06 September 2020

Italians and Jews in Odessa

 Episode "Traveling to Eat" was on The Splendid Table on NPR as I drove home from Wegmans this morning. One of the stories was a talk with Caroline Eden who has traveled around the Black Sea, investigating places and food. She did a couple road trips but visited Odessa and Istanbul as specific destinations. She considers Istanbul the most grand food place in the world.

Caroline Eden mentioned the significant evidence of Italian and Jewish food in Odessa. Though there were ancient and medieval settlements where Odessa now is, its modern origins date back to 1794 when Catherine the Great established the city and port on the shores of the Black Sea, now in the Ukraine. It was a free port from 1819 to 1858 and the fourth largest city in the Russian Empire, after Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Warsaw. There were Italians among the planners and developers and a large Jewish community developed in the 19th century. The Italians were mostly a legacy of Genoese colonies in the Crimea in late medieval times.

I've never known a great deal about Odessa though we did hear about it when Atticus Aldridge was explaining his origins to Rose and the Jewish refugees in York.

Atticus mentions to one of the refugees that his family came to England from Odessa in 1859 and 1871. The former nobleman says that he's not Russian, he's Jewish. There were several pogroms in the mid-later 19th century, including 1859 and 1871.

I hadn't known much about Genoa beyond art history classes until visiting it twice in 2018. I really enjoyed the city. The landscape is tremendous, the hills rise sharply from the harbor. The food is delicious. The art nouveau villas are stupendous, as they are all across Italy. Italians call art nouveau Liberty, from the store in London.


I probably don't need to mention how disappointing the pandemic-related travel restrictions are. It is soul numbing to not even feel that planning a European trip (or Canadian) is feasible.

30 August 2020

separated at birth: Hoffmann & Ruby

Josef Hoffmann
Musée d'Orsay
(from the Wikipedia page for Hoffmann)


Sterling Ruby
Stove 4, 2013
(in the retrospective exhibition at the
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston)

Josef Hoffmann did plenty of design objects that have a slender shape and pierced metal. I thought of Hoffmann when I saw the stove by Sterling Ruby last week in an exhibition at the ICA in Boston. Evocative attenuation. Hoffmann is quite widely exhibited but I particularly remember an exhibition that I saw with Christie at the Neue Galerie in New York City. One of the objects was my introduction to shagreen, an untanned rawhide now mostly produced from farmed Asian stingrays.

Sterling Ruby addresses climate change with his stoves which were featured in a 2015 exhibition at the Musée de la chasse et de la nature, held in conjunction with the Paris climate summit.

03 August 2020

Indonesian scarf, caught in the wind


"Last week, she told me to dance like an Indonesian scarf caught in the wind. I don't even know that that looks like."
Stevie Budd, in "The Roast" episode, Season 5
Schitt's Creek (2015-2020)

Yinka Shonibare MBE
"Wind Sculpture (SG) I"
Central Park, New York City

15 July 2020

separated at birth: military monuments

Les Invalides
Paris, France
(photo from Wikipedia)

Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces
Patriot Park, Odintsovsky District, Russia
(photo from Wikipedia via Architizer)

27 June 2020

separated at birth: baseball players


Jason at the bat, with Whizzer
Falsettos, Live from Lincoln Center, 2017
(BroadwayHD)

David, Johnny, and Patrick, before the game
"The M.V.P." episode of Schitt's Creek, 2015-2020
(CBC / Pop TV / Netflix)

It's hard to believe that Dan Levy was unaware of the Falsettos precursor of his ball game in "The M.V.P." but he doesn't mention it in any of the YouTube videos about the episode. Of course he also doesn't footnote every costume. Karen Robinson does mention that, growing up, she was always the last person selected for the team. I'd hang out with her any time when the ball players want to play ball. We could sit in the stands and drink coffee and scoff, and cheer occasionally.

07 June 2020

separated at birth: the illusion of space


David North
Doorway to Imagination (2020)
built by David North in his backyard (photo by David North)

Robert Gober
site-specific installation (1992)
Dia Chelsea, New York City
(photo by Bill Jacobson Studio, New York)

The title of the Gober piece reminds me of a subject cataloging conundrum from some years ago. LCSH had long had the term "Installations (Art)" for installation works, with the scope note:
  • Here are entered works on a type of art form in which an entire exhibition space is transformed into a three-dimensional work of art by the arrangement of objects and materials within the space.
They added "Site-specific installations (Art)" in 2001 with the scope note:
  • Here are entered works on art installations created for a specific site that use elements of the site as an integral part of the work of art and are intended to be displayed and viewed only at that site.
I tried to convince the subject specialists at LC that the new heading was not valuable. It might have literary warrant and one might take issue with either scope note. More important, trying to split "Site-specific installations" from plain old "Installations" seemed likely to lead a cataloger to use the words in the resource being cataloged rather than being able to make an objective determination concerning site specificity.

I looked at the LC record for the 1992 Dia exhibition at which the site-specific installation was shown. The record has "Installations (Art) -- United States -- Exhibitions" because it predates the establishment of "Site-specific installations (Art)." I am quite sure that I've seen the Gober work included in other exhibitions. There are internet pictures of the work at Glenstone.

Even though I didn't want the new subject heading, I was delighted to get a t-shirt that said "site-specific installation" at the Whitney.

21 May 2020

Italian post offices

One thing I have really enjoyed in Italian cities are the post office buildings. Good public architecture. Today's Docomomo Italia feed on Facebook included this wonderful Palazzo delle Poste in Ostia Lido.
Palazzo delle Poste, Ostia Lido, 1933-1934
Designer: Angiolo Mazzoni del Grande (1894-1979)
(collezioni Casa dell'Architettura di Latina)

Our hotel in Ragusa was around the corner from the Poste and I have just discovered that it was also designed by Angiolo Mazzoni:
Palazzo delle Poste, Ragusa, Sicily
(photo from ragusaturismo.it website)

Our first B&B in Palermo was across the street from the Palazzo delle Poste. We had a small balcony in our room and could look up and down the Via Roma with the Poste as the centerpiece. I guess Angiolo Mazzoni was the post office architect as he is credited with Palermo too.

When Trump first started talking about infrastructure programs, I was glad to think of public money going to public works. It hasn't much happened and certainly not on post offices.

10 May 2020

separated at birth: Apple Park & Solo House

Cupertino, California, 2018
Foster + Partners


Matarraña, Spain, 2017
Office KGDVS (Kersten Geers David Van Severen)

For more on the Solo House, Caroline Quentin and Piers Taylor visit it in the Spain episode of The World's Most Extraordinary Homes (available on Netflix). Although the buildings share the basic shape of their plans, the Apple headquarters is huge, almost 3 million square feet and costing almost $5 billion dollars to build. The Solo House is mostly open but has three crescent shaped closed spaces for bedrooms, bathrooms, and whatnot. Quentin and Taylor decided the central space of the Solo House was "sacred." Circles and squares have always been rather ideal shapes. Think Palladio.

here and there

Here and there are concepts (words) that especially resonate during a pandemic with social distancing. You spend a lot of time here but wish you could be there. The headline of the lead article in today's Sunday Styles section of the New York Times is "It's hard when you can't go anywhere." It's a story about six people in an assisted living facility in Colorado who received cameras to document life during the coronavirus crisis. It's hard to see pictures of places that you've visited, imagine how empty they may be now, and how much you wish you could go there again.
Vittoria, Sicily, Italy: Piazza del Popolo

Lily had sent me a message about a virtual toast via Zoom for Milan who received this year's ARLIS/NA Distinguished Service Award. In my response to Lily, I said I intended to be there for the virtual toast but, in reality, I'll be here for the toast, seeing Milan and the others on a screen.

I was listening to Weekend Edition as I drove to Wegmans in Hornell to get my Sunday Times and some groceries. One of the stories was "Author Elizabeth Acevedo on her new novel 'Clap when you land'" (published by HarperCollins). The novel-in-verse revolves around two girls whose father dies in a plane crash. He had maintained two families, one in New York City and one in the Dominican Republic, and neither knew about the other. The girls deal with "the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives" (from publisher's description) as they try to balance the particular here and there of their newly shared reality.

In a short sequence in the "Carl's Funeral" episode of Schitt's Creek, Bob is talking to Twyla at the Café Tropical. Carl was his brother and Twyla asks Bob how he's doing and says "Death is just life except you're not here. You're somewhere else. You know, but that's ok because at least you're somewhere. You know, when does somewhere become there, and when does there become here. And I ..." Bob cuts in to say "Just a coffee, please." Twyla asks "For here?"

02 May 2020

showcase or sanctuary, probably both and neither

A simple sentence can resonate now in the time of coronavirus in ways that it would not have a year ago. This morning's indexing included a book review by Emily Guthrie of Get out of my room!: a history of teen bedrooms in America by Jason Reid (University of Chicago Press, 2017). The review is published in Winterthur portfolio, summer/autumn 2019. The sentence that especially grabbed me was "Others might describe the feeling that the room instilled, from the pride of a carefully curated showcase to the solace of a private sanctuary."

There is also a bit about the Princess telephone designed by Henry Dreyfuss in 1959. The phone was an icon of being with it, marketed to women and girls. I remember that Bill Murphy had one in Scotia, Nebraska. Imagine how different my life might have been if I had come to terms with my nascent homosexuality then, rather than sitting there near his Princess phone with a gaggle of giggling girlfriends. Sadly, I've never been able to learn out how Bill's life turned out but he was a careful curator before his time.

Coronavirus isolation also brings bingeing and, for me, that has mostly meant Schitt's Creek. The whole idea of children sharing a bedroom is fundamental to the series, not that the Rose kids are teenagers but being together in their motel room brings on teenage behavior. "Ew, burn, David!" The actor who plays the role of Patrick is Noah Reid which brings us around to the book whose author is Jason Reid.