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Posts Tagged ‘sculpture

“Immigrants, we get the job done”*…

When the Piccirilli Brothers arrived in New York from Italy in 1888, they brought with them skill, artistry, and passion for stone-carving unrivaled in the United States. At their studio at 467 East 142nd Street, in the Mott Haven Section of the Bronx, the brothers turned monumental slabs of marble into some of the nation’s recognizable icons, including the senate pediment of the US Capitol Building and the statue of Abraham Lincoln that sits resolutely in the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall.

The Piccirillis not only helped set our national narrative in stone but they also left an indelible mark on New York City. They carved hundreds of commissions around the five boroughs, including the 11 figures in the pediment of the New York Stock exchange, the “four continents” adorning the Customs House at Bowling Green, the two stately lions that guard the New York Public Library, both statues of George Washington for the Arch at Washington Square, and upwards of 500 individual carvings at Riverside Church…

The remarkable story of a remarkable family: “How six Italian immigrants from the South Bronx carved some of the nation’s most iconic sculptures.” 

* Lin-Manuel Miranda (as Hamilton, to Lafayette in Hamilton)

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As we celebrate sculpture, we might wish a grateful Happy Birthday to another son of Italy, Galileo Galilei, the physicist, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher who, with Francis Bacon, pioneered the Scientific Method; he was born on this date in 1564.  It was Galileo’s observations that gave conclusive support to Copernicus’ heliocentric theory of the solar system.

Tintoretto’s portrait of Galileo

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“Luxury lives in the finer details. It’s a cloth napkin at a dinner table.”*…

“There should always be a pretty centerpiece”, instructs Sarah Field Splint in The Art of Cooking and Serving, a Depression-era etiquette guide that greased the rails for Crisco shortening’s steady slide into the American home. During Margaret Atwood’s 2006 short story named after Splint’s book, her preteen protagonist weighs decoration against utility. “The charm of my centrepiece would not however cancel out the shabbiness of our paper napkins”. Mattia Giegher’s 1629 Trattato delle piegature (Treatise on folding) offers an elegant solution to the young girl’s quandary: nix the centerpiece and fold your napkins into finery worthy of display.

Giegher’s Trattato appeared as part of Li tre tratatti (1629), joining his earlier works on meat carving (Il trinciante) and stewardship (Lo scalco). While we crease modern napkins as an entrée to the main task — a lap dam for gravy, say, or neck-tucked against crustacean spray — Giegher’s creations were never meant for dabbing. These were starched objets d’art.

During the fifteenth century in northern Italy and southern Germany, technical knowledge of the mechanical arts (think: crafts, machinery, and culinary recipes) began to appear in vernacular writing. “Why around 1400 did artisans take up pen and paper with such gusto?” asks Pamela H. Smith about these early modern how-to guides. Her answer involves war technologies, state power, and urban, cultural exchange. Come the seventeenth century, with literacy on the rise in pockets of Europe, the proliferation of manuals on carving, table service, and, in Giegher’s case, napkin folding suggests a widening interest in knowledge once exclusive to the princely domain…

The history and cultural significance of a lost art (plus lots of nifty pictorial examples): “Serviette Sculptures: Mattia Giegher’s Treatise on Napkin Folding.”

* Iggy Azalea

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As we practice pleating, we might send amusing birthday greetings to John Garnet Carter; he was born on this date in 1883.  A hotelier who ran a lodge at Lookout Mountain, Tennessee/Rock City, Georgia, he built the first “Tom Thumb Golf” course to keep the children of his guests occupied– only to find that the attraction was a hit with adults.

Miniature golf dates back to the 19th century in the UK and the earlier 20th century in the U.S., when putting greens became attractions in their own right.  But Carter’s patented “Tom Thumb” approach– which incorporated tile, sewer pipe, hollow logs, and other obstacles, along with fairyland statuary– earned him the honorific “Father of Miniature Golf.”

garnett Carter
Carter, putting

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“If you could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint”*…

Studies of various types of water bird, swimming and diving among river weed. This work seems to have been intended as a kind of picture thesaurus.

One of the world’s most important collections of art has re-emerged after having been lost for more than 70 years.

The corpus – 103 original drawings by the non-Western world’s most famous artist, the 19th century Japanese painter, Hokusai – came to light in Paris and has now been bought by the British Museum.

The newly discovered artworks appear to have formed part of one of the most ambitious publishing projects ever conceived – a Japanese plan to create a huge pictorial encyclopaedia.

Known as the Great Picture Book of Everything, it was conceived by Hokusai (best known for his most famous work – The Great Wave) – but was never completed.

Published at around the same time as Hokusai was producing the 103 recently rediscovered drawings, The Great Wave is the artist’s most famous painting

The project was abandoned in the 1830s – either because of cost or possibly because Hokusai insisted on reproduction standards that were difficult to attain.

The Great Picture Book of Everything was to have been a comprehensive way for the Japanese to have access to images of people, cultures and nature around the world – at a time when virtually no Japanese people had been allowed out of Japan for some two centuries –  and virtually no foreigners had been allowed into 99 per cent of the country.

In that ultra-restrictive atmosphere, the project was to have given people an opportunity to explore a highly stylised printed version of the outside world as well as Japan itself…

The full story (and more examples of the work) at “Hokusai: More than 100 lost works by non-western world’s most famous artist rediscovered“– the artist’s abandoned attempt to create Great Picture Book of Everything.

* Edward Hopper

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As we picture that, we might send challenging birthday greetings to Hans Peter Wilhelm Arp; he was born on this date in 1886. A sculptor, painter, and poet (who also worked in other media such as torn and pasted paper), Arp was a friend and associate of Hugo Ball and a regular at the Cafe Voltaire, where he helped create the Dada Movement; at the same time he was associated with the Surrealists. But he broke with those movements to found Abstraction-Création, working with the Paris-based group Abstraction-Création and the periodical, Transition. Beginning in the 1930s, he expanded his efforts from collage and bas-relief to include bronze and stone sculptures, and to write and publish essays and poetry. Examples of his work are here.

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“Artifacts of our oldest cultures give evidence that the human race has always made things in miniature”*…

 

CBGB

1/12th scale model of CBGB, 315 Bowery

 

Drawn to the often-overlooked beauty of aging structures, [artist Randy] Hage began photographing the cast iron facades in the SoHo area of New York.  He has photographed over 450 storefronts over the past 14 years, 60% of which have since closed or been torn down. Hage’s models are not only acts of preservation but a way of calling attention to what has been lost as urban renewal and gentrification displace the storeowners and residents of these communities…

Hage then works from his photos to create exquisitely-detailed miniatures…

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scale model

See more of Hage’s marvelous work at “NYC Storefronts in Miniature,” and visit his website.

* Dorothy B. Thompson, Miniature Sculpture from the Athenian Agora

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As we get small, we might spare a thought for miniaturist of a different sort, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne; he died on this date in 1592.  Best known during his lifetime as a statesman, Montaigne is remembered for popularizing the essay as a literary form.  His effortless merger of serious intellectual exercises with casual anecdotes and autobiography– and his massive volume Essais (translated literally as “Attempts” or “Trials”)– contain what are, to this day, some of the most widely-influential essays ever written.  Montaigne had a powerful impact on writers ever after, from Descartes, Pascal, and Rousseau, through Hazlitt, Emerson, and Nietzsche, to Zweig, Hoffer, and Asimov.  Indeed, he’s believed to have been an influence on the later works of Shakespeare.

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Written by LW

September 13, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Design came into being in 1919, when Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus at Weimar”*…

 

Bauhaus

 

The Bauhaus—literally “school of building”—was a German avant-garde arts and crafts academy. Inaugurated six months after the end of World War I, the school encouraged artists and designers to use their talents to help rebuild the broken society.

With Germany in total ruins many thought it was time to start from scratch. The Bauhaus grammar—a triangle, a square, and a circle—evoked this back-to-basics mentality. They challenged everything, including the usual method of schooling. [Walter] Gropius borrowed the idea of Gesamtkunstwerk, or “synthesis of the arts, from composer Richard Wagner, envisioning a school that would “unite every discipline, architecture and sculpture and painting.” (Architects today love dropping the term.)

Gropius instructed students to leave “sentimental, aesthetically decorative conceptions… drawn mostly from past cultures.” Shedding decorative cruft built up over generations meant studying the “nature” of objects and designing from that. You can easily draw a line from the Bauhaus to the iPod—Steve Jobs said as much in 1983 when he addressed the International Design Conference at the Aspen Design Institute, which itself is part of the Bauhaus diaspora.

But Nazis thought the school’s rejection of traditional aesthetics was a rejection of Germanic pride. They chased down the Bauhaus from Weimar, to Dessau, then finally to Berlin, where they were forced to shut down in 1933—and in doing so, spread its influence throughout the world…

Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus movement 100 years ago on a simple but powerful rule, “our guiding principle was that design is neither an intellectual nor a material affair, but simply an integral part of the stuff of life, necessary for everyone in a civilized society.”  Learn more about the movement that he started and the extraordinary impact that it had: “The Bauhaus.”

*  Bruno Munari, Design as Art

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As we integrate form and function, we might send evocative birthday greetings to Mel Edwards; he was born on this date in 1937.  An abstract sculptor who worked almost entirely in steel, he marshals straight-edged triangular and rectilinear forms to make political statements.  He  has had more than a dozen one-person show exhibits (including at  the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the New Jersey State Museum), and has been in over four dozen group shows.

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Written by LW

May 4, 2019 at 1:01 am

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