September 19, 2013 | by Justin Alvarez
How does one document his or her life? Do you track the minute details of each and every day in a diary, like Ned Rorem, or measure it out with coffee spoons, as J. Alfred Prufrock declared? When digging through the last boxes and cases from his grandfather’s home, Justin Bairamian found an old suitcase, full to the brim with thousands of matchbooks. They were from the Savoy in London to the Marineland Restaurant in California, and many had his grandfather’s own scribbles noting the location and year on the inside cover. Bairamian had discovered a beautiful record of a life well lived.
Bairamian has allowed designer Ben Stott to catalogue a sample of the collection, one day at a time, on the blog A Life in Matches. It is a brilliant tribute to one man’s life, as well as insight into the evolution of graphic design.
December 24, 2012 | by Aaron Gilbreath
We’re out this week, but we’re re-posting some of our favorite pieces from 2012 while we’re away. We hope you enjoy—and have a happy New Year!
Because my grandfather owned a men’s clothing store and my dad briefly worked for him, I spent a lot of my childhood in malls. Hanging around malls is already a tradition in Phoenix, Arizona, where I grew up. It’s as central to life as driving and eating Mexican food, a habit stemming from a mix of materialism, a reflexive tendency to “pass time,” and a very practical need for air conditioning. But it was also a habit born of an era when malls adorned themselves in gaudy architecture and country-and-western motifs, presented themselves as shopping experiences rather than just places to shop, and capitalized on Americans’ aspirations toward glitz and glamour. I can’t enter one of the predictable, interchangeable modern retail spaces without thinking of the heyday of the mall, a period when, to borrow the title of a Time magazine article, malls were “Pleasure-Domes with Parking.”
I saw none of these touches of class in person. I was born in 1975, and by then malls had changed. As I experienced it, my Grandpa Shapiro’s store, The Habber Dasher, was adjacent to the food court, an echoey hall enlivened by the greasy orange aroma of Pizza D’Amore and the sweet froth of Orange Julius, as well as Kay Bee Toys, the Red Baron video-game arcade, and the movie theater. My time at the mall was spent buying shockingly lifelike diecast metal cap guns at Kay Bee and then eating free samples of slow-cooked meat from the tiny gyro stall, staring in horror at the hard, sunken eyes of the whole smoked fish in Miracle Mile Deli’s cold case, or looking up at the tall escalator that led into UA Cinema. When I walked through the open, indoor plaza where Santa Claus sat in a huge Styrofoam Wonderland, surrounded by polymer wads of fake snow while the sun shone outside, I had no clue that malls could be anything but what they were then, that they had any history at all.
In fact, shopping arcades and centers existed in the Western World as early as the 1920s. The classic, fully enclosed form now known in America as “the mall” debuted in Edina, Minnesota, in 1956. An Austrian-American architect named Victor Gruen designed the so-called Southdale Center, and it became the de facto prototype for a wave of enclosed, temperature-controlled shopping complexes structured around big name “anchors” and interior garden spaces. Read More »
January 18, 2012 | by Perrin Drumm
Modest, natural, and snazzy—those were the three directions Mother Mary Magdalene gave artist Julia Sherman for designing the habits for the Community of Compassion, Mother Mary’s new Anglican Catholic order in Fort Worth, Texas. “You can’t just go to the store and buy a habit,” Mother Mary wrote to me. “Every order has to have a distinct one designed by the foundress, and you’re not supposed to copy anyone else.” The difference between two orders can be as simple as a few extra pleats in the skirt or as noticeable as Mother Teresa’s blue-striped, sari-inspired head covering.
But Sherman’s habits are something entirely new. Moreover, the JF & Son store in New York has partnered with Sherman to produce and sell the habits for secular customers. So while Mother Mary is praying in her peach-colored harem pants in Forth Worth, a young New York woman might be traipsing across Fifth Avenue in the very same design.
Mother Mary found Sherman after she saw the artist’s work photographing nun dolls from the Nun Doll Museum in Indian River, Michigan, a shrine to more than five hundred dolls and mannequins, each dressed in the traditional garb of men and woman from religious communities in North and South America. Sherman, whose previous photographic work has focused on the intricate process of creating wigs for Jewish women, clearly has a thing for religious accessories. Read More »
September 12, 2011 | by Rosamond Bernier
When the French fashion houses began to open again in 1946–47 after World War II and the occupation, American magazines thought it worthwhile to send people over to report on them. I was one of those people. I edged into the fashion world almost sideways. I thought I was going to write art features when I was recruited by Vogue. But Mrs. Chase thought otherwise, and her word was law.
I found myself on one of those first transatlantic flights that stopped over for the night at Gander, Newfoundland, to refuel. You rested, fully dressed, in one of a line of cots in a kind of barracks. My immediate neighbors were a group of Dominican monks—Italian, no English. I had studied Italian a long time ago in college but had had no opportunity to practice. I could only remember a few lines of Dante, about returning from hell, not much of a conversational opener. I tried it out, anyhow, and got a gratifying response.
My traveling companion was a small, angelic, and gifted artist who was the magazine’s dessinateur. He went under the name of Eric. My entire professional training was a hissed injunction as I left for the airport: “Keep Eric sober.” Keeping Eric sober turned out to be a major project, but if his gait was sometimes unsteady, his line never wavered. Read More »
June 8, 2011 | by Ian Volner
Historical preservationism began innocently enough. The demolition in 1963 of the old Penn Station in Manhattan shocked the conscience of a certain class of urban do-gooder, and with the help of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis a campaign was launched to spare Grand Central Terminal the same fate. Its success emboldened governments around the country to strengthen controls over new development, and a movement was born.
But what was once the province of the civic-minded, the protection of our architectural patrimony has today become an empire, a sprawling demesne of stasis that occupies some twelve percent of the earth’s surface. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee, national and regional landmarks authorities, environmental activists, and other well-meaning persons have conspired to turn the world into a giant museum, choking off the creative-destructive flow that sustains architectural invention. If the trend continues apace, we could soon see buildings prospectively preserved—catalogued and canonized, stuffed and mounted, before they are even finished.
Such, at least, is the theme that Dutch-born architect Rem Koolhaas and cocurator Shohei Shigematsu explored in their New Museum show, “Cronocaos,” which ended this Sunday. Located in a new annex space next to the SANAA-designed main gallery on the Bowery, the exhibition was a marquee event of the Festival of Ideas for the New City, a street fair–cultural clambake that took over the surrounding sidewalks in early May.
March 11, 2011 | by Thessaly La Force
Our wonderful art editor Charlotte Strick took some time to talk to The Atlantic about her work as a graphic designer:
What’s a design trend that you wish would go away?
It’s not so much a design “trend”: the lack of quality in trade book publishing. Because of the rising costs of printing, many publishers are now using thinner paper stocks for book interiors. The paper feels cheap and there's more "show through" of the text from the previous page. Those of you who still enjoy holding a good old-fashioned book in your hands will know what I'm talking about. You really can feel the difference.
What’s an idea you became fascinated with but that ended up taking you off track?
Do ex-boyfriends count?
I’d say so! Read the rest of Charlotte’s interview here.