Friday, August 14, 2009

My Modernism

I mentioned this house the other day in a post. I grew up about 6 blocks from it and was completely obsessed with it. i had forgotten about the M*A*S*H* styled sign post that sat on the corner of the property at the street. i have always assumed that the cities listed were visited by the home owner. That on it's own was of interest to me. We occasionally made the drive back to Oklahoma to visit family friends. Once in awhile we'd go to Omaha and visit the zoo. My father was not much for travel, still isn't. He claims to be happy where he is, my mother however, doesn't share this contentment in the same way.

Back to the house, one of the things i loved about it was that it was a perfect solution to my escapism. The day dreaming about the home owners and the travel sign, and their adventures. I look back at the sign now and none of those cities seem as far away. Maybe because i have been to most of them for one reason or another. Sometimes i think the most important part of this sign was just putting the idea in my head that there was so much more out here.

I think it would be great to build a sign like that one day, but i'm not ready to stay home yet.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Highline NYC

Your looking at pictures of the new Highline project in New York. The first section opened this summer and it is about long 5 blocks in length. Cutting through the Standard Hotel as well as two other older buildings. One of which Spencer Finch has created a beautiful site specific installation in the windows.

The Highline is a project using elevated abandoned trainlines to create a greenspace/park. It is brilliant! It is like taking an old car on blocks laying on the side of the street and restoring it to the better than original condition, then letting perfect strangers take it for a spin. I absolutely loved it. The design is amazing every detail that was needed was handled perfectly. If it didn't need to be touched, it wasn't. An amazing balance with so many surprises. Including a rare view of the Statue of Liberty that far north in Manhatten, which is perfectly framed with vintage architecture.

I walked it the first time, turning around I walked back. I could have done it again, But we had people to meet. It's like a wonderful ride with views of the city that you don't get on the street or even from a window.

The next day i found myself at galleries in Chelsea and realized that i could enter on 19th, so i walked it again.

At no point do you forget you are in New York, like the rest of the world you realize that New York is changing too. It is making choices that other cities need to be making to improve the quality of life.

It is also great to see the contemporary architectural history lesson popping up around you. It reminded me of Berlin in that way, the old sitting comfortably with the new in conversation.

The Highline was not only a treat, but the highlight of my trip. It will become a part of my future trips to New York, just like the Met, MOMA or the Whitney.

Monday, August 10, 2009

cinder block photo series

I've been thinking about posting these photos for awhile. You are looking at two photos from a new series of photos that i took last spring in Atlanta, just off of Marietta Blvd. I was driving by the site and the sun was hitting this massive pile of blocks beautifully. It was like a rolling hill in a cemetery with the light reflecting off the stones.

I dropped everything I was doing, went home, and grabbed the camera and tri-pod and headed right back. A half an hour later the light was even better. I took about 30 pictures and everyone of them is incredible. This mass grave of material was lifeless and I was torn between capturing the moment and documenting a loss.

I turned 40 last year, and got married this summer. My life is changing and I have spent much of it running from the first half. Sometimes I feel as though I have entered my work at a half way point, or rather that the viewer doesn't know the whole story. Most people don't know me or my work before I moved to Atlanta in 1995. Oddly, I'm not sure I knew me, but I was searching. I have been thinking a lot about why I am interested in architecture, art, and cars. It could be home remodeling projects with my father or car restoration with my brother. Obviously my high school art program had a huge impact.

I remember a house on my way to school or church. I rode my bike by it everyday, even in the summer on my way to the pool. It was strange by small town Winterset, Iowa standards. It was two stories high, and the only home in the whole town that had a flat roof. With the annual snowfall a flat roof is asking for trouble. It was modern and stood out like a sore thumb. Built in the mid 40's at 420 E. Court Street. i rode my bike by that house for years and could only imagine the celebrity that lived in that house. Probably summered there between shooting movies. I wasn't old enough to understand California modernism at the time, but I was sure the person that lived there was from California, a fantasy land far away from my bland life in Iowa.

The house had a porch on the second floor and a wrap around patio that was covered. A real party house I'd think. Fellow celebrities drinking martini's smoking cigarettes late into the evening without a care in the world, because they were in the middle of nowhere.

A few years ago I was back in Winterset, I took my then future wife to see where I grew up. I took her by the house almost before I went by my own. Winterset was famous for the birth of John Wayne and the 13 covered bridges that Clint Eastwood made a movie about. Its nice, but even with all of its "culture", it wasn't enough. I've always wanted more.

I took pictures of the house, all 4 sides, in preparation for a series of drawings, maybe even paintings. I took the pictures because there is one thing i have learned living in Atlanta. You take pictures of modern buildings because they may not be there when you drive by again. They become rubble and they scoop them up and fill an empty hole in the ground with them. Developers don't think twice. The lives that were lived in those buildings are no match for the profit they will make. So it is interesting to think of a building in terms of a life.

The new series of photos above are the first into my look at the past. I know they seem quite final in their view of destruction. I would really like to focus on what is here now, a documentary process of capturing what is left. I've missed so many. Many of these buildings are not even important examples of modernism, but the more they take down the more important the mundane becomes.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

So summer has been pretty crazy so far, still gotta get through August though. I was in New York last week hanging out and talking with some artists about the future. Things have been better, but i think it is making us better artists. It is certainly pushing me in directions to explore some things in a depth that i have never been to before.

This photo was taken by my friend Drew after our conversation about a new photo project i am working on. I've never been interested in photography beyond a tool for documentation. Oddly enough, i see these new photos as documentation even though i am not sure what they are capturing aside from debris.

I am exploring the cinder block as a symbol, a bland, cold hard, gray symbol. I am very interested in the utilitarian design and its functionality on an individual basis. One cinder block is pretty useless unless you are holding a door open. Add a companion and a board and you can make a bench or shelf for a dorm room. Add more blocks and you can construct anything you want. A retaining wall, a structural wall, shelter, on their sides they become a screen. I am obsessed with them and their ability to humanize and dehumanize at the same time.

I am collecting photos such as the one above to talk about just that idea. In art history when artists moved from the church taking frescos and paintings from the wall to wood panels and canvas it gave us the ability to move the earth. From one place to the next, we could suddenly take a picture, a window to the world, and move it. Our favorite landscape, still life or portrait was moved around the room or around the world. A picture window of perfection, and it could be changed, traded, bought and sold. The picture's frame itself created the window's frame and the artist gave us an aesthetically pleasing view of life.

It is interesting to me, as i see more and more actual windows boarded and bricked up. What does that say aside from, "you are not welcome". I have trouble thinking about an architectural space that you can not see out of. No contact with the outside world. We've come so far with our painted representations of life just to brick up the real thing. I think it says something about safety and security, but i think it also says something about the way we want to live. Boards can be removed,bricking up a window seems so permanent, so final, much like the bricking of a crypt.

The new pieces i am creating work in this thought, the picture is gone, the view is bricked up and the future seems cold and gray. I am finding myself at an odd crossroad where the symbol of what i am creating is not only actually taking place, but i am recording it as a gesture or thought that i don't even like. It is an idea that can easily be removed for the wall and replaced by a lush green Struth forest or Gursky's dimestore.

Stay tuned, i'll post one as soon as it is finished.