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Archives: February 2010

Chris Rubino Takes Manhattan

One of the 31 back-lit collages that Chris Rubino created for the Distrikt Hotel.

otte rendering.jpgA New York hotel that celebrates New York—that’s the concept behind the new Distrikt Hotel, which opened last week in midtown Manhattan. The 155-room hotel was designed by New York-based OTTE Architecture, and the firm tapped artist and designer Chris Rubino to create collages, murals, and typographic work that explore Manhattan from Harlem to the Financial District.

Each of the hotel’s 31 floors features an eight-foot-long lightbox by Rubino, who sought to highlight the distinct feeling and features of the city’s diverse neighborhoods. “One of the beautiful things about New York is that you can be walking down Eighth Avenue for an hour and feel like you’ve visited five different cities,” he told us. “I know people say New York City has become homogenized, and of course it’s cleaned up now, but I still have no problem feeling which part I’m in.” A challenge of the long-term project was making sure that the neighborhood-themed works didn’t feel isolated from one another. “I tried to find a consistent illustrative collage aesthetic that I could carry throughout the 31 floors while trying to capture a certain feeling in each,” said Rubino. “I didn’t want Midtown to feel like Chinatown.”

After creating a unique collage for every floor of the Distrikt, Rubino decided that the hotel’s cafe neeeded to represent all of them. The result: two 22-foot-long murals that offer guests the opportunity to see elements of the works—and neighborhoods—on floors other than their own. “I took sections of each collage and combined them to create these new images mixed with an illustration of an Althea Bloomingdale, which once grew wild on that very piece of land in the days long before 32-story hotels,” said Rubino. We couldn’t resist asking whether he has a favorite among all of those works. “I really like the Central Park piece (above), that park means so much to me,” he said. “Plus, I had the opportunity to work the Guggenheim into that one, my favorite!” Another intriguing reason to take a closer look? “There is also a hidden secret in that one.”

A mural by Rubino in the Distrikt’s cafe and a typographic treatment on the a hotel wall.

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Friday Photo: Cardboard Camera

(Roman Buxbaum).jpg
(Photo: Roman Buxbaum)

“The mistake is part of it, it is poetry,” the eccentric Czech artist Miroslav Tichý has said. “And for that you need a bad camera.” By “bad,” 83-year-old Tichý doesn’t mean that fuschia Le Clic you took to summer camp, he’s talking pure DIY: shoebox cardboard, tin cans, toilet paper rolls, elastic bits. And the lenses? Plexiglas rounds polished with toothpaste and ashes. Tichý’s remarkable homemade cameras, including the one pictured above, are on view along with approximately 100 of his haunting photos (heavy on the candid snaps of women and spookily distorted landscapes) in an exhibition at New York’s International Center of Photography. Curated by ICP’s Brian Wallis, it is the first North American museum show for the reclusive Tichý, whose fans include Richard Prince and Nick Cave (both contributed essays to the catalogue). Learn more about his extraordinary life and work in the 2004 documentary made by Roman Buxbaum, the friend and neighbor who brought Tichý’s work to light. Miroslav Tichý: Tarzan Retired runs continuously in the gallery throughout the exhibition, which is up through May 9.

Philippe Starck Dreams of Argentina, Shuns Design Trends

El Bistro at the Philippe Starck-designed Faena Hotel+Universe in Buenos Aires. Reader, there are unicorns.

It was many years ago, in a post-ICFF fever dream, that we imagined a young Philippe Starck taking Buenos Aires by storm, embracing the city’s heat, noise, and dirt while warning residents of his “star quality.” Back then, we chalked it up to a bad mix of colorful cocktails and the Evita soundtrack, but it turns out, we were seeing the future. While Starck hasn’t taken to the Casa Rosada balcony (yet), he’s flying high and adored in Buenos Aires, where he designed the Faena Hotel+Universe, which opened in 2004. Part of former fashion designer Alan Faena‘s renaissance vision for the Puerto Madero neighborhood, the hotel began its life as a dockside warehouse. For Starck, the project is “the child of two very very good friends, who dreamed together on the beach, some years ago, about a good place for our friends,” he told Tablet Hotels in a recent interview. “And we dreamed about this idea of Universe—the name comes from Alan. Alan loves the name Universe, and that’s all. That means it’s just a dream. It’s just a dream of two persons.”

Dreamy, got it! So what does it look like? Think Gramercy Park Hotel through the lens of Ruven Afanador. “It’s purely the incarnation, the crystallization, of the spirit of Argentina,” said Starck. “That means it’s red like passion, there is gold, there is black, it’s very passionate, there is life and death, there is poetry everywhere, there is a lot of surrealistic things, it’s—you cannot even define a style, because Argentina is made of so many civilizations, so many cultures, so many languages.” Meanwhile, Starck reiterated his lack of interest in the design world (“It’s so boring”) and offered a slightly confusing take on trends. “I don’t care about design architecture and trends,” he said, after emphasizing his focus on how people will experience places. “If you see what I do it is never in a trend. If there is a trend, we are at the end of minimalism, but it’s still minimalism. I don’t make minimalism. I make always—my only style is freedom.”

Robert Storr Battles ‘Death Star Museums’

frieze_129.jpgDon’t step foot in a museum (or a Wal-Mart for that matter) before reading Robert Storr‘s excellent piece in the March issue of Frieze. An opening Baudelaire quotation on art, solitude, and crowds sets the stage for Storr’s spirited discussion of the state of contemporary museums and museum-going. There’s the retail push: as museums are increasingly marketed and marketing, “the degree to which ‘educational’ sites such as catalogue reading rooms function as antechambers for the bazaars that insistently bracket the spaces of art is ever more obvious.” But for Storr, “the trouble in Paradise—where multitude once morphed into solitude—is the inexorable logic of ‘crowd management’ to which every sign and didactic label, corridor and door width, lobby and gallery dimension, security checkpoint and sales point, moving walkway, escalator and exit indicator conforms.” Let’s flesh that out, shall we?

One would be tempted to say that the contemporary museum is a machine for ‘slipping glimpses’—to misappropriate Willem de Kooning‘s famous description of his painting, while noting that the essence of appreciating his work consists in looking hard and long at what he captured in a blink of the eye and the flick of a wrist. But, in truth, the mechanisms in play are horridly like those of a sci-fi monster that ingests people in great gulps, pumps them peristaltically through its digestive tract in a semi-delirious state, and then flushes them out the other end with their pockets lighter and with almost no memory of their ‘museum experience’ other than a mild anaesthetic hangover. In short, one leaves the halls of culture much as one does a colonoscopy clinic.

Probe further to learn about Storr’s epiphany in the bowels of Austria’s “bulbously futuristic, almost stomach-shaped” Kunsthaus Graz.

One Club to Induct Saul Bass, Mike Hughes into Creative Hall of Fame

hughes_bass.jpgThe One Club has announced this year’s additions to its esteemed Creative Hall of Fame: graphic designer and filmmaker Saul Bass (1920-1996) and Mike Hughes, president and creative director of The Martin Agency (the firm behind those memorable ads for Geico, among many other major campaigns). “Mike Hughes’ 28-year creative leadership of The Martin Agency has propelled the agency from a regional creative shop to one of the top agencies in America,” said Mary Warlick, The One Club’s singular CEO. “Saul Bass created a visual language for film titles as a new art form. It is appropriate to induct both a copywriter and a designer to the Creative Hall of Fame.” Bass and Hughes, who will be honored next Thursday at a ceremony in New York City, will join a roster of advertising and branding luminaries that includes Paul Rand, George Lois, and David Ogilvy.

In Brief: Chip Kidd, Milton Glaser, and Other Supermen

Out next month from Pantheon, Rough Justice collects the DC Comics sketches of Alex Ross in a volume edited and designed by Chip Kidd. At right, the 1938 comic book that sold for $1 million on Monday.

  • We would pay good money to hear Chip Kidd interview infants and household appliances, so imagine our delight upon learning that he has been matched with the one, the only Milton Glaser for a sit-down at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, which is featuring the work of both designers in its “Design USA” exhibition. Next Tuesday evening, Kidd and Glaser will discuss “work, ideas, and loving New York.” Register here.

    UPDATE: The Kidd and Glaser event is now sold out, but not to worry. The Cooper-Hewitt’s crack staff will be recording the event and streaming it live on the museum’s website. Tune in on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

  • Just in time to lend extra buzz to the soon-to-be-released Rough Justice: The DC Comics Sketches of Alex Ross (Pantheon), edited and designed by Kidd, comes news of the $1 million comic book. A rare first edition of Action Comics #1, in which Superman debuted in 1938, fetched a million dollars in an auction on online comics marketplace ComicConnect. “It’s the Holy Grail of comic books,” said Stephen Fishler, founder of ComicConnect. “Before Action Comics #1, there was no such thing as a superhero or a man who could fly.” And the record-shattering price makes the buy-it-now price of $5,500 for Donald Duck #26 look like a bargain.
  • Meanwhile, DC Comics has a new creative dream team in Jim Lee and Dan DiDio, who have been named co-publishers. Comics writer Geoff Johns has been appointed chief creative officer.
  • And speaking of comics, artist Raymond Pettibon has won the Oskar Kokoschka Prize, which is awarded every two years to a contemporary artist. Past winners include William Kentridge, Agnes Martin, and John Baldessari. Pettibon will be presented with the €20,000 (approximately $27,000) award on Monday at the University of Applied Arts Vienna.
  • Benjamin Moore Announces HUE Award Winners

    colorful.jpgPaint company Benjamin Moore has announced the winners of its fourth annual HUE Awards, which recognize the exceptional use of color in architecture and interior design with glass sculptures shaped like giant paint droplets and cash prizes. The 2010 HUE winners are Ghislaine Viñas Interior Design of New York (residential interiors), Envision Design of Washington, D.C. (contract interiors), color consultant Amy Wax of Montclair, New Jersey (residential exteriors), and Allen + Philp Architects/Interiors of Scottsdale, Arizona (contract exteriors). This year’s HUE lifetime achievement award goes to Diamond Baratta Design. The firm’s principals, William Diamond and Anthony Baratta, join past lifetime achievement honorees Steven Holl, Ettore Sottsass, and Ricardo Legoretta. Additonally, a HUE special achievement award will be presented to Cleveland-based Eikona Studios “for its unique dedication to the restoration and preservation of mural art and masterpieces that grace the walls and domes of American churches, cathedrals, and houses of worship.” The awards will be presented on May 5 in a ceremony at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, after which the winners will paint the town umbria red, ryan red, milano red, ladybug red, spanish red, poppy, and crimson.

    Inuit Not Amused by Vancouver Olympic Symbol

    Inukshuk.gifNow that the parade of ethnic stereotypes that was the “original dance” portion of the Olympic ice dancing competition has swizzled to a close, we can focus on the real issue: the inukshuk. You know, the traditional Inuit rock piles turned grinning emblem of the Vancouver Games? Or is that the love child of Grimace and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man? “In Vancouver, the official inukshuk logo can be found on everything from key chains and T-shirts to rain gear for dogs,” writes the awesomely named Phred Dvorak in the Wall Street Journal. “Similar rock piles have inspired unofficial products—from $6 bottle openers to the Inukie Cookie designed by the creator of the Vancouver 2010 logo, which lets you build your own inukshuk out of maple-flavored shortbread.” Nothing ignites controversy faster than edible riffs on cultural heritage. The Inuit use inukshuit (the plural of inukshuk, which means “something that substitutes for a person”) as monuments, so they’re less than thrilled to see them popping up on playing cards and doggie slickers.

    Some Inuit elders, meanwhile, protested that the humanoid design isn’t authentic. Others fret the original meaning is being lost. “Inuit are concerned that inukshuk are being used everywhere without having much meaning or respect to Inuit,” says [Luke Suluk, president of the Inuit Heritage Trust].

    All that hasn’t damped the appeal, in part because an inukshuk is pretty easy to make. Touchstone Site Contractors Inc., an Ontario provider of commercial landscaping and security fencing, had never made a stone sculpture before it landed the contract for the Niagara Falls inukshuk. Office manager Brandon Bradley whipped the design up himself on AutoCAD. “As long as you keep it somewhat proportional—that’s it,” he says.

    The Incredible Shrinking Tonight Show Logo

    Tonight_logos.jpgWe’ve leave it to television historians, legal scholars, and TVNewser to sort out the epic bumbling that ousted Conan O’Brien from his rightful role as host of The Tonight Show, but we wanted to call your attention to the sleepy new logo that will greet the return of Jay Leno to NBC’s 11:30 p.m. slot, post-Olympics. A miniscule preview of the show’s new identity was recently posted on Leno’s show page. Gone is the retro swagger of Tonight Shows past, replaced with wispy cornflower blue serifs on black that suggest a bedtime story or novel insomnia remedy. And if that isn’t enough to encourage you to tune in, how about Leno’s opening line-up of guests, which will include former governor Sarah Palin, the cast of Jersey Shore, and Simon Cowell. Must-see TV, indeed.

    Quote of Note | Shaquille O’Neal

    (Chris Walters).jpg“I’d like Ron Mueck to do a sculpture of me. I would like to make it twenty feet tall and put it in the middle of a residential neighborhood—make it two stories high and in the head I’d have my office.”

    -Basketball player/art enthusiast Shaquille O’Neal, who served as curator and muse for “Size DOES Matter,” an exhibition on view through May 27 at the Flag Art Foundation in New York. O’Neal selected the 66 works included in the exhibition from 200 images shown to him over a post-game dinner, according to Linda Yablonsky, who interviewed him for New York magazine.

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