Monday, July 31, 2006

Chez Zaha

Everything in the Zaha Hadid exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum looks as if it’s about to take off up the spiral ramp and catapult through the skylight in the rotunda. What makes the show even better is knowing that it’s all the vision of a ham-fisted 55-year-old Iraqi-born British woman, the first woman recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize.

Better than her paintings, plans, and models, however, is a stunningly futuristic kitchen that comprises multimedia equipment, sound actuators and LEDs within a flowing shell of DuPont Corian. I guess that means I don’t have to stop blogging when I am frying up some eggs and bacon.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

When hippie met Ozzy

I know, you’re thinking “What the…?” This is Hatebreed, a metal band that performed on Saturday at Ozzfest on Randall's Island. I had to look up Ozzfest to figure out what it was. Ozzfest is an annual tour of the United States organized by Ozzy Osbourne and featuring performances by heavy metal groups. My stepbrother, who is still in college, hosted some out-of-town friends for the all-day festival, one of whom turned out to be his girlfriend. On Friday night, we all met her for the first time. She is a Women’s Studies major who is interested in massage therapy.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Imagine my surprise to read about a Merrill Lynch report suggesting that art is one of the worst possible investments.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I still want to write up my recent trips to the Guggenheim Museum to see Zaha Hadid and to the Katonah Museum of Art to see Joseph Cornell. Yep, Pinky and I boarded a train heading north out of Stink Town to visit the cute little hamlet of Katonah, in Westchester, better known to some as The Town that Martha Stewart Blessed. We did our best to catch a glimpse of her - or of anything, really - but she has built a stone wall around the 153-acre estate at exactly the right height to block all voyeurs, no matter how slowly (or often) they drive by. Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren doesn't let you see more than a gate.

Or so I've been told.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Porcupine grabs fedora and umbrella, heads for exit

After weeks of interviews and negotiations, some hair-pulling and a couple of fistfights, I am leaving the Ground Zero area and heading back up to Midtown! Beautiful Midtown, which I used to loathe, with its packs of tourists swarming out of hotels and along Broadway to matinees in the Theater District and chain restaurants in Times Square, now beckons sweetly, a bastion of civilization after working in the wasteland on the west side of the World Trade Center site. No more first-hand reports of the progress at Ground Zero.

Subatomic analysis of the long-term ramifications of working in what amounts to a psychiatric facility is confined to colleagues. My family didn't react much. My sister could never remember where I worked anyway, and my parents still can't believe that anyone pays me to do anything.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Then this happened

I'd like to think about art, but this happened, and the mind is barely able to cope with anything else.

One voice I turn to again and again is that of the Dove, a Lebanese-American woman who lives in California and writes with clarity and reason about the conflict even as her own relatives try to escape their south Lebanon village.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Finnish design arrives downtown

Downtown, in the World Financial Center, is an exhibition of contemporary design from Finland called SAUMA [Design as Cultural Interface]. The fifteen separate installations in the exhibition "explore new approaches to usability, user experience and the design process itself."

SAUMA begins in a long hallway, where three transparent globes by Hilda Kozári are installed. Each bubble is infused with a different perfume, designed by the artist to evoke the atmosphere of Helsinki, Budapest, and Paris. Stepping into each globe is like entering a scent-filled blur. Paris smells like roses, Budapest a bit musky, and Helsinki a bit smoky - so recognizably smoky, in fact, that I thought I was sniffing the exhalation of the man who had been in there before me.

Other installations are more clever than lyrical, however. Most begin with a familiar premise, but aim to solve a problem in a new way. For example, Klaus Aalto designed what looks like a traditional chest of drawers, but the drawers have been replaced by briefcases, so that their contents are portable. Kari Sivonen designed a portable solar panel system that allows the wearer to convert solar energy into electricity to, say, charge a cell phone.

In the "not in New York" category I would nominate Takkiainen, a jacket made out of Velcro strips "for lonely or bored people... It is designed to help the wearer to get in contact with others. Since we brush against each other every day as we move around in the city, we can use our clothes as a medium for meeting people and communicating with them." This sounds like a nightmare to me. I recoil when people brush against me on the subway, so the idea that someone would come along and actually stick to me is hair-raising - particularly any self-identified loners. Maybe it's different with Finns.

SAUMA is on view until September 10, and was produced by the Finnish Cultural Institute in New York.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The fireflies of Madison Square Park

There is a hidden population that comes out at night in Madison Square Park. It's not the homeless people, though they do seem to materialize on park benches in the time it takes to turn your head.

It's fireflies. Thousands of them. They bob up and down just a few feet above the lawn, so that the grass seems to sparkle intermittently.

Most passersby don't notice them as they rush through the park, listening to iPods or chatting on cellphones or shepherding children.

But the ones who happen to look sideways for more than a second see them and suddenly smile, and look around to see if anyone else has noticed.

Above: Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929, Matsumoto, Japan), Fireflies on the Water (2002), an installation I saw at the Whitney Museum's 2004 Biennial Exhibition.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Anna Castelli Ferrieri

If the words "design" and "Milan" in close proximity make your heart skip a beat, and candy-colored melamine inspires visions of a warm and fuzzy utopia in which even a toothbrush can have aesthetic integrity, then you are already familiar with Kartell. I grew up with parents who worshipped at the altar of modern Italian design, saving old copies of Abitare for decades, so I suppose I had no choice in the matter. I still get light-headed around apple-red plastic.

If any of this means anything to you, then you already know the work of Anna Castelli Ferrieri, who died on Thursday. Ferrieri was one of the few successful women in the Italian design field. In 1949, she and her husband, Giulio Castelli, founded Kartell, which became a leading furniture company known for high-quality plastic designs.

Two minutes, two goals

Was anyone else watching today's match between Italy and Germany in the semifinals of the World Cup?

I don't even like sports, usually, but between Maria Sharapova at Wimbledon this morning and the Italians this afternoon, the drama was too much to resist.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Crocs

These they are indeed the shoes of a hypothetical distopian future, one in which the inmates they must be dressed in the footwear least likely to be useful in the popular uprising against the regime.

The nation it is sinking into the slough of bad shoes, and just when the curse of the Uggs had abated.

A blog bubble

"The world does not need more blogs," says Nick Denton, the founder of Gawker Media, who estimates "there is approximately one reader for every blog out there."

Sounds about right.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Ursula von Rydingsvard

In Madison Square Park are four large sculptures by Ursula von Rydingsvard. The park is better known to some as the site of the Shake Shack, but it is quite an elegant sanctuary between 23rd and 25th Streets, a quieter cousin to the more frenetic Union Square Park. The sculptures - or "monumental vessel forms" - are so well suited to the park that they almost disappear among the mature trees like ghostly forms.

Von Rydingsvard normally works in cedar, but the centerpiece of the Madison Square Park exhibition is Damski Czepek, made of polyurethane resin. Damski Czepek evolved from the form of a bonnet, creating a concave space that you can stand in, complete with strings that meander outward.