collages that incorporate rice paper and ink as ‘abstract diagrams of traditional Chinese landscape’. Strikingly modern and graphic, Jiang Zhi’s (b 1971) paintings – meticulously rendered copies of the fractured images that occur on computer monitors as a result of data glitches or system errors – nevertheless retain a strong link to traditional Chinese landscape painting. Also influenced by natural surroundings such as the mountainous areas of southern China, free-flowing charcoal lines and ink washes, overlaid with solid arcs and circles of white paint, in delicate, harmonious compositions are features of Zhou Li’s (b 1969) work.

Liu Wentao
Untitled,
2015
Graphite on canvas



On the other hand, Yu Youhan’s (b 1943) ‘Circle’ paintings are an exploration of the ying and yang concept of harmonious unity expressed within Taoism. Liu Wentao (b1973) takes inspiration from a central tenet of Taoism, producing works made with densely drawn pencil lines that interweave to create ambiguity between ‘the concrete and the void’. Liu studied in America, where he saw and was influenced by the minimalist works of Agnes Martin and Ellsworth Kelly. But at other times, as in Qian Jiahua’s (b 1987) spatial compositions that comprise solid blocks of colour, anchored with borders and lines that subtly disrupt the flatness of the image, the Chinese historical references are unclear.

All of the artists included in The World is Yours, as Well as Ours at White Cube Mason’s Yard were born, live and work in China.

All works © the artists, courtesy White Cube


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Travel | In Brussels: Journey to the Centre of the EU

Friday, July 8th, 2016

Au Chapati, Tweekerkenstraat, Brussels



In Brussels
Journey to the Centre of the EU
A Travelogue



The man sitting beside me – my daughter and my seats are not together – is American. He’s drinking Belgian Leffe beer and his American friends who encircle me drink Belgian Stella Artois, or Italian mineral water. The international aura is refreshing. I feel positive about this trip.

It feels like an escape. If only temporary. Back into sanity…

The UK having just a few days earlier taken the mad decision to exit the EU, here I am on the Eurostar train to Brussels. But this journey is unconnected to politics. My daughter, whose travelling companion I am – whose formative years were spent in Munich, who lived and worked in Berlin, and whose chronic Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis) health problem the NHS doesn’t recognise, has an appointment with a specialist at a renowned private clinic – shocked at the referendum result and its implications for her future, wants to hear no more of politics, at least for now.

Through the windows on either side of the carriage, the bucolic Kent countryside slides by. It is suddenly replaced by a deep blackness that the reflections of the lights, coming on as we enter the Tunnel, make a futile effort to penetrate, and then accepting defeat, fade into obscurity.

One of my neighbours, having just returned laden from the bar, distributes cans of the German-style beer Kronenbourg 1664, brewed in the French city of Strasbourg – official seat of the European Parliament – accompanied by napkins with the message ‘Je ne regrette rien’, printed on them. It has become hot and stuffy, the atmosphere oppressive. The Americans begin to complain amongst themselves about the ineffectual air conditioning. I long for the train to come out of the tunnel and for the clean, fresh air of mainland Europe.

‘Franglais Vins’, sprawling in huge letters across a massively long shed announce our arrival in France. At Calais-Fréthun, the Americans go, and suddenly the carriage is half-empty. It’s quieter, less claustrophobic, but the heat remains.

Good news! Three UK, the mobile phone service provider I’m with sends me a text letting me know that their roaming service is free in EU countries.

The train picks up speed. The ‘continental’ landscape is wider with (minus the ceiling) 180-degree views to the horizon. It’s sunny. It’s bright. The English couple sitting behind me pull the blind down all the way. I’m skimming through Eurostar’s free magazine, Metropolitan, that features a myriad of interesting cultural events in the UK, around Europe and beyond. An Englishman sitting across the aisle and a seat in front of me, I noticed, started reading The Daily Telegraph as soon as he sat down and hasn’t, to my knowledge, once looked out of the window.

The English honey roast ham in my sandwich is brought to life by the zesty heat of the French mustard – I find myself wondering what the future holds for the German-owned Aldi supermarket near my home, where the latter was bought.

We stop briefly at Lille and soon after the vernacular architecture is unfamiliar – I think we must be in Belgium. We’re entering Brussels. We’re there.

There are armed soldiers at the station…

The taxi driver is friendly and – just like his London equivalent – keen to chat – in French, which my daughter is good at, while I’m not. I can follow what they are saying, however. He speaks a little English. Flemish, too, and some Dutch. He has visited Liverpool, Manchester and London. He’s Syrian and has lived in Belgium for thirty years. He drives us to our hotel on the northern outskirts of Brussels.

That evening, we both choose the chicken brochette at one of the two nearby eateries, La Petite Fourchette, which serves French, as well as Asian and Greek-style food. Within seconds a basket of sliced baguette and a bowl of prawn crackers arrive on our table. I had ordered frites as an accompaniment. They come with mayonnaise and ketchup. My daughter ordered rice, and when it arrives it’s the sticky, Chinese version.

My daughter prefers to go to the clinic alone…

A day ticket for the entire Brussels underground network is only €7.50. My French, as I’ve said, is not good – my Flemish is non-existent – and a man who speaks no English is at first reluctant to help me to use the ticket machine, but as we work together his attitude softens. Seemingly pleased at our success, he smiles and goes on his way. At Simonis, a suburban metro station I pass through, the platform walls are lined with pretty Persian rug designs rendered in tiling. At Rond Point R Schuman Plein, where the European Commission building stands, it’s eerily quiet. There are many police – some mounted – and roadblocks; barbed wire is strung across the pavements. The epi-centre of European government feels remote and isolated, while the nearby grand boulevards dominated by heavy, belle époque architecture, make the few figures wandering around them appear subservient, insignificant.

European Commission building at Rond Point R Schuman Plein



I notice that here in Brussels the road markings are better defined than in Germany, but that the paving blocks almost everywhere are badly laid down and wobble. I stand still to consult my map. Someone stops and asks me if I’m lost. I’m not, but she insists on giving me directions.

While a man inside, wearing a hi-vis jacket, uses a small petrol-driven machine – the like of which I’ve never seen before – to trim the edges of the lawns, a couple of soldiers duck into the Jardins Botaniques for a quick smoke; the camouflaged patterns on their combat gear that make them look so foreign on the city streets, blending in with the verdant foliage, briefly conceals their presence.

If it’s of interest, I ate a light lunch at Jacques Brel’s old hangout Le Mort Subite (The Sudden Death), and returned to La Petite Fourchette for a lonely supper – steak frites – my daughter was staying overnight at a friend’s place.

The following day my daughter returns to the clinic…

Colossal and super-shiny, the 103 metre-high structure, based upon a single iron atom, The Atomium was built for the 1958 Brussels Expo. I’ve had no breakfast. The coffee machine in the café here is broken but the guy at the ticket counter tells me I can get a coffee in the restaurant at the top. The lift had been the fastest in the world when it was first installed and seconds after entering, I’m sitting in a white Panton chair, under the domed roof of the restaurant that occupies the top half of the uppermost sphere. They can serve me coffee, but have no pastries, however the waitress kindly offers to go down to the café on the base level to fetch me croissants. Before she sets off, she gives me the coffee, which isn’t very hot. I’m looking out of a rain-spotted circular window and down on a collection of models of European landmark buildings in Mini-Europa, the theme park which sits near The Atomium’s foot. A hoard of tiny figures wandering around in brightly-coloured rain ponchos are passing a pocket-sized Eiffel Tower and a stolid Brandenburg Gate, heading for the little British Houses of Parliament. Defiant, seemingly impervious to the storm that is approaching, the diminutive European Commission building looks on from its corner. Fifteen minutes later, the waitress returns. I have drunk half my coffee and the remainder is cold. ‘Je vous remercie, madame’ I say to her with a smile – remembering a bit of schoolboy French – thankful for just something to eat. Wolfing it down, I leave her a big tip and go.

That evening, we tried the other restaurant, a bit further along the road, La Brasserie, where my daughter ate herring and I foolishly ordered a steak Americaine that turned out to be steak tartare, which I couldn’t eat, and which the kindly waiter exchanged for meatballs.

Our trip has not been a success…

The specialist my daughter had sought out and travelled here to see could offer little help. Had he been sent her reports in advance, he may have been in a better position to offer advice, he told her, but no request for them had been made at the time she booked the appointment. On her second visit to the clinic, on our second morning, she gave blood samples and was afterwards presented with an expensive menu of tests to choose from, but with no advice on which to base her selections. Having ticked a few random options, feeling confused and depressed, she paid the enormous bill and left.

We sit together…

Our seats on the train back to London face Brussels. We watch as, under a sky filled with dark clouds, the city recedes inexorably into the distance.

Text and photographs © Pedro Silmon 2016


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The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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Photography | Le Tour by Sebastião Salgado

Friday, July 1st, 2016




France


Sebastião Salgado
Le Tour de France
Polka Galerie
Paris | France
2 > 30 July 2016



France

The Blog team is away, alas not in France, where the 103rd Tour de France begins this Saturday 2 July. Finishing on Sunday 24 July, this year’s cycling race will be made up of 21 stages and covers a total distance of 3,519 kilometres. In 1986, Brazilian documentary photographer and photojournalist, Sebastião Salgado, now 72 year old and famous the world over for his intensely moving images of human suffering and environmental concern, created a surprisingly sedate and unique set of portraits for the French newspaper Liberation, of those patiently waiting for the cyclists to arrive at their towns along the entire Tour route.France

France

France

Sebastião Salgado: Le Tour de France, including a selection of 18 images is on show at Paris’s Polka Galerie throughout July.

All images: Tour de France, 1986 © Sebastião Salgado / Amazonas Images, Courtesy Polka Galerie


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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier


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