Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice, practice, practice. So goes the old adage. Carnegie Hall's history, beauty and renown acoustics are being celebrated with a 120th-anniversary concert featuring the New York Philharmonic, which made its home at the music hall for 70 years before moving to the flashier Lincoln Center in the 1960s. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, pianist Emanuel Ax and singer Audra McDonald perform the music of Antonin Dvorák, Ludwig van Beethoven, George Gershwin and Duke Ellington.
But the real draw is the hall itself. Its acoustics are world renown and rarely duplicated (though many have tried—look up the many revisions of Avery Fisher Hall, the Philharmonic's current home), and its history enviable—Dvorak's beloved New World Symphony debuted here on December 16, 1893; Liza Minelli sold out 10 shows in 1979, setting a record held to this day.

I caught Allen Ginsburg reciting his infamous Howl. I jumped when he spat and growled on the stage, so visceral was his anger even nearly 40 years after its publication in 1956. I've heard Händel's Messiah ring out in the hall. I watched awestruck as violinist Isaac Stern, Carnegie Hall's champion during the 1970s and ’80s who lobbied tirelessly for its careful renovation, performed joyfully and with youthful vigor in his beloved venue.

I wish I could be at tonight's show. A live broadcast is as close as I'll come. But I'll be back. All I need to get to Carnegie Hall is a Metrocard and my undying love of the arts.

Read more about Carnegie Hall here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Notables from ICFF 2011

Lack of funding kept Brooklyn Designs from running concurrently with this year's International Contemporary Furniture Fair, but the New York borough was everywhere at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Some of the usual suspects made ICFF appearances, including 3Form, Bernhardt Design and Herman Miller, but the little guys—from Brooklyn and elsewhere—stole the show.
The Hi-Phi System, interlocking furniture components by New York Arbor (Brooklyn). The pieces connect to produce tables, stools and storage.
The V-Luxe for iPad (right) and V-Luxe Junior for iPhone/iPod Touch. The larger screen holder swivels, and the drawer below it is perfect for a wireless speaker. BKNYdesign (Brooklyn) produces the pieces; consoles and storage units may follow.
Irresistible accessories from Areaware (Brooklyn). Jonas Damon designed the Alarm Dock for iPhone/iPod Touch. 
Scrap Lights, fabricated from recycled cardboard, and the Slice Cafe/Dining Chair, from single planks of plywood, were the little guys that did it for Graypants (Seattle).
Color out of California: Custom glass pendants and home accessories from Caleb Siemon & Carmon Salazar (Santa Ana)
Designer Lisa Sacaris (Houston) handpaints her wool felt textiles and wall coverings. Photo courtesy lisasacaris.com.
A touch of whimsy from England: the Bookshelf Wallpaper behind the Rocking Lamp by Mineheart
The Zon, the dimmable LED work lamp from Peter Stathis & Virtual Studio (San Francisco)
Designer Eric Slayton (Brooklyn) has a way with concrete, block wood and steel.
Herman Miller's Aluminum Series, by Charles & Ray Eames, goes back to the future.
The Inspiration and Process Series of notebooks from Moleskine.
A splash of sunshine in the newest lounge from Italy's Sedes Regia

Monday, May 16, 2011

American Design Club's Use Me Exhibit

The American Design Club, founded in 2008, aims to shine a brighter spotlight on U.S. furniture/product designers. All the functional, minimal pieces in this year's exhibition, called Use Me, are available for purchase. The show's on until May 17 at the American Design Building, 45 Great Jones Street, in East Village/Noho, New York. Make sure to check out what else is on display on the way to the top floor.

From top: Iacoli & McAllister's light fixtures and chairs; chairs by RISD student designers Rosie Li and Vivian Chiu, screen by fellow student Misha Kahn; candlesticks by Alexandra  Snook; and Grain's Hemp Mirror.
Pieces from Fort Standard, comprised of wood and marble
End tables form the Brooklyn–based Uhuru's War Craft Line, on the third floor of the American Design Building. The components are either reclaimed from the USS North Carolina—built at the Brooklyn Navy Yard—or reference the design of the celebrated World War II battleship.

Pendant lamps by David Weeks

Friday, May 6, 2011

Hi, Mom!

In honor of Mother's Day, a tribute to three mothers of modern design.
Charlotte Perriand lounging in the LC4 in 1928. Photo courtesy apartmenttherapy.comhttp://www.apartmenttherapy.com/ny/retrospect/corb-your-enthusiasm-the-woman-behind-le-corbusiers-furniture-designs-charlotte-perriand-retrospect-098469.
Architect-designer Charlotte Perriand (1903–1999) had to contend with doors closing resolutely in her face when she applied for design jobs in 1920s Paris, despite the gains made by women in Europe after World War I. Modernist icon Le Corbusier himself rudely rejected her by saying, "We don't embroider cushions here," only to have a change of heart after his design and business partner, cousin Pierre Jeanneret, took him to see her tubular steel furniture at the Salon D'Automne design exhibition in 1927. The resulting collaboration yielded some of the 20th century's most recognizable pieces, including the Chaise Longue (LC4, above) and the Grand Confort B302 (LC3). Perriand left Corbu's studio in 1937 (although she was to collaborate with the pair again over the years) and went on to design furniture and interiors largely influence by her time in Japan and southeast Asia.
Top, Perriand's Sub-Sahara Bench (ca. 1950s); the Table Gorge (1954). Photos courtesy Magen Galleryhttp://www.magenxxcentury.com/designers/charlotte-perriand/bio/.
Marianne Brandt (1893–1983) also knew something about pigeonholing. A star pupil from her first semester at the famed Bauhaus in 1924, she was nonetheless barred from entering the architecture department and was instead steered in the metal workshops. But hers was the last laugh, as her designs went on to become some of the most recognizable of the Bauhaus output. She eventually succeeded her mentor, painter-photographer Lázsló Moholy-Nagy, as head of the metal workshop, during which time she collaborated with students and colleagues alike. Despite her acknowledged talents, Brandt was never able to secure a job as an industrial designer, but she taught until the mid-1950s. She turned from design to painting, and lived quietly until her death. Her fixtures still light the halls of the iconic Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany, and her teapot is recognized even by those who claim to know nothing about design.
A self-portrait from the 1930s; the famous teapot, expressing the basic tenets of the Bauhaus: geometry, form and function—and no more (courtesy Bauhaus Archiv, Berlin) http://www.bauhaus.de/index+M52087573ab0.html.
Eileen Gray (1878–1976) fought her own battles. Her interiors and furniture were synonymous with early modernism and the misnamed Art Deco era, but she didn't receive proper due until years later, after the respected Italian design magazine Domus published an appreciation of her work in 1968. She began as a painter, traveling with her artist father to Italy as a child and later studying in Paris as a teenager. She became enamored of lacquer work, learning the craft from a Japanese master living in Paris. Her screens were sought after by wealthy clients and her lacquer work often adorned the interiors she designed for them. Her architectural output was very small but influential—she designed much of the furnishings for the homes she designed. She built herself a small home on the French coast and lived in obscurity until the 1970s, when her furniture was reissued, then badly copied for mass consumption. Today, much of her furniture is carefully reissued in numbered editions, but copies of her most famous piece, the E1027 table, can still be found almost everywhere.

Top, Le Destin (1914), a screen purchased by couturier Jacque Doucet (photo courtesy le-style-et-la-matiere.blogspot.com). The Transat armchair, 1929, was designed for the E-1027 house, on the French Mediterranean coast, as was the E-1027 side table.http://designmuseum.org/design/eileen-gray

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why Flowers?

Spring at the Conservatory Garden in New York's Central Park. Courtesy harlembespoke.blogspot.com.
I couldn't help thinking about Tuscaloosa, AL, and other southern states reeling from powerful storms and tornadoes—or the people of Japan still experiencing aftershocks more than a month after a devastating earthquake and tsunami—while taking in the treasures on view at the Antique Garden Furniture Show and Sale at the New York Botanical Garden this past week. Stone urns and animals shared space with ironwork seating, playful accessories and, of course, flowers. It all seemed trivial all of a sudden. Why do we care so much about these things?

Because they afford us an escape, a respite from what seems immeasurable and indiscriminate destruction. Flowers serve a powerful function, don't forget: They propagate their respective species, never mind captivating us with their color and beauty. Flowers, gardens and, yes, spring remind us that life continues and that even among the ashes, beauty can be found.

From top: The displays of Treillage; Bob and Debbie Withington of Maine; and Dawn Hill Antiques.

Crocuses make as appearance on the High Line (photo courtesy thehighline.org/blog). Other blooms will come again later this summer.