Metabolic City

October 10, 2009

In my final year in graduate school I learned about a group called the Situationist International and I became fascinated with their imaginative imagery that drew from architecture and art. I was interested in their concepts of urbanism, the city and Marxism as a creative apparatus. Like the artists in the Chance Aesthetics exhibition, the work and their concepts are rather playful and I think are a reaction to the horrors of the destruction of cities and deaths of millions during World War II. This was their vision of post-war utopia.

Metabolic City focuses on mainly three different groups working at relatively the same time; 1950s-1970. The British architectural group, Archigram, the Japanese Metabolists, and the Situationist International (SI) (mainly Constant Nieuwenhuy).  The exhibition consists of montages, diagrams, architectural rendering, videos that are projected on glass while you sit in a cockpit type module, and models.

All three groups think of the city as a living organism that is flexible, mobile and expandable. They all had their views on economic systems that seemed to permeate their work. They all seemed to embrace technology as a way to make life better. For example, Archiagram and the Metabolists embraced consumerism and mass pop culture. Whereas the SI was very critical of capitalistic society. Their goal was to revolutionise space and mass culture through Marxist revolution. They wanted to liberate man from the confines of capitalism and mass culture. They envisioned urban space as an experimental arena for human interaction and self-realization. In simple terms, let’s think of the SI as socialists and Archigram and Metabolists as capitalists.

The Metabolists

After WW2, Japan was going through social, political and cultural changes. They drafted a new constitution and made dramatic changes in regard to land use. Looking for a positive identity and individual rights led to visions of he city based on metaphor of life cycles. They proposed new territories of inhabitation such as the ocean and social spaces gained prominence. There work defiantly has a biological and natural element to it. Some of it looks like part of living creature or is just closely tied to the natural environment.

Those included are Kisho Kurokawa, Fumihiko Maki and Arata Isozaki

Kisho Kurokawa diagram

Kisho Kurokawa diagram

Fumihiko Maki model

Fumihiko Maki model

Arata Isozaki photomontage

Arata Isozaki photomontage

Archigram

This was a British group in which the members were fresh out of school. They were not too interested in politics and were more enthusiastic about the social aspects of built space and broader issues of urban livability. They were brough up in a time when destroyed cities were being rebuilt in short spans of time and lacked a sense of the vitality found in a living city. Seeing this and the desire for a better life spurred them to push the limits of architecture. Their proposals embraced emerging technologies and commerce to advance individual freedoms and enhance the lives of individuals. Their cities had a patterned look with a lot of alien-like spaceship-like pods that look like they are from some thing of Sci-Fi movie.

Those included are Peter Cook,Dennis Crompton, Michael Webb, Ron Herron.

Peter Cook's Plug-in City

Peter Cook's Plug-in City

Dennis Crompton's Walking City (not in show)

Dennis Crompton's Walking City (not in show)

SI (Constant)

This group was mainly based in the Netherlands and in France. Constant was from the Netherlands and like the Japanese and the British they were hit hard by the horrors of WW2. Constant’s most famous project was New Babylon. It was a sample of what maybe a Situationist city could look like. It focused on the city as an emphasis on the individual, social interactions and the presence of art as part of the environment. The city was an urban framework in which the occupants would be able to create, reconfigure and control their sensory environments.

Others associated with the SI are the activist, Guy Debord and artist, Asger Jorn

Constant's  New Babylon project drawing

Constant's New Babylon project drawing

Constant's New Babylon drawing/diagram

Constant's New Babylon drawing/diagram

Advertisements

Citygarden STL

July 7, 2009

Last Wednesday I was able to make it over to the new sculpture garden/park in downtown St. Louis called Citygarden. It is a beautiful display of garden, landscape architecture, and sculpture all mixed together to form a landmark that is friendly to the art scholar and kids and adults that just want to have fun and relax. It is just blocks from Busch Stadium and a block from the 8th and Pine Metrolink station. 

What a wonderful gift. Here are some pictures of some of the works. 

 

Each square is a different chime sound. Info on this is not on the map but is fun.

Each square is a different chime sound. Info on this is not on the map but is fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Untitled (Two Rabbits) by Tom Claassen

Untitled (Two Rabbits) by Tom Claassen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously the kids love to climb on this one. Looks like it is made of marshmallow and is light and soft. However, It is made of bronze. Evidently there are real live rabbits that live in this park. I saw one baby brown rabbit and when I tried to take a picture it scurried into a bush. 

 

Untitled (Ringed Figure) by Keith Haring

Untitled (Ringed Figure) by Keith Haring

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How many art objects can a person climb on without being repremanded? Pretty much all of them here. As you can see, this young man scaled to the top ring to pose for a picture. I am sure this will be a common phenomenon. I believe this is at he corner of 10th and Market. The building in the background is the NBC affiliate, KSDK. 

 

Eros Bendato (Eros Bound) by Igor Mitoraj

Eros Bendato (Eros Bound) by Igor Mitoraj

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one seems to be a crowd pleaser. This piece is large enough to walk into and one can peer out of the eye sockets. Plus there is the water element in front. Overall, water seems to be a main element of this park. On a hot, humid  summer St. Louis afternoon this will be popular. 

 

2 Arcs x 4 230.5 Degree Arc x 5 by Bernar Venet

2 Arcs x 4 230.5 Degree Arc x 5 by Bernar Venet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who thought a conceptual piece by an artist who’s work is based on math and emotional detachment could be fun? Well, if you can climb on it….simple fun.

 

Scarecrow by Donald Baechler

Scarecrow by Donald Baechler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can see the scarecrow and it is kind of dark and menacing. Sits near the edge of the garden so it seems appropriate. This figure does remind me of Abraham Lincoln with the tall stovepipe hat and tall lanky figure. Actually, it looks like an effigy of Lincoln. 

 

This is Kiera and Julian Walking by Julian Opie

This is Kiera and Julian Walking by Julian Opie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two of these animated LED panels in the park. This is just what people are meant to do in this park, go for a stroll. 

 

 

Looking east. Standing on the rocks below the Northern River Bluffs Band.

Looking east. Standing on the rocks below the Northern River Bluffs Band.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is this arching band that extends across the northern edge of the park. This part has a nice pool with stepping stones and a waterfall. This band is supposed to represent the bluffs. The park is laid out in three bands that represent the geographic features of the region.

Many of the buildings surrounding the park are the glass curtain style and this creates many great reflections.

 

Twain by Richard Serra

Twain by Richard Serra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is probably the most hated sculpture in St. Louis. It is just across 10th street, the western edge of the park. It is not in the park but it looks rather sad and lonely. I really feel bad for this piece. I hope something can be done to maybe expand the park and include this work and reframe it in a new way. Maybe people could feel differently about Twain. 

To find out more about Citygarden click here.

To find out more about the Gateway Foundation click here. They funded the project and made this happen. It is in a way a gift to the city. It will be run like any city park.


Eero Saarinen

February 27, 2009

 

I was feeling a bit unsure about how I wanted to write about the Eero Saarinen exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis. The exhibition is called Shaping the Future and it runs until April 27, 2009. 

Should it just be written as an objective entry about an exhibition or should I write about it as it being part of the influence or the inspiration of an artist work? Well, I will address it this way, going to museums, galleries or any other venue to see art is great for any artist or designer. It is a good idea to go seek work that you like and maybe work that you don’t. Just go see art in person. So in that sense, going to the exhibition is an inspiration and can be an influence.

Ok, I live in the St. Louis metro area and everybody does know of this guy and of his work…even if they can’t name the man off hand. One of his structures is so unbiquitious to the area that it seem rather ordinary and nothing to exciting. Eeros Saarinen’s Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (AKA The Arch) is a defining structure in St. Louis. As a kid, I don’t know how many times I have taken the white, “futuristic” egg trams to the top. I can’t count the times I have sat at the foot to watch fireworks or airshows around the 4th of July as I was growing up. It is an awe inspiring stucture but also a structure that has turned into a cliche as part of logos, company names, as a cartoon or mascot for anything that is remotely tied to St. Louis. Just go to www.askarchy.com and you will see what I mean. I am not looking at is as a criticism. It is just how it is. 

 

Final section being installed to complete the arch

Final section being installed to complete the arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the exhibition is a survey of his work since he began his career at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, worked along side of his father, Eilel Saarinen. Eventually, he struck out on his own in 1950 after his father died. Saarinen became the architect that represented American modernism most famously. He work with Charles Eames to create modern furniture that introduced new materials and technology that would decorate the modern home. He designed the headquarters of many cooporations….basically making the “corporate campus” model popular and did some innovative designs for college campuses, airports and well…the Arch.

 

One of his many chair designs

One of his many chair designs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Deere headquarters in Moline, IL

John Deere headquarters in Moline, IL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is my favorite. Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale 1953

This is my favorite. Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale 1953

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If a person were to pick his defining works, it would be the Arch and the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport

 

TWA Terminal at JFK Airport from the inside

TWA Terminal at JFK Airport from the inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The show was more or less a survey of the highlights that displayed photographs, some furnature, videos and models of his work. 

At the time, his works seemed very futuristic  and exemplified the values of modernism. Now it my seem quaint  because frankly, much of modern architecture has not aged well. However, it does represent a post-war period of hope and the idea that life will get better with technology. 

As I think about it, Eeros Saarinen was like the Frank Gehry of his time. I think the connection is rather obvious when comparing the organic, curvilinear structures of Gehry and Saarinen. Of course, there are many difference in material and theory. Plus, Gehry’s structures are just rather excessive and exaggerated. Saarinen’s structures do have a simplicity and minimalism to them, essentially following modernism’s reductivism. 

 

TWA Terminal from outside circa 1962

TWA Terminal from outside circa 1962

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gehry's Disney hall

Gehry's Disney hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I also want to point out is that the Arch design was a competition and really, if you look at the other ideas for the memorial how could Saarinen’s lose. This is the runner up to Saarinen’s Arch:

runnerup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was done by Harris Armstrong, a native St. Louisan. To find out more go to: New Light on the Gateway


The Russian Avant-Garde

February 19, 2009

I have already written about the Cubist and Futurist influences to graphic design. Well, you can argue about the former but when I get into modernist French design I think there is a influence of cubism and a general strong connection to the fine arts. Futurism seems to have had a profound  influence on Dada and Constructivist designs and that leads to the De Stijl movement to the Bauhaus school (which has had the most profound and influence on modern design, art and on how design and art was/is taught).

It seems as though Constructivists of Russia mingled with the De Stijl artists and designers (Lissitzky and Van Doesburg). In addition, eventually, many Constructivist and De Stijl artists and designers went on the teach or had some connection to the Bauhaus in Germany (Mondrian and Lissitzky) and vice versa (Maholy-Nagy, Schwitters, Van Doesburg). Really, it seems all these movements are somewhat interconnected and stylistically it does seem that way. To me it makes sense.

So what is Constructivism? This is a primarily an art movement that was based in Russia in the early 20th century. It had a considerable link to the Russian Communist Revolution. They merged the arts with modern technological rationalism for political and ideological uses. Basically, it was a form of Soviet-era Russian propaganda. 

The aesthetics of Constructivism is similar to the geometric abstract Suprematist paintings of Kasimir Malevich. Constructivism was also a departure from Russian Futurism that sought to break and destroy traditions (similar to Italian Futurism).

 

Malevich's Black Square of White Painting

Malevich's Black Square of White Painting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malevich's Aeroplane Flying

Malevich's Aeroplane Flying

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know of three different kinds of propaganda machines the Soviets used. The first being in the form of graphic patriotic street bulletins known as the Rosta Windows that Lenin launched in 1918.

 

Example of a Rosta Window by Vladimir Mayakovsky

Example of a Rosta Window by Vladimir Mayakovsky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next was the works from Constructivist artists that used geometric abstraction along with dynamic angles and view points, photomontage, cinema, abstract uses of light and contrast. The best example of this is “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” by El Lissitzky in 1920.

 

Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge by El Lissitzky

Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge by El Lissitzky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally there was Social Realism that became the dominant form of propaganda during the regime of Stalin up until the fall of the USSR. This form of work can still be seen today and is most notibly used in China. Scroll down to another blog of mine that shows some examples of Social Realism. It was a return to a more “conservative” representational image that the modernists rebelled against. 

A good early example of Soviet Social Realism is work of Gustav Klutsis’s work that used photomontage but you can still see the modernist geometric simplifications that the constructivists used. 

 

Klutsis Poster

Klutsis Poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you notice, the Constructivists works are probably the most “difficult” out of the propaganda bunch. Here are some more examples of works of the Constructivist movement. I do want to make note that it seems as time went on the constructivists went from strict geometric forms and abstration to using photo and photomontage in conjunction with the abstract forms. I am thinking this had to do with political regime changes. Eventually abstraction was dropped all together for the social realism that came eventually.

 

Rodchenko Poster/Flier

Rodchenko Poster/Flier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

El Lissitzky "installation" work

El Lissitzky "installation" work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poster for the movie, The Man with the Movie Camera, by Dziga Vertov, 1929

Poster for the movie, The Man with the Movie Camera, by Dziga Vertov, 1929

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rodchenko Photograph

Rodchenko Photograph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lissitzky and Mayakovsky Design

Lissitzky and Mayakovsky Design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tatlin's model of Monument to the Third International (1919-20)(note: never built)

Tatlin's model of Monument to the Third International (1919-20)(note: never built)


De Stijl (The Style)

February 13, 2009

I do apollagize about the few post recently to the blog. I have been taking a class on the program InDesign, starting on some new work and planning my future amongst other things. So I have been rather busy in the real world.

Regarding a previous post, I have been doing some more reading on the subject of graphic design, another history book (Graphic Design: A History, Alain Weill) that says that Cubism wasn’t really a big influence to graphic design. It basically states that the text and the use of montage was basically coincidence and there was no direct influence. So I guess it just depends on who you talk to and what you read. Decide for yourself.

I think I wrote that I would go into Surrealism next but I have changed my mind. I want to write about De Stijl instead.

I think the work of the De Stijl movement (along with Constructivism) is the starting point of the progression of modern graphic design’s rise to dominate the look and feel of corporate advertising and design.

I do find it interesting that the rise of Modernism was born our of revolution and the avant-garde and then grew up and became the language of corporations and authority. 

Anyway, why do I think De Stijl is so important?

First of all, what is De Stijl? Basically De Stijl was born in the Netherlands between 1915-17 and lasted till maybe the 1930s. Russian Constructivism grew simultaneously and there are some similarities and some overlap of artists and designers that are part of each movement. De Stijl sought to create a universal vision through abstraction and rationalism that was pure and austere. They sought a spiritual purity through precise organization and geometric abstraction. This was in a way to protest war, individualism, and nationalism.

De Stijl was a movement that would span though architecture, design, art. It’s principles could be applied to anything. De Stijl work was geometric and avoided the use of curves. It used simple forms and color was pure in its use. It had a grid-like structure. It was formal in its use of dynamic asymmetric balance, and interactions of simple forms (i.e. shapes) and space.

In the way of graphic design and typography, there was a strict adhesion to san serif type and the square was the basic element used for page layout. This use of the grid and geometric frame work and the use of san serif type would dominate graphic design for decades. It basically still dominates conservative corporate and government/public design. Helvetica was not De Stijl but it is a san serif font and is/was seen as the fruition of the perfect san serif font and dominates design that is meant to be authoritative. See the documentary Helvetica. 

De Stijl aesthetic can be seen in the publication De Stijl that was produced by the architect Theo Van Doesburg and the man who designed the typography, Vilmos Huszar.

 

De Stijl Magazine Cover

De Stijl Magazine Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hendrik T. Wijdweld founded the magazine called Wendingen in 1918. He chose a strictly square format and used san serif type. It was a little more eclectic in its design. It seemed to have an Asian influence in the use of Chinese paper and it was bound in a Japanese style binding. Note the typeface used is similar to the one used in the De Stijl publication. There is a use of color but it is minimal and pure in its hue. 

 

Wendingen Cover featuring Diego Rivera

Wendingen Cover featuring Diego Rivera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also a magazine called The Next Call. It was created by Hendrik N Werkman. It was even more eclectic than Wendingen was was maybe more experimental and radical. However, I think you can see the geometric use of the format, pure and minimal color, a dynamic asymmetrical balance. 

 

The Next Call

The Next Call

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other works attributed to the De Stijl movement:

 

Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerrit Rietveld's Schroder House

Gerrit Rietveld's Schroder House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Schroder house is considered to be the pinnacle of De Stijl architecture.

 

Theo Van Doesburg Diagram

Theo Van Doesburg Diagram 1923

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is an isometric diagram of a building made up of “floating” geometric frames. These ideas were never realized in form and the closest thing really is Rietveld’s Schroder House in Utrecht. It does look like a 3-d Mondrian painting with its use of angular forms and primary colors. These drawings seem to be influential to constructivist architecture, the Bauhaus and eventually the International Style of architecture.


Influences and Inspiration Pt. 8

January 4, 2009

Architecture has always been an influence for my work. I actually think I am more influenced by seemingly ordinary buildings or vernacular types of architecture. Yeah, high architecture is great too because it pushes structural or aesthetic issues. That is important. 

What I love about vernacular architecture is people don’t really think about it. These types of buildings are in plain sight, used everyday and not really thought about as being interesting or even aesthetically interesting. It is in the details. As these buildings become more used and more worn, the more interesting they become architecturally. It could just be the building style is outdated, it has been remodeled or had a face lift, or the building has a different function than what it was originally built for.

For example, I think it is interesting to see the uses of old fast-food buildings that are very distinctive. In Collinsville, there is the old McDonald’s on 157 that now houses an investment company. In Edwardsville, there is the Pizza Hut building that now houses a business that sells Italian motor scooters. 

On my most recent walk I took some pictures that illustrate my interest in mundane structures.

 

Bank Drive-Thru

Bank Drive-Thru

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one is the drive-thru of a bank that has long been closed. Recently it has been turned into a bistro style restaurant with banquet rooms. These drive through windows are at the back of the bank and are still around. It would be interesting if the restaurant could find some use for these windows. Hmm..why not a “venue” to display art?

 

Doctor Building Close-Up

Doctor Building Close-Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a building on Main Street that houses a doctor’s office. It is definitely a modernist style of building. I am guessing it was built in the 1960s. What I found interesting about this were the variety of textures, the reflection. That wooden fence was definitely an add-on. 

 

Rear of Buildings near the Fire Station

Rear of Buildings near the Fire Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, I like the variety of textures, shapes and the layers of stuff from old to new. This was taken from the Collinsville Firestation’s parking lot.  I wonder what is up with the brick on the building that is most prominent?  There is a difference in color? Maybe old and new? If so, what happened?

 

Front of the Old Glik's Building

Front of the Old Glik's Building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the first pictures I posted on this blog was of the back of this building. Well, this is the front. Doesn’t it look like an old movie theater? I like the mishmash of history. At the very bottom of the building are the remnants of the shiny black tile that covered the brick facade from the Glik’s era. You can tell where the tiles were either removed or fell from. It was were you see all the exposed brick and round globs of “glue” that held the plastic to the surface. Then there are the pastel painted areas at the top portions that are from the “Isle of U” days. Now nothing is there. Boards cover windows, the sign is just a hollow frame. I wish this building could house something that could stay in business. BTW, the building directly next door (turquoise color) is also empty. It used to be a resale shop. Hmm, those buildings against the new sidewalk, light posts, trash cans and planters…again…it takes more than that to make a downtown vibrant.


Influences and Inspiration Pt. 3

December 20, 2008

This year for my birthday my boyfriend took me to Louisville to see David Byrne in concert. That in itself was pretty awesome. Just getting out of town is great. Travel is a great way to get me inspired. Unfortunately, not much art was seen though. The only place we saw any art was at an upscale hotel called 21c. You know you are at the hotel when you see a bunch of red penguins.

Red penguins

Red penguins

 The penguins are kind of cute and I am sure the kids love them since all the big penguin movies that have come out lately. There were so many of these penguins everywhere. They were at street level and inside the hotel. I didn’t notice the penguins on the roof until after we left the hotel and were walking around for a bit.

At the museum probably my favorite piece, because it was fun, was called “Text Rain” by Camille Utterback & Romy Achituv. It was  a video projected on to the wall by the elevator.

The art is scattered about the hotel so it gave us an excuse to sort of roam around the hotel a bit. There is art hidden in nooks and crannies so you really have to look around. I am thinking there was probably much more than we saw (art on the other upper floors, bathrooms, and the hotel rooms). Usually hotel rooms have the worst framed work and decor that is horribly dated and aged. This one, I am sure, has some pretty nice decor and art. So the website is a good place to find all the stuff you missed.

As for our hotel, we stayed at your run-of-the-mill Best Western/Holiday Inn type place off the highway near the University of Louisville. The room was nice…had a southern type of charm. The bed was very high off the floor with a canopy.

While on our little walk near the hotel/science center/and the baseball bat museum factory I had to take a picture of this building facade. 

Building Facades

Building Facades

It looks like the rest of the building was demolished but they wanted to keep the historic facades. If you look closer you can see the frame work that is keeping these walls up. I am thinking they are going to build new buildings but do a face transplant of sorts to keep with the style of the district. To me the sight was surprising. I looked up at the building and it took a second to realize I could see the sky through the windows. Usually you can see the sky while looking out of a window.

The David Byrne concert was great. He is a pretty inspirational person. I really love the Talking Heads. I am not as familiar with a lot of his solo work. I do like the “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” album he did with Brian Eno. It was a great, artistic example of what someone can do through sampling. Of course, with digital technology, it is “easier” technically. In 1981, when the album was released, sampling was done by hand since everything was analog. The album was more influential than a commercial success. So it was great hearing the songs live. I have been listening to a lot of their music while I make stuff.

Every city has their “must-see” tourist attractions so we went to Churchill Downs. It is sort of like Fairmont Park except is is much larger and more prestigious. We did a behind the scenes tour and got to go out to the track. We did the early tour and we saw some horses. It was practice/exercise time.

View From the Press Box

View From the Press Box

This is my favorite picture from the time at Churchill Downs. It is a different kind of view point. There is something kind of abstract about it. It looks pretty flat and shapes and lines and, of course, the color is prominent. I also like the transparent-like reflections that are there too.

Additionally, in Louisville, we went to the Science Center, and The Louisville Slugger Museum.