Cooper Hewitt Design Museum reopens this weekend after 3-year renovation

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**

A few shots from my visit to the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt. (Photos: @collazoprojects)
A few shots from my visit to the newly renovated Cooper Hewitt. (Photos: @collazoprojects)

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.

More Posters about Ayotzinapa

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:

This poster, announcing a "Mega University March," says "Education is the best barrier vs. bullets and the bad government." (Image via Facebook)
This poster, announcing a “Mega University March,” says “Education is the best barrier vs. bullets and the bad government.” (Image via Facebook)
In the wake of Ayotzinapa, protesters have been reminding the public about many other disappearances and killings, including those of Tehuacán, where two teachers were killed earlier this year. (Image via Facebook)
In the wake of Ayotzinapa, protesters have been reminding the public about many other disappearances and killings, including those of Tehuacán, where two teachers were killed earlier this year. (Image via Facebook)
This clever crossword puzzle also makes mention of a number of other disappearances and deaths. At the bottom of the puzzle, the text reads, "And when he woke up, death and impunity were still playing there."
This clever crossword puzzle also makes mention of a number of other disappearances and deaths. At the bottom of the puzzle, the text reads, “And when he woke up, death and impunity were still playing there.”
Imagery typical of Mexico, including ex votos, the medals used to pin up near saints in Catholic churches to either ask for or give thanks for favors, can be seen in this and other posters. (Image via Facebook).
Imagery typical of Mexico, including ex votos, the medals used to pin up near saints in Catholic churches to either ask for or give thanks for favors, can be seen in this and other posters. (Image via Facebook).
President Enrique Peña Nieto depicted giving a speech. "Blah, blah, blah" is the main message. (Image via Facebook).
President Enrique Peña Nieto depicted giving a speech. “Blah, blah, blah” is the main message. (Image via Facebook).

Coverage of missing Mexican students

Text & Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**
Although US media have not been doing a good job covering the disappearance of the 43 students in Guerrero, Mexico, I’ve been trying to do my part to fill in some of the gaps. My reporting has involved both on-the-ground and from-a-distance coverage, and true to my general approach to work, has endeavored to share and explain aspects of the story that have been overlooked.

A flyer showing one of the missing students, held by a participant in the November 20 protest in Mexico City.
A flyer showing one of the missing students, held by a participant in the November 20 protest in Mexico City.

To that end, here’s a round-up of the work I’ve published on the subject, as well as an interview I did just today with one of NPR’s Los Angeles affiliates, KPCC.

“Artists Put Faces to the Missing Students of Mexico” (Hyperallergic)

“With art and music, Latinos in US respond to Ayotzinapa” (Latin Correspondent)

“Anonymous launches Operation Sky Angels in response to Ayotzinapa
(Latin Correspondent)

“#YaMeCansé: Mexican Attorney General’s closing remark sparks protests and a hashtag” (Latin Correspondent)

“Art in a time of agony: Mexican artist Valeria Gallo speaks about #Ilustradores con Ayotzinapa” (Latin Correspondent)

“Watch 4 protest corridos dedicated to Mexico’s missing students” (Remezcla)

“The Disappearance That Broke the Camel’s Back” (Foreign Policy)

“Mexican corridos tell the story of the 43 missing students” (Interview with KPCC)

Daily Outtake: Latin American Design Exhibit at MAD

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.

Some of the works in the "New Territories" exhibit. (Photo: @collazoprojects)
Some of the works in the “New Territories” exhibit. (Photo: @collazoprojects)

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.

Now in Hilton Head, SC: Amiri Geuka Farris’ “Heart of the Lowcountry”

Text & Photo:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
**
Last week, Francisco and I were on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina on an assignment that I am dying to tell you about… but I can’t.

Not until December, at least.

We needed time–much more time–than we had to see all the places we wanted to see and talk to all the people we wanted to talk to… not to mention make it out to the beach (which did not happen). Fortunately, though, we were lucky enough to catch Amiri Geuka Farris’ exhibit “Heart of the Lowcountry,” which opened on the day of our visit to the island’s Coastal Discovery Museum.

A few of the works in Amiri Geuka Farris' exhibit, "Heart of the Lowcountry," currently on show at Hilton Head's Coastal
A few of the works in Amiri Geuka Farris’ exhibit, “Heart of the Lowcountry,” currently on show at Hilton Head’s Coastal Discovery Museum.

Farris is a native of Florida, but since moving to nearby Bluffton, South Carolina, his work has been exploring and conveying aspects of Gullah-Geechee culture in colorful, large-format paintings, exemplified by the pieces in this show. Far from being depressing images of slaves toiling in cotton fields, these paintings celebrate the character and confidence of the Gullah-Geechee people, the coastal south’s residents who trace their lineage back to West Africa.

The exhibit, which runs through August, is well-worth a visit if you’re in the area.

And stay tuned… perhaps you’ll see Farris in a certain high profile magazine this winter!