25 December 2015

60º on Christmas

So what do you do when it's 60º or thereabouts on Christmas Day, you're in New York City but the museums are all closed, it's cloudy but not raining now, your "supper" reservation is for 4:30 p.m. but it's only 9:30 a.m.? You go for a long walk. I noticed that Gates Avenue ran from near John's where I'm staying all the way from Queens into Brooklyn and Gates met Fulton Street near the Brooklyn Academy of Music. So Christie and I decided to start from our ends of Gates and we'd meet in the middle.

When I got to the corner of Gates and Bushwick, I found two incredible buildings: one a Masonic temple; the other was probably a villa and is now the Iglesia de Cristo Misionera, Inc.

Thank heavens for the Internet and the ease of searching and the wealth of information (right or wrong).

The Ridgewood Masonic Temple, aka Ridgewood Lodge No. 710, Free and Accepted Masons, was designed by Koch and Wagner, completed in 1920, and declared a city landmark in 2014. Currently unoccupied.

According to a photo on Flickr, the "villa" was the Eastern District Turn Verein, designed by Theobald Engelhardt and built in 1902. It was built as an extension to the Italianate Tuttle Mansion which has been demolished. Bushwiki has somewhat different, but rather more, information.

The Iglesia de Cristo Misionera is now closed so both of these buildings are sitting vacant. They do make for a lovely sight and I hope they find new uses.

After Christie and I met, we took the B52 bus down Gates toward BAM and had brunch at The Quarter at 87 Lafayette (in the space formerly occupied by Stonehome Wine Bar). The restaurant had only been open for 12 days so it wasn't crowded, and it WAS Christmas. Our brunch was very nice. Then we walked over to Janet's, where Christie is staying, took Riley for a walk, and then left for our 4:30 appointment at Bacchus Bistro on Atlantic Avenue. Adele beat us to the restaurant and it had started raining. Our supper was very tasty as was the wine: Altitudes Côte de Roussillon. The cute and scruffy waiter with the French accent (he may have been Algerian or Moroccan by background so I was feeling very ecumenical) stole my heart and he could say "Roussillon" a hundred times and I'd say "une fois de plus s'il-vous plaît" (one more time, please). Merci.

18 December 2015

more architecture biennial and chicago

Thursday started with shlepping my suitcase from Karen's to the Congress Hotel. While I waited for my room to be ready, I stopped in at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago. The exhibition on view was "Grace of Intention: Photography, Architecture and the Monument" which included this haunting "Fengjie III (Monument to Progress and Prosperity), Chongqing Municipality" (2007), by Nadav Kander, part of his "Yangtze, the Long River" series. The show also included works by Iman Issa whose work I met through the "Monuments" show at Lismore Castle Arts. That show came into my scope through the work of Pablo Bronstein. The Issa works in "Grace of Intention" were each entitled "Materials for a sculpture ..." Really good show.

After I checked into the hotel, I took the El up to Andersonville for a visit to Women & Children First bookstore, a favorite store of Nicole Gotthelf with whom I was going to have supper. The store was full of good stuff as well as holiday shoppers. Somehow, holiday shoppers at an independent bookstore are quite easy to take.

Snacked at Taste of Lebanon and then took the Clark Street bus back down toward the Loop and checked out the Barbara Kasten show and installation at the Graham Foundation. Really great. The show was on all three public floors of the foundation which is in the 1902-1903 Madlener House. Lots more information about the foundation on their website but they are a great supporter of architectural publications and programs that "foster the development and exchange of diverse and challenging ideas about architecture and its role in the arts, culture, and society."
The Kasten "Scenario" installation on the third floor, in the ballroom, commissioned for the Biennial, was a lovely play of color, shape, and shadow across a simple set of plaster boxes. Reality and illusion.

Then off to Wicker Park for a stop at Quimby's Bookstore ("specialists in the importation, distribution, & sale of unusual publications, aberrant periodicals, saucy comic booklets, and assorted fancies" and lots and lots of zines) which hadn't been on my radar but Michael Donovan, VR person at the U of Chicago, asked if I'd been there when I went to Myopic Books. I found the catalog from the Palais de Tokyo for the Ugo Rondinone show "I [heart] John Giorno" at Quimby's. Then supper with Nicole at Club Lucky.

Today was rather quieter but this whole week has been such a wonderful visit to Biennial locations and to Chicago at large, and time with friends. I went out to the lakefront to see "Chicago Horizon" by Ultramoderne, the winner of the BP Prize competition to design a lakefront pavilion in conjunction with the Biennial. Ultramoderne is a collaboration of architects Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest, and structural engineer Brett Schneider, based in Providence, R.I.

Then lunch with Helen Schmierer at Miss Ricky's, a new faux diner at the recently-opened Virgin Hotel. Then I sort of diddled away the rest of the afternoon with a visit to Bookworks up on Clark that I had noticed from the bus back from Andersonville, to Lucky Horseshoe Saloon, and to the Thai restaurant nearby for some pad thai before heading back to the hotel.

16 December 2015

"community cataloging" at Stony Island Arts Bank

I saw a picture of this amazing book room that is part of the Stony Island Arts Bank, one of the Rebuild Foundation's buildings in Chicago, and was pretty excited that one of their "community cataloging" exercises would take place while I was in town for the Architecture Biennial. The vision was that we would see how community would build metadata. Well, it didn't turn out quite like that but it was interesting to see how an arts organization might look at a collection of books in a creative way. The books, by the way, belonged to the Johnson Publishing Company, the publishers of Ebony and Jet.

Our project was counting slides from the Art Institute of Chicago that are now one of the Rebuild collections. The approach was much more archival than library. Collection-level rather than item-level cataloging. They anticipate that users will make connections from the images rather than use them as illustrations as an art historian might.

Whatever, it was great to see the renovated bank and how it had become an art space. There was a model on the second floor that indicates there might be a garden of related spaces for performance and observation next to the bank building.

The bank is several long blocks South of the University of Chicago campus. The rain had stopped so I didn't get all wet again on my way up to the campus.

I stopped in at the Logan Center gallery (So-called Utopias), the Renaissance Society (drawings by Paul McCarthy), and the Smart Museum of Art (expressionism from Central and Eastern Europe) before heading back to the Loop. A ceramic work entitled Translated Vases by Yeesookyung in the permanent collection galleries at the Smart played nicely off No Light For Whom by Jörg Immendorff in the expressionist show.

15 December 2015

how many art trips do you take in a year?

Even though this trip to Chicago was primarily to see the Chicago Architecture Biennial, I was flummoxed when Karen asked me how many art trips I take in a year. I guess I just don't think of them in those terms. My conference trips usually include some time in museums and/or galleries with a good bunch of architectural sightseeing. Still, this trip is more "art trip" than most. I got here late Sunday afternoon and spent the evening with Karen, her daughter Catherine, and Bella (dog), Napoleon (Leo), Sam, and Mouse. The latter three are cats but I still haven't really seen the elusive Sam. She disappears into the cupboard when a stranger arrives.

Monday morning, I left with Karen (who still has to go work at ALA) and stopped at the Chicago Cultural Center (ex central library) to get my Biennial bearings. Good. It really worked because there is a daily overview tour of the exhibits in the center, this being the first time that they have devoted all of the gallery spaces to a single exhibition.
The structure in the background is House No. 11 (Corridor House) by MOS Architects of New York. The rooms are gone, only the corridors remain, but it's still got plenty of room. The small works on stands in the foreground are street detritus as models of possible buildings with small figurines sharing the pedestals. Found architecture, by Sou Fujimoto Architects.

The tour was fine but its special value was the overview. Then, off to meet Anne and Leigh for lunch at Tesori for a satisfying margherita pizza. Anne had a burger.

Leigh split off to run errands and Anne and I went back to Ryerson so I could chat briefly with the new head librarian (Doug Litts) and go out the back door of the library into the galleries. The David Adjaye show was delightful.
I really like his architecture as does much of the world these days. He has finished a number of esteemed buildings, such as two branches of the D.C. Public Library and some U.K. Idea Stores (public library and community center), the just opened Aïshti Foundation in Beirut and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, and Sugar Hill Housing in Harlem. The first Adjaye building I visited was the modest Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. The show included great models and supporting materials as well as some really good videos and a sound installation done in collaboration with his brother Peter Adjaye. Pretty close to sated when I was done with the exhibition so I skipped through a few galleries, and then went and got my coat from the library and headed back to Karen's.

Tuesday started with an expedition. I'd had the address of Myopic Books -- 1564 North Milwaukee Avenue, in the Wicker Park neighborhood -- on my Chicago list for a few years but hadn't made it out to the Damen Avenue stop on the Blue Line. That is also close to The 606, a new urban park space above street level on an abandoned rail line. Its plantings aren't as fancy as the High Line in NYC, it's more of a bike passage though the pedestrian accommodation is fine, but it does give that wonderful freedom from the street craziness without removing you from the urban mix. And good views further afield.

Back to North Michigan Avenue. The Graham Foundation isn't open on Tuesday so I headed for the Museum of Contemporary Art which always provides a good experience. First, lunch (kale and grain salad with a very tasty small baguette). Even though the third-floor galleries were closed for installation, the American surrealism show on the first floor included some really wonderful works, a fine mix of early "classical" surrealism as well as much more recent works. A great Jess painting that looked just a tad Bosch-like (yes, I did make my flight reservation to go see the 500-year memorial exhibition in the spring in Den Bosch, another admittedly art trip) and a group of small paintings by Forrest Bess. I also really enjoyed the small exhibition of riffs on columns by Ania Jaworska.

I finished up Tuesday with some more time in the Chicago Cultural Center and the annex across Randolph Street with three installations including one from Assemble. They just received the 2015 Turner Prize. I think I did their authority record for the Avery Index and it was fun to know a lot of the architects in the Biennial from my indexing.