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Archive for September, 2007

Tw Cen MT is not Futura.

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Hull’s Art & Framing Store (Annex to main store on Chapel St), Sept 16, 2007, 2:43 PM.

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One of the side benefits of living in New Haven is that it’s a city full of fabulous architecture, including two art galleries designed by Louis Kahn.  More importantly, the city is fervent about preserving this part if its culture.  This is why I am able to live above a drug store that is likely from the 17th/18th century today, and why IKEA was forced to agree to a stipulation that the Marcel Breuer Pirelli Tire/Armstrong Rubber building had to be as preserved as possible (sadly, a good portion of the base did have to be demolished for parking spaces, but unlike other cases where buildings were flattened to accommodate the estimated masses swarming to a retail behemoth, the spaces are filled most weekends).  That said, it’s not completely unheard of for the city to demolish some of its downtown buildings:  in January the Coliseum, an old stadium that had fallen into disrepair and subsequently closed, was demolished, and currently the old Macy’s by my parking garage on Temple Street is being ripped apart. 

Since I see it every day on the way to and from work while I wait for/ride on the Union Station shuttle, I’ve been able to monitor its progress.  For months, the building just sat there, a huge brick monolith with no windows and no indication of what it originally was.  But within the past few weeks, its transformed into what could easily be described as a carcass, with the interior steel curled and dangling from other supports like ribs, with portions of the exterior brick façade still clinging to those steel supports like rotting flesh.  Graphic, yes, but it’s utterly fascinating to watch the crew disassemble this in the midst of downtown bustle and at little to no inconvenience to the surrounding area. 

Here are a few pictures to illustrate what I mean:  

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Seeing it being dismantled reminded me of a random Sunday afternoon involving a Wikipedia binge and reading about businesses that had ceased to exist.  This naturally led me to Chi-Chi’s, the beleaguered Tex-Mex chain that met its maker after an outbreak of Hepatitis-A at a Beaver Falls, PA location (and I know this because one of my dear friends used to go to that restaurant) forcing it to pay millions in damages until it closed for good.  While this happens to many chains over the years, an odd epilogue to the Chi-Chi’s story is that many of the locations once closed were just left to be abandoned.  Some were turned into Carrabbas (including a particularly iconic location along the PA Turnpike), but a shocking number to this day still sit, examples of suburban blight at its finest. 

Don’t’ believe me?  Check this out.  Even for the internet, it’s…pretty shocking.

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For all of you who live in the U.S./order on Amazon.com, you must have this customer service number at your fingertips:

1-800-201-7575

That is the number to reach Amazon.com’s customer service desk.  To understand how important this is, read this story to realize the arduous task it can be to acquire this.

 Real post to be available soon.

And yes, I’m awesome.  :)

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My first visit back to the MoMA after its massive renovation brought with it some melancholy—perhaps because my exicted hopes were somewhat diminished when I couldn’t see Night Fishing at Antibes, but perhaps when walking around the early 20th century galleries, we came across a series of three paintings by Umberto Boccioni known as States of Mind.  Set in a train station, Boccioni deconstructs the smoke of the locomotive and the raindrops to depict the pain of separation in an exploration that the MoMA refers to as “the psychological dimension of modern life’s transitory nature:” 

The Farewells.                  Those Who Go.                 Those Who Stay. 

Seeing these while in the midst of a long-distance relationship struck a chord that sounded a little too clear, a little too plaintive, but it was likewise difficult to tear my eyes from any of them.  Having been one who has gone and one who has stayed, the bleak background lit by surreal colors and dizzying shapes captures those respective moods just a little too well.  My mind has drifted as I’ve sat in train cars, sometimes unaware of where I am until the conductor makes the 5-minute warning announcement, and I’ve been the one left at the station to trudge away, forced to deal with yet another bout of loneliness.  Few things are clear save for the number of the train, the time you’re supposed to be getting on and off it, and how much time you have before it leaves and before it arrives. 

What conjured up these memories now, you may ask, when those days are thankfully behind me (and have been for the past two years)?  Despite the fact that I’m not constantly traveling back and forth between the suburbs of Philadelphia and New Haven, riding the Amtrak train southward still instills in me a feeling of dread, anxiety and even sadness—especially at night, as some of the more painful Sunday rides home involved miserable November evenings, when light would be fleeting at 4 in the afternoon and there would be little to see save the occasional R7 station stop or the Trenton Lower Free Bridge with its passive-aggressive slogan “TRENTON MAKES THE WORLD TAKES.”  Even now I get beset with melancholy when the conductor announces that 30th Street Station is another 20 minutes away that only truly lifts when I find myself back in 30th Street a few days later, when the relief rolls in as I line up at Stairway 3 to head back up into the wilds of New England. 

Perhaps this may disappear with time, but then again, it may be better not to take it for granted, no?

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“It’s like the Modern Art section of the Met but, like, the whole museum is modern art.”—overheard in New York on the 4 subway, February, from a North Jersey high school kid to an NYU freshman girl, explaining what the Museum of Modern Art actually was.             

I always get excited to go visit the MoMA for the random small exhibits they have throughout the museum, because they often contain wonderful gems that may never see the light of day from the museum’s collection, or they were pulled in especially for the exhibition from obscure museums, galleries and private collections from around the world.

Currently on display in the special exhibition section on the sixth floor is a huge installation of even larger sculptures by Richard Serra in what could be considered an indulgent exercise as this retrospective of his work from the past forty years involves large expanses of hot-rolled steel and vulcanized rubber that curved throughout the gallery space (and it should also be noted that LVMH, the luxury conglomerate, sponsored the exhibit).  Because many of the pieces were literally on a mammoth scale, they encourage viewer participation and not merely admiration as you wind through the sculptures at times with a small sense of vertigo as the gentle curves distort both vision and perspective.           

Smaller (only by comparison) works involve the precarious positioning of metal sheets welded together in only the most necessary areas and intended to look invisible to the casual observer in partially completed cubes, and vulcanized rubber bent and shaped to look like the pieces of steel elsewhere on the floor.  Its temporary existence prohibited me from taking many pictures of Serra’s work, but those interested can peruse the images on MoMA’s website and also some pictures taken in the outdoor sculpture garden:           

Richard Serra:  40 Years           

My photos (the last half of the album)            

In addition to Serra’s work (which admittedly was a secondary motive to visit), the third floor’s architecture and design department had a small, though informative homage to the font Helvetica, which celebrates its 50th year in use this year.  A documentary following the rise in popularity of this font was released earlier this year; though it is still being shown in select theatres, it’s better to just anticipate the release of the DVD come November.           

Much like how Serra’s work celebrates the basic in excess, “50 Years of Helvetica” spotlights one of the most popular fonts used today as a masterwork of modern design.  Pulling in various examples ranging from German posters to Massimo Vignelli’s signs for the MTA’s NYC subway system, it showcases the best it has to offer:  its clean lines and its aesthetic appeal.  As expounded upon on a wonderful essay on Slate.com (that I won’t try to replicate but will summarize), it’s moved from the de facto font for corporations (see:  Target, American Airlines, Crate & Barrel, and Toyota to name a few) to a somewhat subversive font used by the likes of American Apparel after the advent of the “grunge” era that took hold of Corporate America much later than the actual grunge era circa 1992-93.  It’s also gorgeous in its simplicity and its lack of artifice, and it’s fucking nice to look at.  There’s little wonder why it’s so common to come across it, regardless of what city you’re in, when you’re trying to decipher the labyrinth of the metro system:  it is ultimately the easiest font to understand, no matter what language you read.

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