2009年8月29日 星期六

Art to Make You Laugh (and Cry)

Art to Make You Laugh (and Cry)

Steve Legato for The New York Times

Fluxspace, an art collective, is housed in a former textile mill. More Photos >

Published: August 27, 2009


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Getting There (August 28, 2009)

Art Review: Landscape of Eros, Through the Peephole (August 28, 2009)



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Steve Legato for The New York Times

Two text murals, at far right, created by the Mural Arts Program, which has worked with Philadelphia residents and artists to produce more than 2,800 works. More Photos »

WHEN it rains, geysers of water have been known to erupt from the floor drains of the art collective here known as Fluxspace, which makes its home in a mammoth former textile mill in the northern part of the city. The building has no air-conditioning, and on the harshest winter days its heating system borders on notional. It’s also a bear to find: one morning this week a taxi driver on his way to it ended up taking several unintended detours down trash-filled alleys, cursing the calm voice issuing from his dashboard G.P.S.

But the three-year-old collective is becoming known in the Philadelphia art world for its monthly exhibitions of work by its members and other artists. And “we actually get awesome turnout for our shows, considering the location and everything,” said Danielle Ruttenberg, one of 25 young artists who either pay for raw studio space in the building or take on chores in exchange for it. (The current exhibition, of bird-centric prints and drawings by a local artist named Tory Franklin, continues through Sept. 13.)

I had sought out Fluxspace at the beginning of Day 2 of a thoroughly idiosyncratic personal art tour (with some good eating woven in) of a city that has emerged, especially over the last decade, as a lively and unpredictable place to see new art.

There is a particularly Philadelphian brand of hardy, low-budget, do-it-yourself, do-it-for-love creativeness evident in art and art spaces across the city. It is a climate that, as new as it sometimes feels, has been embodied and nurtured for decades by organizations like two I included on my itinerary: the Fabric Workshop and Museum, founded in 1977 as a way to combine world-class artistic collaborations with community outreach and education, and the Mural Arts Program, which grew out of the city’s anti-graffiti efforts and has worked with neighborhood residents and artists for 25 years to create more than 2,800 towering murals on walls throughout the city.

But my first stop, after stepping off the train in 30th Street Station on Monday morning, was a real outlier: a tiny, hidden museum that interested me not because of new art — most of its pieces are well over a century old — but because of the obsessive nature it shares with so many places in the city, the sense that it exists only because its founders felt a necessity borne of fascination. Located on the grounds of a cemetery in the suburb of Drexel Hill, the Museum of Mourning Art — a name to make Edward Gorey proud — is a compilation of American and European funerary art and artifacts from several private collections, assembled by the family that has owned the cemetery for generations.

The small, haunting, very serious collection includes an ornate horse-drawn hearse from 1890, parked over a coffin made in 1610 with an oval window in the lid so — as the museum’s curator, Elizabeth Wojcik, explained — one could make the sure the deceased was good and deceased, and so the soul had an easy means of egress.

Housed in a reproduction of Mount Vernon, the museum centers on the profusion of objects (broaches, ribbons, books, paintings, embroidery) that were produced in the wake of the prolonged period of mourning after Washington’s death. And its highlight is one of a small number of mourning rings ordered to be made by Washington’s will, with a small glass oval lined with seed pearls and filled with gray strands of the president’s hair. The museum’s visitors — tours are by appointment — run the gamut from historians to artists to student undertakers to those who simply seem to be drawn to things deathly. (I was there that morning with two local artists and jewelry designers interested in mourning jewelry.)

“There’s a woman who comes in a lot,” said Ms. Wojcik, pointing out a gorgeous 1797 memorial embroidery, “and stands in front of this work and looks at the weeping willows in it and just cries and cries.”

As much as I enjoyed a museum about death and decay, I found myself slightly relieved that I had already eaten, at an unassuming nearby diner called the Hibernia Deli Coffee Shop, which serves a superb full Irish breakfast: eggs, beans, black and white pudding, thick rashers, potatoes and even a good grilled tomato.

For the rest of my dining, in the spirit of the trip, I decided to stick exclusively to restaurants in Philadelphia’s unusual bring-your-own-bottle scene, a huge number of no-wine-list establishments that have sprung up partly because of Pennsylvania’s state-controlled alcohol sales system, which means smaller profits and expensive licensing costs for restaurant owners. Many of the B.Y.O.B. restaurants are tiny, run by chefs who, maybe because of the absence of a bar, put the focus intensely on the food, which can be fantastic.

For lunch I visited Matyson — a longtime favorite among local foodies, opened in 2003 near Rittenhouse Square — and had perfectly cooked scallops on a bed of succotash, a Pennsylvania Dutch staple, with big, plump lima beans. (I forgot to hunt down a wine store ahead of time and had to settle for iced tea.)

Nicely fed, I walked over to the Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, a 47-year-old center for the work of self-taught artists which has also, since 1997, focused on contemporary artists whose work reflects the influence of such outsider art. The show on view, “Frenz,” which ends on Saturday, is a good, oddball one, with pieces by 11 artists who were chosen by the indie musician Will Oldham, including hilarious, rustic drawings by Able Brown, a New York City park ranger, and powerfully strange collages by Mr. Oldham’s mother, Joanne. A surreal, as yet unfinished animated video work by Lori Damiano, an artist in Portland, Ore., composed of thousands of her individual drawings, is almost impossible to take your eyes off of.

Next I made my way to the Fabric Workshop and Museum, the nonprofit art space founded by Marion Boulton Stroud that has finally — maybe — secured a permanent home in the eight-story building near the Philadelphia Convention Center that it moved into last year after inhabiting several other homes in the course of its 32 years. Over that time the workshop’s definition of fabric (wicker, horsehair, paper, wood, film emulsion, even metal) has grown almost as expansive as its list of artists in residence who have come to make works there: Vito Acconci, Claes Oldenburg, Kiki Smith, Louise Bourgeois, Roy Lichtenstein and Rachel Whiteread, to name just a few.

The workshop’s current show includes work by four artists living in Philadelphia — Tristin Lowe, Virgil Marti, Peter Rose and Ryan Trecartin — and is worth the trip if only to spend some time walking around Mr. Lowe’s “Mocha Dick,” a life-size re-creation, in pale industrial felt, of the notorious 19th-century sperm whale of that name that inspired Melville’s great white menace. This version, which took Mr. Lowe and a team from the workshop six months to make, is inflated and dominates a huge eighth-floor gallery, a ghostly beached immensity encrusted with sewn barnacles and scored with realistic-looking harpoon scars and squid-tentacle circles.

After seeing such a big fish, it was somehow appropriate — and also convenient for a writer later to be in need of a good transition — that I went to dinner that night at a wonderful South Philadelphia restaurant called Little Fish, which has room inside for about 20 people, if you don’t count the cooks crammed into the narrow open kitchen. The restaurant’s much-praised chef, Mike Stollenwerk, wasn’t there — he is busy getting ready to open a bigger sister restaurant, to be called Fish.

But Chadd Jenkins, the sous chef, filled in beautifully, with an appetizer of sweet peekytoe crab arranged atop a tarragon-infused fried green beefsteak tomato and an unlikely but delicious jerk-style lobster dish (inspired by Mr. Jenkins’s recent vacation to Jamaica) over a rice-and-peas risotto with nice black-eyed peas instead of kidney beans.

My second day started with a strong cup of cappuccino from Old City Coffee, a Philadelphia roaster, in the Reading Terminal Market, and then the long, wandering ride with the cursing cabby to Fluxspace. Amy Adams, the director of the Fleisher/Ollman Gallery, had suggested the day before that if I were in the area, I should also check in on one of the stranger collectives to spring up recently in the city, the impressively named Philadelphia Institute for Advanced Study, whose Web site, pifas.net, presents it as a gleaming-glass academic palace rising above manicured grounds.

It is actually located in an old, ramshackle industrial space that its founders — Brandon Joyce and Richard Davis, who met while studying philosophy at the University of Virginia — discovered after they lost a previous space as a result of what Mr. Joyce called a “profound misunderstanding” with their landlord, which led to a police raid. (“I think he thought we were running some sort of a criminal enterprise in there,” Mr. Joyce said.)

Pifas, as the collective is known, is like Fluxspace in some ways, a fluid gathering of artists paying ridiculously low rent for studios in a city that is unlike New York, as Mr. Joyce observes, in that “there are gobs of space — it’s like you can just walk down the street and grab it.” But the institute often functions more like a friendly anarchist academy, with lectures and seminars and experiments, than a place for making and showing art. (The next event open to the public, on Saturday at 8 p.m., is described as “an intrepid show of audio, poetry and acrobatics” by the institute’s scholar in residence, Luke Yates, a doctoral student from the University of Manchester in England, about Henry Box Brown, a slave who mailed himself in a box to Philadelphia in 1849.)

Lunch with Mr. Joyce was a quick but decadent suckling-pig hoagie from a tiny storefront called Paesano’s, an offshoot of another highly regarded Italian B.Y.O.B. called Modo Mio, just across West Girard Avenue from the sandwich shop.

The final stop on my tour actually ended up being many stops, as I stared out the window of an elevated-subway train in West Philadelphia, where the Mural Arts Program has been working for weeks with the artist Stephen Powers, a West Philadelphia native, and many local painters to create a series of more than 30 huge, text-based murals, collectively called “Love Letter,” along a sometimes blighted stretch of Market Street.

The project, painted in consultation with business and building owners, is in part Mr. Powers’s homage to Darryl McCray, known as Cornbread, a legendary Philadelphia graffiti artist who began painting messages of love on walls in the late 1960s to impress his girlfriend. (Mr. McCray also once managed to tag the Jackson Five’s private jet, and painted “Cornbread Lives” on the side of an elephant at the Philadelphia Zoo to dispel rumors that he had died.)

Jane Golden, the executive director of the Mural Arts Program, said she remembered Mr. Powers as a teenager, when he was a prolific and notorious graffiti writer known as Espo who couldn’t be persuaded to “come over to the other side” and paint legally. So there is a “wonderful irony,” she said, to the fact that now, as an established gallery artist living in New York, he has returned to Philadelphia to mount an ambitious urban beautification project, one whose odd, affectionate messages — like “Forever Starts When You Say Yes” and “Pre-pay is on/Let’s talk/Till my minutes are gone” — are about love and reconciliation. (The project will be unveiled officially on Sept. 10, though most of the signs are now visible for the price of a $2 subway token.)

Mr. Powers said the idea was to create a single, serial urban work whose hopeful messages might resonate with a kind of universality in a neighborhood in need of hopeful messages. And as a fringe benefit, he said the murals might even help in a more practical way.

“Hopefully, there will be a few sly guys out there who say to their girl: ‘Hey, Baby, I wrote that up there for you.’ ”

2009年8月28日 星期五

Zaha Hadid

Wikipedia article "Zaha Hadid".

The iconic work of a singular architect

This XL tome demonstrates the progression of Zaha Hadid’s career—including not only her extraordinary buildings but also furniture and interior designs—with in-depth texts, spectacular photos, and her own drawings.
More information

2009年8月24日 星期一

British Design: Not What It Used to Be


British Design: Not What It Used to Be

Published: August 23, 2009

LONDON — Strikes. Disappearing letters. Shuttered post offices. Irritatingly long queues and suspicious smells in the survivors. There are (sadly) lots of reasons for the British to indulge in the popular national pastime of grumbling about the Royal Mail this summer.

The appearance last week of a new series of Royal Mail stamps to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the postbox should have struck a cheerier tone. Even the grouchiest grumblers agree that old-fashioned mailboxes are among the most popular symbols of Britain, and share many characteristics of the country’s other design icons.

One is that they come in a rousing shade of red, like the K2 telephone kiosk and Routemaster double-decker bus. Another is that they have the gutsy, no-nonsense engineering aesthetic of the K2, Routemaster and other national design gems, including the Concorde and Spitfire fighter jet. (The French tend to favor elegant icons, like the delicate Art Nouveau ironwork of the Paris subway and those dainty blue and white enamel street signs, but the pretension-phobic British prefer theirs to look pragmatic.) And like so many other jewels of Britain’s design heritage, the postbox is not what it used to be.

In fairness to the Royal Mail (not that I feel like doing it any favors in light of its other recent offenses), the design standards of mailboxes have not plunged quite as precipitously as those of phone booths and buses. The latest designs are unforgivably mediocre, but are neither as ugly as the shabby vandal-magnets that now pass for telephone kiosks, nor as dysfunctional as the lethally long “bendy buses,” which were imported to Britain from Germany to become objects of national hatred, alongside tax inspectors, bonus-grabbing bankers and expense-fiddling politicians. Why have so many British design treasures been so badly neglected?

There are some boringly obvious logistical reasons. The “change for change’s sake” syndrome among ambitious executives in an era of ever-decreasing corporate life expectancy makes them feel compelled to meddle with perfectly good designs to make an impact or, better still (in their eyes, at least), to replace them with something new. They then bungle the process of making modifications or choosing replacements by dint of any or all of the following: cowardice, laziness, lack of imagination, delegating decision-making to committees or focus groups (even though the result is bound to be compromised) and plain ineptitude.

None of these problems are limited to public design projects. They are routine corporate crimes that bedevil every area of design, and explain why we end up with other disasters, like inoperable cellphones, illegible instruction manuals, neurotically overstyled espresso machines and landfill sites bloated with indestructible, non-biodegradable rubbish. But their impact is greater when applied to public commissions, because mailboxes, phone booths and the like are so much more visible. Not only are there lots of them, they tend to be big and to be used by many people, not just individuals. If you analyze the design deficiencies of the average cellphone, they are depressingly similar to those of a Royal Mail postbox, but the latter will be seen by millions of people, regardless of whether or not they actually use it, while the phone will seem conspicuous only to its luckless owner.

All of this could, of course, be avoided, if the designers, and the people who commission them, were better equipped to do their jobs. Throughout design history, almost every national design coup was initiated by a stellar patron, not just in Britain, but other countries, too. Take Frank Pick, who made London Transport a model of modern design management in the early 1900s. Many of his innovations, like Harry Beck’s 1933 diagrammatic London Underground map and Edward Johnston’s 1916 roundel symbol, are still in use today. Pick oversaw everything, traveling around the network on rare “nights off” to check that it was perfect. Even the Routemaster, which was commissioned after his retirement, owes much to his legacy.

None of the people currently running London Transport come close to matching Pick’s dynamism, nor do their peers at the Royal Mail or British Telecom, and they tend to choose designers of their own mettle (or lack of it).

There is another problem, which is specific to public projects. An essential quality of a national design gem is that it reflects the country’s culture. The neo-classical dome of the K2 telephone kiosk symbolized Britain’s attachment to tradition and ambivalence toward modernity in the 1920s, just as the Routemaster’s can-do style captured the determination of the postwar era.

It was easier for designers to accomplish this then than it is today, when Britain’s national identity seems so much more complex, diverse and contradictory than it did in the 1920s and 1940s. Those eras had their complexities, too, but there was less inclination to recognize them, and it is simpler for designers to articulate a clearly defined message, than ambiguity.

This goes some way to explaining why so few new design jewels have emerged, although the shortcomings of the current postboxes, phone booths and most other flops are down to bad design, rather than doomed attempts to reflect the confusion of modern life. The achingly embarrassing London 2012 Olympics logo succeeds in doing that, but is also ugly and inappropriate.

And success is possible, as Matthew Dent proved with his designs for Britain’s new coins, which were introduced last year by the Royal Mint. The backs of the 50-, 20-, 10-, 5- and 2-pence and 1-penny coins bear fragments of the 14th-century Shield of the Royal arms. When those coins are placed together the shield appears intact, as it does on the back of the £1 coin. By fracturing an emblem of British history and reunifying it, Mr. Dent created a sensitive and appealing symbol of contemporary Britain, which has proved so popular that the Royal Mint has run short of coins, because people are keeping, rather than spending, them.

2009年8月22日 星期六



「宜蘭的美,是因為任何一塊土地都被認真照顧、經營時才會發生的。創意需要善意走在前面,當你不知道要幫誰時,就幫公共吧!」這個已有「宜蘭」烙印的黃聲 遠,其實不是宜蘭子弟,還是個外省第二代。清晨的觀音山,時差中的林懷民。他剛從莫斯科回來,不是去演出,而是去向甫過世的好友德國編舞家碧娜鮑許的舞團 致意。他談到他「最大的恨」,是看得到民眾需求,但文化藝術卻沒有通路,藝術家和民眾間的橋樑沒有搭起來。「你可以想像今天的統一沒有7-Eleven 嗎?」林懷民談地方文化中心的機能失靈,使得沒有通路把文化藝術的成果輸送到人民生活的動脈。雲門的淡水新家,林懷民找黃聲遠來設計,「因為他不是以造型 取勝的建築師,他關心建築裡面的人。」是啊,林懷民其實也不是以視覺取勝的編舞家,因為他關心台下看表演的人。


在海外和外國人交往,他們常常很驚訝西方的東西我多少知道一點。他們驚訝,因為他們對於台灣跟東方不熟。他們是強勢文化,我們必須學習,最 後我們反而多了一個層面。不過我也意識到一件事情,如果不透過學習,本國本土的文化也不會留在我們身上。像故宮博物院,大部份人不去或者是走馬看花,養分 也不會溶入我們生活裡。









今年冬天,雲門在大陸六個城市賣票公演。台灣只到四個城市,但大陸已經變成六個城市,這只是個開始。你說有一天會不會變成十六個或三十六個 城市?賴聲川的戲去年在大陸有一百多場,是台灣演出的兩倍吧。表演團體為生存,全球都可以是它的舞台。但社會的資源所凝聚出來的藝術成果無法全民共享,是 整個國家的損失。當文化中心不專業經營,收穫台灣藝術成果的是台灣以外地方的人。