Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Photo-Fixated Fashion of Mary Katrantzou

Spring 2014

While digitally photo-printed fabric is fairly standard by now, London-based designer, Mary Katrantzou really does take it up a notch. In fact, because she designs not just the textiles, but the clothing they are made into, she’s been managing to make it new, season after season since Fall 2009.
Katrantzou finds inspiration in everything from men’s brogues to interior design photography. I'm thinking that the aesthetic might simply be called “Photoshop,” where there are no limits to possibilities of image manipulation. Details like the decorative scrollwork on banknotes or the perforations on a wingtip shoe are enlarged to colossal proportions, and the "scale tool" pours her models into gigantic perfume bottles. Nothing, be it a formal garden, a No. 2 pencil, or a skyscraper is safe from being sliced, chopped, duplicated, mirrored, and illogically reconfigured. Then, on top of the dazzling (and sometimes dizzying) print effects, the fabric is engineered into garments, with architectural precision."It's hellishly difficult to put a placement print on a bias-cut dress," said the designer when she started working with softer silhouettes.

You can see all of her collections at Style.com, where these photos are from. It seems that each season's review expresses some version of wonder as to how Katrantzou has succeeded, yet again, in causing jaws to drop.

Spring 2014

Fall 2009

Fall 2013

Fall 2012

Spring 2013

Spring 2011

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Elemental Kinematics

“The Incline Plane,” “The Lever,” The Wedge.” These are the first three in William M. Clark’s series of mechanical models created in the early 1900s. According to the New York Times, Sept. 30, 1928, the collection of 160 models were displayed at the Museums of the Peaceful Arts on West 40th St. where they provided the answers to such question as “how can hundreds of pounds be lifted with a one-pound pull?” and “how can the rear wheels of automobiles run at different speeds around a corner without slippage when on the same axle?”
Each model was mounted on a 15 ¼” square panel. “Mechanical Wonderland,” as the collection was known, consisted of ten arrays of 16 panels each (four by four. With the push of a button, visitors could set the models in motion. Of those original 160 models, the 120 that remain now reside in the Boston Museum of Science. The digitized images you see here are from KMODDL (Kinematic Models for Design Digital Library), a resource of Cornell University Library for the scholarship of kinematics – the geometry of pure motion – and the history and theory of machines. 

Two of  more than 35,000 visitors to to see the collection in 1930.

There is, however, another set of these models. In 1928, before their installation at the Museums of the Peaceful Arts (which later became the New York Museum of Science and Industry), the models were on display in the boys' department of a department store. After seeing a pamphlet about the store display, John Cotton Dana, director of the Newark Museum tried to negotiate bringing the collection to New Jersey. Due to the costs involved, that never came to pass. A year later, Dana died, and noted philanthropic Newark resident, Louis Bamberger (best known for his department store and for funding the Institute for Advance Study in Princeton) commissioned a set for his home town.

A catalog published by the museum describes Clark’s motivation for creating his “dictionary of mechanical movements.” 
From his early youth Mr. Clark has been interested in machines and has always had a great desire to visualize the science of mechanics. His work of twenty years or more in perfecting the exhibit was inspired by a wish to give inventors and to all who deal in machine technique a short cut to their various ends.

Though based in part, on Henry T. Brown’s 507 Mechanical Movements (1871), Clark’s particular contribution, according to a 1954 journal essay published by the Museum, was that he managed “to condense into simple, compact, and easily operated models all the movements or combinations of movements used in mechanics.” And that by presenting the principles from the simplest movements to complex combinations of them, “the exhibit may be said to cover the period from man’s earliest use of tools other than his own hands to the present age of internal combustion engines, turbines and steam locomotives."

As of 1954, Clark’s “Mechanical Wonderland” had been on exhibition continuously and had travelled only twice. Once to the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair where it was featured as the centerpiece of Popular Science Monthly's exhibit. And once to MIT for ‘The Promotion of Engineering Education.’ From what I can gather, the models remained on display at the Newark Museum until sometime in the 1980s when the science galleries underwent renovation.

The models and museum publications with photos of the groups arrayed can be found here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Run, Don't Walk: Hopper Drawings at the Whitney

In the supporting reference for “New York Movie,” 1939, we learn that usherettes were to refrain from watching the film while on duty. 

You really don’t want to miss the show of Hopper drawings at the Whitney. It closes on October 6th, so consider this fair warning: Get yourself over there this week.

Edward Hopper was a master of distillation. His powerful ability to observe, stage, and edit have resulted in some of the most iconic images in American painting. He manages to evoke not just a geographic sense of place, but a location’s emotional essence as well.

The drawings document Hopper’s perception and thought in real time. Raw reportage. It might be the flicker of what he’s seeing at a given moment while riding the elevated train, or the framing of a scene he’s studied for some time. We watch him record, digest and process the world. Through his drawings, we experience, visually, the artist’s brain at work.

This show is also an opportunity to marvel at Hoppers draftsmanship, which is something not always evident in his paintings. And to support the drawings, the Whitney provides sketchbook pages, vintage photographs, maps, floor plans, and—oh yes—21 paintings.

"Early Sunday Morning," from 1930, was reunited with the easel Hopper painted it on in his studio.
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