2009年5月26日 星期二

"I Love My Prophet."

Cool | 26.05.2009 | 16:30

Muslim German designer combines fashion with faith

It all began with a T-shirt bearing the slogan "I Love My Prophet." After overwhelming interest in his creation, a designer in Germany tapped into a market for modern, urban clothes and accessories with a Muslim message.

Melih Kesmen began his Styleislam project three years ago, as the scandal raged over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed printed in a Danish newspaper. He wanted to respond peacefully, in a creative and productive way, so he made a T-shirt printed with the slogan "I Love My Prophet."

So many people literally wanted to buy the shirt off of his back that Kesmen, who is trained as a graphic designer, recognized the untapped market for trendy clothes with a Muslim message. COOL caught up with him to hear the tricks of his trade.

(Report: Heiner Kiesel / Kate Bowen)

2009年5月22日 星期五

Metropolitan Museum sculpture gardens

Art Review

‘Made in U.S.A.’ Shines After Makeover

Damon Winter/The New York Times

"The Vine" (1921), by Harriet Whitney Frismuth, in the newly renovated section of the Met. More Photos >

Published: May 21, 2009

When the Metropolitan Museum set up its first sculpture department in 1886, it threw in anything and everything that wasn’t framed, stitched or printed: “all the sculptures, pottery, porcelain, glassware, jewelry, engraved gems, bronzes, inscriptions, and other such objects of art, commonly termed Bric-a-Brac.”

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No doubt to some eyes the museum’s newly reopened American galleries look like Bric-a-Brac City. Twenty generously appointed period rooms, 12 of them seriously spiffed up, along with the glass-enclosed Charles Engelhard Court flooded with Central Park light, hold the full range of items specified in that early Met inventory and much, much more.

And all look good, especially the court. When it made its debut in 1980, it had a sunken floor and large beds of plantings. The floor has now been raised and paved with light-colored stone and the plantings reduced to clear a wide-open space. What was once a kind of oversize conversation pit with a cafe to the side is now a full-fledged sculpture garden, with a lot more sculpture and a lot less garden. (The cafe is still there.)

This is not to say that all has changed. Familiar architecturally scaled pieces have stayed more or less where they were. The two-story limestone facade of Martin E. Thompson’s Branch Bank of the United States, built in 1822 on Wall Street, still forms a main entrance to the American galleries. The pillared loggia designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany for his home, Laurelton Hall, in Oyster Bay on Long Island, continues to face the bank from across the court.

The spectacular pulpit and choir rail carved by Karl Bitter in 1900 for All Angels Church in Manhattan has migrated from the west side of the court to the east. Near it is the marble, oak and mosaic fireplace cooked up Augustus Saint-Gaudens for the Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion on Fifth Avenue at 57th Street. The house, which took up an entire block, is gone. The fireplace, with its two chiton-clad caryatids named “Peace” and “Love,” hasn’t budged since it was installed at the Met in 1980.

Yet another Saint-Gaudens divinity, his gilt bronze “Diana,” holds her place at the court’s very center. Lithe and poised on tiptoe, she was commissioned as a weathervane for the tower of the old Madison Square Garden. There, at the highest point on the skyline, she was the single most visible sculpture in the city and caused a public kerfuffle. There she was for the world to see, and she wasn’t wearing a stitch.

In the Engelhard Court she is the pivot-point for almost three dozen other sculptures, most from the 19th century, far more than were in the space before. And this prompts the question: Is more better? After all, American sculpture is pretty strange stuff.

The oldest pieces here date from just after 1850. Neoclassicism was the high style; moralizing sentimentality the correct emotion; piety, patriotism, airbrushed sex and melodrama, together or separate, the desired content. With this mix the ideal and the real were in constant conflict, which is the basic story of earlyish American art, and we find that story coming at us wherever we turn.

The sculptor William Wetmore Story, who moved to Rome to soak up Classical vibes, specialized in synthesizing myth and history. His “Libyan Sybil” (1860) was inspired by a Michelangelo, updated with an abolitionist message, and infused with contemporary racism. “Full-lipped, long-eyed, low-browed” is how Story describes the “African” features he was after for his brooding figure. The stereotyping wasn’t just his; it was engrained in the culture, a chronic condition.

The allegorical nude titled “California” (1858) by Story’s contemporary Hiram Powers was advertised as an all-that-glitters-is-not-gold rebuke to the excesses of the Gold Rush. Its real ambition, however, was clearly to show some flawless marble female flesh. This worked. The piece ended up being the first American sculpture to enter the Met collection.

Randolph Rogers’s “Nydia, The Blind Flower Girl of Pompeii” (1853-54) worked too, big time. The piece illustrates an episode from a best-selling novel, “The Last Days of Pompeii,” in which a character risks her life to lead others to safety. The combination of danger and virtue was a winner. The piece was, by some accounts, the single most popular American sculpture of the 19th century. Rogers, who fully understood the realities of marketing, replicated his docudrama-like chef-d’oeuvre more than 160 times in two different sizes and made a fortune.

The impulse to shoot for the ideal in art is least conflicted in funerary sculpture, where a certain degree of decorum is built in. Americans have always been obsessed with death, dwelling on it and denying it with equal avidity. In 17th- and 18th-century Puritan America, mortality was a hard, crass fact, aggressively spelled out in images of skulls and as-I-am-now-so-you-will-be warnings chiseled on headstones.

In the 19th century the obsession was, if anything, stronger, but the attitude changed. Denial set in, in the form of aesthetic sugarcoating. Cemeteries were transformed from grim charnel grounds to earthly Edens, where temple-tombs popped up like mushrooms, and transcendent meetings took place.

Two such encounters are frozen in stone at the Met in reliefs by Daniel Chester French. One, “The Angel of Death and the Sculptor from the Milmore Memorial,” is a marble version of a bronze commissioned by the family of the artist Martin Milmore (1844-83). In French’s relief the young sculptor is hard at work carving a sphinx — Milmore really did carve one; it was installed in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass. — at the moment that death, in the guise of a veiled woman, interrupts and restrains his hand.

In the second relief, “Mourning Victory from the Melvin Memorial,” begun in 1906, the spiritual encounter is interactive rather than simply observed. An angelic female figures seems to be emerging, face forward, from a stone slab and moving out into space toward us. Here our lives are being interrupted, but benignly, by the personification of victory over death rather than by death herself.

There’s something about these spiritualizing tableaus that feels at best New Agey, at worst hopelessly hokey to our secular era. But revolutions in taste and belief don’t necessarily make this a dismissible art. Both reliefs are formal tours de force, theatrically bold and rich in naturalistic details: the carved spray of poppies that death holds is a marvel of botanical accuracy; the meeting of her hand and Milmore’s has a gentle finality worthy of Gluck.

And like other 19th-century public sculpture both works have interesting things to say about the artists who made them and the audiences they were addressing. All such was, after all, contemporary art: freshly minted for eyes as hungry for novelty, and for minds as in need of sustenance and reassurance, as our own.

For years, beginning in 1884, the Met displayed such work in a gallery called the Hall of Modern Statuary. Modern as used there wasn’t exactly Modernism, but it did identify certain kinds of new art as embodying up-to-the-minute values, aesthetic, social and political. It might even be said that American 19th-century art, with its bias toward moral commentary and its eclectic fusions of real and ideal, high and low, Old World and New, was postmodern before the fact.

Eclecticism is given free rein in the American Wing installation, organized under the curatorial aegis of Morrison H. Heckscher. It is certainly the name of the game in the period rooms, each a miniature stage set with real antiques for props.

They move from 17th-century interiors on the third floor to 1912 Frank Lloyd Wright on the first, with areas for the display of individual objects on each floor. Met habitués will notice that the sequence of the rooms has been slightly jiggered to ensure chronological flow. One new room — a Dutch colonial interior from the Daniel Peter Winne House near Albany — has been added, and several others have been repainted and relighted.

Also new, and well worth a try, are some of the best digital displays I’ve seen in any museum. With a brush of the finger on a touch screen you get information about the room’s original location, about the people who lived in it and about the history of its display at the Met, along with data about individual objects on view.

But for die-hard modernists who demand pure, no-gadgets, context-free encounters with art, the smart thing to do is head to the Engelhard Court’s wrap-around upper balcony, where portions of the museum’s collection of American silver, ceramics and jewelry are set out. This material used to be arranged by medium; now everything’s mix-and-match, primarily by era, with contemporaneous examples of silver and glass in adjoining cases.

This is a nice idea. It creates visual texture. It presents the objects more realistically, side-by-side as they would have been in a household. And it underscores the global scope of American art from its earliest days, with items made in China, England, France and New Jersey on the same shelf, and expert immigrant craftsmen working shoulder to shoulder with the likes of the Boston homeboy Paul Revere.

Ceramics devotees, and potential converts, will want to gather in the Engelhard Court’s new mezzanine balcony, floated half-way up the windows on the Central Park side. There the museum’s curator of American decorative arts, Alice Cooney Frelinghauser, has placed some 250 examples of art pottery made between the United States Centennial of 1876 and 1956, all a promised gift from the collector Robert A. Ellison Jr.

It’s a brilliant and daft array: delicate-daft in the case of the pinched and poked ceramics of George E. Orr, the Bernini of Biloxi, Miss.; cool-daft in the case of the iridescent Arts and Crafts vases of a kind you may have seen gathering dust in your grandparents’ attic; and plain old crazy-daft in the case of Tiffany & Company’s “Magnolia Vase,” its glaze-drenched surface relief of flowers, pine cones and cactuses suggesting a spreading malignancy.

Is this extreme piece of American eclecticism merely weird or really beautiful? Is it pop art or high craft or low-taste or no-taste, or what? Whatever it is, it is very right there, too preposterous to be pretentious, too busy to be self-conscious, too consumption-driven to be precious. A lot of art in the American Wing is like that and like it or not — and I do like it, sort of — it is us.

The American Wing’s new galleries remain on permanent view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, (212) 535-7710, metmuseum.org.

2009年5月19日 星期二

Walter Crane (1845-1915) , Morris


A leading British designer, illustrator, and painter, Crane was a prominent figure in the Arts and Crafts Movement and influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite painters. He travelled and exhibited widely in Europe and the United States of America and was also a significant and influential writer and lecturer on design matters, a socialist thinker and propogandist, as well as an important force in progressive design education, having been appointed as principal of the Royal College of Art, London, in 1898. After an early apprenticeship in wood engraving Crane steadily built up a reputation as an illustrator in the 1860s. By the early 1870s his work showed the influence of Japanese woodblock prints alongside an increasing mastery of colour, particularly in a number of successful children's books. During these years he also worked on decorative ceramic designs for Josiah Wedgwood (1867-71), on tiles for Maws (1874), and, later, on various ceramic commissions for Pilkington's Tile and Pottery Company (from 1901). Furthermore, Crane was a prolific wallpaper designer, producing more than 50 designs for Jeffrey & Co. from 1874 onwards, and also worked in the field of printed and woven textiles from the late 1880s. Other fields in which Crane made contributions included stained glass and mosaic design, furniture, metalwork, carpet design, and embroidery. In 1884 he became a founder member of the Art Workers' Guild, going on to become the first president of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society in 1888 when a number of members of the Guild seceded in order to set up a new organization more committed to the public promotion and exhibition of their creative work. Crane played an important role in British design education, becoming head of design at Manchester School of Art in 1893, working briefly at the University of Reading in 1897 before being appointed as principal of the Royal College of Art in 1898, a post he held for a year. Crane's international reputation gathered pace during the 1890s: he visited the United States in 1890-1; a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Fine Art Society, London, in 1891 before touring the United States and Europe; and his work was also shown at Samuel Bing's celebrated Galerie l'Art Nouveau which opened in Paris in 1895. There was also increasing and favourable coverage of Crane's work in reviews in leading magazines. A number of his lectures were published, including his Cantor Lectures on The Decorative Illustration of Books (1896), The Bases of Design (1898), and Line and Form (1900). His books included The Claims of Decorative Art (1892), Ideals in Art (1905), An Artist's Reminiscences (1907), and William Morris to Whistler (1911).

The art of celebration

Thursday 30 April 2009

Walter Crane (1845-1915) was a leading British artist who is perhaps now best remembered for his association with the socialist movement.

He is also directly connected with how we visualise May Day celebrations, as he designed one of the most well-known posters for the first May Day festival in 1895.

If you are based in northern England or plan to head there over the next few weeks, there is an excellent free exhibition of Crane's work at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.

The exhibition provides a lot of detail about Crane's artistic methods and style but also covers a wide range of his political work.

Crane was one of those whose political activism straddled the Chartist years - he was apprenticed to the republican Chartist WJ Linton in the late 1850s - and the development of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in the 1890s.

He was associated with two giants of the British left, William Morris and Robert Blatchford, and was clearly influenced by both.

The Manchester exhibition displays several pieces of imagery that Crane designed for May Day 1895.

One is an advertisement for a May Day carnival organised by the ILP at Holborn Town Hall.

The dancing characters adorning the borders of the card represent Merrie England, the title of perhaps Blatchford's most well-known book and also a widespread vision of a country free from the horrors of industrialism, taken forwards - or perhaps back - to a more harmonious and rural time.

The essentially pre-industrial idea of Merrie England is hard to sympathise with from the position of the left in 2009, but it must be recalled that as recently as 1850, 50 per cent of the population were classified as peasants.

In that context, the idea of escaping from industrial society to some form of rural idyll made sense.

Moreover, as EP Thompson's work on Morris demonstrates, there is also a strong sense here of a post-industrial and more environmentally sound society.

If these ideas were around at the first May Day, so were those of solidarity and internationalism demonstrated by Crane's May Day garland, also shown at the Whitworth exhibition.

Crane wrote to Clarion editor Blatchford on April 12 1895 offering him "a cartoon of mine I have prepared appropriate to the first of May and wish to present to the workers."

The idea was to sell it with the Clarion as an insert or to be sold separately with the proceeds going to an agreed "socialist object."

The cartoon again illustrates Merrie England as a female character holding a garland and some of the slogans do hark backwards. One states, for example: "The plough is a better backbone than the factory."

Other slogans have a much more modern ring, such as "production for use not for profit" and "solidarity of labour," while the demand for "no child toilers" and "shorten working day and lengthen life" are still firmly with us over 100 years on.

The exhibition catalogue records that Crane's cartoon was so popular that the ILP made a lantern slide of it and it appeared on a National Union of Railwaymen banner.

Crane's designs have an abiding popularity on the left and whether they appeal to you or not, his work for May Day 1895 is a reminder that May 1 is a festival, a celebration of the possibility of a different and better life, tied up with dance, fun and celebration as well as important political demands.

2009年5月15日 星期五

Frank Lloyd Wright /Architect Without Limits


Architect Without Limits

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City.

Published: May 14, 2009

Frank Lloyd Wright died half a century ago, but people are still fighting over him.

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Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

The original model of the Guggenheim Museum in the exhibition “Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward.”

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

A model of Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park, Pa.

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

A model of the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective and Planetarium, which was never built.

The extraordinary scope of his genius, which touched on every aspect of American life, makes him one of the most daunting figures of the 20th century. But to many he is still the vain, megalomaniacal architect, someone who trampled over his clients’ wishes, drained their bank accounts and left them with leaky roofs.

So “Frank Lloyd Wright: From Within Outward,” which opens on Friday at the Guggenheim Museum, will be a disappointment to some. The show offers no new insight into his life’s work. Nor is there any real sense of what makes him so controversial. It’s a chaste show, as if the Guggenheim, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, was determined to make Wright fit for civilized company.

The advantage of this low-key approach is that it puts the emphasis back where it belongs: on the work. There are more than 200 drawings, many never exhibited publicly before. More than a dozen scale models, some commissioned for the show, give a strong sense of the lucidity of his designs and the intimate relationship between building and landscape that was such a central theme of his art.

Taken as a whole, the exhibition conveys not only the remarkable scope of his interests, which ranged from affordable housing to reimagining the American city, but also the astonishing cohesiveness of that vision

— an achievement that has been matched by only one or two other architects in the 20th century.

One way to experience the show is as a straightforward tour of Wright’s masterpieces. Organized by Thomas Krens and David van der Leer, it is arranged in roughly chronological order, so that you can spiral up through the highlights of his career: the reinvention of the suburban home and the office block, the obsession with car culture, the increasingly outlandish urban projects.

There is a stunning plaster model of the vaultlike interior of Unity Temple, built in Oak Park between 1905 and 1908. Just a bit farther up the ramp, another model painstakingly recreates the Great Workroom of the Johnson Wax Headquarters in Racine, Wis., with its delicate grid of mushroom columns and milky glass ceiling.

Such tightly composed, inward-looking structures contrast with the free-flowing spaces that we tend to associate with Wright’s fantasy of a democratic, agrarian society.

But as always with Wright, the complexity of his approach reveals itself only after you begin to fit the pieces together. For Wright, the singular masterpiece was never enough. His aim was to create a framework for an entire new way of life, one that completely redefined the relationships between individual, family and community. And he pursued it with missionary zeal.

Wright went to extreme lengths to sell his dream of affordable housing for the masses, tirelessly promoting it in magazines.

The second-floor annex shows a small sampling of its various incarnations, including an elaborate model of the Jacobs House (1936-37), its walls and floors pulled apart and suspended from the ceiling on a system of wires and lead weights. One of Wright’s earliest Usonian houses, the one-story Jacobs structure in Madison, Wis., was made of modest wood and brick and organized around a central hearth. Its L-shape layout framed a rectangular lawn, locking it into the landscape, so that the homeowner remained in close touch with the earth.

The ideas Wright explored in such projects were eventually woven into grander urban fantasies, first proposed in Broadacre City and later in The Living City project. In both, Usonian communities were dispersed over an endless matrix of highways and farmland, punctuated by the occasional residential tower.

The subtext of these plans, of course, was Wright’s war with the city. To Wright, the congested neighborhoods of the traditional city were anathema to the spirit of unbridled individual freedom. His alternative, shaped by the car, represented a landscape of endless horizons. Sadly, it was also a model for suburban sprawl.

Wright continued to explore these themes until the end of his life, even as his formal language evolved. A model of the Gordon Strong Automobile Objective and Planetarium captures his growing obsession with the ziggurat and the spiral. A tourist destination that was planned for Sugarloaf Mountain, Md., but never built, the massive concrete structure coiled around a vast planetarium. The project combines his love of cars and his fascination with primitive forms, as if he were striving to weave together the whole continuum of human history.

In his 1957 Plan for Greater Baghdad, Wright went a step further, adapting his ideas to the heart of the ancient city. The plan is centered on a spectacular opera house enclosed beneath a spiraling dome and crowned by a statue of Alladin. Set on an island in the Tigris, the opera house was to be surrounded by tiers of parking and public gardens. A network of roadways extends like tendrils from this base, weaving along the edge of the river and tying the complex to the old city.

Just across the river, another ring of parking, almost a mile in diameter, encloses a new campus for Baghdad University.

Wright’s fanciful design was never built, but it demonstrates the degree to which he remained distrustful of urban centers. Stubborn to the end, he saw the car as the city’s salvation rather than its ruin. The cosmopolitan ideal is supplanted by a sprawling suburbia shaded by palms and date trees.

And what of the Guggenheim? Some will continue to see it as an example of Wright’s brazen indifference to the city’s history. With its aloof attitude toward the Manhattan street grid, the building still pushes buttons.

For his part, Wright saw the spiral as a symbol of life and rebirth. The reflecting pool at the bottom of his rotunda represented a seed, part of his vision of an organic architecture that sprouts directly from the earth.

Yet Wright also needed the city to make his vision work. The force of the spiral’s upward thrust gains immeasurably from the grid that presses in on all sides. The ramps, too, can be read as an extension of the street life outside. Coiled tightly around the audience, they replicate the atmosphere of urban intensity that Wright supposedly so abhorred.

Or maybe not. In preparing for the show, the Guggenheim’s curators decided to remove the frosting from a window at the lobby’s southwest corner. The window frames a vista over a low retaining wall toward the corner of 88th Street and Fifth Avenue, where you can see people milling around the exterior of the building. It is the only real view out of the lobby, and it visually locks the building into the streetscape, making the city part of the composition.

I choose to see it as a gesture of love, of a sort, between Wright and the city he claimed to hate.

2009年5月11日 星期一

Centre Pompidou Foundation

Pompidou Center
Paris' Pompidou Center, wearing its inner workings on its outer skin, caused a stir when it opened in 1977. It houses, among other cultural entities, the National Museum of Modern Art, which is seeing its collection of works by U.S. artists grow thanks to the support of the L.A.-based Centre Pompidou Foundation. The nonprofit organization acquires and encourages gifts of American art and design to enhance and expand the museum’s permanent collection.