George Kravis Donates Industrial Design Collection to Cooper Hewitt

A photo of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.

Photo credit: Osugi / Shutterstock

Long-time industrial design collector George R. Kravis II recently donated a number of fascinating objects to the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Institute in New York City.

Energizing the Everyday: Gifts from the George R. Kravis II Collection features some of the most influential objects in the history of industrial design through the 20th and early 21st century. From radios to furniture, made in the U.S. and around the world, this fascinating group of objects reflects the history and cultural zeitgeist of the times in which they were created.

Some of the notable objects in the collection include designer Norman Bel Geddes’ ca. 1931 Manhattan cocktail set, designer Cesare Cassati’s and C. Emanuele Ponzio’s 1968 Pillola lamps, and artist Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun solar-powered LED lantern of 2012.

Other items include a 1939 Gilbert Rohde vanity and a Castiglioni stereo cabinet from the 1960s.

An early fascination with records and a background in broadcasting motivated Kravis to begin his collecting with objects in this genre, but he later expanded his collecting efforts to include industrial design and furnishings from the U.S., Europe, and Asia.

As a collector, Kravis looks not only to the object’s purpose but also to its aesthetic, and that clearly shows through in this collection.

If you can’t get to New York to take in the exhibit, you can view the entire collection online thanks to the Cooper Hewitt’s online gallery.

In 2016, the Kravis Design Center published a coffee table book, 100 Designs for the Modern World, featuring selected pieces from the Kravis collection. A beautifully photographed publication, it’s well worth a look and it would be a great addition to any art enthusiast’s book collection.

The exhibit will be on display through March 12, 2017.

Posted in philanthropy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

When Abstract Art Meets Architecture

A photo of a unique home.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Alex Schweder and Ward Shelley have been back for yet another round of their particular art scene: performance architecture. These two artists are veterans of the genre they invented, having lived together for short spans in “houses” designed after hamster wheels, climbing walls, and seesaws. This time, it’s a pivot.

“Reactor” is a house, forty feet by eight feet, almost entirely made of windows, and balanced on a single point atop a concrete pillar. In a field at the Omi International Arts Center in Ghent, New York, just an hour north of New York City, they dipped and swayed and wobbled for five days, living in their RV-sized space. It moved with every breeze and with the steps of each tenant, making them utterly aware of one another. Irregular weather had dramatic effects on their daily routines, and the boat-like motion was calming, according to their journal entries, which they shared with the New York Times. A video of their spinning home can be found here.

“Reactor” is only the latest in the pair’s series of co-habitative works. In 2013, they spent six days in “Orbit,” a wheel-like installation where one lived inside the wheel, the other outside, and they had to cooperate to arrange the fixtures for use. In 2011, they performed in “Counterweight Roommate,” a vertical structure that they had to navigate in tandem, being tied together. If one wanted to go up, the other had to go down. “Stability,” which was in Seattle, Washington in 2009, was probably the predecessor-in-spirit to “Reactor,” being two micro-apartments suspended by a chain from a central point, so that the artists’ movements made the structure seesaw wildly.

Although their five-day residence in “Reactor” was in July, the pivot-point house continues to dip and sway in the breeze in the field outside the Omi International Arts Center, and will remain there until 2018. Schweder and Shelley will return in late September and mid-October for two more brief spells in the structure.

Posted in art | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Morbid Anatomy Museum Showcases Dead Kittens

An image of a cat laying on top of a human skull.

Image: Shutterstock

In what is probably New York’s strangest museum, the Morbid Anatomy Museum features exhibits centered on the theme of death. Their latest exhibit, Taxidermy: Art, Science & Immortality Featuring Walter Potter’s Kittens’ Wedding, is dark to say the least. Two preserved kittens, dressed in formal wedding attire, stand face-to-face, as if to exchange vows.

The Kittens’ Wedding was created by Walter Potter circa 1890. The British Victorian taxidermist was known for taking small animals such as kittens, bunnies, and squirrels and posing them in human scenarios. One of his pieces, titled Gambling Squirrels, features two squirrels sitting across the table from one another. One puffs on a pipe. The other holds a deck of cards.

But for as macabre as it sounds, taxidermy is actually fairly common. The practice dates back to ancient Egypt, where cats, crocodiles, and even humans were mummified as part of sacred rituals. But in recent years, taxidermy has evolved to become an art-of-science, so to speak. In 19th century England, for example, there was a spike in the demand for preserved animals. During this time, the upper class equated taxidermy with the study of anatomy, which was a highly revered subject. Preserved animals were a symbol of intelligence, wealth, and social status.

But Potter was the first taxidermist to turn this practice into an art. His anthropomorphic style became the focus of much debate. In what many would describe as being a cruel and inhumane practice, others would describe as being a thought-provoking reflection on the historical relationship between humans and animals. It’s definitely an exhibit that challenges visitors to have an open mind.

Taxidermy: Art, Science & Immortality Featuring Walter Potter’s Kittens’ Wedding opened on September 1 and is running through November 6, 2016.

Admission is $12 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens. Children 12 and under are free. Admission includes entry into the museum’s library, which has a wide collection of books, photographs, drawings, paintings, and artifacts related to anatomy and taxidermy.

Posted in Brooklyn | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Last Chance to Visit Rubin Museum’s Tibetan Buddhist Shrine

An image of Buddha meditating.

Image: Olga Kashubin / Shutterstock

On October 23, 2015, Rubin Museum debuted their Sacred Spaces exhibition. The exhibit explores the concept of the holy. What makes a particular space holy? How do we use that space to connect with the divine? Who gets to decide that a place is holy? All these questions and more are explored in the Sacred Spaces exhibit, which is coming to a close on October 17, 2016.

To further examine the subject, Rubin Museum has provided a Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room where visitors can reflect on the idea of sanctity. While there are many different types of Tibetan Buddhist shrines (ranging from modest home altars to opulent temples) this one is modeled after a wealthy household shrine. The shrine features numerous statues alongside lavish furniture, cloth, and sacred objects. The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room serves as a traditional space reserved for offerings, prayers, devotion, and meditation.

But the room is more than what meets the eye; it offers an escape from the stressors of everyday life. A panoramic photo taken by Jaroslav Poncar transports viewers to the dreamy landscape of the Himalayan Mountains, where temples flourish and spirits freely soar. Ancient belief is that the Himalayan Mountains themselves are sacred. Locals believe that the ground, water, rocks, mountains, and trees require worship in order to ward off danger and invite blessings. Those who are interested can view a free interactive tour of the room here.

Aside from the Shrine Room, the exhibit also features a video created by Deidi von Schaewen. The short twelve-minute film documents a Jain communal ritual in which a colossal stone sculpture is blessed every every twelve years. The documentary takes viewers on a tour of Shravanabelgola, Karnataka, India, where devotees pour holy substances on the sculpture and join one another in prayer for four straight days. The film offers an inside look at some of the most sacred rituals still being practiced today.

The Rubin Museum is located at:

150 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011.

Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens. Children 12 and under are free.

Posted in NYC | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dis-Play / Re-Play

A photo of a man looking at photographs on display at an art gallery.

Photo credit: Adriano Castelli / Shutterstock

In Dis-Play / Re-Play, the exhibit organized by Prem Krishnamurthy and Walter Seidl for the Austrian Cultural Forum in the Austrian Embassy in New York City, six Austrian artists play with the idea of art exhibitions, specifically with the classic image of the white-walled box-shaped gallery.

One of the artists, Brian O’Doherty, has been toying with gallery-as-concept since 1976, when he wrote a series of essays called “Inside the White Cube,” where he said that art on display has to have died to be there. His installation in DP/RP, “Parallax City (Rope Drawing #125)” is more space than work. A vividly if simply painted hallway, divided in three by colors, in more segments by taut-strung ropes. Everything is right angles and perspective and indirect lighting.

Judith Barry, another essayist on the topic of art-space, has provided a two-channel video from 1978 titled “They Agape,” featuring a punk rock soundtrack and two fighting architects in narrative. It is literally the story of building space without consensus.

Perhaps the largest of the displays comes from Martin Beck. In a two-story-tall installation with drifting Muzak, he features digitized pages of an artist’s notebook, perhaps the original context from which emerges all art.

Hermes Payrhuber, an edge artist known for his political art/performances, contributed “Ode to the Rope With a Knot With a Hole, for Thomas Bernhard,” a deliberate disruption of white gallery walls with violet graffiti, tangled ropes, and looming tripods. Thomas Bernhard, for the unknowing, is a post-war Austrian novelist whose will banned any use of his works after his death, another kind of disruption entirely.

Artist Gerwald Rockenschaub used the building’s support columns for his installation, using them to support a towering Plexiglas structure that casts the colors of the Austrian flag onto everything nearby. And two floors away, Mika Tajima’s work creates a similar effect, with over-detailed wallpaper showing through Plexiglas ‘furniture art’ in intricate patterns of light and reflection.

The space-transforming collection is almost at the end of its tenancy. The lease ends September 5th, after which the collection will never be seen in ensemble again.

Posted in art | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

An Eerie, Counter-Intuitive Exhibit is Coming to Town

A French postage stamp that features a painting by the prominent German painter Georg Baselitz. The stamp is a collage of green, blue, black, and red dots.

This French postage stamp features a painting by the prominent German painter Georg Baselitz whose exhibit is coming to New York this September.
Image: Sergey Goryachev / Shutterstock

From September 20 – October 29, 2016, the Gagosian Gallery (the 522 West 21st Street location) is hosting the Jumping Over My Shadow exhibit. The exhibit will feature monumental sculptures, new paintings, and original drawings by the uncanny artist Georg Baselitz.

Visitors can expect grim portraits of upside-down figures. Even panoramas are overturned. But the inverted nature of the paintings and drawings reflect a past reality—a reality worth examining on a deeper level. Baselitz, known for undermining conventional craft technique, uses his subversion tactics to make spectators contemplate their own past.

“This idea of ‘looking toward the future’ is nonsense. I realized that simply going backwards is better. You stand in the rear of the train—looking at the tracks flying back below—or you stand at the stern of a boat and look back—looking back at what’s gone,” Baselitz stated.

The figures depicted are almost always ambiguous; gender, race, and age are indistinguishable. Instead, emphasis is placed on the significance of people, objects, and places that are overturned. What does it mean to view a familiar entity through an unfamiliar lens?

The reoccurring theme of inversion is reinforced through unexpected color combinations, unusual juxtapositions, and definitive lines that contrast against softer strokes. Though Baselitz is acclaimed for his obscure, abstract paintings, he has introduced sculptures as a way to shed light on his cryptic messages.

The sculptures are grounded in simplicity; plain figures carved from wood. The structures stand upright, in normal positions. One can’t help but think that the structures represent the present, the “now.”

In comparison to the evasive drawings and paintings, the sculptures appear a bit boring, simplistic, and pragmatic. It almost gives one the impression that the sculptures should be upside down, that they would be more interesting if viewed from that perspective. And yet, that’s the genius of Baselitz; his inverted pieces have so captivated our attention that normal portrayals become dull in comparison.

Posted in art, NYC | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Admission to the Leslie-Lohman Museum

A photo of crayons melting into a rainbow.

Image: Shutterstock.com

For whatever reason, the Leslie-Lohman Museum doesn’t receive a lot of press despite the fact that it’s open six days a week and admission is always free. Perhaps it’s because it’s a gay and lesbian art museum, and Americans are still struggling with accepting the LGBTQ+ community. In any case, we figured we’d pay tribute to the museum by delving into its rich history and highlighting some current exhibits.

History

The museum is named after Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman, two gay men who started collecting and displaying queer art in their SoHo loft in 1969. Over 200 people attended their opening weekend exhibition, and that’s when they realized that there was a huge need for this type of locale.

During the 1980s, Charles and Fritz felt compelled to preserve the works of queer artists who passed away due to AIDS. Unfortunately, it was all too common for artists to have their work discarded after their deaths by unsupportive family members.

That’s when Charles and Fritz launched the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, Inc. The foundation was started in 1987 as a non-profit organization. As such, it was tax exempt under IRS code 501(c)3. What started out as a small, “underground” showroom on Prince Street has now grown to become a capacious, full-blown museum on 26 Wooster Street.

In May 2011, the New York State Board of Regents granted the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation official museum status. As such, it became the world’s first queer art museum. In December 2015, the name of the museum was switched to the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. To this day, it remains the only gay art museum in existence.

Current Exhibits

From July 15 through October 2, the museum will be displaying A Deeper Dive, which examines the work of a handful of artists featured in the national touring exhibition, Art AIDS America. While Art AIDS America showcases over 100 artists who were impacted by the disease outbreak, A Deeper Dive sheds light on how eight artists in particular have explored the theme differently through various strategies and undertakings.

From August 14 through November 4, the Leslie-Lohman Museum will also be displaying Self-Portraits: 2009-2015. Photographer Cobi Moules explores how queer and trans portraitures reflect different representations of gay identity.

Posted in art, NYC | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment