26 April 2009

pretty gray redux

cf http://shermaniablog.blogspot.com/2009/04/pretty-gray.html

finally plugged the darn thing in

Well, maybe there will be more pictures here in the future. I bought a digital camera earlier this year, partly because Ilaria Papini was doing a blog series about the evolution of new homes. For me, it's more devolution. The heaps in New York City are getting sorted but not quickly packed. One of these days, I might start my devolution series but first:

I'm staring into the Mercedes planter at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. The picture was taken by Sharon Chickanzeff when we were galleryhopping and whatnotting on the day before I flew the redeye special home after College Art Association in Los Angeles. That was way back in February but it took me a couple months to get up the courage to connect the camera to the computer. People kept saying that a new computer, especially a Macintosh, would be smart enough to identify the camera and help me with the upload. They were right.

21 April 2009

Judy Hoffberg and the early days

There was a memorial tribute to Judith Hoffberg yesterday morning at the Membership Meeting at the Annual Conference of the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA). Judy was the founder of ARLIS/NA, inspired by ARLIS which had just been organized in the U.K. and Ireland. There had been a workshop on art librarianship in 1969, organized by Florence DaLuiso at SUNY Buffalo. Judy had been there along with the "first" generation of ARLIS/NA folks. There was a follow-up meeting during ALA in 1972. Though that first generation wasn't much older than I am, I don't consider myself part of that group. Though I was at College Art in New York City in 1973 when the first official annual conference of ARLIS/NA was held, I didn't know about it; I was at CAA applying for my first job. I had also applied for a job with Florence DaLuiso. Barbara Reed got that job and I got the one at the Frick Fine Arts Library at the University of Pittsburgh. Karen Muller and I applied for each other's first job and she got the one at Yale. Actually, we're not sure if I applied for her job at Yale or another art library one that was open at about the same time. Barbara (my age) and Karen (a couple years younger) were in my ARLIS/NA generation, the second one, if you will.

Judy was an inspiration to all of us but I can only speak for myself. She not only helped me get started in ARLIS/NA but also was a great person to talk about art with. She and I ran into each other several times over the years while we both were galleryhopping in New York City. She lived in Southern California but traveled a lot in pursuit of art, particularly her beloved mail and correspondence art, rubber stamps, and artist's books.

I had become a member of ARLIS/NA by the fall of 1973 and my first conference was the one in Detroit in 1974. In those days, we didn't get much travel support and I stayed at the YMCA across the plaza from the Conrad Hilton conference hotel. That is another story (of suppressed sexuality and all that).

Over the next couple years, I continued to read the ARLIS/NA newsletter and go to the conferences. Those were the days of the development of AACR2 and a much more closed Library of Congress. Nancy John was the representative from ARLIS/NA to the Cataloging Code Revision Committee (the predecessor of CC:DA).

After a meeting at the 1975 Washington conference, I was talking to Carol Mandel, Chris Huemer, and Nancy John, wondering if we needed a cataloging discussion group devoted to classification. They said "go for it" or whatever we said then. In those days, we actually had three Cataloging Problems Discussion Groups. Fair warning to those that think we have too many cataloging meetings. The groups were devoted to description, subjects, and classification (I think) and soon merged into one. Cataloging issues ARE interrelated. We tried to do a mail round robin but it usually got snagged in someone's mail inbox. We also did a notebook every year that had photocopies of any correspondence that folks had had with LC or other agencies. It served as a sort of predecessor of electronic lists, certainly not as timely but did allow you to share your responses with others.

A couple years later, I was asked to run for Treasurer and I won the election, against Janis Ekdahl who had just published her book on American sculpture. I teased her that she had done well to publish and I'd just gotten a bookkeeping job. Still, I'm very glad that I was treasurer when it was bookkeeping rather than development and major finance.

My term started at the Los Angeles conference in 1977 when I again stayed at the bargain hotel, a few blocks from the then Hilton at Seventh and Figueroa (now the Wilshire Grand). It was rather a fleabag and some other ARLISer that started out there moved to the Hilton. John Murchie was starting his term as Chairman and Nancy John was Vice Chairman. Though I was hardly the leading Young Turk, I was part of this group who served as officers when we began to mature and wanted to get past the Judy-centric society. I don't mean to downplay Judy's critical role in the founding of ARLIS/NA but, equally, I recognize that any group, like any person, has to find itself.

Without Judy to run the office, receive the mail, plan the conference, and all the other things that go into running an organization, it fell to us board members. Nancy took on the conference planning portion and I took on the membership records for the period of fall 1977 and spring 1978. Nancy and I teased each other that we had seen headquarters because she stopped at our house in Pittsburgh on her way from her National Gallery job to her new home in Chicago. My role meant that I was receiving and processing a couple dozen memberships every day, in an era when the mailing list was being maintained by typing the names on sheets of Avery labels and trying to keep them pretty much alphabetical. There were many trips to the bank to deposit membership checks.

The finances were so precarious in those days because our mission and membership were expanding quickly but most of our income came from memberships which mostly came in the months one side or the other of January 1st. That year, we asked members to lend us money, to be repaid as new memberships came in. Membership was expanding quickly then and the loans were easily repaid early in 1978. Mary Williamson of Toronto even said that she had made money because the Canadian exchange rate was beneficial then, and getting better.

Soon after that, we got a contract with Charlie Mundt as executive secretary. He represented some association management firm, the name of which I cannot remember. That relationship didn't last very long and we were back to an individual by 1980 when Pam Parry was selected in New Orleans. She was a strong and wise executive director for many years, very different years from the first few when Judy needed to be a mother, a mother who reluctantly had to let the kids go.

Just one Charlie Mundt story. At a reception at the Toronto conference in 1979, the snacks were skimpy and there was grumbling in the house that we weren't getting our money's worth. Charlie often seemed rather a bad fit for ARLIS/NA but he got a hearty round of laughter when he reminded us that the reception was a fundraiser.

Going into the 1979 conference, there was a decision that the terms for the secretary and treasurer should be staggered. Nancy or whoever told me that Karen Harvey, the secretary, had agreed to draw straws for who "got" to hold office for another year. I said that sounded fine and then found out that Karen had actually said "let Sherman do it." So my term as treasurer lasted three years. That's OK; I wouldn't trade that time for anything.

I was inspired to share this history by the memorial tribute to Judy yesterday morning. I was very fond of Judy and am very grateful for her leadership and for the love of art that she passed on to anyone who came nearby.

15 April 2009

pretty gray

Sara Jane Pearman and I went down to Akron today to see the Coop Himmelb(l)au extension to the Akron Art Museum. I've been watching those Vienna-based architects for many years. When I was in Vienna a few years ago, I figured out where the rooftop on Falkestrasse was located. You can barely see it from the street when you're standing in front of Otto Wagner's Post Office Savings Bank. But you can go into the bank building and see the lovely little Wagner museum.

When I was Los Angeles in February this year for College Art, I made a point of checking out the location of Coop Himmelb(l)au's new High School #9 which juts out over the freeway on the North side of downtown, near the new cathedral by Moneo and Gehry's Disney Concert Hall. My host Steve Ong said there was much controversy about the budget of the high school when other schools were going wanting. The school is good-looking though. Good architecture can, of course, have value beyond its cost.

The weather here in Ohio has been gray and drippy and the Akron building is mainly built of metal (non-shiny enameled steel?) and raw concrete, inside and out. We're not talking lots of contrast here: pretty but gray, quite gray. The shapes of the materials reflect and contrast with each other. The entry is low and there are nice stairs up to the main special exhibition galleries. The older building is a nice brick building of the small post office or public library school of turn-of-the-century beaux arts; the new building crows out over the top. The visual parallels between the wide eaves of the older building and the Roof Cloud are also nice.

The Coop Himmelb(l)au site includes a number of rather spectacular pictures. With a less sophisticated camera, one cannot get some of the drama and panorama but when you're there in person, you are much more aware of the close context of the surrounding buildings and streets (especially if it's raining and you don't really want to walk around so much as you might on a sunny April day). Now if I just screw my courage to the sticking point and connect the cable between my new camera and my computer, maybe I can download the modest pictures I did take and do them up on wikicatalog as suggested by Heisdi Djúpivogur, aka Heidi Raatz.

Oh, I guess I should admit that a couple reasons that I've always been interested in the work of this firm is their (jokey?) name with the parenthesis on the L (bau, you know, auf Deutsch) and that one of the architects is Wolf Prix.

13 April 2009

Poor Jack Wrangler

Jack Wrangler's obituary was in last Thursday's New York Times. He was a gay porn icon when I was first becoming aware of the genre. He met Margaret Whiting and started living with her in 1977 and married her in 1994. Jeffrey Schwarz, a close friend and producer of the documentary "Wrangler: anatomy of an icon," described the marriage as not being about sexual orientation but about mutual affection and respect. Wrangler, born John Robert Stillman, didn't acted in porn after the early 1980s. He wrote cabaret shows, with Whiting performing, and did other producing gigs. As I was reading along and feeling sympathy for the poor fellow who didn't escape his porn reputation, I got to the part about his being born just three weeks after I was. Life is fleeting so get on with it.

When I went to check his LC/NAF record to see if the death date was recorded, I found that the updater had used the L.A. Times and had only mentioned the porn part of his career. Poor Jack Wrangler, still no credit for his later producing work. But Bette Davis might counsel that any reputation is better than none.

670 __ |a Los Angeles times WWW site, Apr. 8, 2009 |b (in obituary dated Apr. 9, 2009: Jack Wrangler; b. John Stillman in Beverly Hills; d. Tueday [Apr. 7, 2009], New York City, at 62; 1970s-era porn star)

08 April 2009

"Build Rome in a Day"

Yesterday's viewing of Elodie Pong's "The end of empire" was especially resonant because I'd volunteered for Liz Glynn's "Build Rome in a Day" project the day before at the New Museum. I had worked during the republican period between 10:30 pm and 2 am on Tuesday morning. It was a bit chaotic but fairly low scale and low tech. My Temple of Vesta was pretty unimpressive. When I went back to check on Tuesday mid-day, the scale of buildings had increased, the noise level was higher and building materials more substantial, the workers looked more professional ... it just seemed more, well, imperial. I didn't go back again late in the afternoon to see the fall of the empire but the difference between the republican and empire seemed "realistic" or, at least, plausible. I even passed one of the other republican era volunteers on the street as I walked to the Kitchen last night. She was on her way to see the end of the empire.

07 April 2009

"More talks about buildings"

Triple Canopy put on an interesting and eclectic program tonight at The Kitchen on West 19th Street. Before the program, I went upstairs to the gallery. The Jamal Cyrus show was OK but the Elodie Pong videos were really splendid. One was called "After the Empire" which starred actors playing Batman and Robin, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Karl Marx, an older woman who waits for her supposed father who is already dead, sometimes alone and sometimes interacting. The Marilyn and Marx interaction is especially poignant. The other large-screen video "Even a stopped clock is right twice a day" shows birds with captions about globalization and consumerism. Pretty simple but powerful.

On to the Triple Canopy show which started with a film of the Houston Petrochemical Corridor, seen from the air. Not a pretty landscape. As it was winding past in visual space, one of the members of Triple Canopy read a prose-poem-joke about urbanism. Next up was Emily Richardson's "Cobra Mist" which surveys Orford Ness, a nature reserve and defunct nuclear testing site on the Suffolk coast in England. Pretty but a tad vacuous. Then Lucy Raven presented her video-in-progress on Daybreak, a development being built by the Kennecott mining folks in the Utah Valley and built on waste. Raven did a fine job of mixing her commentary and the voice of the PR person from Daybreak. The economic downturn is affecting the development and Kennecott is actually now expanding their mining activities rather than moving forward so quickly with their new traditionalist development with the sweet business sections and every need taken care of. Raven ended her presentation with a reading of the monthly slogans on the 2009 Daybreak calendar. For example, your life will be marvelous in this lovely colonial house.

Back to film: Melanie Smith's black-and-white aerial investigation of Mexico City entitled "Spiral city." After it had run once and a bit, a trio of musicians -- Zs -- set up and started playing their "composed and improvised music" which turned out to be pretty stupid and very loud and way too long.

The next presentation by architects Thomas Moran and Rustam Mehta about their plans for a high-speed rail transportation hub in the Mojave Desert was very heartening. The hub is being planned by the VPL Authority (that's for Vegas-Phoenix-Los Angeles) which also did the water corridor that allows the sprawl of Phoenix and Las Vegas. The rail line however would ease air traffic. They said that fully 7% of LAX's traffic is short flights. Their graphs showed the environmental and economic costs of various modes of transportation with rail travel being considerably better than other modes, in amounts of government subsidy, air pollution, even time since the trains would go city center to city center.

Next up was architectural critic Joseph Clarke (no relation, as far as I know) who discussed megachurch architecture in comparison to that of corporations and other organizations. This was pretty much a "straight" architectural history paper and full of interesting comparisons. Though big Christian churches have been around for most of the last two millenia, Clarke credited Charles Spurgeon who led a prayer service at the Crystal Palace in 1851 with the start of the big evangelical service. He made comparisons between the postwar developments of Charles Schuller's drive-in church and SOM corporate complexes with suburban development. The postwar megachurch has evolved through cell groups which started with the Yoide Full Gospel Church in Korea which now has 800 thousand members. The folks at Yoide divided Seoul up into cells which met in people's homes and as the groups grew beyond the domestic capacity, cells divided. Clarke compared this to the corporate office landscaping which is more open and collaborative. He ended with comparing Saddleback Church's complex with The Googleplex. Since I'd visited the Crystal Cathedral last summer in conjunction with ALA in Anaheim, I was especially interested in his example of that complex with its early Neutra church with the mix of drive-in and church and later Crystal Cathedral by Philip Johnson.

The evening ended with some rap by Nine 11 Thesaurus, a Brownsville-based group which is working with other community groups.

While the title of the program "More talks about buildings" drew me to the announcement of the program, the use of "authority" and "thesaurus" in segment titles was amusing. It was more about urbanism than buildings but left me with some hope and lots to think about.

02 April 2009

nose jobs and turkey vultures

You're feeling a little overwhelmed. You know you have to sort out the detritus before you can really get on with your life but it's early April, the sun is shining. Spring fever sets in ... hard!

I went out to get the paper and check to see if my state tax refund had been deposited as the website had indicated it would be. No April Fool's joke there. But with book in hand, I thought a little reading on the waterfront would be just fine. Since I usually just walk West on Christopher Street to the waterfront, I decided to shift a bit South and ended up getting to the Hudson at about Carmine Street and kept walking South. I did stop and get a coffee at the food court at the Winter Garden and then sat for a while and wrote in my journal. Realizing I wasn't too far from the Skyscraper Museum, I stopped in there to see the current show on Hong Kong skyscrapers. I don't really like the space; it's over-decorated, not that you asked me. The small shop is quite nice but I resisted buying the Jane Jacobs biography or anything else.

Over to Broadway for the walk North. When I got almost up to Canal, I shifted over to Church Street to visit apexart which always is showing something interesting. Imagine my surprise and deep emotions at finding that their current show was "I am art: an expression of the visual & performing arts of plastic surgery" curated by Anthony Berlet, M.D. Having gone through a "staged nasal reconstruction with forehead flap and cartilege grafting following Mohs resection of skin cancer," I was overwhelmed. There were also more cosmetic nose jobs and fixes of clept palates. Before and after pictures. The videos are not for the squeamish. I'm glad I was anesthetized during my procedure. Is it art? Soon after my operation, I was at an opening at the Whitney Museum branch in Stamford, Connecticut with several others from the Whitney in Manhattan where I was then moonlighting. We were looking at one of the pieces when I hear "beautiful work" to my left. The observer, a retired dermatologist, was indeed looking at my nose reconstruction, not at the art work on the wall.

After leaving apexart, I could hardly keep it together as I walked home. My main thought to myself, however, was: get over it, you could be dead. Quit worrying about all you have to do and go do something.

A little further up Greene Street, the door for Location One was open so I went in. What a contrast: Laurie Anderson's "From the air: two installations." There are two darkened chambers. One has a white circle on the floor with a speaker above. The texts are barely audible but soothing in a Laurie Anderson sort of way. The other chamber had a projection of "From the air" about Anderson and her dog. She talks about getting away from her downtown space for periods of quiet and walks with her dog. She describes a visit to northern California where they are staying in a hermitage where monks bring food every few days but otherwise they're pretty much alone. Anderson has heard that rat terriers are capable of learning 500 words and she wanted to experiment. As she walked down to the ocean from the hermitage, the dog would scurry about looking for hazards. Turkey vultures appear one day and, all of a sudden, the dog realizes that it is prey and must now look up as well as around. Anderson makes an analogy with 9/11 and the fact that things will never be the same again. As expected, pretty powerful stuff.

That sure filled the brain and soul with lots to think about. As I continued up Greene Street, I passed someone sitting on a stoop talking on a cell phone and realized it was my art hero, Nina Katchadourian. Whiz by, whistling inside, stopped at the grocery store and came home for something to eat. A bit of nourishment for the body to go with the soul's food.