Friday, November 20, 2009


I haven't seen it yet myself but just thought I'd spread the word that there is a Pedro Friedeberg exhibition here in New York at Henaine Fine Art (until 11 December) and, if you happen to be in Mexico City, another at the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes (until 17 January). In 1966 Crafts Horizons magazine (precursor to American Craft) published an an exquisitely composed autobiographical poem/manifesto by the artist. An updated version is on his website and my transcription of the original is below, and a picture of his famous hand chair, shown above in situ in the home of fashion designer Arnold Scaasi, circa 1965. The hand chairs are just one motif in the artists extensive iconography.

I was born in Italy
during the era of Mussolini
who made all trains run on time.
Immediately thereafter
I moved to Mexico
where the trains are never on time,
but once they start moving
they pass pyramids.
My education was first entrusted
to a Zapotec governess
and later to such brilliant mentors as
Mathias Goeritz
who taught me murals,
Jose Gonzales who taught me carpentry,
and Gerry Morris
who taught me to play bridge.
I have invented several styles of architecture
as well as one new religion
and two salads.
I am particularly fond of social problems
and cloud formations.
I am an idealist.
I am certain that very soon now
humanity will arrive at a marvelous epoch
totally devoid of Knoll chairs
or Danish coffee tables,
and the obscenity of Japanese rock gardens
5,000 miles from Kyoto.
At present I work in a circus.
I live on the left bank
of the Paseo de la Reforma
where I pursue my deliciously futile
but absolutely useless existence.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


My friend, interior designer Adrienne Neff, has just debuted her sensitively designed line of wallpaper, available to the trade in New York at Holland and Sherry. The Uzu collection is "inspired by ancient decorative arts" and "the universal symbols of organic growth, rejuvenation and renewal: water, earth, clay, rock, and vegetation." Although the nature inspiration is evident there is a strong geometric component that makes the patterns look like mod for the new millenium. Depending on the colorway the patterns would look equally lovely on the walls of a quiet country retreat or a hip urban habitation. There are seven patterns with an almost infinite number of custom colors available. I'll let the designer describe the story of each pattern:

Uzu (spiral water in Japanese) pays
homage to 17th century Japanese ceramics

Jagged Agate is an abstract interpretation of the patterns formed by cut agate rock

Yamanoma (hillside in Japanese) evokes the spirit of 16th century Japanese screens

Renjyu (spiral repeat in Japanese) is inspired by Japanese Neolithic pottery designs circa 2,000 B.C.

Giant Onion is an abstract geometric celebration of the
humble onion.

Acoma This lively pattern is inspired by Pueblo Indian ceramic water jars circa 1,000 A.D.

The wallpapers are hand-block-printed in Brooklyn (where the blocks were hand carved) in water-based inks on recycled and renewable paper.
Adrienne collaborated with photographer Don Freeman and stylist Becky Hubbert on the images below for which they bound books with her new wallpapers (the bindings were done in a traditional Japanese technique).

Friday, November 13, 2009


I am decluttering again and editing my collection of books and magazines. I dropped off a donation of a big bag of books at the Zabar Art Library at Hunter College (I'm a Hunter alumnus) and then spent the rest of the afternoon at the Modernism show at the Armory. In the process of sorting through my books and magazines I decided to let go of the copies that I had accumulated of the "Tresors de la Rive Gauche," a lavish annual promo compiled by the art and antiques dealers of Paris' chic left bank. The annuals were filled with images of the fantastic treasures on display in the galleries but nothing was quite as splendid as this 23 inch wide block of amethyst mounted in gilt bronze offered by Babylone International. The mount was created in 1919 by Bachruch, a jeweler with workshops in Vienna and Budapest. Another reason to get myself over to Paris.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Just came back from a trip to Ohio to see my 94 year old aunt Dolores. In Akron we visited Stan Hywet, which is not a person but a marvelous house surrounded by lovely gardens (stan hywet--pronounced STAN HEE-WIT--means "stone quarry" in Old English). Stan Hywet was built for the Seiberling family, of Goodyear Rubber fortune, in 1912-1915. The architect was Charles Sumner Schneider of the Cleveland offices of George B. Post. The Stan Hywet website credits the interiors to a long list of outstanding designers and craftspeople:

Interior Decorator ~ The H.F. Huber Co. of New York City
Woodwork & Paneling ~ The Hayden Co. of New York City
Plaster Ceilings ~ The Hayden Co. Of New York City & McNulty Brothers Company of Chicago
Leaded Glass ~ Heinigke & Bowen (later known as Heinigke & Smith)
Stained Glass ~ Thorton Smith & Otto Heinigke
Iron Work ~ Samuel Yellin
Rugs ~ Beloochistan Rug Weaving Company of India, Wilton Royal Factory of England
Tile Work ~ Mary Chase Stratton, Pewabic Pottery, Michigan & The American Encaustic Tile Company, Zanesville, Ohio General Contractor ~ The W.B. McAllister Co., Cleveland, Ohio

Tudor revival is not usually my thing, but the interiors were unusually lavish for that style with richly layered Chinoiserie and baroque undertones, more eclectic than strictly baronial. Much of the furniture was reproduction when it was installed but those pieces are antiques in themselves now and have acquired a fine old patina. Also lavish but refreshing were the large potted plants throughout the interiors that are carefully nurtured in the estate's own greenhouse--I have rarely seen such large and carefully tended potted plants. The estate originally comprised more than 1000 acres but is now reduced to 70, beautifully landscaped by Warren Manning with a walled garden by Ellen Biddle Shipman. Unfortunately I didn't take too many pictures and none inside and mysteriously there aren't too many on the estate's website. I did get a great picture of the brick-walled service court.


There is a fascinating new exhibition at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. American Beauty: Aesthetics and Innovation in Fashion examines "the relationship between the “philosophy of beauty” and the technical craft of dressmaking in the United States." Beauty as examined by curator Patricia Mears is expressed in line, cut, color and form. Ornament, embellishment and printed pattern are minimized. One treat in the exhibition is a two-piece evening dress by Mainbocher that was worn by the Duchess Windsor and in which she was photographed by Horst (see below). There are several amazing pieces by the late Pauline Trigere who, though legendary among the fashion-informed, never really was as appreciated as her masterful work warranted. To use a cliched fashion phrase, her work was "as good as Paris haute couture." That description is often applied to James Galanos (also represented in the show by a few magnificent pieces) but Trigere is definitely up there and her work has a recognizable signature (to the knowing eye) that is sometimes lacking in Galanos' diversity of design. Dare I say that Trigere was often as good as Balenciaga?


Duchess of Windsor
Three 1940s suits by Adrian:

Pauline Trigere:

Galanos, left; Trigere, right:

A fabulous lady at the opening at FIT: