The Grid

“The prevailing wisdom among today’s planners is that it is important to honor the land’s contours, which only goes to show how visionary the city fathers were: they created a New York as eccentrically “intentional” as St. Petersburg, a madly rational scheme imposed on nature. Nor did they have any use for the circles, ovals, and other geometric interventions so loved by Europeans. The commissioners loved the ninety-degree angle, the forthright, egalitarian plod of rectangle after rectangle, extended indefinitely: they would have gridded the sea and stars if given the chance.

One reason the city fathers liked the grid was that it facilitated the orderly sale and development of property. While one hears the Manhattan grid disparaged today as merely a capitalist device for real-estate speculation, to me it is a mighty form, existential metaphor, generator of modernity, Procrustean bed, call it what you will, a thing impossible to overpraise. The architect Rem Koolhaas called it “the most courageous act of prediction in Western Civilization.” It inspired Mondrian, Sol Lewitt, Agnes Martin, and that’s good enough for me.”

Phillip Lopate in  Waterfront: A Journey Around Manhattan (2004)

approaching orange

approaching orange (through time). A collaborative work by Aschwin de Wolf and Avantika Bawa.

This series of multiples is an exploration of the possibilities of orange paint on canvas. By retaining a fixed scale, surface, and color, the work explores the visual and tactile qualities of different artist materials. These materials were carefully chosen to reveal the history of artist pigments and mediums.

Orange

Top to bottom: Blood, fat, and turmeric; watercolor; tempera (pigment and yolk), oil paint; encaustic (pigment and bees wax); acrylic paint, and spray paint

Vernacular Aesthetics

“To look through a Becher book is to take a lesson in vernacular aesthetics ; it is to learn to read differences in composition, rhythm and formal solutions where an ordinarily eye would see only indifference and standardisation; it is to derive intense pleasure from your own capacity of discrimination; it is to suffer from your inability to back it up by a technical vocabulary that would make it possible for you to detail a gasometer’s architecture as if it were a cathedral.”

Thierry de Duve, ‘Bernd et Hilla Becher ou la photographie monumentaire’ in Les Cahiers du Musée national d’art moderne, no. 39, pp. 118-29.

gasometer

Abandoned stations in Antarctica

Abandoned sites are found in (former) industrial areas, as highlighted in the post on the Monteponi mine in Sardinia and as photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher, who are famous for their photographs of industrial buildings, or in cities, as highlighted in a previous post about Abandoned London Underground Stations.

And even Antarctica, although sparsely populated, turns out to have its own abandoned stations, including the camp built by Robert Scott and his party on Ross Island in 1911, an actual ghost town at Whaler’s Bay on Deception Island , and abandoned whaling outposts on South Georgia, another Antarctic Island. These abandoned South Pole sites, the  lonely landscapes, the grim sub-zero temperatures, and its Mountains of Madness, can evoke truly fascinating and haunting experiences.

HT Grim Reviews

Donald Judd’s minimalist art in Marfa, Texas

Minimalism was first recognized as an art and design movement in the 1960’s. The essence of minimalist art is the reduction of the art work to its bare essentials, which is expressed through simple geometric forms, repetition, neutral surfaces, and industrial materials. Minimal  art downplays self-expression  in favor of the object itself,  which is a departure from the abstract expressionistic art from the 1940’s and 1950’s and most of the art that preceded it.

Donald Judd is one of the artists associated with the minimalist movement, although he did not embrace the term minimalism himself. He is perhaps most famous for his simple but powerful objects for which he used materials such as metals, industrial plywood, concrete and color-impregnated Plexiglas.


Judd started out as an artist in New York City, where he purchased 101 Spring Street in 1968, a 5 story cast-iron building in the middle of Soho, that was both his studio and living space.  It is still owned by the Donald Judd foundation and has several of Judd’s permanent installations and a permanent installation by Dan Flavin.

After years in NYC, Judd felt increasingly drawn to the Texas landscape and in 1971 rented a house in Marfa, Texas, where he also purchased several properties and established The Chinati Foundation.

Being an admirer of Judd’s work, I decided to visit Marfa, but considering that the nearest major airport is a few hours away, and since we never had visited Texas, we decided to embark on a road trip through Texas, starting in Houston and ending up in El Paso, passing Marfa on our way.

Our road trip brought us to cities such as Austin, San Antonio and Del Rio, but also included several sites that were used in the classic horror movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, including the actual house where the movie was filmed.

Along the road we passed small deserted towns, with a certain authenticity that I have not been able to find outside Texas.

 


And throughout our trip there were beautiful views of the Texas landscape.

Upon our arrival in Marfa, we started with a visit of the Chinati Foundation. The Chinati Foundation is located on 340 acres of land on the site of former Fort D.A. Russell. The collection is open to the public and includes 15 outdoor concrete works by Donald Judd, 100 aluminum works by Judd housed in two converted artillery sheds, sculptures by John Chamberlain, an installation by Dan Flavin occupying former army barracks, and works by several other artists including Carl Andre and Richard Long, with each artist’s work installed in a separate building on the museum’s grounds.

The grounds are accessible by guided tour only with a morning tour of the permanent installations by John Chamberlain, Donald Judd, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, and David Rabinowitch and an afternoon tour that includes permanent installations by Carl Andre, Ingólfur Arnarsson, Dan Flavin, Roni Horn, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, and John Wesley, as well as the museum’s current temporary exhibition.

The Donald Judd Foundation also has several properties in Marfa that you can visit comprising of a total of 15 spaces. These include the studios installed with artwork—by Judd and others—living quarters, ranch and architecture offices, and libraries.

Besides these impressive locations Marfa also has galleries, several restaurants, a decent bookstore, and interesting other buildings such as the building in the picture below.

In the evening you can either visit the local bar or try your luck with the Marfa Lights, which may be visible near US Route 67, although we have not been able to confirm the existence of these lights.

While staying in Marfa,  The Thunderbird Hotel is an attractive place to spend the night and it also has the option to rent bikes, which is a good alternative to the car when you want to explore the various sights in town.


The Monteponi mine in Sardinia

The Italian Island Sardinia is known for its beautiful beaches, wild countryside, rugged mountains, valleys and plains that formed the background for some of Sergio Leone’s ‘spaghetti western‘ films, but also offers a rich history dating back to the nuragic age circa 1500 BC and is famous in the mining world for the richness of its geology. The mining tradition on Sardinia dates back to prehistoric times, continued through the middle ages until the present day and remnants of this mining past are visible all over the island.

The Monteponi mine near Iglesias is one of these remnants. This lead, zinc and silver mine was for a long time one of the most important mines in Italy, with some of its oldest installations dating back to 1869. It was abandoned decades ago and the abandoned buildings are now left, which is, for the aficionado of old industrial buildings, a gem waiting to be explored.

During the summer season tours are given of the complex, but during our visit in December 2006 we were lucky enough to find the site open for visitors and although we were not able to access any of the buildings, we did have the opportunity to wander around by ourselves and marvel at times gone by.

The site it not enormous and it will not take you too much time to explore it, but it is a nice day trip when you are staying in Cagliari or a nice stop when you are touring the island.