Friday, July 29, 2011

Haring-esque Ephemera for a Summer Friday

Found these Keith Haring knock-off ice cream wrappers on a 1991 trip to Israel. Though in Israel, they most likely pronounce his name “Herring.” Great weekend to all!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

19th Century Finds

I recently paid a visit (virtually) to Ken Spelman rare books in York, England. In addition to the shelves and shelves of books, were drawings, prints, ephemera, and some unusual objects.

These Victorian word wheels date from, c.1870. The star-shaped cutouts, are handwritten on both sides, with slogans relating to love and fortune. I’m not quite sure how they worked, but apparently the string (that’s tangled around the one on the left) was for spinning the wheel.

Brass stencils, probably used by a surveyor, chart-maker, or architect. These pictured, are from a collection of 91 pieces. Many include the folded paper ‘envelope.’

Mahogany box with original watercolor cakes and china mixing dishes. I wonder if this set was American--there is no “u” in the word “colors.”

Until self-adhesive envelopes were introduced in the mid-19th Century, medallion wafers were used for sealing documents. They were discs made from a paste that included flour. As explained here, in detail, “the wheat gluten, when hydrated, dries to becomes an excellent adhesive.”

I love the scale on this marbled paper—the large shapes on a fairly small book.

Wooden star most probably for inlay work, c. 1830.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sketches with 'Brushes'

White Mug

Now that everyone has moved on to iPads, I figured it was just about the right time to finally get an iPhone.

As an enthusiastic sketcher and painter (note: enthusiasm and results do not necessarily correlate), I couldn’t wait to try the 'Brushes,' the app popularized by David Hockney and Jorge Colombo of New Yorker-cover fame.

Though iPhone “painting” really makes me miss paint, I already feel the pull of convenience. It’s also way less obtrusive in public. After all, isn’t everyone intently stroking a screen for some reason or another?

Morning Pond

Front Room

Schmaltzy Sunset Trio

Up Sixth Avenue

Urban Plein Air

Subway Platform

Pepper Ann on the Dock

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Modern Sculpture, Made Clear

Alexander Calder's entry received first prize.

"The World of Tomorrow, to judge by the displays in the scientific exhibits of the New York World's Fair, 1939, will be plasticized, or at least dominated by plastics. As though by common consent, most companies have featured some variety of the many species of plastics." (Chemical Engineering News, Sept. 1939.)

Three decades before it would be uttered in
The Graduate as the most memorable single word of advice ever given, it was obvious (at least to chemical engineers) that the future would be “plastics.” The 1939 World's Fair featured them in full force. The myriad applications for Bakelite, Lucite, Plexiglas, Nylon and other newly devised synthetics, were showcased in everything from giant resin statues to paint used for murals, and the wands used by fair guides.

Bakelite Plastics Exhibit (NYPL photo)

In addition to the transparent
“Ghost Car” I posted the other day, Rohm & Haas, inventor of the Plexiglas from which it was made, sponsored a sculpture competition with the Museum of Modern Art. Five of the 250 entries were exhibited for the duration of the fair.

I have no idea what ever became of the sculptures themselves, but the photos, by Louis Werner, are from the Katherine Dreier archive at Yale’s
Beinecke Library. I think you might be familiar with some of the winning artists.

The judges were the artist,
Katherin Dreier; curator, James Johnson Sweeney; and sculptor, Robert Laurent. Technical advisor for the competition was industrial designer Gilbert Rohde. At the Beinecke site, paired with each photo, is text by the judges explaining their choice of that sculpture. Alexander Calder won first prize. I’ve included the accompanying text for his sculpture at the end of this post. Each winner's name is linked to the original image and accompanying descriptive text.

Herbert Matter, second prize.

Werner Drewes, third prize.

C.K. Castaing, fourth prize.

Xanti Schawinsky, fifth prize.
(I can hardly wait to do a post on him.)

Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

1939 Pontiac Plexiglas “Ghost Car”

Used 1939 Pontiac, 86 miles, single owner since early 1980s.

What you are looking at, or rather, through, is a 1939 Pontiac Deluxe Six made of Plexiglas. The “Ghost Car,” as it was called, which wowed visitors to GM's "Highways and Horizons" exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair, will be sold on July 30 by RM Auctions.

The photos here are all from the online catalog, as are the following excerpts:
Visitors to General Motors’ “Highways and Horizons” pavilion at the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair came away awed by a vision of the future. The work of renowned designer Norman Bel Geddes, GM’s “Futurama” exhibit foretold the communities and transportation systems of 1960, many of which came to pass. Other peeks at the future included “Previews of Progress,” inventions that seemed like magic: “Yarns made of Milk! Glass that bends! The Frig-O-Therm that cooks and freezes at the same time! The Talking Flashlight transmitting speech over a light beam!” exclaimed the exhibit’s guidebook. Sharing top billing with the Futurama and Previews of Progress, however, was the “Glass’ Car – The first full-sized transparent car ever made in America.”
On the chassis of a 1939 Pontiac Deluxe Six, GM collaborated with Rohm & Haas, the chemical company that had recently developed Plexiglas. The world’s first transparent acrylic sheet product, Plexiglas was a serendipitous discovery arising from Rohm & Haas’ work with laminated safety glass. Using drawings for the Pontiac four-door Touring Sedan, Rohm & Haas constructed an exact replica body using Plexiglas in place of the outer sheet-metal. The structural metal underneath was given a copper wash, and all hardware, including the dashboard, was chrome plated. Rubber moldings were made in white, as were the car’s tires. It reportedly cost $25,000 to build – an astronomical figure in those days …
According to the GM Heritage Center, a second car, on a Torpedo Eight chassis, was hurriedly constructed for the 1940 Golden Gate Exposition on Treasure Island, a man-made island in San Francisco Bay. Once their respective showcases had closed, both “Plexiglas Pontiacs,” or “Ghost Cars” as they were sometimes known, toured the nation’s dealerships. The 1939-40 Deluxe Six is the only one known to survive …
The car is in a remarkable state of preservation, a testament to the longevity of Plexiglas in an era when automotive plastics tended to self-destruct within a few years. Although it has acquired a few chips and cracks, it is structurally sound and cosmetically clear, showing off the Ghost Car’s innards as it did in 1939. The car rides on its original U.S. Royal all-white tires and sports the correct white rubber running boards. From the beginning it was a running car, although extensive use would have been unduly detrimental. The odometer currently reads 86 miles. The only recent mechanical work has been replacement of the fuel lines …”

On Another Note ...
The “Ghost Car” was just one of Rohm & Haas’s experiments with Plexiglas prior to the material finding mainstream commercial use. The company displayed an acrylic violin at the 1937 Paris Exposition where it was awarded the Grand Prix. Though the violin reportedly sounded terrible (a flute produced later was said to have been more successful), it was the manipulation techniques developed in the fashioning musical instruments, that the company applied to its highly successful and critical manufacture of cockpits for WWII aircraft. (source)
Modern Mechanix, February 1939.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Strange Fruit on Sixth Avenue

I was stuck in traffic on the bus along Sixth Avenue the other day, so I was very appreciative of the entertaining spectacle right outside the Grace Building. The performers, who swayed atop 16-foot flexible poles, were members of Strange Fruit, a Melbourne-based performing arts company.

You can still catch performances of The Three Belles at The World Financial Center Friday and Saturday.

You might say this takes pole dancing to new heights.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Vertical Alchemy

Though I’m used to it by now, I’m always acutely aware of how incompatible the vertical scrolling of Blogger is with our tradition of horizontal viewing. It's a convention that applies to everything from turning the pages of a book to watching the landscape from a moving vehicle. Even in this age of air travel and skyscrapers, our metaphors for time remain horizontally sequential. Time marches on, not up. We look forward to vacation, and think back on our childhood.

Try as I might to embrace Blogger’s inherent verticality, I often find myself frustrated at how difficult it is to display images that relate on a continuum. Even for individual images, expansive width is problematic. Horizontal pictures can get great play when printed on the spread of a book or magazine, but for this blog’s format, the wider an image is, the smaller it must be overall to fit into the formatted column.

Vertical scrolling, however, has its virtues. In fact, it turns out to be the perfect format for—are you ready for this—a vertical scroll!

The Ripley Scroll of Emblematic Alchemy, here, is from Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and dates from circa 1570. I was curious to see what it looked like in its entirety, so I pieced together the full-length scroll from the 14 separate images provided. At the Beineke site, you can enlarge the images and study the glorious detail, but here is where, after 400 years, you can view this magnificent manuscript as it was originally intended—by scrolling vertically.

Note: There was a good deal of interpretive Photoshop work done to connect the pages that at one time were connected to form the scroll in the first place. Also, due to the image-height constraint of this platform, I had to break the full scroll into three long panels plus a small ender.

Embarrassing addendum, 7/12/11:
I awoke to find the first comment, below, from peacay of BibliOdyssey, directing me to a full-length, seamless version of the Ripley Scroll posted there in January of 2009. Truly embarrassing, because I can swear that I checked to see if the scroll had already been posted on that most likely of places.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bauble Alert: Van Cleef Show Closes July 4th

Egyptian Odalisque evening bag, 1927.

Even if magnificent jewelry isn’t your thing, there’s much jaw-dropping beauty and exquisite craftsmanship to behold at the Cooper Hewitt’s Van Cleef & Arpels show. “Set in Style: The Jewelry of Van Cleef & Arpels” is on view through July 4th. This is no ordinary bling. The legendary Place Vendôme jeweler, founded in 1906, was responsible for such design innovations as the zip necklace, and the “Mystery Setting,” which made it possible for tessellated gemstones to coat undulating surfaces, free of visible metal prongs. Also on display are original sketches, order books, and some remarkable cigarette cases, minaudières, and handbags.

The exhibition design by the Jouin Manku studio features irregularly blown-glass display orbs. They serve as organic vitrines for a cabinet of dazzling curiosities of the rich and famous, and are yet another reason to head over to the Carnegie mansion for the museum’s last show before the building’s two-year renovation begins.

Wishing you a most sparkly 4th!

Peacock box, c. 1950

Radiator lapel pin/bag clasp, 1930. The “vents” open and close

Mystery-set Peony brooch, 1937.

Lamartine earrings and bracelet of coral, amethyst and diamonds, 1970. This set, which belonged to Elizabeth Taylor, was a gift from Richard Burton, and will be auctioned by Christies this winter.

One of two Manchette Cuff Bracelets, which combined together, become a necklace. Late 1920s.

Micro-mosaic necklace.

Indu Necklace, 1950. Sketch, and the real thing.
Owned by Maharani of Baroda.

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