Pier 24 SF

Everyone is a photographer now, and that’s wonderful. We all document moments both important and mundane, scenes both amusing and stunning, creating a colorful whirlwind that turns into an extra layer of the fabric of life. Step into the serenely industrial galleries at Pier 24 in San Francisco, though, and you’ll be reminded that photography can also be art.

pier24sf-narrowdoorA huge variety of photographic prints make up the current exhibition (“A Sense of Place,” open through May 2014), but it’s the gallery space itself that is most intriguing. Continue reading Pier 24 SF

A Ballet in Five Dimensions

The audience mills about at intermission, greeting acquaintances, texting those not present, nibbling on chocolates and waiting for the lights to go down for the next act. Slowly, a murmur seeps through the crowd, and chatter begins to dissipate. On stage, a huge projection screen – its contents faint under the bright house lights – shows a single dancer, wandering forward with a curious gaze. Her surroundings appear to be a theater, and the realization quickly spreads that it’s this very space, now! She’s here, with us! Necks crane, a few fingers point, and sure enough, the black-clad woman is spotted walking up the aisle left of the seats, preceded by a cameraman. She continues, taking a path through the doors and out of view into the lobby, where she is met by a male partner. All eyes return to the screen to watch their vestibule duet as the lights finally dim.

Photo: Candice DeTore, from Pennsylvania Ballet's Facebook page

Deciding What to Watch

With this unorthodox opening, Benjamin Millepied introduces a ballet that continues to pique our media-savvy senses throughout its duration. His world premiere piece for Pennsylvania Ballet, This Part in Darkness, intertwines live video and dance in an exciting way that puts the viewer in an entirely new position. Does our focus belong on the the cameraman (principal dancer Alexander Iziliaev), carefully tiptoeing his way back and forth through the whirling choreography? Or the video he’s capturing, projected 40 feet high in glowing fidelity? And what about the dancers themselves, on stage in front of us, ostensibly the reason we’ve come to this theater, on this date, at this exact time? Continue reading A Ballet in Five Dimensions

Extra Dimensionz

Watch the (very short) video above, and know this: realistic 3D holographic prints are now within reach.

The only thing needed to view the full-color, 360-degree images is a halogen or LED light source, no special glasses or projectors required

Building on hologram technology first developed in the 1960s, Zebra Imaging has applied advances in lasers and optics to take 3D data (from Google SketchUp, AutoCAD or Maya, for example), record them as highly-detailed hogels (the pixel building blocks of a hologram), and print them onto a malleable film substrate.

A good analogy for understanding how a holographic print works – on a simple level – is to think of an audio recording taken of an orchestra, then played back through a surround-sound speaker system. The original source points (of sound) have been captured in relation to a specific center, and can then be reconstituted to give the impression of a 3D soundscape. With light, the process is a bit more complex, especially when creating images like these that stay three-dimensionally realistic through a very wide field of view.

Thousands of Zscapes have been provided to the US Military over the years, for use in strategic planning, but prices for a color 12″ x 18″ version are now as low as $1,500, well within range for a non-Defense Department business. An Engadget commenter suggested Disney could use these to cover the walls of a roller-coaster ride tunnel. ArchDaily recently called them the “future of architectural visualization.” And artist Mark Henninger  (my husband) is considering commissioning Zscape art prints of his psychedelic extrusion images.

The exo-dimensional print also gave rise to a new thought: If we can see this thing in three dimensions, when it very obviously only exists in two, can the ruse be replayed on a higher level? What if the fourth dimension we experience as time is also an illusion of sorts, a trick played by our perception of matter and energy? Will we eventually be able – perhaps like a Star Trek holodeck character – to print out a life?

Play With Yourself

Chess requires intensive forethought. Players must anticipate several steps ahead, and weigh multiple complex scenarios before completing each move.

The algorithms involved are so complex that they have been a measuring stone for artificial intelligence over the years.

Additionally, the game is a (not so veiled) metaphor for battle. King versus King. Black versus white. Good versus evil. At the base level, me versus you.

There are near endless designs for the veritable gameboard, from elegant to amusing to cultural to flamboyant to stark.

Yoko Ono’s 1966 “Play it by Trust” set turns traditional chess on its end, in ways both computational and philosophical, with a simple twist.

In it, both sides play white. Are white. Are indistinguishable from one another. As are the squares on the checkerboard.

With this set, the mental calculation necessary to play a good game includes the additional layer of remembering which pieces are yours, and which belong to your opponent.

Says the artist:

Play it for as long as you can remember
who is your opponent and
who is your own self.

How sustainable is battle against an enemy that looks just like you?

How relatively easy is war against a culture that does not look like you?

With not more than a humble color change, this design becomes provocative art.


Sometimes, form suggests function, even when that form is broken.

In 2003, Adam Podlaski took his pile of damaged skateboards and brought them to his brother with a demand: make something of them!

With his degree in industrial design from Philadelphia University, Jason Podlaski saw quickly that all of the decks had snapped in one of two ways: either directly in half, or at the one-third mark.

These shapes suggested to him a seat and legs of a chair. And so deckstools were born.

Using an old skateboard truck — the part that holds the wheels — as a connector, Podlaski fashions a half-deck into the stool seat, and four of the longer pieces into legs.

Combined with the zealous effort skaters put into customizing their boards, this makes each piece of furniture completely unique.

You can select your one-of-a-kind stool from the website gallery and snag it for $199.

Recently, Jason and Adam teamed up with Victor Perez of sk8lamps, and show and offer their products at his Fishtown workshop and gallery.

Some new product offerings are on display there, such as the deckbench, and lid cushions that sit atop the wooden stool seats.

Additional collaborations with Perez, who specializes in lamps created from old boards, are forthcoming in 2011.

Litter Critters

Although a seemingly winning idea, the BigBelly©* smart solar trash compactors that dot Center City Philadelphia have caused their share of controversy.

People were not happy with having to touch dirty handles in order to throw something away.

A City Controller report leveled accusations that the BigBelly contract was given without a fair bid—causing the city to pay more than they may have had to—and that maintenance costs were much higher than expected.

Count on Mural Arts, Philadelphia’s best warrior against blight, to save the day! Or at least, to bring back a positive spin.

A new project sponsored by the Department of Human Services and in collaboration with the Streets Department, Mayor Nutter and the South Street Headhouse District is turning 50 BigBellies into “LitterCritters.”

Several students in the Big Picture program worked with artists Thom Lessner and Ben Woodward around the idea of “garbage monsters” to create original artwork, which the printmakers then synthesized into wrappable designs.

Art installations will cover 50 compactors or compactor/recycling pairs, all of them along Headhouse Square and up South Street from 2nd to 10th Street.

On the first day, the project completed three wrappings, and plans are to finish all of them by mid-November. The receptacles are first well-cleaned, and then printed vinyl carefully applied. The art is expected to last at least a year.

This project is an extension of the popular Design in Motion: Recycling Truck project, which saw fanciful designs applied to Philadelphia’s recycling trucks.

Hopefully, the Litter Critters will see the same success, and will be co-opted by other neighborhoods. And perhaps we might extend the project further to cover the ugly big brown corner signal boxes?

*Please assume the copyright symbol follows each mention of this brand name. We don’t feel like littering our post with it.

Wooden Wasp

Holy gorgeous!

In 2001 Portuguese carpenter Carlos Alberto was inspired to create his second all-wooden motorbike. After seven years of work, trials & tribulations, the Vespa Daniela was born.

Crafted using rosewood, ebony, beech, satin-wood, Brazilian cherry, tacula, panga-panga, sucupira, and sycamore, this reworking of the Italian design icon is one-of-a-kind.

No word on whether Piaggio has reached out to Alberto for a limited edition series, but consider it suggested.

[via Design Bureau h/t Shao]

Black & White & Red Sauce All Over

Gemelli, it says on page 114, “is an example of  pasta architecture at its best.”

Yes,  PASTA architecture.

There are hundreds of different shapes and figures of noodles, dumplings and other dough designs.

The Geometry of Pasta is an intriguing and appealing exploration of this world.

Each chapter in the alphabetically organized cookbook describes a certain pasta, looking at the history of its contours, ingredients and etymology.

With a nod to function following form, co-author chef Jacob Kennedy provides recipes using types of sauces or accompaniments that best suit each pasta’s design.

In Italy, this pairing of shape and flavor is an essential component in construction of the perfect pasta dish.

That’s what gave graphic designer Caz Hildebrand, the other author, the idea for the book.

But it’s Hildebrand’s gorgeous black and white illustrations that really bring the pages to life, vividly showcasing the diversity of forms and figures.

Combined with snippets of old Italian wisdom (“He who looks at magnitude is often mistaken: A grain of pepper conquers lasagna with its strength.“), the bold graphics make this a book you won’t want to put down, even when it’s time to cook.

Who knew grayscale line drawings could make you so ravenous?

[Thanks to Eric Smith at Quirk Books for the review copy, and h/t Drew Lazor at Citypaper]

Getting There

On first glance, it’s not easy to tell that these are all photos of the same building.

This private art gallery in the Philadelphia suburbs was designed to look different from each and every angle. And to have a certain ambiance when morning sun strikes it, one that is distinct from when the sun is beaming down overhead, and different still from that on a gray day.

Each glass panel of the wall is a different shape. Each of the wood-like slats that cover one side tapers outward, changing in width.

Even the greenery of the surrounding lawn has been designed in irregular patches of flower and grasses, blooming and sprouting in different shapes as the seasons progress.

Yet the gallery also performs at its intended function, showcasing artworks without exposing them to direct sunlight. An asymmetric wire mesh drapes in artful curves over a wireframe beneath the high ceiling; the structure will allow for artworks to hang in almost any configuration.

Spend a few minutes talking to John Shields, and you get the impression he’s a dreamer. But his firm, point b, has had great success in putting inventive design ideas into practice. Continue reading Getting There

Art Cards

Artist Amy Orr works in a novel medium, one that only recently became readily available: plastic cards. She cuts them up, then rearranges the fragments into mosaic-like compositions.

Previously the exclusive realm of Visa, MasterCard and American Express, in the early 1990s plastic calling cards were introduced. Unlike traditional credit cards, these cards were relatively disposable. In the late 90s, the plastic gift card began replacing gift certificates, starting at McDonald’s and spreading rapidly through retailers everywhere. In the past decade, the plastic gift card has become the most popular present.

In 2006 alone, an estimated 17 billion of these cards were produced. There are a couple of companies that have popped up to either collect and recycle the cards, or to resell and exchange them. Orr’s decor pieces are aesthetically pleasing, but also a statement on the rise of consumerism across the globe.

Amy is one of several emerging crafters who will be featured along with established artisans at the Philadelphia Invitational Furniture Show, opening this weekend at the Naval Yard.

Friday evening’s Preview Reception will benefit InLiquid, a Philadelphia-based non-profit that helps artists gain exposure and promote their work. The reception will feature Orr’s work, along with others who work with “recycled materials.”

As long as industry and science continue to find and develop new materials, craftspeople will find ways to make them into art!