MORE PHOTOGRAPHY . . .

childhood

1990 William’s funhouse

Same Gallery . . .Gallery 270 in Englewood, NJ, as my last Why Photography blog a couple of weeks ago. What makes photography so wonderful is, we get to experience the manipulation of an image through the artist’s eye using a camera, rather than a paintbrush, or other methodology.
In this case by photographer Michael Massaia.

According to Tom Gramegna, Director of the Gallery:

“It is commonly accepted that much of who we become as adults is often dictated by the indelible experiences we have in the formative years of our youth” writes Gallery 270 director Tom Gramegna about Michael Massaia’s current show “Scenes From A Childhood”

When we were young, most of us “experienced moments where we felt isolated, alone, with an inability to connect with reality”.  Michael has used those experiences to push the envelope and come up with  photography seen as an art not seen before.

 

Hello Kitty Neopolitan

Neapolitan Sandwich

 

 

Screen-shot-2013-10-17-at-12.02.02-PM-150x150 10982623_10152717291608021_9126338918085716084_n Screen-shot-2013-10-17-at-12.03.36-PM-150x150pinball

In the rides and attractions of the Jersey Shore, seen by millions, there is a longing for simpler times evidenced by Michael’s analog pinball machines and in the simple recognition of the “whimsical and cosmic beauty” found in a melting ice-pop.

Michael is passionate about doing original work that has never been accomplished before. His photography is self taught. He controls the process and does not use Photoshop to alter or touch up his work. He creates his prints in multiple sizes, surfaces and techniques. His hauntingly beautiful and groundbreaking photographs are surprisingly affordable given the huge time and effort just one print takes for the artist to produce.”

The show at Gallery 270, Tom Gramegna, Director, runs until May 2, 2015, 10 N. Dean St. Englewood, NJ 201-871-4113. Call the gallery for prices.

Tom also has a fabulous camera store Bergen County Camera. Everything you ever wanted in a camera is there, plus an amazing, knowledgeable staff.
270 Westwood Avenue, Westwood, NJ 07675, 201-664-4113×202

Contact and website info:

tomg@bergencountycamera.com
tomg@gallery270.com
www.bergencountycamera.com
www.gallery270.com

Do you enjoy/love photography? What’s your opinion? Let’s let Tom know what you think.

SPIDERS, GHOSTS and BOTANICALS

Yellow Sac Spider

Yellow Sac Spider

Spiders, ghosts and botanicals. You might find any of those at our old, built in 1867, sixty-two room  Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum anytime.  I have found some, especially botanicals, and right now I want to tell you about the current art show, in the Billiards Room, in collaboration with the Contemporary Center for Printmaking, (CCP) an art center right here on campus. This exhibition explores the beauty and relevance of botanical art through the medium of printmaking, in connection with the newly refurbished Conservatory at the Mansion, historically decorated by Danna Dielsi of The Silk Touch floral shop in Norwalk, CT. The art show was curated by Trustee Gail Ingis, included are renowned printmakers and members of CCP, Margot Rocklen, Betty Ball, Jane Cooper, Deidre de Waal, Sheila Fane, Sally Frank, Cynthia MacCollum, Joan Potkay, Eve Stockton and Ruth Kalla Ungerer. The works included cover a variety of techniques including: etching, monotype, intaglio, woodblock, and solarplate, to name a few.

Monotype by Deidra de Waal

Monotype by Deidra de Waal

This image by Deidra de Waal is a Monotype. Monotyping is a type of printmaking made by drawing or painting on a smooth, non-absorbent surface. The surface, or matrix, was historically a copper etching plate, but in contemporary work it can vary from zinc or glass to acrylic glass. The image is then transferred onto a sheet of paper by pressing the two together, usually using a printing press. Monotypes can also be created by inking an entire surface and then, using brushes or rags, removing ink to create a subtractive image, e.g. creating lights from a field of opaque color. The inks used may be oil based or water based. With oil-based inks, the paper may be dry, in which case the image has more contrast, or the paper may be damp, in which case the image has a ten percent greater range of tones.

j

Eve Stockton, Woodcut

Woodcut, is a relief printing technique in printmaking. An artist carves an image into the surface of a block of wood—typically with gouges—leaving the printing parts level with the surface while removing the non-printing parts. Areas that the artist cuts away carry no ink, while characters or images at surface level carry the ink to produce the print. The block is cut along the grain of the wood (unlike wood engraving where the block is cut in the end-grain). The surface is covered with ink by rolling over the surface with an ink-covered roller (brayer), leaving ink upon the flat surface but not in the non-printing areas.

Come visit to see this most unusual art show representing the twenty-first century interpretations of nineteenth-century art of botanicals. I did run into a spider, the yellow sac kind, but I thought it was Mr. Lockwood, much to my chagrin, when I looked up he was gone.

Come and visit this most amazing venue. The show will run through May 3, 2015, at the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum, 295 West Avenue, Norwalk, CT.  203-838-9799. General Admission April 9 through May 3, 12-4 p.m.: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6, 8-18.

Hurry, don’t miss it!

Have you been to this old house (mansion) where the TV show “Dark shadows” was made? Remember Joan Collins? Think you’ll find any ghosts? You might . . .

WHY PHOTOGRAPHY?

Gallery270 Michael Massaia

Gallery270 Michael Massaia

Last week my visit to Gallery270 in Englewood, NJ proved to be magical, once again. Tom Gramegna, owner of the gallery sure knows how to pick the images to interest us viewers. Today’s blog though is not about that show, you’ll have to wait until another blog time.

On the left, here’s a tease . . .

Why photography? Goes back to my own stint as a photographer for my design and architectural work, then on to experimentation in the art of photography. Working with photo images led me to full-time painting those images. My work as an artist led me to Hudson River artist, Albert Bierstadt. His brothers were into photography in 1859. They traveled to Yosemite with Albert and took many of the images that Albert painted. In those years, cameras were big and bulky and travel was less than convenient. Only way to California then was by coach, the one with horses.

Coney Island parachute jump

Coney Island parachute jump 1950′s

The 1990′s saw an explosion of the craft with digital photography. Today, everyone is a photographer with the smart phone. It’s always easy and convenient to turn the phone into a camera. No more do I have to lug along my camera, unless I have a special project that needs professional work. I still use my Nikon D200 to take photos of images to paint. Like my Coney Island project, I have photos from 1986-2013 of Coney Island before restoration and after restoration. This one is the 50′s when I played in Coney Island.

I have a heart for the venue of photography and thought I would share some pieces of history and processes.

 

Site: Half Dome, Yosemite

Site: Half Dome, Yosemite by Ansel Adams

Group f/64 was a small group of 20th-century San Francisco photographers, like Cunningham and Adams, who shared a common photographic style characterized by sharp-focused and carefully framed images seen through a particularly Western (U.S.) viewpoint. In part, they formed in opposition to the Pictorialist photographic style that had dominated much of the early 20th century, but moreover they wanted to promote a new Modernist aesthetic that was based on precisely exposed images of natural forms and found objects.

Succulent by Imogen Cunningham 1920

Succulent by Imogen Cunningham 1920

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams

The term f/64 refers to a small aperture setting on a large format camera, which secures great depth of field, rendering a photograph evenly sharp from foreground to background. Such a small aperture sometimes implies a long exposure and therefore a selection of relatively slow moving or motionless subject matter, such as landscapes and still life, but in the typically bright California light this is less a factor in the subject matter chosen than the sheer size and clumsiness of the cameras, compared to the smaller cameras increasingly used in action and reportage photography in the 1930s.

Digital photography has come a long way since it started to catch on in the 1990s. While even your high-end smartphone may take pictures that look like crap, a real digital camera can make even the stodgiest photographer forget about film.

The Hasselblad H4D-60 is probably the most expensive digital camera in the world. This DSLR camera has an astonishing 60 megapixel 40 x 54 mm sensor. Aided by the Absolute Position Lock processor, Hasselblad’s True Focus system allows the photographer to focus on the composition without constantly fiddling with the focus. The camera has a capture rate of 1.4 seconds per capture and shutter speed ranges from an 800th of a second to 32 seconds.

This pro digital camera costs in excess of $40,000, but that price will also get you membership in the Hasselblad Owners’ Club. The exclusive club promises to hook you up with a considerable network of professional photographers to increase your exposure and expand your client base.

Do you take photographs,  and with what, camera or phone? What kind of camera? Do you have one of those $40,000 digital cameras? No kidding . . .

 

 

 

ART IN PHOTOGRAPHY

Photo by Imogen

Photo by Imogen

Creativity! Isn’t that what art is? Art comes in millions of variables. Art is everywhere, in nature, in architecture, in human creativity–in a leaf.

Last week, I visited a renowned photography gallery, Gallery270, Englewood, NJ, to view some prints by Imogen Cunningham. The gallery is owned by Tom Gramegna, who also owns Bergen County Camera, Westwood, NJ. His photography exhibitions will enrich you, and perhaps inspire you to make art, collect art, especially photo art.

Photo by Imogen

Photo by Imogen

Imogen Cunningham’s early to mid 20th century photo art is pure, no digital technology to enhance her work. All the enhancements, finishes and spatial concepts were done by her, no tricks. Pure creativity. She knew how to use her medium.

She understood the components of creativity. She knew how to divide space. She knew what would translate into beauty, what we hope for in art. Below is the brief story about this intriguing, creative woman, who, in spite of women barely being recognized professionals in her lifetime, forged ahead in her craft.

Photo by Imogene, Martha Graham (dancer)

Photo by Imogene, Martha Graham (dancer)

Imogen Cunningham (April 12, 1883 – June 23, 1976) was an American photographer known for her botanical photography, nudes, and industrial landscapes. Cunningham was a member of the California-based Group f/64, known for its dedication to the sharp-focus rendition of simple subjects.

In 1901, at the age of eighteen, Cunningham bought her first camera, a 4×5 inch view camera, via mail order from the American School of Art in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She soon lost interest and sold the camera to a friend.th-2

It wasn’t until 1906, while studying at the University of Washington in Seattle, that she was inspired to take up photography again by an encounter with the work of Gertrude Käsebier. With the help of her chemistry professor, Horace Byers, she began to study the chemistry behind photography and she subsidized her tuition by photographing plants for the botany department.

th-5Cunningham was said to take after her father: “a self-taught freethinker who didn’t confine himself to one profession,” which led Cunningham to experiment freely with cameras, photographic printing techniques and styles.

In 1907, Cunningham graduated from the University of Washington with a degree in chemistry. Her thesis was titled “Modern Processes of Photography.” She focused on a career in photography, and won a fellowship for foreign study.

Imogen

Imogen

In 1915, Cunningham married etching artist, printmaker and teacher Roi Partridge. They had three sons. The couple divorced in 1934. A granddaughter, Meg Partridge, has cataloged Cunningham’s work.

As of 1940, Cunningham lived in Oakland, California, though she had studios in various locations in San Francisco. Cunningham continued to take photographs until shortly before her death at age 93 on June 23, 1976, in San Francisco, California.

Imogen

Imogen

What form of art/creativity is your preference?  Architecture, body art, car art, crochet, dance, Disney art, fashion, floral design, embroidery, furniture, graphic design, hair art, jazz, jewelry, knitting, music, nail art, oil painting, pastels, photography, piano,  rap, sculpture, sports movements, voice, writing, watercolor painting? Did I miss your favorite? Fill it in . . .

There’s a new show going up at Gallery270 at 10 North Dean St. Englewood, NJ, tomorrow, April 2nd, 7-9 pm. 201-871-4113. Another brilliant photographer, young and with it! Michael Massaia. See you there?

 

CRAPPER HISTORY

THIS Day in History: January 30, 1863

toiletFor my historic book, Indigo Sky, in 1863, I looked up if the word ‘crap’ was used in 1863. This article came up. Wanted to share . . .

It’s almost too perfect. A man named Thomas Crapper invents the world’s first indoor one-piece flushing toilet on this day in history, and the world rejoices. The problem is, it’s not true, particularly that “first” part. Crapper was instrumental in drawing the public’s attention to the product in his London store, which was the world’s first sink, toilet and bath showroom–but his role was more as a salesman, not inventor in this case. An article in “Plumbing and Mechanical Magazine” said Crapper “should best be remembered as a merchant of plumbing products, a terrific salesman and advertising genius.”

It probably didn’t hurt that Mr. Crapper was the official plumber of a few prominent members of the royal family. For instance, he handled all the plumbing and fixtures at Sandringham house, one of the Royal residences, and received Royal warrants from Edward VII and George V.

That said, Crapper did improve the functionality of the toilet. He was a plumber himself, and invented many doo-dads that improved efficiency and sanitation, such as the ballcock, which is the float-triggered flushing mechanism in your toilet.

Primitive indoor toilets had been in existence sine Roman times, but the first “modern” flushing toilet in Britain was invented by Sir John Harington in 1596, who installed the first working prototype in the home of his godmother, Elizabeth I. Further, the first patent for a flushing water closet was issued in 1775 to a man named Alexander Cummings – sixty years before the birth of Thomas Crapper.

It’s also been commonly believed that the slang term “crap” is derived from Mr.Crapper’s name, because of the obvious association with toilet-related bodily functions.

Time to shatter another illusion: the word “crap” is of Middle English origin, and had nothing to do with poop back in the day. While the exact etymology isn’t known, it’s thought that it likely comes from the Dutch word krappen: to cut or pluck off, and the Old French word crappe: waste or junk. In English, people used the word to refer to weeds or garbage, but it had fallen out of popular usage in the UK by the time Mr. Crapper came along.

The term “crap,” meaning “refuse”, stuck around in America though, coming over pre-16th century from England.   According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it wasn’t used to mean doo-doo until 1846.

That said, “The Crapper” as a name for the toilet was partially inspired by Thomas Crapper thanks to WWI. The toilets in England at the time were predominately made by the company “Thomas Crapper & Co Ltd”, with the company’s name stamped on them.  American soldiers with their still actively used “crap” word, took to calling these toilets “The Crapper” and brought that slang term for the toilet back with them to the United States after the war.

For you history buffs, haven’t you ever wondered about how our language evolved?

Kathy Padden Daily Knowledge Newsletter

HALF DOME

Domes of Yosemite 24x36 Acrylic on Canvas Ingis Claus

Domes of Yosemite 24×36 Acrylic on Canvas Ingis Claus

 

“Indigo Sky,” is my book on the take of the life of Hudson River artist, Albert Bierstadt, his adventures journeying west to California in 1863, and his painting of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. This image is my painting of Half Dome, an Ode to Bierstadt.

Here’s some fascinating facts about the area.

halfdomeIMG_0564Half Dome was originally called “Tis-sa-ack“, meaning Cleft Rock in the language of the local Ahwahnechee people. Tis-sa-ack is also the name of the fourth route on the formation, ascended by Royal Robbins and Don Peterson over eight days in October 1969. Tis-sa-ack is the name of a mother from a native legend. The face seen in Half Dome is supposed to be hers. Tis-sa-ack is the name of a Mono Lake Paiute Indian girl in the Yosemite Native American legend. John Muir referred to the peak as “Tissiack”.

Others say Ahwahneechee. Native Americans named Half Dome “Face of a Young Woman Stained with Tears” (“Tis-se’-yak”) because of the colonies of brown-black lichens that form dark vertical drip-like stripes along drainage tracks in the rock faces.

In 1988, Half Dome was featured on a 25 cent United States postage stamp. An image of Half Dome, along with John Muir and the California condor, appears on the California State Quarter, released in January 2005. Starting October 2010, an image of Half Dome is included on the new revised California drivers license in the top right-hand corner.

In 2014, Apple revealed their new version of their operating system, Yosemite, and Half Dome was the default wallpaper on the new OS.

Half Dome is also an element or inspiration of various company and organization logos, including that of The North Face, Sierra Designs, & Mountain Khakis outdoor product companies, the Sierra Club environmental group and the Sierra Entertainment game studio.

Have you been to Yosemite? Be careful near those bigger-than-life waterfalls. Stories have it that some have fallen in!!! And never found . . .

 

THREE DAYS IN DISNEY

cinderella castleP1040337-Version-2Three days in Disney. Exhausting? Well, sort of, but the electric scooter, that our daughter Linda had on our first day made it easy to get around. So easy, it convinced me to get one too. Fantastic, fun and magical. The crowds parted as we moved through them. I wonder how many miles tireless Tom walked while we rode?  Scan your Magic Bands to enter  your Disney Resort hotel room, enter the parks and access Disney FastPast for no-line waits. Convenient, great system.

Festival of the Lion King extravaganza

Festival of the Lion King extravaganza

We visited Animal Kingdom, famous for its big tree, and Festival of the Lion King. What an amazing first class show!

Famous tree in Animal Kingdom

Famous tree in Animal Kingdom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soarin' in Epcot

Soarin’ in Epcot

Epcot’s Soarin’ flight simulator lifts guests on multi-passenger hang gliders for a scenic aerial tour of California, warm and windy, like being in an open-air airplane. WOW!

Pirates of the Caribbean ride

Pirates of the Caribbean ride

Magic Kingdom is always a place to be a kid again. It’s a tickle-my-fancy kind of experience, never too old kind of thing. Electric parade, Cinderella’s Castle, Pirates of the Caribbean.

Finally, Downtown Disney, a mega shopping mall, restaurants, seek and ye shall find the desires of your heart. Coincidentally, the 19th century paddle steamer at the banks of Downtown Disney, until they renovated, was typical of the one featured in my book, Indigo Sky.

Cinderella's Castle Magic Kingdom

The Empress Lilly paddle steamer

The Empress Lilly paddle steamer

Fulton’s Crab House riverboat restaurant

The structure, originally known as the The Empress Lilly, is a static full-size replica of a paddle steamer riverboat. It is 220 feet long and 62 feet wide. Though it resembles a boat, it is actually a boat-shaped building on a submerged concrete foundation.

The Empress Lilly was designed by Walt Disney Imagineering to look as authentic as possible.The gingerbread scrollwork and stained-glass detailing hearkened back to the days of Mark Twain‘s Mississippi River. The paddlewheel at the aft end constantly churned, though the ship never moved. It greeted guests for the first time on May 1, 1976, when it was christened by Walt Disney‘s widow, Lillian Disney, for whom it was named. It originally housed four separate entertainment and dining areas. It was also one of the first locations of the famous Disney Character Breakfasts.

In the mid-1990s, as a cost-cutting move, Disney began to engage outside partners to take over operations of many of its restaurants.  On April 22, 1995, the Empress Lilly served her last meals. All interiors were subsequently ripped out and a new décor for a single restaurant put in place. The old smokestacks and paddlewheel were removed due to rust and rot and were not replaced. The restaurant opened as Fulton’s Crab House on March 10, 1996.

Do you have a favorite in Disney, have you been there?

HEMP HISTORY

 

Hasheesh Row

“Row(Purple Kush)” by hexthat – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – plant used to produce hasheesh

Sick and tired of his medicinal habit and his womanizing, Leila muttered, “You are despicable.”

Hank grabbed the railing of the balcony, his knuckles white. He glared at Leila and gritted his teeth. “You’re a woman, you don’t understand.”

“I have had enough. Go to your medicine, or to your women. I want a divorce.”

Hank’s jaw dropped. Her father supports them. Hank, the money handler says, “I will never give you a divorce, never.”

 

Indigo Sky book cover

Indigo Sky book cover

My story in “Indigo Sky”, names and exact wording have been changed, was inspired by the real-life of love and hate of a married couple and their escapades. His medicinal habit was founded upon a hasheesh pill he found in his doctor friend’s apothecary.

One morning, in the spring of circa 1854, I dropped in upon the doctor for my accustomed lounge.

“Have you seen,” said he, “my new acquisitions?” A rapid glance showed most of them to be old acquaintances. “Conium, taraxacum, rhubarb—ha! What is this? Cannabis Indica?”

 

“That is a preparation of the East Indian hemp, a powerful agent in cases of lock-jaw.”

Fitz pulled out a broad and shallow cork to reveal an olive-brown extract, of the consistency of pitch and an aromatic odor. Drawing out a small portion upon the point of my penknife, I was just going to put it to my tongue, when “Hold on!” cried the doctor—“do you want to kill yourself? That stuff is deadly poison.”

Indeed!” he replied. Fitz replace the cork and put it back on the shelf, only to sneak some after consulting the Dispensatory under the title “Cannabis Indica.”.

German postage stamp from 1991, commemorating 750 years of the apothecary profession

German postage stamp from 1991, commemorating 750 years of the apothecary profession

He tried one pill of five-grain weight. On different days, spread apart, he tried more, increasing by five grains each time, all with no effects, until he reached thirty grains. That’s when his life changed. His hallucinations, exaggerated imagination, and potential over analysis on simple subjects, drove him to see his doctor, who said all is normal, you will not die, and gave him a sedative to calm him down.

 

His fears diminished as his hallucinations increased. It soon became a habit he could not break. It was not long before he wanted more and turned to opium.

There were no rules, no laws, and no comprehension to the effects. Hasheesh or hashish and marijuana, means dry weed, is made from the flower of the plant. According to Fitz Hugh Ludlow’s 1857 book, “The Hasheesh Eater,” how the plant is used depends on where it’s grown. In northern latitudes the hemp plant (Cannabis Sativa) grows almost entirely to fiber, becoming, in virtue of this quality, the great resource for mats and cordage. Under a southern sun this same plant loses its fibrous texture.

It is distinguished from its brother of the colder soil by the name Cannabis Indica. The resin of the Cannabis Indica is hasheesh. To all the nations of the East it’s know to possess powerful stimulant and narcotic properties, and is used by all classes of society as a habitual indulgence. Fitz continues in his book, the dried plant is smoked in pipes or chewed, as tobacco among ourselves. The chain of its bondage may last for a long time—where captivity becomes painful. He desired to stop, but had great difficulty doing so. According to his life story, he did finally release himself from the narcotic habit and addiction

Hasheesh

A small piece of Hashish, obtained in Paris

Hashish is a sticky, thick, dark-colored resin (like sap), which is made from the flower of the female cannabis plant. Today Hashish is an illegal drug in the United States, Canada, and many other countries.

It is controversial, since some people think it and marijuana should be legal, some think it should be legal only for medical purposes, and some think it should not be legal at all.

Louisa May Alcott is the author of Perilous Play, her story about hasheesh.

Have you ever read anything by Fitz Hugh Ludlow?

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Row(Purple_Kush).jpg#mediaviewer/File:Row(Purple_Kush).jpg

MIAMI BEACH

Helen Mar Hotel

Helen Mar Hotel

Buzz words . . . Miami Beach, a place everyone wants to be in the winter. It never snows,  and the sun shines mostly all the time. Hush, don’t tell I said it, but Miami Beach is New York City South. Miami Beach isn’t even little New York—it’s big, with the arts,  music, theatre, famous restaurants  and some pretty interesting history. What else? Fantastic shopping, from the outlets to the elite. It’s all here, so is the traffic, the people and the tourists.

Miami-BeachMiami Beach has been one of America’s pre-eminent beach resorts since the early 20th century. In 1979, Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. miamiarchitectural miamideliThe Art Deco District is the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world and comprises hundreds of hotels, apartments and other structures erected between 1923 and 1943. Mediterranean, Streamline Moderne and Art Deco are all represented in the District. The Historic District is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the East, Lenox Court on the West, 6th Street on the South and Dade Boulevard along the Collins Canal to the North.

South-Beach-Miami-hotelsEach December, the City of Miami Beach hosts Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the largest art shows in the United States. Art Basel Miami Beach, the sister event to the Art Basel event held each June in Basel, Switzerland, combines an international selection of top galleries with a program of special exhibitions, parties and crossover events featuring music, film, architecture and design. Exhibition sites are located in the city’s Art Deco District, and ancillary events are scattered throughout the greater Miami metropolitan area.

Frank Gehry's New World Center

Frank Gehry’s New World Center

Miami Beach is home to the New World Symphony, established in 1987 under the artistic direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. In January 2011, the New World Symphony made a highly publicized move into the New World Center building designed by Canadian American Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry.  The new Gehry building offers Live Wallcasts™, which allow visitors to experience select events throughout the season at the half-acre, outdoor Miami Beach SoundScape through the use of visual and audio technology on a 7,000-square-foot projection wall.

I remember Miami Beach long ago in the 1960′s when it was a sweet small beach town.  Since then, the town has grown up into a mega metropolis.

Have you experienced Miami Beach?

 

ARCHITECTURE WORTH SAVING

A version of this article, by Michael Kimmelman, appears in print on January 27, 2015, on page C1 of the New York edition of the New York Times, with the headline:  A Chance to Salvage a Master’s Creation

Photo Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Photo Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center in Goshen, N.Y., is on the World Monuments Fund’s watch list.

Unless county legislators act quickly, a paragon of midcentury American idealism will be lost.

Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center, in Goshen, N.Y., announces itself as a civic hub. It’s made of corrugated concrete and glass, organized into three pavilions around a courtyard, like an old wagon train around a village green.

A county proposal would tear down huge chunks of it, flatten the roof, destroy windows, swap out parts of the textured concrete facade and build what looks like an especially soul-crushing glass box. Goshen would end up with a Frankenstein’s monster, eviscerating a work that the World Monuments Fund, alarmed by precisely this turn of events, included on its global watch list alongside landmarks like Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China.

Haters in Orange County government have been contemplating its demise for years, allowing it to fall into disrepair and shuttering the building, citing water damage after Hurricane Irene in 2011. Pictures of the interior from the early 1970s, when the center was still new, show a complex of animated spaces, by turns intimate and grand. Later renovations ruined the inside, making it cramped and dark. Rudolph was a master of sculpturing light and space, following in the footsteps of Frank Lloyd Wright, whose emotionalism he married to the cool Modernism of Europeans like Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier.

His style, unfortunately, came to be branded Brutalism, and turned off many. But the government center was conceived with lofty social aspirations, making tangible Rudolph’s concept of energetic governance as a democratic ideal. It was a beautiful notion; and while the architecture may never win any popularity contest, it was beautiful, too, with its poetry of asymmetric, interweaving volumes.

Although the center no longer seems to suit Orange County administrators, it can be repurposed. Gene Kaufman, the owner and principal of Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman Architects in New York City, has offered to pay the county $5 million for the building and restore it as an artists’ live-work space, with public exhibitions. Mr. Kaufman has also offered to design a brand new government center next door for $65 million — millions less than the $74 million county officials allotted some time ago for the plan to tear down part of the building and add the glass box.

But Steven M. Neuhaus, Orange County executive, seems determined to pursue the teardown plan. MidHudsonNews.com quoted him the other day as saying that “construction and deconstruction work” will begin “by spring of this year.” He recently vetoed a proposal that would have allowed the county to sell the center to Mr. Kaufman.

Customized fluted concrete blocks were used in Rudolph's Orange County Government Center, Goshen, N.Y. (1963–71), which narrowly escaped recent demolition attempts. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Customized fluted concrete blocks were used in Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center, Goshen, N.Y. (1963–71), which narrowly escaped recent demolition attempts. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

County legislators meet on Feb. 5. They have a chance to override the veto. I gather that local merchants have complained about lost revenue since government workers relocated to temporary quarters after the center closed. They may be pushing for whatever is in the pipeline.

But many people who spoke at a public hearing last month in Goshen endorsed Mr. Kaufman’s proposal. It would save the center, potentially save the county a fortune, bring in tourist dollars and even put the Rudolph building on the tax rolls. Demolishing Penn Station seemed expedient to politicians and other people a half-century ago, when only a noisy bunch of architecture buffs and preservationists pleaded for its reprieve. Back then, Rudolph was a leading light in American architecture, his work the epitome of American invention and daring. He lived long enough (he died in 1997, at 78) to see his reputation decline with the rise of Post Modernism, whose own eclipse has coincided with renewed interest in Rudolph’s legacy.

Orange County legislators should take a look at his Art and Architecture Building at Yale, which Post Modernists had squarely in their cross hairs. Opened in 1963, it was restored several years ago by the firm of Gwathmey Siegel. Ugly partitions and drop ceilings from an unfortunate renovation were stripped away, years of contempt and neglect erased. Cramped, dark, byzantine spaces returned to how Rudolph intended them: light-filled, exalting, with serendipitous vistas and a communal, townlike connectedness. There’s a syncopated flow to the building. The concrete facade, its corduroy pattern bush-hammered by hand, looks quarried from some immense rock. Almost miraculous, the restoration vindicates Rudolph.

History is on the Government Center’s side, too. Here’s hoping county legislators are.

What do you think? Why do we continue to tear down our history?