Thursday, February 28, 2013

unity with variety: Frank Gehry, democracy, and the “the body language of the building” (1)

photo: © versluis 2011

The Walt Disney Concert Hall, completed in 2003, 111 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, California. Frank O. Gehry Associates, Frank Gehry, principal architect.

photo: © versluis 2011

Gehry has orchestrated the building’s exterior into an architectural wonder, which is inviting and accessible. In contrast to the exterior metal the interior space surrounds humanity with the warmth and lightness of curved forms and light-colored woodwork.

photo: © versluis 2011

This is a partial view of “A Rose for Lilly” fountain which is comprised of thousands of shards of delft blue-and-white porcelain. Gehry designed the fountain in the form of a large sculptural flower in honor of concert hall benefactor, Lillian Disney. The fountain is perfectly composed as one walks through the public garden around Disney Hall. The stainless steel exterior reflects the subtly colored environment and sky.

Thomas S. Hines in his 1991 essay about Frank Gehry and the initial design of Disney Concert Hall writes that the building suggests a flower metaphor and springtime optimism:

While the idea of the garden has literally expanded to envelope the whole site, the flower metaphor of the building itself has given way to nautical symbolism both inside and out. The wooden, scooped-out interior of orchestra and audience seating has the concave sweep of the outside of a boat, floating within the outwardly canted plaster walls of the hall. Outside, the stone panels [which became curved metal sheets] defining the building’s exterior form take on the buoyant quality of sails in full wind. Gehry and other observers believe it looks and feels “more musical” and will create a more dramatic and memorable effect than the original submission design. (2)
  1. Isenberg, Barbara. Conversations with Frank Gehry. first ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. 118. Print.
  2. Fifth International Exhibition of Architecture of the Biennial. Exhibition Catalog: “Peter Eisenman & Frank Gehry.” Hines, Thomas S. Rite of Spring: Frank Gehry and the Walt Disney Concert Hall of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, 1991. Print.

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Sunday, February 24, 2013

“We the People…” a typographic collage currently on display at Slocumb Galleries, ETSU

We the People… a typographic collage by David Versluis was selected for the 28th Annual Positive/Negative National Juried Art Exhibition. The exhibition titled “Minority Rule” is currently on display at the Slocomb Galleries at East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee from 18 February to 8 March. Image © David Versluis 2013.

Versluis states, “Over the years, in some of my artwork,  I’ve dealt with the theme ‘Minority Rule’ and all of these pieces are in the collage form. Interestingly, for this exhibition, I submitted this piece before President Obama used the ‘We the People’ refrain repeatedly in his second inaugural address.”

Slocumb Galleries and the Department of Art & Design at ETSU joined up with the college's Office of Multicultural Affairs, Black Affairs Association and Student Government Association to showcase this exhibition.

The juror, Michael Ray Charles, has a very impressive CV. Here are passages from the Slocumb Galleries website:

“‘Minority Rule’ is the theme of this year's exhibition, which features works in diverse media and perspectives—described by juror Michael Ray Charles as ‘nuanced artworks that reflect the complexities artists confront today.’”

The exhibition includes 38 artists from across the country whose work was selected into this year's exhibition.

Charles is an African-American painter based in Texas and one of the first in a group of artists showcased on “Art21,” a PBS series highlighting top artists of the 21st century. A 2003 article in “Black Issues in Higher Education” acknowledged Charles as one of the top future African-American scholars under 40. In 2000, he was a consultant on Spike Lee’s film, “Bamboozled,” and his work was included in the 2006 documentary “Race is the Place.”
Charles has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and as a juror for the Bush Artist Fellowship in St. Paul, Minn., and the Inaugural Biennial Underground Railroad Exhibition at Northern Kentucky University.

He lectures and exhibits nationally and internationally. Currently, Charles is a professor of art in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Josef Albers: “making the mundane into art”

A “Leaf study” by David Versluis that was inspired by the legacy of design educator/artist Josef Albers (1888–1976). image © david versluis 2012

Above is a quick leaf study developed in the Design Foundations course at Dordt College, as a Photoshop® demonstration to show students how one can respond to autumnal leaves as a simultaneous palette of “color changes, establishing rhythms, and producing multiple readings.” (1)

Referencing autumn leaves, the following is an interesting passage about Albers's teaching pedagogy written in a newer publication titled, Josef Albers: To Open Eyes*:

At Black Mountain College [1930s-40s], where foliage was abundant and paper in short supply, Albers urged students to incorporate leaves into their free studies, and made several himself. The dazzling fall spectacle especially inspired Albers, who in any case, had probably never seen a color to which he couldn’t respond. Much later, he declaimed to one class at Yale “You mustn’t think of the autumn as a time of sadness, when winter is coming, because all the trees, they know winter is coming, so they get drunk! With color! Ach, it’s beautiful! So now bring in leaf studies.”

At Yale, students generally didn’t use leaves alone but cut them up and combined them with Color-aid paper, in Albers’s words, “the leaves improving the paper and the paper improving the leaves.” Sometimes leaves were used exclusively or left uncut; these strategies were altogether acceptable to Albers, who relished a good matière wherever it occurred. That paper was cheap and leaves were free for the taking delighted Albers, who as one student recalls, “would talk about how these leaf studies could make the mundane into art. Then he’d tell us about how [Kurt] Schwitters would make marvelous things out of the stuff he'd pick up from the sidewalk.” (2) 
Regarding the quote, “[Albers] would talk about how these leaf studies could make the mundane into art”—Albers, perhaps without knowing it, has put his finger on what constitutes a Reformed Christian view of art.
*Thanks to Roy R. Behrens for calling my attention to the book. 
  1. Horowitz, Frederick A., and Brenda Danilowitz. Josef Albers: To Open Eyes: The Bauhaus, Black Mountain College, and Yale. First ed. London/New York: Phaidon, 2006. 228-32. Print. 
  2. Ibid. 232.

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Frank Gehry on working collaboratively as designers and artists

The Behrens|Versluis 2012 shared art project tried to promote and raise the notion of collaboration. Working artistically on projects together can be very rewarding yet very risky. As preeminent designer/artist Rick Valicenti has cautioned, “Only work with people you would have at your breakfast table.”

Two pieces from their collaborative montage series “Iowa Insects” have been selected for a juried regional art exhibit, Comedy of Errors sponsored by the Orange City Arts Council at the DeWitt Theatre Arts Center, Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. The works selected for recognition are “Beetle” (shown above) and “Cicada”. The show runs from 15 February to 23 February in conjunction with NWC’s performance of Shakespeare's farcical play, Comedy of Errors.

Speaking about the artistic collaborative process, here’s an excerpt that seems apropos, from the book Conversations with Frank Gehry.  The interviewer is Barbara Isenberg.

Gehry describes his working process as: after all the building program research, his favorite part is developing the design per se. At the same time, however, Gehry says, “It’s also the most scary part because it’s the unknown” and adds, “I start sketching and trying things until, all of the sudden, something emerges that becomes interesting and I sort of follow it. But it’s intuitive. It’s not preconceived. I don’t have an exact plan of action, and I always feel like I’m leaping off a cliff.

Gehry further elaborates about working with others, “I collaborate with people on projects because it enriches the mix and gets you somewhere else that you wouldn’t have gotten to otherwise. When it’s really working, it is like holding hands and jumping off a cliff together.”(1)

As for jumping off a cliff together—hopefully you’re tethered to a bungee cord.

  1. Isenberg, Barbara. Conversations with Frank Gehry. first ed. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. 154-55. Print.

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Friday, February 1, 2013

“Carl Regehr: The Lost Journals”—Journal entry, January 12 1983

Image from the STA Design Archives

We’ve featured the work of Carl Regehr before in this blog. So we thought it would be fitting to end this month with this piece from a recently published book titled Carl Regehr: The Lost Journals. Regehr was a pioneer in Chicago design history, an honorary member of the Society of Typographic Arts, and professor and design educator at the University of Illinois/Champaign at the time of his passing in 1983.

Thirty years ago this month, Carl Regehr (1919-1983) entered the following passage into his journal, dated January 12 1983:

Review, David Smith Show at Nat’l Gallery, Wash. D.C., 1/2–4/24–’83
Among the pleasures that retrospectives offer is the comforting discovery that artists are not born great. To see a career all in development is to begin to understand what it takes to make raw talent into genius. Many factors influence the process, but one trait keeps reappearing throughout the history of art: 
In the alchemy that transforms promise into achievement, a key ingredient is the ability to handle contradictions and transcend limitations, the artist’s own and those of his time and place. His friend Robert Motherwell, said, “Oh, David, you are so delicate as Vivaldi, and so strong as a Mack truck.” Mary Ann Tighe (1)
  1. Best, Marjie, Jana Regehr, and Jack Weiss, eds. Carl Regehr: The Lost Journals. Chicago: The Society of Typographic Arts, 2012. N. pg. Print.

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