The title of Ed Ruscha’s The Old Tool & Die Building (2004) suggests that the industrial space pictured here — decorated with signage in a mix of altered, nonsensical Korean and archaic Mandarin characters, an unidentifiable corporate symbol, and graffiti — was once a place where machinists manufactured parts.
The Old Tool & Die Building is part of the Course of Empire series — a group of five paintings that revisit the subjects of Ruscha’s 1992 series Blue Collar. In those back and white canvases, the artist had pictured the industrial buildings once common to the American urban landscape. The newer paintings, rendered in color, capture old sites repurposed, abandoned, enlarged, or made obsolete
Ed Ruscha named the series after a group of paintings by the Hudson River School artist Thomas Cole (1801 – 1848). Cole’s The Course of Empire (1833 – 36) traces the transformation of an imagined civilization from an Edenic state close to nature, through the rise of culture, to a dominating Empire, and then on to decline and ruin. Although Ruscha’s coolly removed depictions do not editorialize on their subjects, like Cole’s works they chronicle the unrelenting developments and the inevitable cycles of human civilizations.
Katharina Fritsch makes meticulous reproductions of everyday objects, rendering them unfamiliar through extreme shifts in scale and either alluring or repellent color choices. Indeed, saturated and non reflective collators of color lend her sculptures a stones sense of otherworldliness.
“I always call the starting point [for a sculpture] a vision,” she has said. “I’ll be in a tram or driving a car and suddenly I get a picture in my mind. Something completely normal turns into a miracle — something I’ve never seen before. Simple things you see every day turn into something strange, something alien.”
Woman With Dog (2004) is clearly sealed up — enormously so — from from a small figurine made of seashells, as one might find in a beachside souvenir shop.
Add this to the long list of Very Cool Things I saw on my recent Chicago vacation: Spitting Fountains. Well, the proper name for this distinctive piece of public art is Crown Fountain, located in Millennium Park, but if you were a tourist and you asked a Chicago local to point you in the direction of “The Spitting Fountains,” I bet they would know what you meant.
This giant Pink Cherry Blossom glass tile mosaic is located at the 77th Street 6 Train subway station, on the mezzanine walls above the stairs leading to the train platfrom. It is part of a larger wall mural, by artist Robert Kushner, entitled 4 Seasons Seasoned, commissioned for the station in 2004. For the mosaics in this mural, Kushner created bouquets of flowers – from every season – that reflect such influences as Dutch flower paintings and Japanese screens. Most neighborhoods have flower shops, but they are especially abundant on the Upper East Side, and have associations with many of the city’s finest hospitals, parks, and museums located there. A painter, sculptor and printmaker, Kushner has always been fascinated by organic motifs. A key figure of the Pattern and Decoration Movement, he continues to feature vegetal motifs in his works, often along with geometric patterns and architectural shapes. At 77th Street, he gives the community a blazing bouquet to brighten the day (and night)!
The dynamic, curvilinear design of the Current Chair (2004) by Vivian Beer seems to defy the strength and hardness of the steel from which it is made. Historically, few women have worked in metal other than to fashion jewelry, and fewer still have made metal furniture.
About her innovative design, Beer remarked, “I wanted this chair to seem as if it had been cut and crushed out of a single sheet of metal. At the same time, I wanted it to feel as fast and clean as water its silhouette . . .The balance and the trickery are important.” The chair’s title suggests that the artist’s choice of the color blue alludes to swiftly moving water.
Teri Greeves (b. 1970) is a member of the Kiowa Native American tribe, and her culture deeply influences her work. Khoiye-Goo Mah (2004) translates in the Kiowa language as “Kiowa women,” and four Kiowa women are depicted on these sneakers: the artist’s grandmother and mother, both skillful bead workers who taught artist this traditional craft,; her aunt, the first female fancy war dancer in the state of Oklahoma, and spiritual woman, who had the honor of naming the artist.
The Delancey and Essex Street Station is home to the J, M, Z, and F Trains, and also this colorful glass mosaic mural of two fish, which appear to be swimming on the surface of the water. Fun!
With minimal Googling, I discovered that the mural is called Shad Crossing, Delancey Orchard (2004) by artist Ming Fay. For the backstory, let’s go to Yelp ReviewerTina C. from Queens, who writes:
Glass mosaics on platform and mezzanine walls symbolizes the the liveliness of the once thriving fishing marketplace in this storied Lower East Side community. Aquatic images are a metaphor for “crossing” in a glass mosaic mural on the Brooklyn-bound platform, inspired by the prominent DeLancey family’s eighteenth century farm, which stretched from the East River to the Hudson River. The farm’s cherry orchard was located where Orchard Street stands and is memorialized with radiant cherry trees on the Manhattan-bound platform.
The larger mural is adjacent to this underground directive (above) , but on the platform for the Brooklyn Bound F, you will also find these small tile mosaic Fish Heads at random intervals along the wall.