Thursday, November 25, 2010

Atta Kwami

Suggestion for Black Friday—avoid it altogether and head over to the Howard Scott Gallery in Chelsea. There you will be surrounded by the color-saturated, light-infused work of Ghanaian artist Atta Kwami.

The banded patches of color that instantly suggest kente cloth (Kwami’s mother was an artist and textile designer), also suggest the architecture, sign painting and music of Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city, where the artist lives, works, and teaches. And like any intricately chaotic, yet purposeful city, the best way to navigate the paintings is to wander through them and even get lost while savoring the variety of brushwork and imagery.

I was lucky enough to meet the artist, and was surprised to learn that many of the pieces in the show were painted in London, and in Washington D.C. during a recent fellowship. Kwami emanates a natural warmth, and when I asked how he could produce these extraordinarily colorful canvasses in such gray places, his answer that “the light comes from within,” was absolutely real and made perfect sense.

With light and peace on this Thanksgiving day …

The show is called Fufofo (Coming Together) and runs
through November 27.




Lanier Place Goddess II

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


If, in the year 1968, you were not a preteen girl fully immersed in the study of grooming products and all things mod, you are excused for not knowing about the amazing nonwater shampoo-substitute that came in a can.

Yes, PSSSSSST was a powder-based spray to be used when you just didn’t have time to wash your hair, and then roll it around a giant coffee can to dry it straight.

What I could not have known then, was how perfect it would be to immortalized a bit of PSSSSSST advertising (along with all things Beatles or ladybug) on yet another iconic fad of the day—a decoupaged lunch-box handbag.
I’ve read that, like numerous other products of days gone by, the dry shampoo has been re-introduced! "Between Shampoos- On Camping Trips- After Sports. Any time you can't use water. Psssssst is the convenient, quick fresher-upper for your hair."

Yup, that's Susan Dey, "washing" her hair. I found this image at Gold Country Girls.

My mom has sold her house and is moving to an apartment. I’ll be posting more nostalgia as the excavating and purging continues.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Architectural Forum Covers

The first three, of these Architectural Forum issues were offered as
one lot on eBay last week…

This next group of issues are available on eBay, from various sellers, right now …

The following are covers from a Frank Lloyd Wright archive at The Steiner Agency. You can go there and see many more wonderful covers of issues referencing Wright.

September 1956

January 1949

February 1961

May 1959

October 1970

December 1970

November 1957

September 1958

November 1959

Apologies for the lack of info on art direction/design/photo credits, etc., but I do not have access to the issues at this time. I hope you can just enjoy the candy for now ...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Life imitates Art?

You know how there is always someone standing in front of a Jackson Pollack painting saying that it looks like a plate of spaghetti? Well often it can work the other way.

Some occasions of life imitating art:

Andy Goldsworthy on the Upper West Side?

Brice Marden for dessert?

Arman in a dumpster?

Excel spreadsheet or Agnes Martin?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wealth Distribution For Dummies

Let’s use 100 people to represent one hundred percent of the U.S. population, and $100 to represent the country’s wealth. Now let’s distribute the $100 among the 100 people in proportion to how it is spread out within the population.
What got me going on this, was that as alarming as the statistics are about the disparity between the wealthiest and poorest in this country, the graphic representations tend to feel less urgent. And that, ironically, has to do with the magnitude of the inequality. Charts using equal size increments, say, each 1% of the wealth-holders plotted on a bar chart, or even quintiles, for that matter, simply don’t read. So we need to resort to more abstracted depictions, i.e. charts that compare different size groups.
Above left, is a classic wealth distribution chart that compares the shares of different size groups. Sometimes it will be top 1% vs. bottom 99%, sometimes 10% vs. 90%. This 1-4-15-80 chart is from the Economic Policy Institute. The gradated layers amble across an expanse of years with some gentle dips and rises along the way. The meaning of the chart can only be accessed when you read “Top 1%” in the biggest layer and “Bottom 80%” in the smallest layer, and then mentally process the fact that we are being shown a comparison between different size groups. It always frustrates me, because the image doesn’t provoke amazement and outrage. The visual message is one of even distribution.

Drake Bennett, in a Bloomberg Businessweek commentary, 'The Inequality Delusion', points to a study by Dan Ariely and Michael I. Norton about Americans’ perceptions of the country’s wealth distribution by quintile (right chart). Concerning ourselves here with only the top two bars, the top bar shows the actual breakdown, and the second shows the estimations by those interviewed. As the note at the bottom of the chart points out, quintiles four and five on the actual breakdown are not even visible. I wouldn’t be surprised if the pervasive use of different-size-group layer chart (on the left), has graphically reinforced the delusion of those interviewed (on the right).

So I’m throwing this idea of '100 dollars/100 people' out there as yet another way to visualize this information. Yes, it too compares different size groups, but I’m hoping that by using 100 people (an amount we can all fathom), breaking the groups into individuals, and using real money in a way that is familiar (as opposed to $34.60 in pennies or even a stack of dollar bills), we might get a bit closer to getting our heads around, how concentrated the wealth in the U.S. really is.

The really bad news, however, is how much worse off the ‘Nonwealthies' are than they used to be. Bob Herbert’s Election Day column in the New York Times, covers a new book called Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer — and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. Briefly, the book’s authors, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson explain that the economic struggles of the middle and working classes in the U.S. since the late-1970s have been due to government policies that favor the rich.

Furthermore, the book “explores the vexing question of how this could have happened in a democracy in which — in theory, at least — the enormous number of voters who are not rich would serve as a check on policies that curtailed their own economic opportunities while at the same time supercharging the benefits of the runaway rich.”

In other words, why do so many Americans continually vote against their own best interests? Hint: the answer has to do with the interconnectedness of the superrich, the power of their focused ability to organize, and the amount of influence that extreme wealth can buy. After all, the total wealth of the bottom 80% combined doesn’t even begin to come close to what the top wealth-owners have socked away.

Bennett reminds us of what John McCain said during the Presidential campaign two years ago. "That is what change means for Barack the Redistributor: It means taking your money and giving it to someone else …"

Telling voters that their money was to be taken from them proved so catchy, that Tea/publicans repeated it endlessly throughout the most recent campaign season.

What McCain and the other “anti-distributors” always neglect to mention, is that they are only addressing between 1% and, at most, 10% of the population. The other 90% have been having their wealth “redistributed” for the last three decades.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Primping for Day of the Dead

Illustrator and comics artist Ann Decker had enough foresight to leave the country before the Tea Party comes into power. She lives in Mexico now. Here are two paintings she has in a show for Día de los Muertos. I’m glad to see that Ann hasn’t totally forgotten NYC. She seems to have recalled Manhattan’s social x-rays perfectly.

Check out Ann's website to see more of her work.

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