Friday
Dec312010

Dark-est Nostaliga [ORG. POSTED 7.30.09]

“Yet everything in our culture suggests that we have not, for all that, ceased to be preoccupied by history; indeed, at the very moment in which we complain, as here, of the eclipse of historicity, we also universally diagnose contemporary culture as irredeemably hisoricist, in the bad sense of an omnipresent and indiscriminate appetite for dead styles and fashions; indeed, for all the styles and fashions of a dead past. Meanwhile, a certain caricature of historical thinking — which we may not even call generational any longer, so rapid has its momentum become — has also become universal and includes at least the will and intent to return upon our present circumstances in order to think of them […] and to draw the appropriate marketing and forecasting conclusions.” [1]

“FOR many, it seems, the smooth surfaces of modern design have lost their allure.

Hollister, left, and Porter Hovey, are sisters with an appetite for late 19th-century relics like apothecary cabinets and dressmakers’ dummies. 

Hollister and Porter Hovey, sisters age 30 and 26, used a chain from Home Depot to lash a crystal chandelier to a crossbeam in the ceiling of their loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But it is one of the few contemporary objects in a habitat that embraces, among other cultural touchstones, W. Somerset Maugham’s last days of colonialism, Victorian memento mori and the Edwardian men’s club. There are also apothecary cabinets, fencing masks and pith helmets, stacks of antique luggage and a taxidermy collection that would make Teddy Roosevelt proud.

Hollister Hovey has been blogging for two years about what she considers a personal passion for this “new vintage” style. Yet the sepia-toned and “extremely previous lifestyle” that she and her sister lead, in the words of Megan Wilson, 43, a book designer and blogger with a similar world view, is one that is gaining traction beyond the Hoveys’ living room.

Taxidermy, clubby insignia and ancestral portraits have been decorative staples at trendy Lower East Side restaurants and clothing stores for a while, but now they are catching on at home.

It was probably inevitable. Consider the example of new-vintage merchants like J. Crew Liquor, the men’s wear store housed in an old TriBeCa bar. Or Freemans Sporting Club, the “gentleman’s” clothing store created by Taavo Somer, the architect and restaurateur responsible for Freemans, the taxidermy-bedecked hot spot on the Lower East Side. The recently opened bar at the Jane hotel, created by Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson, is a mash-up of an English country estate, the set of “The Royal Tenenbaums” and an interior landscape imagined by Joris-Karl Huysmans, the author of “Against Nature,” the 19th-century decadent’s manifesto.

It was only a matter of time until the “dark nostalgia” of such environments — as Eva Hagberg, a design writer, characterizes it in a book of the same name, out this fall from Monacelli Press — made its way home.”

“Not since Ralph Lauren moved into the Rhinelander mansion more than two decades ago have so many merchants focused on exhuming the accouterments of the turn-of-the-19th-century leisure class. But while Lauren’s market was Manhattan’s Upper East Side establishment (or those who wished to belong to it), the current one lives miles south of East 72nd Street and couldn’t care less about social provenance.

“My interests are old things from different periods,” said Sean Crowley on a recent steamy Friday night. Despite the heat, Mr. Crowley wore a pink gingham dress shirt, khaki pants and black velvet loafers with green and black striped socks. While this uniform has traditionally signaled conservatism, Mr. Crowley’s politics cleave determinedly to the left.

Mr. Crowley, 28, is a neckwear designer at, in fact, Ralph Lauren, and his apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, looks like its rooms were plucked whole from the National Arts Club. (His cellphone ring tone is Mouret’s “Rondeau,” the old Masterpiece Theater theme song, and his e-mail address is mrwooster, a nod to the P. G. Wodehouse character.) But the link between Mr. Crowley’s objects and his impulse to acquire them isn’t nostalgia, he said. It’s “the draw of authenticity, whether it’s an aesthetic, a recipe or a technique.” “

“That is how he explains a voracious interest in, for example, the restoration of English and French umbrellas from the 1930s and ’40s (his collection numbers 16). “Finding the right black silk with the right selvage was a whole saga for me,” he said.

Mr. Crowley lives with his girlfriend, Meredith Modzelewski, 26, who works in public relations for sustainable brands and corporations, and a collection of arcane cocktail ingredients, including seven kinds of bitters, that threatens to colonize half their apartment, which is already chockablock with Edwardian-style portraits, heraldic devices and mounted antlers.

“I like to cook, I like to sew, I can fix things with my hands,” Mr. Crowley said. “There’s so much to learn. I am curious — ravenous, really — about everything.” “

“It is true that the sort of collecting he, the Hovey sisters and their blogosphere brethren do requires a lot more engagement than a similar passion for midcentury furniture, which operates more on a cash-and-carry model — particularly when it comes to the taxidermy, osteological antiques like monkey skeletons and other Victoriana that draws the attention of tinkerers, armchair scientists and artisans like Ryan Matthew.

Mr. Matthew, 29, is a silversmith with a knack for articulating, to use the expert’s parlance for rigging and displaying skeletons; for creating the tiny domed vignettes the Victorians were so fond of (artful arrangements of taxidermied squirrels, for example, in twiggy settings); and for making delicate pencil drawings that look like old photographs. His apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is accessorized with mummified hunting dogs, wax figures and Black Forest taxidermy. There is also a bone saw from the Civil War and a cabinet full of antique medical specimens.

“I wish I had a leg, though I do have a lot of feet at the moment,” Mr. Matthew said proudly. Growing up in Woodstock, N.Y., he used to collect plants and “things the dog had eaten,” he said, “which my parents would find under my bed.”

Mr. Matthew’s collections will find their way into his shop Against Nature, opening in mid-August on Chrystie Street. Inspired, just like the Jane hotel, by the Huysmans novel of the same name, it will look an awful lot like Mr. Matthew’s apartment. “We’ll have barristers’ shelves and old leather chairs and two albino peacocks I have in the basement here.”

The store — which will carry tailored suits by Doyle Mueser, custom denim by Simon Jacob and jewelry and leather items by Mr. Matthew — is perfectly sited to snag new-vintage consumers on their way to Freemans, around the corner on Freeman Alley.

Many, in fact, point to Mr. Somer’s restaurant, open since 2004, as the catalyst for the latest round of interior decay and decorative revisionism, and for making taxidermy, as Caroline Kim, editorial director for LX.TV, a lifestyle division of NBC, said recently, “a hip-yet-comforting decorating trend.”

Mr. Somer seemed bemused by his role as a tastemaker but gamely explained the thinking behind Freemans, which began life as a party location. “The idea was to make this clandestine Colonial tavern,” he said, “the sort of place the founding fathers would have conspired in.” The look, he added, reflects his assumptions about their tastes, as refined Europeans living in a rough new world: “Taxidermy was a symbol of that wildness.”

Asked why Freemans has a look that young Brooklynites like the Hovey sisters might want to replicate at home, he suggested that his own anti-modernist impulses may be shared by many others. “I look at all the glass buildings and think, who wants to live like that?”

Mr. Somer, who grew up in a Swiss-modern household and once worked for the architect Steven Holl, said the perfectionism of modernism had begun to grate. “I got fed up and rebelled,” he said.”

“Valerie Steele, the director of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology, offered a different explanation. “It’s way more than anti-modernism, this sort of deep spelunking into the past,” she said. “It’s not aspirational and it’s not nostalgic. It’s a fantasy world that is almost entirely a visual collage. It’s a stitched-together, bricolage world, an alternative world.”

“Authenticity is such a fed-up idea,” she continued. “But collecting these old things, it’s like there is an aura attached to them. It’s not some prepackaged product being foisted on you by a big corporation. Too bad it’s going to be commodified. Everything in the fashion world gets hoovered up.”

Marketers, in fact, are already paying attention. Steven Grasse, chief executive of the advertising and branding agency Quaker City Mercantile in Philadelphia, said he recently sent a sample of a new product, a vintage-styled liquor called Root, to a few retro-loving bloggers like Hollister Hovey.

“Hollister’s blog is extremely influential to the sort of people we want to discover our product,” Mr. Grasse wrote in an e-mail message, by which he meant young consumers with a taste for vintage barware and letterpress stationery, some of the retro items sold at Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, a store he owns in Philadelphia.

“Root fits very well with the Art in the Age brand,” he continued, “because that brand is all about restoring the ‘aura’ that has been lost with the mass commodification of our lives. Our job is to restore the aura that has been lost by strip malls and cheap junk from China. The approach is particularly appropriate right now because everything has collapsed. The old notions of luxury have crumbled. People are looking for what is real.”

Or at least looking for a good story. “Your imagination can run wild with the taxidermy,” Ms. Hovey said. It can be challenging, though, to get it home, she admitted, particularly when that means carting it through the streets of New York. Recently, she said, she had an eBay purchase — an entire taxidermied sheep — shipped to her Midtown office, terrifying her co-workers. (Ms. Hovey has a day job in medical public relations; her sister works in a management consulting firm and is a photographer.)”

“The Hovey sisters sat recently on their tufted leather sofa and recalled their childhood in Kansas, growing up surrounded by ostrich eggs and old steamer trunks, with a mother who sent them to grade school dressed in Ralph Lauren cricket jackets and a father who mowed the lawn in a pith helmet (he had passed some of his early years, like a character from a Maugham short story, working in a Bolivian gold mine and on a cattle boat in the South Pacific, and had the gear to prove it).

“We spent Saturdays in flea markets,” Porter said, “when we were in second grade.”

Now the sisters are watching their antiquarian interests crest in their hipster-Brooklyn neighborhood, where every act seems framed in quotation marks. While Hollister’s blog started as a way to curtail her purchases — sharing an item instead of bidding on it — as well as linking to a community of anachronistically inclined friends, she said: “now it’s given me street cred. My neighbors used to glaze over when I talked about this stuff. Now everyone is dressing like Ulysses S. Grant.” ” [2]

 

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT [2] TAKEN FROM “THE NEW ANTIQUARIANS” BY PENELOPE GREEN, VIA THE NEW YORK TIMES, AND FROM “NOSTALGIA FOR THE PRESENT” AS IT APPEARS “POSTMODERNISM, OR, THE CULTURAL LOGIC OF LATE CAPITALISM” BY FREDRIC JAMESON [1]; COMMENT IMAGES VIA FACEBOOK.COM

Thursday
Dec302010

Rediscovering Discovery Zone [ORG. POSTED 8.1.09]

[1]

[9]

Discovery Zone (or DZ for short) was a chain of entertainment facilities featuring games and elaborate indoor mazes designed for young children, including slides, climbing play structures and ball pits. The chain was founded by Ronald MatschJim Jorgensen and Dr. David Schoenstadt in 1989. The first store was opened in Lenexa, Kansas, in January 1990. An early investor and vocal supporter of the company was tennis player Billie Jean King.[1]

Other places similar to Discovery Zone include Chuck E. Cheese’sMajor Magic’sThe Jungle, and Wonder Camp (a chain which closed in 1997).McDonald’s started a similar chain called Leaps and Bounds which merged into Discovery Zone in 1994.

In the 1990s, one of its jingles went like this: “I’m going DZ at Discovery Zone. Discover what I can do on my own! I can jump, swing, crawl or mountain climb. I’m going DZ, where I want to be!”. This was sung by children. Another slogan was “Fun-believable fitness for kids!” ” [1]

[2]

[3]

[4]

“Stretched thin by expansion, changes in management tried to save the company, however (under Viacom’s control) Discovery Zone filed for bankruptcy on March 261996 in Wilmington, Delaware with debts of up to $366.8 million.[2]Chuck E. Cheese’s purchased approximately 500 of DZ’s locations and turned them into Chuck E. Cheese’s facilities by the end of 1999.” [1]

[5]

[6]

[7L / 7R]

“How long does it take for us to become nostalgic about a past decade? “American Graffiti” (1973) temporarily made us forget about Watergate and the energy crisis as we cruised back to 1962. The 1970’s and a hit show of that era came back to life in “The Brady Bunch Movie” (1995). We reminisced about the early days of MTV and the 1980’s as we watched “The Wedding Singer” (1998).

Now that we’re in the noughties, which is what I understand the British call the current decade, there may be some who are nostalgic for the 1990’s. For those readers who are now in their early twenties, we take you back to a place where you may have played as a child. You are now entering the Discovery Zone.” [2]

[8]

[12]

“Discovery Zone was a place where children and parents could enjoy time together in a variety of play. The first Discovery Zone FunCenter appeared in 1989 in Kansas City, Missouri. Ron Matsch and Al Fong, with physical fitness backgrounds, were founders. Chattanooga got its Discovery Zone in August, 1993 when one opened in the new Hamilton Village shopping center at 2020 Gunbarrel Road.

The centerpiece of Discovery Zone was its Mega Zone, a plumbing-like structure consisting of large tubes and nets for climbing, slides for, eh, sliding, and a splash pool filled with brightly-colored plastic balls for throwing. The Mega Zone was built large and sturdy enough for parents to join their children in the fun, and this was highly encouraged. There was also a Mini Zone for smaller children.

[10]

[11]

The Skill Zone area featured games that tested eye-hand coordination. There was skee ball, basketball, and my favorite, Whack-a-Mole (or some similar subterranean creature). After an hour or so of play, one could visit the snack bar for refreshments. Children could also celebrate birthdays in one of the private party rooms. When it was time to go home, there was a counter where tickets earned in playing games could be redeemed.

Discovery Zone advertised frequently on the kid-oriented Nickelodeon cable network. In 1995, the company participated in a tie-in with the release of “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.” Power Rangers wristbands allowed wearers to have fun all summer long at DZ while imagining they had special powers to help Zordon defeat the Putties, Rita Repulsa, and Lord Zed.

In 1994, a second Discovery Zone opened in Hixson at 5239 Highway 153. Though located across from another kid-centered attraction, a new Toys-R-Us, the Hixson DZ stayed open less than a year. By 1997, the Hamilton Village DZ had also closed, and the corporate Discovery Zone entered into bankruptcy. By then, fast food restaurants were installing elaborate play areas which children could use for free.

Though Discovery Zones have all closed, the memories of them will remain with today’s teens and twenty-somethings for many years. When you’re having a bad day, just think back to the fun times at Discovery Zone, and the day that your father almost got stuck on the roller slide.” [2]

 

ALL IMAGES OF VARIOUS DISCOVERY ZONES VIA MULTIPLE SOURCES, CITED VIA CLICK-THROUGH LINK [SUPPLEMENTARY IMAGES 9-12 ADDED 12.30.10, VIA YOUTUBE]; TEXT VIA WIKIPEDIA.ORG [1] AND “REMEMBERING DISCOVERY ZONE” BY HARMON JOLLEY, VIA CHATTANOOGAN.COM

Thursday
Dec302010

Place Space #4 / Joseph Holtzman / NEST / Camp Nest 

"The luxurious idea of "bothering to bother" is sadly a rare one, but when you are near those that do make the effort it can be a perfect joy. No one embraces this ethos more enthusiastically than Camp Nest creator Joe Holtzman. Approaching every project he touches with the same razor-sharp aesthetics, Holtzman fashioned his upstate New York artist compound as a respite to his New York City life as editor, designer, and creator of the award-winning NEST magazine.  Propelled by an astonishing taste level, otherworldly ideas, and an uncanny ability to get anything done, Holtzman's is a rare and actual design genius. He somehow makes everything seem as though we have never seen it before. Holtzman's singular, quirky vision and fantastic handpicked motley crew of contributors made NEST appear to be made by someone who had never seen a magazine before, and the same can be said of the Camp Nest compound." [1]

"Every design detail in Camp Nest is perfectly considered with the obvious path never taken. Here are but a few examples: When installing 17th-century encaustic tiles in the downstairs powder room, Holtzman had the walls brought in a few inches in order to avoid cutting the tiles and interrupting the repeating pattern. The striking red-wool striped carpet runner that ascends the staircase and leans to the upstairs bedrooms was custom woven in the perfect width so it would never have to be cut at an uncooperative angle. In the upstairs master bedroom, Holtzman pulled a Lazarus-like resurrection of sad rec room paneling by whitewashing the whole affair and repainting every depression in the paneling shiny black. The result is a visual effect that makes the room seem gigantic and as if it is folding in on itself at the same time. The upstairs guest room features walls clad in perfectly applied antique wallpaper printed with baseball players. Those paper walls meet in the room's corners with deeply layered wax walls that have the exact wallpaper pattern incised from them--all this without interrupting the patter's repeat. The Biedermeier sofa in the mess hall is reupholstered in reclaimed 1950s vintage Christian Dior handbag fabric. Almost every ceiling fixture has been removed and replaced with multi-outlet plugs, creating a jangly cord extravaganza in every room. In describing Holtzman's work, one senses the efforts of a design madman, but somehow he manages to never cross one wrong visual path or make an inauthentic move." [1]

"Located near a small pond in the Hudson River valley between the Catskill and Berkshire mountains, Joseph Holtzman's Camp Nest is a singular fusion of several antecedents in American architectural history. First there was Henry David Thoreau's one-room cabin on Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau built it himself with pine planks and second-hand bricks and sparsely furnished it with a bed, a table, three chairs, and a copy of the Bhagavad Gita. He wanted  to return to basics and to realign himself with nature.

Second, as an experiment in eclectic design and personal taste, Camp Nest recalls a far more ostentatious enterprise, the Moorish castle built by press lord William Randolph Hearst on a former ranch overlooking the Pacific Ocean at San Simeon. Movie stars flocked there from Hollywood for sybaritic weekends. Hearst boldly mixed artistic styles--a Spanish baroque facade, Gothic interiors, a Roman bath. With its gold and cobalt blue tiles and neat Greek temple, the outdoor Neptune Pool at Heart's estate (called "Xanadu" in Citizen Kane) was inspired by the pool ringed by sculptures of buff nude athletes at the Roman emperor Hadrian's villa at Tivoli. " [2]

"Among Holtzman's precursors as a connoisseur and patron of the arts was the eighteenth-century British writer and politician, Horace Walpole, who commissioned a flamboyant house at Twickenham called Strawberry Hill. Walpole's retro recycling of medieval style (amusingly dubbed Rococo Gothic) was hugely influential: Strawberry Hill sparked the massive Gothic Revival in architecture that would lead to St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. Walpole's fanciful interiors employed painted glass, papier-mâché ceilings, and hand-drawn patterned walls (as at Camp Nest). Strawberry Hill also had its own printing press, prefiguring Holtzman's work as an innovative magazine editor and home publisher.

Then there was Ludwig of Bavaria, called the Dream King for his architectural fantasias. (Helmut Berger played him in Luchino Visconti's Ludwig.) Neuschwanstein, Ludwig's most famous castle (begun in 1869) is a late Romanesque structure with spires and towers soaring over a deep river gorge in the Alps. Craftsmen worked for four years alone carving the oak paneling and furniture in the king's bedroom. Neuschwanstein is known to the world through Walt Disney's adoption of it as the archetypal fair-tale castle for his theme parks and animated films." [2]

"Camp Nest began as a hunting lodge, which was later expanded. Hunting lodges were once very common in heavily forested Northern Europe, where game provided a crucial food supply over the long, harsh winters. Upgraded in later centuries, they became plush summer palaces. A good example is Mayerling, the love nest near Vienna where Rudolph Hapsburg, crown prince of the Austro-Hungarian empire, shot himself and his mistress in 1889. Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve starred as the ill-fated couple in Mayerling, which also featured a divinely dissolute Ava Gardner as the fierce Empress Elizabeth, herself destined for assassination.

As a country retreat, Camp Nest rejects the pomp and circumstance of America's landed gentry and opts instead for a more casual, vernacular idiom. It aligns itself with Adirondack Mountain cabins, with their rustic local materials and humble display of natural wood. The original hunting lodges of northern upstate New York were supplanted in the late nineteenth century by the Adirondack "Great Camps" created by wealthy Manhattanites. Though these houses could be quite large, they beautifully harmonized with the natural environment of woods and water. Construction and decor were strongly influenced by the British Arts and Crafts movement, which sought a pre-industrial, hand-crafted look.

Camp Nest, which was renovated by a team of art students under Holzman's direction, lightheartedly refers to all its precursors. The cartoonish, gaping-jawed wall trophies (hippopotamus, crocodile) evoke the ancestral hunting lodge but also offer a playland feel, as if this were a scout camp, another old Adirondack specialty. The simple chairs recall plank-style Adirondack furniture, but there are also luxury import accents and quirky retro curios (as at Strawberry Hill). Holtzman's signature collage of patterns engages and stimulates the eye, while the airy natural light refreshes it. Camp Next is both a sophisticated social space and a serene contemplative zone." [2]

TEXT [1] BY TODD OLDHAM; TEXT [2] BY CAMILLE PAGLIA; ALL TEXT AND IMAGES TAKEN FROM "CAMP NEST", PLACE SPACE #4, 2008

Wednesday
Dec292010

Jenny Holzer / Kelly Wearstler / Milan Kundera / Frederick Seidel [ORG. POSTED 10.20.09]

[ED: I'LL BE REPOSTING A HANDFUL OF FAVORITE POSTS FROM THE LAST YEAR OR SO IN THE FOLLOWING DAYS. THIS WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON 10.20.09]

[1]

 

“People are always shouting that they want to create a better future. It’s not true. The future is an apathetic void of no interest to anyone. The past is full of life, eager to irritate us, provoke and insult us, tempt us to destroy or repaint it. The only reason people want to be masters of the future is to change the past. They are fighting for access to the laboratories where photographs are retouched and biographies and histories rewritten.” [1]

 

[2]

[3L / 3R]

[4]

[5]

[6]

[7]

[8L / 8R]

 

“I own nothing. I own a watch.

I own three watches.

I own five motorcycles.

It’s all I do.” [2]

 

[9]

[10]

[11]

[12L / 12R]

IMAGES 1, 4, 5, 7, 9 AND 11 OF WORK BY JENNY HOLZER, SOURCES CITED VIA CLICK-THROUGH LINK; IMAGES 2, 3, 6, 8, 10 AND 12 OF WORK BY KELLY WEARSTLER, AS TAKEN FROM METROPOLITAN HOME AND VOGUE MAGAZINES, BOTH PHOTOGRAPHED BY FRANCOIS HALARD; TEXT TAKEN FROM “THE BOOK OF LAUGHTER AND FORGETTING” BY MILAN KUNDERA [1], IMPETUS VIA SASHA FRERE JONES, AND FROM “I OWN NOTHING” BY FREDERICK SEIDEL [2]

Wednesday
Dec292010

Lucy McKenzie at Galerie Daniel Buchholz / Paul Legault: "Madeline As Home" / Syntaks: "Sudden Dream"

SYNTAKS: SUDDEN DREAM

In one of the rooms, time gets really close.

One room is for the dog. There is either a large pillow or a small bed in this room. The dog is expected to die in this room. Eventually, the dog will probably die in this room.

*

This is the room in which you wake up. It is different from the room in which you'd gone to sleep. In this room there is always a mirror in which your face appears to be moving. Your face is not necessarily moving. This can be a disconcerting room.

This room with the dolphins is not entirely unpleasant. It is very wet. If you have things in your pockets, you should've already removed them. The dolphins' pockets' contents are hidden.

*

This is the room with the new dinette set.

*

In one of the rooms there are many wonderful big hats. In this room, everyone is wearing wonderful big hats, and if you are not wearing one, I will get you one, and you will wear it in this room with the rest of them.

In the orange room, the roses do not die unless you are looking.



In the next room, the chiffarobe is to be called 'the chiffarobe.'

*

In one of the rooms, a person has just arrived. It is then that the room has become something. Before then, there had been perhaps the idea of space, and a dark shuffling somewhere deep in the furniture, a stillness which is a thing, or which can be, though it was only then that you noticed it, the stillness then with the person in the room that made it a place, and if not a permanent place, then all the more a place for the transitive nature of it, like a music.

 

ALL IMAGES OF WORK BY LUCY MCKENZIE, TAKEN FROM "SLENDER MEANS" AT GALERIE DANIEL BUCHHOLZ, VIA CONTEMPORARY ART DAILY; POEM, "MADELINE AS HOME", BY PAUL LEGAULT, FROM THE MADELEINE POEMS; "SUDDEN DREAM" BY SYNTAKS