Due to the immediacy and ease of email, it sometimes seems tangible stationary has gone the way of the Dodo. Graphic design may be just as important on a screen, but personal paper correspondence is rare. That is why the LETTERHEADY blog is so fascinating. It collects examples of famous figure’s distinctive letterhead. Some are exceedingly simple, as Leonard Cohen, Saul Bass and Enzo Ferrari. Others are more elaborate and colorful, such as those of artists like Dr. Seuss, Andy Warhol, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Houdini had the option for either, in the same year:
Two of my favorites combine color and simplicity, and personal nostalgia:
Whatever the design, the style speaks volumes about the person or company it represents. What does ours say?
Found in the New York streets: a strangely ambitious list of mediocre popular movies. Hey, at least the kid’s got goals. Soon, he or she will have a Netflix queue a mile long, just like the rest of us.
The provocative Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has finally been released by the Chinese government after 80 days in detention with no charge. Ai Weiwei has been an outspoken challenger of Communist Party rule, both in statements and in his art, but he was uncharacteristically tight-lipped as he emerged from his long imprisonment.
His work constantly questioned traditions in China, especially accepted ideas about the possession and value of art and antiquities. He famously dipped neolithic Chinese clay vessels in bright-colored paint, and photographed himself dropping a Han Dynasty urn which smashed into pieces on the stone ground he stood on. Destroying those symbols of Chinese craft and longevity was a statement that earned him attention and notoriety.
Just as the artist disappeared, his monumental work “Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads” was installed at Somerset House in London. This sculpture installation addresses the problem of looted art and antiquities, referencing the Imperial Haiyantang water clock, where twelve bronze heads, each an animal of the zodiac, spouted water on the hour.
During the Second Opium War in 1860, French and British forces looted the Imperial Summer Palace and seized the bronze figures, exporting them from the country. Some have surfaced in private collections, such as the Rabbit and Rat held by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé until 2009, while others have been recovered by China and others remain missing.
The installation re-imagines the bronze heads in their formation around an active fountain, and reminds the viewer of the millions of objects around the world removed from their origin cultures by force.
Another Chinese artist whose work interacts with the history of art and material culture also has an installation in London, at the British Museum. Xu Bing created “Background Story 7″ as a “dialogue” with a 1654 Chinese landscape painted on a hanging scroll by Wang Shimin.
Xu Bing’s image seems to simply copy the familiar brushstrokes of the 17th century traditional landscape in a modern medium, a large-scale light-and-shadow box. However, a surprise awaits as the viewer walks behind the work. The image is a silhouette meticulously constructed with branches, tape, paper and other refuse. It is a fascinating process and truly makes one question one’s assumptions about how art is created, and challenge one’s capacity to renew vision.
Woody Allen has always thrived on charm. Throughout his career, his unconventional charm made him his own best leading man. His writing and directing lent his fellow actors his adorably flustered cadences, and his love of New York brought the charming city to life on screen. It follows then, that his latest film, “Midnight in Paris” relies almost purely on charm, and succeeds. There is a little more substance, but not much, and that’s ok. Allen finds an actor in Owen Wilson who starts with his own charisma and adds a classic Woody impression to the performance much more naturally and enjoyably than Scarlett Johansson’s panicking “nerd” in the painful “Scoop”.
Other characters are familiar to the Allen oeuvre, picked up by new talents like Michael Sheen, who channels Alan Alda’s narcissistic know-it-all in “Crimes and Misdemeanors”. After capturing New York and London, Allen finds a new muse in Paris, the ultimate city of enchantment, and banks on the seductive presence of a long list of literary and art world heroes.
The incarnation of Ernest Hemingway provided the most amusing scenes in the film, delivering tongue-in-cheek lines in the frank, deadpan manner of his writing style. Hemingway waxes monotonously poetic about truth and writing, Paris, love, bravery, honesty and good meals, as he does in A Moveable Feast, his brilliant memoir about living as a poor writer in Lost-Generation Paris with his first wife Hadley.
“Midnight in Paris” explores the nature of nostalgia, and A Moveable Feast has that feeling as well, as Hemingway recounts romantically on this time long past in his life. About his lifestyle and sharing it with his wife, he writes that although they were young and poor, “…we ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”
Brasserie Balzar’s Midnight Onion Soup
La Gratinée de Minuit Brasserie Balzar
3 pounds onions
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
2/3 cup dry white wine, such as Sancerre
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
Several sprigs fresh thyme, wrapped in cheesecloth
Several fresh or dried bay leaves
8 thin slices baguette, toasted
1 pound Swiss Gruyère cheese, freshly grated
1. Peel the onions and halve them vertically. Cut the halves lengthwise into thin slices.
2. In a 10-quart stockpot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the oil, onions, and salt, and stir to coat the onions. Cook, covered, over low heat– stirring occasionally so the onions do not scorch– just until the onions are soft but still pale, about 15 minutes.
3. Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to coat the onions. Immediately add the stock, wine, 4 quarts water, the white pepper, thyme sprigs, and bay leaves. Bring just to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
4. Preheat the broiler.
5. Ladle the soup into individual ovenproof soup bowls. Top each serving with a slice of toasted baguette. Cover the bread with a thick coating of grated Gruyère. Place under the broiler. As soon as the cheese begins to bubble, serve the soup.
49, rue des Ecoles
Métro Odéon or Cluny-La Sorbonne
Recipe courtesy of: Patricia Wells. The Paris Cookbook. New York: HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2001.
AT HOME FILM FESTIVAL
Aside from simply loving movies of all genres and eras, I’ve always felt there was a really good reason to fill out my personal watched list: to catch every single joke on The Simpsons. From the beginning, The Simpsons referenced and parodied tons of film classics, but if you haven’t seen them, those allusions go right over your head. Familiarity with the original is similarly satisfying when viewing remakes. During a summer when it seems that Hollywood has no ideas of its own and every movie is a rehashing of something else, its easy to see remakes in a bad light. But for every affront to a brilliant original (Ahem, Disturbia, a hopeless re-imagining of Alfred Hitchcock’s flawless Rear Window), there are a few pairs of which the original and reinterpretation are surprising and unique.
Woody Allen took frequent inspiration from cerebral European directors like Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini and twisted them into his own quirky, self deprecating romps. The epic samurai films of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa were perfect to adapt into the Western genre by pioneers like Sergio Leone and John Sturges. So, as blockbuster season bombards you with lackluster remakes, think about looking back to some tried-and-truly satisfying classics and their masterful homages.
Smiles of A Summer Night, 1955- Ingmar Bergman
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, 1982- Woody Allen
8 1/2, 1963- Federico Fellini
Stardust Memories, 1980- Woody Allen
Yojimbo, 1961- Akira Kurosawa
A Fistful of Dollars, 1964- Sergio Leone
The Seven Samurai, 1954- Akira Kurosawa
The Magnificent Seven, 1960- John Sturges
I recently had a chance to sneak away and spend a day in San Francisco to see the “Balenciaga and Spain” exhibit at The De Young, curated by Vogue’s Hamish Bowles, and was happily inspired by the museum itself, just as much as the exhibit.
Having grown up in the bay area, going on countless field trips to Golden Gate Park and its museums and gardens, I must admit I had long taken them for granted since moving to New York. Coming upon the grand plaza of the Music Concourse, flanked on either side by The De Young and The California Academy of Sciences I was struck by the fine balance between old and new, nature and architecture.
The Plaza, completed in 1900, lined with neat rows of trees and facing the band shell of the Spreckels Temple of Music has the more formal feel of turn of the century design. Yet somehow, the two highly modern museums that surround it, both redone in the last decade, provide an interesting compliment to the plaza.
Before the recent renovations, both museums had sustained significant damage by earthquakes. The California Academy of Sciences, designed by Renzo Piano, is the world’s greenest museum, garnering the highest possible LEED rating. Its buildings feature a canopy of solar panels, a 2.5-acre living roof covered in native plants, and recycled denim used for insulation among other innovative elements.
The De Young was redesigned by Herzog and De Meuron and opened in 2005. It is wrapped in a warm copper surface that continues to change and shift as the patina develops. Because of the continued risk of earthquakes the museum was built sitting in what amounts to a mote so that it can shift during an earthquake to minimize any damage.
Although the new building cuts a modern geometric figure, they managed to integrate historic elements from the old De Young; including the sphinx sculptures, the Pool of Enchantment, and the original palm trees creating a connection between old and new. While in and around the building I was struck by the strong angles and geometric shapes created in different areas, such as the cantilevered roof over the cafe terrace and sculpture garden.
The De Young’s fashion exhibits have generated some controversy among some purists; however, Cristobol Balenciaga’s work was so connected to the worlds of art and architecture it seems a fitting choice. His approach was highly intellectual and conceptual. By the late 1950’s his clothing involved radical experimentation with form and volume paralleling his increasing engagement with contemporary art. The exhibit highlights these relationships and features a dress whose aerial view was based on a shape from a Joan Miró painting.
Balenciaga’s strong relationships were key in his work for example when he collaborated with The House of Abraham to develop Silk Gazaar, a silk gauze that allowed him to create sculptural pieces with minimal seaming which became a trademark of his work. The exhibit features strong colors and large format photos of his inspirations displayed with the corresponding collections. It was an inspiration to see the footage from Balenciaga shows from the ’50’s and get a glimpse of how simple the shows used to be.
Technically this beauty look is so Fall 2010. In the weird world of seasons in the fashion industry, it was a twinkle in our eye over a year ago backstage at Milly. Yet its our favorite look to transition into the summer. The subtle faded cat eye and flushed cheeks would be perfect for a summer evening. When everyone else is drowning in bronzer, this look is smoldering and pretty and light. Uh-oh, those summer nights.
The Victoria & Albert Museum in London is currently featuring a retrospective of the Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto. In addition to the main exhibition space, Yohji pieces are also tucked into rooms throughout the museum, interacting with the permanent collection of varying regions and time periods. One of the best satellite spots was in the V&A’s tapestry hall, which boasts some of the most important European tapestries preserved from the 15th century.
There were three Yohji Yamamoto ensembles on mannequins at the center of the large and virtually silent gallery, darkened to protect the aging textiles. The pieces were from Yamamoto’s Autumn/Winter 1995-96 Collection. Two were coats of red felt and one of black. Underneath the thick red wool, black dresses accented with black mesh were layered. The red and black palette and the weighty, stiffened nature of the wool interacted perfectly with the heavy tapestries draping the walls all around.
One of the largest and most memorable tapestries in the room was the The Swan and Otter Hunt, a wool textile woven from about 1430-40 in the Southern Netherlands is part of a group of four called the Devonshire Hunting Tapestries which hung at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire in the 16th century.
The theme of the hunt was particularly powerful and represented a privileged pastime. Hunting was an activity of sport and practicality; in this scene, otters were hunted for their pelts and to control their effect on the fish population needed for human consumption. Swans were hunted for their meat, and in this tapestry boys are seen robbing a swan’s nest of eggs. A bear hunt is seen on the right, the bears struggling to fight back against hunters dressed as Saracens in turbans. Fancy dress and costumes at tournaments and feasts was a popular feature of court life.
The visual style of this tapestry is unlike the others in the room, depicting the figures and their surroundings in a naturalistic but not illusionistic manner. Bold colors and strong lines define the images, and yet there are equally careful details, like the simple chain of the drawbridge. A perfect match for Yamamoto.
Set designs for fashion shows at the Tents at Lincoln Center rely on creative light and easily installed constructions for flat plains of white wall. There are only a few hours between shows on each runway for the previous designer to break down their set and load out, and for the next designer to load in and make the space their own. We are always looking for inspirational ideas to transform the blank canvas of the Lincoln Center runways, so it was exciting to discover this light installation at the Design Museum in London, designed by Ron Gilad for the Italian manufacturer Flos.
The museum describes: “Each piercing is an austere hood of LEDs lodged shallowly into a wall, which diffuses its own shadow as if shrouded by a light tulle fog. By linking multiple units, a pattern of light can be woven across a surface, with each piercing serving as a single ‘pixel’ in a larger image. An entire ‘pierced’ wall or ceiling can alter the appearance and mood of its environment with each shift in the colour and intensity of light.”‘
The lights cycle through a rainbow spectrum of colors, one slowly melting into the next. The effect is simple, mesmerizing, beautiful, and even a little tough.