Thursday, September 24, 2009


Bonus material:

Verner Panton's 1979 Pantorama has it all. It's both conversation pit and platform; virgin and whore. All of it.

Is Panton the one true God?

Verner Panton: Phantasy Landscape

I couldn't end this short series about big furniture without a look-in from Verner - "One sits more comfortably on a color that one likes" - Panton and his Phantasy Landscape Visiona 2, 1970.

Images via Architonic and Art Tattler.

Seating Platforms and John Chamberlain's Barges

One of John Chamberlain's "barges" at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas, and a seating platform in Frank Stella's loft, circa 1970, via Flickr and Ouno.

See John Chamberlain making one of his sofas (with a very long knife) in The Dakota in 1976 here. Awesome.

More of John's Brown Room in the Movie "Help!"

Dig that sleeping pit. The art director was Ray Simm.

Images via Eldest and Only - well worth watching the "You've Got To Hide Your Love Away" movie (I still have a crush on Eleanor Bron).

Conversation (and Sleeping) Pits II

A couple more, with guitars, via Stop Worrying: A Tribute to the Beatles Film "Help!" and Ouno.

Alexander Girard Conversation Pit

The first in a short series of posts I'll be doing on conversation pits, platforms and other large seating elements, like John Chamberlain's barges (giant carved foam sofas).

First, Alexander Girard for Eero Saarinen's 1957 Miller House in Columbus, Indiana. The top image is original, the other two more recent.

Images via Ouno.


Small poem
Short poem
Poem without poetry
Poem nonetheless

The Finish Line Comes to You - No Need to Run

The Machine Stops and There Is No Silence

Sleeping on the Floor Like Dogs Because They Are Dogs

The Uniquerist

God Just Kidding

Strong Together Like Wood and Glue

Here In Beacon


Media Mail

Lines Not Ovals




Two Soft Black Stains

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nature = Health

It would be an understatement to say there's been a lot of buzz lately about global warming, green jobs, and many, many specific examples in the news of what we should and shouldn't be doing to the planet and its health, such as the potential ramifications of the Interoceanic Highway, currently under construction across South America.

But what of our health? What can nature do for us? Studies show that contact with nature (whether wild or designed) facilitates health and well-being. What does this say for the cancer ward that has no therapeutic garden attached to it; or the inmate whose only access to nature is an hour a day in a bare prison yard with a tiny patch of sky? In my book, it says they're suffering nature deprivation.

So, is access to nature an inalienable human right? The good people of the Therapeutic Landscape Network believe it is, or at least should be. Here's their mission statement. The TLN is spearheading a growing movement among healthcare and design professionals to bring nature back into our lives in some of the least likely places, such as hospitals and prisons.

It would be smart of the increasingly vilified healthcare industry to get behind this sort of intelligent and humane approach to wellness. We live in hope.

Echinacea image by Henry Domke, via the all new Therapeutic Landscapes Network website, an absolute treasure trove of information on the subject of restorative landscapes and gardens, and easy on the eye - a sort of online healing landscape (be sure to click on the birdsong audio for the full effect).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Richard Barnes: Exploring the Margins

I'm fascinated by photographer Richard Barnes' investigative trajectory. Just as his new monograph, Animal Logic, comes out this month and the memory of his eerily empty, yet rich and beautiful pictures of the Unabomber's cabin continue to resonate, his current body of museum based work pulls him, and us, ever forward into uncharted territory.

Animal Logic: Photography and Installation by Richard Barnes, the exhibition, opening October 3 at Cranbrook Acadamy of Art and Art Museum, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is a mid-career survey that includes collaborative video and audio installations of Barnes' well known Murmur series (the starlings, also on the cover of the book).

It's back-to-back Michigan action this fall for Barnes, as he has two other solos opening there this month: (Un)natural History: The Museum Unveiled, opens September 17, 2009 at the University of Michigan Art Museum, Ann Arbor, Michigan; and Past Perfect/Future Tense: Authenticity and Replication, opens September 17, 2009 at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The work being unveiled at these three shows includes found images of museum staff holding up sheets behind artifacts for photography. Barnes draws our attention to the margins of the image, where we can sometimes see the hands and feet of the otherwise completely obscured photographers' assistants and everyday objects on shelves behind them, such as a salt shaker and a thermos.

Recently, over lunch, Barnes gave me some insight into his new work, which also includes striking photographs of molds used by museums to cast prehistoric remains:

Past perfect implies an action in the past which occurred before another action, also in the past. In much the same way the layering of history and memory... marks points in time moving towards an unknowable future.

Animal Logic image Richard Barnes.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Zero is the Beginning

I have a soft spot for zeros (a ten year soft spot) and reductive art in general. Zero Group, Group ZERO, Group 0, or simply Zero, the movement (1957-1966), didn't always produce works as entirely reductive as the name might suggest, but Yves Klein kept it blissfully simple at least some of the time.

Above images include Yves Klein's IKB 79, 1959 and Jean Tinguely's D├ębricollage, 1970 (both from the Tate collection), and Otto Piene at work in his studio.

Lamb of God

I went to a cemetery today. Not something I'm in the habit of doing.

While I was wandering through rows of imposing granite gravestones and recumbent bronze plaques, I came across a beautiful, simple little white marble marker with a carved lamb on top, dated 1951. I wondered why so different from the rest and why was there only one date (birth) and no room for a second one to be added later (death).

As I continued walking, I came to the southern edge of the cemetery and discovered a fenced area with many small gravestones. Rather naively, at first I thought I'd stumbled upon a pet cemetery (several of the markers had carved bird and animal figures, some had cherubs).

But as I drew closer, I could see it was a children's cemetery and many of the stones were marked with just one year, some with two. The lamb and the dove were recurrent motifs, the stones so small, the single dates shocking. Such short lives.

So many little lambs.

Not the marker I saw, but the image comes from an interesting site about cemetery symbolism.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Suprematism vs. Concrete Art

When Kasimir Malevich painted "Black Square" (above) in 1915, he had yet to apply the dynamic tilting of geometric forms that gave many Suprematist works a sense of movement. This piece looks surprisingly like concrete art, though it predates Theo van Doesburg's "Manifesto of Concrete Art" by fifteen years.

Malevich was influenced in his quest for the absolutely non-objective by the ideas of the Greek-Armenian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, namely his Fourth Way, as popularized by Gurdjieff's disciple, the Russian philosopher, P.D. Ouspensky. Ouspensky spoke of:

...a fourth dimension or a Fourth Way beyond the three to which our ordinary senses have access.

Concrete art, on the other hand, is devoid of symbolic influences or implications.

Malevich may also have been influenced by Piet Mondrian, the father of geometric art and himself a bit of a theosopher, but more likely they were each independently influenced by Cubism, which originated in 1907.

Though Mondrian's "The New Plastic in Painting" was not published until 1917 and 1918, he made the break from representational painting in 1913 and described his new ideas in a 1914 letter to H.P. Bremmer:

I construct lines and color combinations on a flat surface, in order to express general beauty with the utmost awareness. Nature (or, that which I see) inspires me, puts me, as with any painter, in an emotional state so that an urge comes about to make something, but I want to come as close as possible to the truth and abstract everything from that, until I reach the foundation (still just an external foundation!) of things…

I believe it is possible that, through horizontal and vertical lines constructed with awareness, but not with calculation, led by high intuition, and brought to harmony and rhythm, these basic forms of beauty, supplemented if necessary by other direct lines or curves, can become a work of art, as strong as it is true.

Interestingly, van Doesburg (who, before concrete art, founded the art movement De Stijl along with Mondrian in 1917) and Malevich both favored diagonal compositions, whereas, for the most part, Mondrian stuck to perpendicular horizontals and verticals.

More importantly, both Suprematism and concrete art declared an absolute break from representational art, even art that alluded, via abstraction, to the "real" or "objective" world.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Concrete, Constructive, Minimal and Concept


In 1977, the Daimler Art Collection made its first "classical modern" acquisition, a painting by Willi Baumeister. Thirty two years later, according to the collection's website:

The Daimler Art Collection reflects the most important developments in 20th century abstract art, starting with prestigious groups of work from the Concrete and Constructive Art, Minimal Art and Concept Art movements, then moving on to the most recent international art trends.

Image is Willi Baumeister's Montaru on Pink, 1953, oil on cardboard, 135 x 185 cm.