29 November 2018


When we were in Milan in the spring, I bought a crumpled map of the city at the shop at the Triennale di Milano. It's one of the "Soft city maps for urban jungles" by palomar and it's even, I guess, recyclable since it has a recycle triangle with 01 and PET. It is made of that wonderful material that feels kind of like paper that is almost worn out.

Now I've read in the New York Times that "scientists [have] discover[ed] a landscape of surprising mathematical order" in crumpled paper. "This is how the paper crumples" by Siobhan Roberts, November 27, in Science Times. Last week's Science Times (a Tuesday section of the print Times) celebrated the 40th anniversary of the section.

(Addendum: it's the "MILAN" container that is recyclable, not the map. The map says "This is not paper, do not waste as paper.")

27 November 2018

artists as authors, according to current cataloging practices

Karen Bouchard asked in a recent ARLIS-L message for recommendations of artist's manuals or other writings by contemporaries of Hokusai, the Japanese printmaker who lived from 1760-1849. She is frustrated by current and long-standing cataloging practice. "It's so hard to look up works *written* by artists, since LC puts artists as authors of books even when they are actually subjects of the books."

This has been the common American library practice the whole time I've been cataloging art publications, since 1969 using several generations of cataloging rules (ALA, AACR, Chapter 6, AACR2, RDA) and a variety of institutional policies. The artist as author reflects the illustrative material in the resource, that is, the artist being discussed is the creator of the works illustrated. If you were cataloging any of those illustrations individually, I don't think the artist as author would seem inappropriate. In the context of the monograph however, the illustrations are acting to support the text which generally doesn't include the words of the artist.

Some art libraries have had policies to never include an author entry for an artist unless the resource actually included his or her words. This kind of policy was much easier to do before the wide availability of copy and before multi-institutional consortial arrangements with shared cataloging policies.

The current and recent members of the ARLIS/NA Cataloging Advisory Committee have had many discussions on the RDA Conventional Collective Title, especially its usefulness on monographs with considerable text as well as significant illustrative material. A uniform title like "Paintings. Selections" under an artist for your standard monograph or exhibition catalog just doesn't seem helpful, especially in a search and discovery environment which privileges word searching.

Current RDA cataloging also has values for the content, media, and carrier. Common values for a printed monograph would be "text" for content, "unmediated" for media, and "volume" for carrier. Some (probably most but not me) also code "still image" for content. These values can be used for narrowing a search. If I want to find a book about paintings by an artist, I can't imagine limiting my search to "still images" because I'd expect that to retrieve reproductions.

Wingårdh & Nordenfalk

One of the things I really like about my Avery indexing is that I get to learn about architects and buildings that have escaped my ken until now. A recent revelation was the work of Gert Wingårdh of Sweden. His firm Wingårdhs has over 200 employees so it's a big practice. Wingårdhs and Erik Wikerstål have just completed the renovation of the Swedish National Museum which was designed by Berlin architect Friedrich August Stüler in 1866. It's a grand Renaissance Revival building. Stüler also designed the Friedenskirche at Sanssouci in Potsdam-Berlin.
(Nationalmuseum, from the Wingårdhs website)
Erika Gerdemark for The New York Times

This picture is from an article in the New York Times, dated October 16, 2018. They misspelled Wingårdh as Wingard and left the angstrom off Wikerstal.

Whenever I think of the Swedish National Museum, I think of Carl Nordenfalk, one of the most important art historians of medieval manuscripts and director of the museum from 1958 to 1968. He was a visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh when I worked there in the 1970s. A specialty of his was canon tables which are especially close to my heart since I had done a paper on a manuscript leaf at the Cleveland Museum of Art during grad studies at Case Western Reserve. As usual, everything loops around and I was thrilled to see two Burgundian mourners from the CMA collection in a special exhibition at the Frick Collection in New York City last week. I also saw the Armenia! show at the Metropolitan Museum which included a lot of canon tables.

01 October 2018

the villa as building type

I am very fond of the villa as a building type. By this, I generally mean something that is composed rather like the Villa Rotonda of Palladio just outside Vicenza: symmetrical perhaps, fairly compact though extensions are fine but it needs to have a visual core, generally not eccentric, usually a sense of singularity even if it's not a one-family house. James Ackerman, Colin Rowe, Pierre de la Ruffiniere du Prey, and others have written about the villa as building type.

Sometimes, the villa type gets bigger and becomes a tower like these apartment towers by Mario Botta in Sesto San Giovanni outside Milan, part of the Campari complex of offices and residences:

Along the Via Arnaldo Vassallo in the Villaggio dei Giornalisti (Village of the Writers) in Milan, there are Liberty (art nouveau) villas down one side of the street

and rationalist villas from the 1930s on the other side of the street.
I love it when this sort of architectural reflection or resonance happens.

The house at the entrance to the Villaggio dei Giornalisti from Via Ragusa is a lovely Liberty house, not so much a villa of the Rotonda sort. More like A.J. Downing perhaps. I'm not claiming influence here.

When we were in Turin in the spring, I found a good guide to Liberty at the bookshop in the Palazzo Madama. I didn't have a specific guide to art nouveau most of the time I was in Milan, either in April/May or September. I did see one but not until the last day at the Rizzoli bookstore in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. I also was looking at Diane Ghirardo's history of modern architecture in Italy and was amused to see the photo of the Galleria there while I was in the Galleria.

26 September 2018

Villa Savoye and northern Italy

The Villa Savoye is an icon of modern architecture. It was designed by Le Corbusier and built between 1928 and 1931, and is located in the Paris region. It is one of the most famous houses built in the last couple centuries, at least among art and architectural historians. One of my college buddies, Richard Barons, said it was really art nouveau. He was probably pulling my leg but there is something about the proportions that are graceful and perhaps over-studied. No, not over-studied but very carefully determined.
 (photo from Wikipedia page for the villa)

When I was in Italy earlier this month (September 2018), I was able to see two villas of similar style and built at about the same time. And it was thrilling. One was a lucky glance out the window of a city bus on a rainy morning in Genoa.
My airbnb host had a shelf of books on Genoa including an architecture guide. I was able to find the house. It's the Ex-Casa littoria "Nicola Bonservizi" on the Piazza Sturla, designed by Luigi Carlo Daneri and completed in 1938. The guide was Capellini's from 1992.

(Update: When I saw this building, it had a domestic scale from the Piazza Sturla though, like many buildings in hilly Genoa, there are several floors below the level of the street. The description as a "casa" said house to me and the "littoria" was unknown so I didn't pay it much attention. I was doing some bibliographic maintenance in the Avery Index a few days ago and there was an article on this building and the subject heading was "Public buildings" which I thought was wrong but I investigated. "Casa littoria" is sometimes also used as a variant name for the Casa del Fascio in Como, designed by Giovanni Terragni. Head off to Google Translate which wasn't immediately much help on "casa littoria" until it said "lictorial house." Looked up "lictorial" in my American Heritage dictionary, within arm's reach, and found that "lictor" is "A Roman functionary who carried fasces in attendance on a magistrate" (from the Middle English, from the Latin). So more to think about the relationship between Italian modern architecture and fascism.)

The other house was also somewhat obscured, this time by greenery. The street it is on is short and unmarked on the map I had of Milan. Yes, I know, I should have done all my research on Google Maps before setting out (but the itinerary changed as the adventure proceeded) or had a device with mapping rather than my printed map (maybe next time). But I did find it!

It's the architect's house by Luigi Figini in Milan, aka Villa Figini, built 1934-1935. The two-story house is totally lifted above the small lot, on thin pilotis. I hate to disturb people who protect themselves with shrubbery but I couldn't help but stand and stare at what I could see. A book in the Triennale library included plans and sections as well as some historical photos of internal spaces.

It was really delightful to see a couple Italian villas of the early 20th century. Neither of the houses were known to me and I'm not sure I'd heard of Daneri though I had heard of Figini (and his partner Pollini).

08 August 2018

Dick Ket

I was cruising about on Flickr and came across a picture of the cover of the Penguin Modern Classics edition of The Thief's Journal by Jean Genet.
The illustration was the same painting that caught my fancy at the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam in 2016. It's a self portrait from 1932 by Dick Ket.

And Emma Raben tried not just once but twice to recreate the portrait.

31 July 2018

walls, windows, archways

"At the Last Bookstore in Downtown Los Angeles,
books literally form walls, windows and archways."
Beth Collier for the New York Times
Travel section, New York Times, July 29, 2018

30 July 2018

washcloths: to eschew or not

Several years ago, at Bill's for Christmas, Barbara insisted that he should give me a stack of washcloths they encountered while out shopping. Bill said that he and I didn't usually exchange Christmas presents but Barbara can't help herself. They weren't a rainbow of colors and I cannot remember for sure if they had a ribbon but they did look rather like this stack of washcloths grabbed from the net. I've always used washcloths so I can use some more.

Now I read in "White people are noticing something new: their own whiteness" by Emily Bazelon in The New York Times Magazine from June 17, 2018: "For a long time, many white people assumed it was our due, as the majority, to encounter various racial others and marvel at the exotic things they ate, built or wore. Now we can go online and find people of color doing the gawking, offering jokes and anthropological scrutiny about white people's underseasoning food, mistreating potato salad or eschewing washcloths." Who knew? I sure didn't.

27 July 2018

Gund Hall & Fondazione Feltrinelli

Today's email news from Docomomo notes that Herzog & de Meuron and Beyer Blinder Belle will be expanding and rearranging Gund Hall which houses the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Gund Hall is a brutalist masterpiece from 1972 by John Andrews. Its distinctive angular top houses The Trays studio space. The pillars and use of raw concrete are both familiar in brutalist buildings.
(Peter Wanderwarker / Harvard Graduate School of Design)

The most recent work of Herzog & de Meuron that I have seen is the Fondazione Feltrinelli in Milan. It also has an angled top. It will be interesting to see what happens at Gund Hall.
These are my pictures of the Fondazione Feltrinelli building as viewed from the nearby streets. I enjoyed seeing its distinctive shape in the city landscape, as I enjoy seeing Gund Hall when I'm walking the streets of Cambridge.

20 June 2018

Pier 54 and the Italian pavilion

When I was in the Whitney this past spring, there was construction happening on the Hudson River waterfront and I was afraid the remnants of the pier building (Pier 54), an arched opening, had been demolished. It has been threatened off and on. Two days ago, when I was walking down the High Line after leaving Bill at his bus stop, I got a lovely view of the arch between buildings and against the New Jersey skyline.
Yesterday, I went to Avery Library to look at a book on Michele Busiri Vici, an Italian rationalist architect. Wikipedia says he's known for his works on the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia. The building that caught my attention was the Italian Pavilion for the 1939 New York World's Fair. There's a model for the building in the Wolfsoniana collection in Nervi (Genoa), Italy.
There were quite a few pictures of the completed pavilion in the book at Avery. I like the model better, the simple classicizing is clear. The finished building looks rather more imposing and, I must admit, a little bit more fascist.

The main moment for rationalist architecture in Italy was the 1920s and 1930s and I really enjoy the classical allusions. You can't really disassociate the architecture of the public buildings from the governments that commissioned the works and then inhabited the buildings. The Casa del Fascio in Como, designed by Giuseppe Terragni, was the party headquarters and is now the headquarters of the provincial Guardia di Finanza police force. I was delighted to visit it some years ago and enjoyed seeing the reflections of the cathedral in its large windows. Architecture must reflect the society that builds it but it makes me a little queasy that the rationalist buildings I like so much might be described as fascist. Busiri Vici's seaside villas are more like Miami modern (or maybe the style went the other way) -- think kidney shaped pools -- and I don't like them nearly as much as the rationalism of the Italian Pavilion or the Casa del Fascio, or the neo-rationalists like Aldo Rossi and O.M. Ungers.