Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Photos: Francisco Collazo
** Among the many subjects I cover in my work, one of my favorites is street art, and that’s because it explores and embodies so many of my other interests–politics, social justice, en fin, la gente y el pueblo, how life is lived and seen at street level–in a single, colorful, impactful form.
I’m starting my work week filing an article for the art website Hyperallergic about “Primitivo,” the just-opened show at Jonathan LeVine Gallery by Mexican artist, SANER, who started as a street artist and who has, over the years, moved into other genres, including drawing and painting. I’ll link back to that article when it’s published. In the meantime, you can take a virtual tour of the show through Francisco’s photos, which he shot on Friday before the show opened to the public.
Let’s just cut right to the chase: I don’t adore the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, which seems like an absolutely terrible and unkind thing to say since the museum has been closed for three years, undergoing a meticulous $91 million once-over.
As I walked away from Tuesday morning’s media preview of the museum, which will reopen to the public this Friday, December 12, I searched for the right word to describe why such an ambitious project left me feeling so dissatisfied. The word is: incohesive. Among the 726 objects on display, there are some compelling ones, including Abraham Lincoln’s funeral pall and pocket watch, a pair of Toscanini’s pants, and–coming up to the present century–Damian Ortega’s most impressive installation of tools, “Controller of the Universe.” There’s also the Hansen Writing Ball and a Comstock Knitter, both of which are glorious representations of 19th-century industrial design.
But for every “Ooh” “Aah,” “Weren’t those the glory days of design?” object, there’s one that feels a little out of place, either “Too soon, too soon” (ie: the iPhone and MacBook Air) or boring because of its predictability and ubiquity in other museums (I’m looking at you, Zig-Zag and Vermelha chairs). Mostly, though, the collection as it is presented feels incredibly disjointed, the attempt to be representative yet selective not even cohering well within discrete exhibits, and far less across and among them.
That’s not to say I’m unswayed by the Cooper Hewitt’s new charms, however. I’m impressed by the effort and (most of) the execution of the museum’s new hands-on interactive elements, as well as the places in the museum where exhibits try to explain how design is relevant to daily life. The Cooper Hewitt has always excelled in this regard; its 2007 exhibit, “Design for the Other 90%,” was exceptional. When Cooper Hewitt’s good, it’s good. But that’s precisely what makes the “Meh” parts so disappointing.
Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Images: As attributed
** Earlier this week, I published an article on Latin Correspondent about the poster and cartoon art that have emerged in Mexico since the disappearance of the 43 students in the state of Guerrero. You can see that piece here.
Here are a few additional pieces that I find particularly compelling but weren’t included in the LC article:
Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
** Last week, Francisco and I had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Arts and Design, where the exhibit “New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft, and Art in Latin America” had just opened.
Like the Guggenheim, the physical lay-out of MAD doesn’t always work; we’ve seen really excellent exhibits there and some that really suffered from poor use of space. Fortunately, “New Territories” avoids those problems, mainly because the work is so strong and varied that the visitor’s interest is held and there’s a thrill in going from one floor to the next (the exhibit is spread out over three floors) to see what else you’ll find.
There are some heavy hitter artists/designers in the show, including Vik Muniz and Pedro Reyes, as well as those who will likely be new to most viewers. Our visit was far too cursory, so we’ll be back for a more leisurely experience before the show closes on April 6, 2015.
Text & Photo:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
** Yesterday, I got up at 2:30 AM, was out the door by 3, on a bus bound for Boston at 4, and arriving at South Station just in time to hop on the T and walk across Harvard Square for two appointments at the university’s Museum of Natural History and a thorough walk-through of two exhibits.
I was there to work on my long-form feature about Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, two 19th-century glassmakers who supplied Harvard and many other individuals and institutions around the world with glass models of marine sea creatures and flowers.
I first saw the Blaschkas’ work last year at the Corning Museum of Glass and was captivated by the few pieces the museum displayed. The objects– hyacinths, squid, and octopi– looked entirely real; I was amazed by their fidelity to real-life. I took a snapshot of the glasswork and the artisans’ names with my phone and made a note to read more about them.
This is how stories and projects begin.
I started reading about the Blaschkas and became intrigued by everything about their story, including how their work has survived nearly 150 years. I’ll be telling you more about all of that soon, in my piece for Contributoria, but for now, I’ll leave you with this photo, one of more than 4,000 pieces from Harvard’s Blaschka glass flower collection, and one of my favorites: