30 May 2016

revisiting Den Bosch

Well, this has been fun. I discovered the Bossche Encyclopedie while trying to identify one of my photos from Den Bosch. I was working on this picture:
I was intrigued by the central older facade with the new wings at the bend of the street, in the middle of the picture. Between maps and addresses and "Antonius" as the name of a drugstore in the new part of the building, I was able to get to the Saint Anthony Chapel (Sint Antoniuskapel) of 1491. Probably about 1900, it looked like this:
When I was in Den Bosch, I was so busy looking at the building at the bend in Hinthamerstraat that I didn't notice La Cubanita (tapas y mas) on the left side of the street.

Anyway, I have been working on identifying the Flickr pictures and practicing my Dutch as I cavort about in the Bossche Encyclopedie.

13 May 2016

Christiaan in China

One of the more amusing moments (insert emoji of your choice) on my Dutch trip was in Utrecht at the "Hair: Human Hair in Fashion and Art" show at the Centraal Museum. One of the galleries was devoted to stylist Christiaan who accompanied Nancy Kissinger on the 1972 trip to China with Nixon. There was a vitrine with his snapshots taken during that trip, at a time when travel to China by Americans was heavily restricted. The show also included hair drawings, fabrics made of hair, mourning pictures, etc. The photo above was just one of the responses to a Google image search on "christiaan hairdresser" but the tangle is somewhat evocative of some of the works in the exhibition.

12 May 2016

piles of clocks and chairs

clocks in the Amsterdam School exhibition
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
April-August 2016

Rietveld chairs and animated children
Centraal Museum, Utrecht
10 May 2016

11 May 2016

building from the inside out

The May issue of American Way magazine, in the seat pocket on my flight back from Amsterdam, had an interesting article on Jeanne Gang and Michael Halberstam. He is the artistic director of Writers Theatre in Chicago and Studio Gang just did their new building. The article describes their collaboration on the building program and design and quotes Gang as saying she builds from the inside out.

This trip to the Netherlands has included plenty of good architectural moments. Yesterday, I was at the Rietveld Schröder House in Utrecht. You can't study modern architecture without coming across this building and it's a World Heritage Site. It was a major collaboration between architect Gerrit Rietveld and client Mrs. Truus Schröder-Schräder who lived there with her children, then with Rietveld (after they were both widowed), and left the house to the rest of us after her death in 1985.
One of the comments I read on the house website mentioned that the house is small. It is, it is. When it was built, the lot was at the edge of town and looked out over polders and wild land. The introductory film describes the location as well as the collaboration. Rietveld and Schröder determined the spaces and then put walls around them. The plans, submitted to the city, were a bit less radical but the intention was to make alterations as the house was constructed. While the inside space and function were critical, the relationship of the house to the view was also important.

No studying of the text or pictures can quite prepare you for the raised highway which is now just East of the house. The roadway was built by the 1930s and then was raised some decades later.
Rietveld wanted to tear the house down when the outside space around the house had been so altered.

Two days before I was in Utrecht, I was in Hilversum to see the Town Hall designed by W.M. Dudok. Another of those buildings that pops up in any survey of modern architecture.
I went without doing research and figured I'd just be able to see the outside, weep at its beauty, and get on my way. Well, I was lucky to be there on one of the days that there is a tour. There were four of us for the tour and it was in Dutch. The guide was expressive and occasionally did a bit of English-language catchup for me. We even got to climb the tower and were up there at 3 pm when the carillon rang the hour.
The organizing outline for the tour was the route that a couple getting married would normally use. That is, through the front doors, up the marble staircase, through the reception hall to the marrying room. One thing I hadn't anticipated was the amount of color in the tiles and other materials, inside and out. We also visited the council chamber, mayor's office, conference room, and coffee room. On top of all that joy, the gift shop had a small walking tour booklet of a dozen other buildings by Dudok in Hilversum. So off I went.

I hadn't been to either of those buildings. I had been to the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag but not for 25 or 30 years. It was designed by Hendrik Petrus Berlage and built 1931-1935. It has wonderful spaces too though they may drive the curators and exhibition designers crazy. On the other hand, they put together an incredible installation of a Klimt and Schiele show featuring a portrait of Schiele's wife Edith and Klimt's Judith (as in Judith and Holofernes). The featured paintings were both in a gallery by themselves in a stunning setting.

As I was rolling around the thoughts from the article in American Way that started this post, I was thinking for a moment that all great architecture starts from the program and builds out. Yes and no. I can certainly picture funny little rooms in odd spaces in various buildings, just filling out the floor plan. In truth, of course, a successful building is a combination of form and function. Both of those factors, and our appreciation of them, change over time.

05 May 2016

Bernardette Corporation / Carl Andre / H.P. Berlage

One of the works in the Bernadette Corporation show at the Stedelijk Museum seemed to be channeling a Carl Andre floor piece:
A Carl Andre wood sculpture, meanwhile, was being held captive in one of the small (but beautiful) galleries at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag:

The Gemeentemuseum (municipal museum) in The Hague was designed by Hendrik Petrus Berlage, and completed in 1935. I have really been enjoying Berlage's works over the past few days in the Netherlands. There is a small show at the Beurs (stock exchange) of decorative elements and furniture for the building. His works are displayed with works by others, influenced directly or more loosely by Berlage. The "Living in the Amsterdam School / Wonen in de Amsterdamse School" exhibition of furniture and decorative objects at the Stedelijk is not so much Berlage as many others working at the same time. In The Hague, the central De Bijenkorf department store building was designed by another Amsterdam School architect, Piet Kramer. The exterior was lovely in the late afternoon sun:
The interior has mostly been renovated away but there is a double staircase that goes up five floors. I had the wood-panelled staircase to myself as folks rode the escalators or elevators through the pristine white shopping area. There is evidence of an atrium but it's all shopping-mall white. Berlage did a Christian Science Church in The Hague and there was a good Amsterdam School parking garage and other buildings from the same era.

The Hague is the government center though Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. It has a much more bureaucratic feel: men in suits, etc. Amsterdam is more funky and gritty. It's rather like the difference between gritty Rome and fashionable Florence. Give me the grit, thanks.

By the way, there are more pictures on my Flickr photostream:

03 May 2016

is lassitude a deadly sin?

Since I've been thinking about the Seven Deadly Sins, you can imagine what I thought when I saw "Woman Lying on her Back: Lassitude" by Toulouse-Lautrec (Musée d'Orsay) in the "Easy Virtue" show at the Van Gogh Museum:
Is lassitude a deadly sin?

Ship of Fools plus Allegory of Intemperance

The Ship of Fools is one of Bosch's more famous works. It was part of a triptych, now dismantled, and is now in the Louvre. One time when I was there, as I waited for a chance to look at the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin by Jan van Eyck which was being monopolized by a large group, I kept going back to look at the Ship.
The composition of the fragment is pyramidal which feels more Renaissance than many of Bosch's paintings that are more like a carpet, flattened in a medieval way. The Ship is the upper part of the left panel.

The lower part of the panel is now in the Yale University Art Gallery and is called An Allegory of Intemperance. The triptych probably represented the Seven Deadly Sins with greed or miserliness on the right panel, now in the National Gallery of Art as Death and the Miser.
Here, the composition is not so centralized as the Ship, feeling more like the fields of cavorting individuals and monsters that are usually associated with Bosch. And it feels like a fragment. I was thrilled to see it in New Haven a few years ago but didn't think about how it fit together with the other fragments.

Because the two parts of this panel were separated a long time ago, they have aged differently. They were displayed together, without frames, in the Bosch show in Den Bosch. The cut between the Ship and Allegory is clear. Together, the composition is much flatter. This was the most compelling moment of surprise, for me, in the Bosch exhibition. There is a picture of the reconstruction, with the right wing, on the Wikipedia page for the Ship:
The Ship has now become part of a larger composition, rather than feeling independent as it does as a fragment. This was a revelation for me, a delightful revelation.

Though tickets for the last couple weeks of the show were pretty much sold out online, some day tickets were available on site. I did go to Den Bosch on Saturday even though my ticket was for Sunday night. A day ticket for Saturday at 6 pm was available so I did get to go through the exhibition twice.