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Posts Tagged ‘art

“Sometimes that light at the end of the tunnel is a train”*…


As part of its ongoing overhaul, the New York Public Library has installed a very clever conveyer train that moves research materials from the expanded Milstein Stacks underneath Bryant Park to the main Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. Each adorably bright red car is able to travel either horizontally or vertically using conveyor rails embedded throughout the library, efficiently delivering its contents directly to library staff…

More on the system, which begins operating this week, at Laughing Squid’s “An Adorable Red Train That Delivers Books From Storage to the Main Branch of the NY Public Library” (and at Boing Boing, which is the source of the photo above).

* Charles Barkley


As we check it out, we might send finely-drawn birthday greetings to Giovanni Battista (also Giambattista) Piranesi; he was born on this date in 1720.  An Italian artist, he is best known for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric “prisons” (Le Carceri d’Invenzione).  The latter, with their Kafkaesque, Escher-like distortions, influenced Romanticism & Surrealism.

Carceri Plate VII – “The Drawbridge”





Written by LW

October 4, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Making ornaments / Of accidents and possibilities”*…


This solemn group of posters teaching safety to British citizens comes from the archive of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. The images are from the Wellcome Library’s website; I first saw them on the blog the Passion of Former Days.

The RoSPA displayed a series of its 20th-century posters in a 2012 exhibition, after rediscovering a small archive of them in an outbuilding. In the exhibition notes,RoSPA curators noted that the society, which dates back to World War I, focused on road safety and pedestrian awareness in the 1920s and 1930s (much like analogous American safety organizations).

From the redoubtable Rebecca Onion: “Stark, Spare, Beautiful Midcentury British Safety Posters.”

* Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire


As we put safety first, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that the Great New England Hurricane (AKA, The Long Island Express) dissipated.  It had made landfall on Long Island on September 21. With impact felt from New Jersey all the way north to Canada, the storm was estimated to have killed 682 people, damaged or destroyed over 57,000 homes, and caused property losses estimated at $306 million ($4.7 billion in current value).

Storm surge from the 1938 hurricane at the Battery, New York City



“Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated”*…


Late-19th-century earrings incorporating real hummingbird heads

Home to drawings, textiles, jewelry, furniture, and thousands of other design objects, the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum is taking increased advantage of the internet’s digital real estate. The museum recently completed a massive digitization project that places almost its entire collection online; nearly 200,000 objects are now accessible and searchable, allowing online visitors to see just how rich its holdings are. Many of these works currently reside in the institution’s storage facility, so the project is a means of placing them in the public eye on a platform that also offers background information on each one…

Whitehead & Hoag Company, “Cawston Ostrich Farm, South Pasadena, California” (c. 1900)

More at “From Tiny Stairs to Taxidermy Earrings, 200,000 Objects from Cooper Hewitt Go Online“; dive into the collection here.

* Paul Rand


As we shake out the duster, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that a teenager named Marcel Ravidat discovered the entrance to Lascaux Caves in southwest France.  Following a dog down the narrow entrance and into the cavern, Ravidat and three friends came upon (part of) the now-storied collection of wall markings– 15,000- to 17,000-year-old paintings, consisting mostly of animal representations– that are among the world’s finest examples of art from the Upper Paleolithic period.




Written by LW

September 12, 2016 at 1:01 am

“It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to”*…


Early in the morning on Sunday, 28 August, the German artist Anselm Kiefer’s 35,000sq. m studio and warehouse space in Croissy-Beaubourg, about 25km west of Paris, was burgled and robbed, as first reported by the French daily newspaper Le Parisien. The thieves are suspected of cutting through wire cages and making off with a ten-tonne lead sculpture of stacks of books—valued at €1.3m—and 12 tonnes of raw marble, worth around €1m…

More heaviness at “Anselm Kiefer’s studio robbed of 12 tonnes of raw marble and €1.3m lead sculpture.”

* Jean-Luc Godard


As we recheck our locks, we might note that this is a big day in the history of crime…

On this date in 1935, Huey Long, Louisiana Senator and past-Governor (and inspiration for Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men), was shot in the Louisiana state capitol building; he died 30 hours later. Called a demagogue by critics, the populist leader was a larger-than-life figure who boasted that he bought legislators “like sacks of potatoes, shuffled them like a deck of cards.”

Long in the State house, flanked by the armed guards with whom he traveled


And on this date in 1974, President Gerald Ford offered his disgraced predecessor, Richard Nixon, “a full, free, and absolute pardon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in” during Nixon’s Presidency.



Written by LW

September 8, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future”*…


Robot-assisted farming

It’s easy to chuckle at the prognostications of yore– where’s my jet pack?!?  But as long-time readers will recall, there was one writer whose predictions were uncannily on the money:  Jules Verne.

His Paris in the 20th Century, for example, describes air conditioning, automobiles, the Internet, television, even electricity, and other modern conveniences very similar to their real world counterparts, developed years– in many cases, decades– later.   From the Earth to the Moon, apart from using a space gun instead of a rocket, is uncannily similar to the real Apollo Program: three astronauts are launched from the Florida peninsula– from “Tampa Town” ( only 130 miles from NASA’s Cape Canaveral)– and recovered through a splash landing.  And in other works, he predicted helicopters, submarines, projectors, jukeboxes, and the existence of underwater hydrothermal vents that were not invented/discovered until long after he wrote about them.

Verne’s writings caught the imagination of his countrymen.  As Singularity Hub reports,

Starting in 1899, a commercial artist named Jean-Marc Côté and other artists were hired by a toy or cigarette manufacturer to create a series of picture cards as inserts, according to Matt Noval who writes for the Smithsonian magazine. The images were to depict how life in France would look in a century’s time, no doubt heavily influenced by Verne’s writings. Sadly, they were never actually distributed. However, the only known set of cards to exist was discovered by Isaac Asimov, who wrote a book in 1986 called “Futuredays” in which he presented the illustrations with commentary…

In what some French people might consider an abomination, one illustration depicted the modern kitchen as a place of food science. While synthetic food in commercial products is sadly more common today than we’d like to admit (sorry Easy Cheese lovers, but I’m calling you out), the rise of molecular gastronomy in fine dining has made food chemistry a modern reality. It may seem like food science has its limitations, but one only needs to consider efforts to grow meat in a laboratory to see how far technology may go…

“Food Science”

See them all at “19th Century Artists Predicted the Future in This Series of Postcards.”

[A re-post, inspired by this piece in Upworthy.]

* Niels Bohr


As we console ourselves that, while the future may be another country, we may still speak the language, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that William Seward Burroughs of St. Louis, Missouri, received patents on four adding machine applications (No. 388,116-388,119), the first U.S. patents for a “Calculating-Machine” that the inventor would continue to improve and successfully market.  The American Arithmometer Corporation of St. Louis, later renamed The Burroughs Corporation, became– with IBM, Sperry, NCR, Honeywell, and others– a major force in the development of computers.  Burroughs also gifted the world his grandson, Beat icon William S. Burroughs.



“The only difference between me and a madman is I’m not mad”*…


Dali sketching Harpo as he plays a harp with barbed wire for strings and spoons, knives, and forks glued to its frame– a gift from Dali.

Salvador Dali loved the Marx Brothers. He loved their madcap, anarchic comedy. In particular Dali loved Harpo Marx—the blonde corkscrew-haired comic mime whose visual comedy—unlike the quick witty repartee of his brother Groucho—was universal and needed no translation. Dali described Harpo as one of America’s three great Surrealists—the other two being Walt Disney and Cecil B. DeMille.

The pair first met at a party in Paris in 1936. Harpo told Dali how much he liked his paintings. Dali told Harpo how much he loved his films—in particular Animal Crackers, which he described as “the summit of the evolution of comic cinema.” Dali gushed over Harpo’s performance where he pulled fish and cutlery from his pocket and shot the hats of beautiful women—this was true Surrealism!

Understandably, the two men became friends…

Dali brought Harpo a gift—a movie script he wanted the Marx Brothers to make. The script was called Giraffes on Horseback Salads or The Surrealist Woman. It was a series of unconnected scenes typed in blue ribbon over twenty-two pages with various notes written in ink. Dali had already made two infamous films with his friend the director Luis Buñuel—Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age d’Or. Now he wanted to cast Harpo and cinema’s “greatest Surrealist act,” the Marx Brothers, in a film that just might revolutionize Hollywood—or maybe not

More on this extraordinary friendship– and a taste of Dali’s treatment for Giraffes on Horseback Salads— at “When Dali Met Harpo.”

[TotH to friend P.R.]

* Salvador Dali


As we recall that the Marx Brothers had a remarkable range of friends, we might send classy birthday greetings to one of them, Lou Gehrig; he was born Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig on this date in 1903.  A first baseman for the New Your Yankees for 16 years, he was know (for his stamina) as “The Iron Horse.”  A member of six World Series champion teams, he was an All-Star seven consecutive times, a Triple Crown winner once, an American League (AL) Most Valuable Player twice.  He had a career .340 batting average, .632 slugging average, and a .447 on base average; he hit 493 home runs and had 1,995 runs batted in (RBI).  Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939– the year of his retirement– he was the first Major League player to have his uniform number (4) retired by a team.

He is pictured here with friends:



Written by LW

June 19, 2016 at 1:01 am

“We are charmed by neatness”*…


In the spirit of our earlier examination of Knolling (“To Knoll It Is To Love It…“)…

… from Austin Radcliffe

Things Organized Neatly.

* Ovid


As we get things lined up, we might spare a thought for for an enemy of ordered neatness (at least, of the complacent intellectual kind), Thomas Samuel Kuhn; he died on this date in 1996.  A physicist, historian, and philosopher of science , Kuhn believed that scientific knowledge didn’t advance in a linear, continuous way, but via periodic “paradigm shifts.”  Karl Popper had approached the same territory in his development of the principle of “falsification” (to paraphrase, a theory isn’t false until it’s proven true; it’s true until it’s proven false).  But while Popper worked as a logician, Kuhn worked as a historian.  His 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions made his case; and while he had– and has— his detractors, Kuhn’s work has been deeply influential in both academic and popular circles (indeed, the phrase “paradigm shift” has become an English-language staple).


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