Looking Up and Other Inspiration

So I found this project, Sketches from Street Level, on Flickr after I had just finished an almost identical one that I called looking up. This photographer and I definitely have the same interests! See below:

I’m thinking that I can use this project as a jumping off point to transition to looking out at the streetscape (angles and patterns associated with looking down a street or up an avenue), then looking in, which wouldn’t be looking inside but instead looking at very simple and otherwise overlooked building details.

And then holy @#$% I found this. A link to part of Guy Debord and Asger Jorn’s Memoires from 1952. The delicate placement of type with dripping ink patterns is beautiful and reminiscent of the journey along a path. I can’t understand the French but I imagine them to be describing a daydream of the experience of the streets of Paris in the 1950’s.

I also discovered Place Magazine recently, a now closed publication from the 80’s and 90’s on urban spaces and planning. This is an exerpt from the editor’s letter Summer 1990 issue: “Places, like lives, evolve; sometimes uncertainly, sometimes abruptly, sometimes to good ends, sometimes for naught. Places though, carry our lives within them. They give structure to where we spend our time, what and whom we encounter, how much sky we see, how much green surrounds us, and how tightly or freely we conceive the community. Places form an armature for the imagination.”

Along this same line of thinking, I would like to explore the geography of a place to uncover these qualities. I spoke with Leigh Okies today and she gave magnificent advice on this direction. She created a project during her grad school experience at Art Center that was based on the Situationist movement (which I have studied at length for my topic!). They were really interested in the idea of derive, and just going out and experiencing the world. Their project began as a series of observations, not idea based at all but more of a game to formulate the project around these observations. They drew the word ‘gospel’ on a map of LA and drove around to different points on the map, observing and doing experiments. Their project culminated in visual artifacts that represent this series of experiments and observations. It is so inspiring to hear that her project produced such concrete benefits for the designers involved, and started out so amorphous.

This project speaks to me because I am struggling with the theoretical nature of many of our classes, finding that the thinking in words is taking away from my visual experimentation. I think a lot of reading and theoretical assignments have taken up time when I could be making, creating interesting projects for my thesis. I’ve posted many of my drawings on this blog in previous posts but I will post a new series here. Also a couple sketches for ideas I have towards making abstract maps, or memory maps. I just put together an “exhibition” of 20 artworks around nyc around this theme and it’s inspired me to create some of my own.

Mmm… Skyscaper I Love You just arrived as well, and it’s giving me even more visual direction. One of the earliest projects of Tomato (Karl Hyde and John Warwicker) created a book that feels like a film, all in homage to the feeling of walking around New York City. The compositions are made up of simple elements and typography but the texture that is created with out using any actual textures or colors besides black and white is striking. This inspires me to incorporate my drawings into a very simple but impactful graphic landscape.

I visited the Whitney on Sunday, and was blown away by the Edward Hopper painting, Early Sunday Morning. He had this way of creating a feeling that was entirely his own creation but it still represents the place in a powerful way. So much so that people have made efforts to restore the building that he depicted in Early Sunday Morning. It made me wonder how can I capture the feeling and essence of a place to communicate to others? As a designer I can create strategies to keep the authenticity of a place alive, and to get people interested in historical and cultural concerns. Luigi Fusco Girard says in The Human Sustainable City, “The historical and cultural heritage, representing the collective memory of the city, it’s specificity and identity, must be preserved and promoted as a key contribution to the humanization of our cities.”

Part of me thinks that my thesis needs to look at decades of urban planning in NYC and all historical factors that contribute to a specific neighborhood. Along those lines, one of my ideas for a visual project is to take a streetscape (on Rivington or nearby) that explores all of the buildings, storefronts and signage, research all of the historical factors and engage the community in conversation.

Another project I’m considering is taking close-up shots of building details and place them along a specific route on a map. These details can also be interpreted by drawing or another medium. I really want to focus on drawing and painting as my initial mediums and use those explorations to create a final design project. I need to let go of the idea of having this final finished product and let all of these explorations naturally lead to it. I find that it’s only through drawing the contours of an object or place that I recognize it’s true beauty. Drawing allows you to move beyond just looking to see and feel the relationships in space, and this could lead to rich visual investigations and who knows what applications down the road.

A few references I need to jot down from thesis advisors:
pritzkerprize.com — to understand how architecture is verbalized. Also Words and Buildings by Adrian Forty
Verbalizing the Visual by Michael Clarke
Delirious New York and Mutations by Rem Koolhas
Metropolis magazine (which I already love but need to look at more)
“Visual Acoustics” – a Jules Sherman documentary

The Architectural Review
Arch. publishers such as ACTAR
101 Things I Learned in Architecture School
also look at how architecture and urban planning programs describe their missions and activities
ANY – Architecture NY (Vignelli-designed)
Tadao Ando
listen to interviews with Frank Gehry
check out architecture supply stores

I have many ideas for projects and have no idea where they will take me. Leigh Okies handed out an Anni Albers statement on designing when she visited our class last week. “We come to know in art that we do not clearly know where we will arrive in our work, although we set the compass, our vision; that we are lead in going along, by material and work process. We have plans and blueprints, but the finished work is still a surprise. We learn to listen to our voices; the yes or no of our material, our tools, our time.” I love when she writes “the yes or no of our material” – we have such a close relationship with our material and awareness allows us to listen when we need to change direction or continue following a path.

Oh, one more thing. My interests lie on the border of art and design, so another thing I want to explore is how these two fields interact and complement each other.

Published by Elizabeth Pizzuti

Design, art, and cats mostly

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