Thursday, July 23, 2015

Carl Milles: “The Vision of Peace” at the Saint Paul City Hall – Ramsey County Courthouse

The Vision of Peace (God of Peace)
Memorial Hall, Saint Paul City Hall / Ramsey County Courthouse
View from the third floor. All photographs ©versluis 2015

Sculptor: Carl Milles
Material: Mexican Onyx
Height: 36 feet, Weight: 60 tons

For Native Americans the ascending smoke from a ceremonial fire or the peace pipe signify prayers being lifted up. The following is from the label/didactics that identifies the monument:

This statue depicts five Native Americans [at the base] in a spiritual ceremony with their sacred pipes. From the smoke arises a Vision of Peace. One hand of the statue holds the sacred pipe, the other extends in a gesture of friendship—symbolic of the idea that with meeting and understanding comes the hope for world peace.

The figure [unnoticeably] rotates 132 degrees on its base (66 degrees in each direction).

Building dedicated in 1932
Building Architects: Holabird and Root
Construction: Ellerbe & Company

The left-handed God of Peace (right-handed in final version)
Plaster maquette made to scale by Carl Milles, 1930
The first three designs were not accepted. The image above is the fourth maquette submitted, which was finally approved by the commission.
From the collection of the Minnesota Museum of Art

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Henry Dreyfuss: design based on human factors

Design by Henry Dreyfuss (American, 1904–1972)
Drawing by Alvin R. Tilley (American, 1914–1993)

Designer Henry Dreyfuss’s suggestions for functional industrial design were based on human factors and ergonomics. As the graphic above indicates Dreyfuss carefully studied the proportions found in the human body when correlating product design and the user experience. The image above is taken from the exhibition Revealing the Body: The Art of Anatomy currently at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The label for this piece states:

Three Basic Human Body Types—Profile, 1966
Black marker over graphite on gray linen

Anthropometry: in Greek, the word means the measure of man, but not only—it is the foundation of an entire philosophy that connects the human body, its proportions and movements, with the social and natural environment, and ultimately with the Universe. Henry Dreyfuss, the prominent American industrial designer, used the proportions of the body as a point off departure for his creations—for instance, he created the “Princess” telephone to fit the hands of teenage girls. His principles are deeply rooted in the core of 15th-century Renaissance thought—man is the measure of all things. 

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Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Dürer’s systems

Albrecht Dürer (German, 1471–1528)

Dürer’s suggestions for classical proportions in visual design were based on the ratios he found in the human body. The image above is taken from the exhibition Revealing the Body: The Art of Anatomy currently at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The label for this piece states:

Hjerin sind begriffen vier Bücher von menschlichen Proportion 
(Four books on human proportion)
Nürenberg: Hieronymus Formschneyder, 1528

Dürer’s systems were mathematical: Single parts of the body were measured and a ratio obtained, relating each of them to the total height. Another method was to divide the figure’s height into six parts, which could be used as modules for the construction of the whole being. Dürer’s manuscripts, published only after his death, set a trend and were imitated throughout the 16th century.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Speed and motion: a Piet Zwart photograph

Piet (Pieter) Zwart (Dutch, 1885-1977)
Locomotie, 1928
Gelatin silver print

This is just one of the wonderful photographic prints in the 100+ photography exhibition at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. The show is one of the events which commemorates the 100th anniversary of the MIA this year.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Alvar Aalto’s “Paimio” chair: a chair with just the essential parts

Alvar Aalto (Finnish, 1898-1976)
“Paimio” chair, c. 1932
Laminated birch, bent plywood
Collection of the Minneapolis Art Institute

The following information is taken from the MIA exhibition label:

“A Finnish architect and designer, Alvar Aalto is best known today for his furniture design. This chair, one of his earliest designs, was made for the Paimio Tuberculosis Sanatorium in southwest Finland, constructed between 1929 and 1937. Using laminated birch, a material previously used only in the construction of skis, Aalto produced a chair that was extremely strong, comfortable and attractive, and could be cheaply and easily manufactured.”

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Frank Gehry’s Fish Lamp

Frank Gehry (American, born Canada, 1929)
Fish Lamp, c. 1985
wood and Formica chips / pieces
Collection of the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis
Photography by versluis ©2015.

The illuminated primordial fish with fascinatingly detailed Formica scales. 

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Frank Gehry’s subtle context: Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum

Frank Gehry’s first U.S. museum design “from the ground up”(1) was the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum. The museum, which opened in 1993, is located at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis on the bank of the Mississippi River. The view above is from the Washington Avenue Bridge and displays the reflections from the environment while the full sun at noontime glistens off the curved stainless steel panels. Photography by versluis ©2015.

This is a photograph of one of the unconventional gallery spaces in the Weisman, indicating a mixture of natural and artificial light emanating from high ceilings.

The following is an interview with Frank Gehry by Barbara Isenberg in which Gehry discusses his design considerations of interior spaces for the presentations of artworks.

BI: How does the space affect the art in museum galleries?

FG: In the beginning there’s a space. Then you decide what to put in it. The space should have a persona when you walk into it. It doesn't have to, but it would be better if it does. There’s an emotional something that happens, whether you like it or hate it. Then you can hang the art, which brings in a whole set of criteria, but it is always the space as midwife to the art and viewer. It becomes the connector between the art and the viewer.

The space can either enhance the experience or run counter to it. The assumption is you’re going to hang the art in a way that people can see it at the proper height and so on, and that you’re going to light it properly. In any case, whether it’s in the bathroom, the dining room, or the Shrine Auditorium, whoever hangs the art is going to put it in a place so you can see it, and they’ll light it so you can see it. My premise is that as long as you’re making beautiful spaces, and as long as you address the technical issues, they can coexist and complement each other. The space can be an added enhancement to the experience. The most important thing is to break down the barrier between the person looking and what that person is looking at.

Bl: So you see the space as more of an enhancement than prime mover here?

FG: It’s ephemeral. It is sort of up for grabs. There are seven million possible solutions and no one is right. That’s what I like about it. (2)
  1. Isenberg, Barbara. Conversations with Frank Gehry. first ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. 86. Print.
  2. Ibid. 97-99.

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