5.21.08 Manhattan museums

Today was our free day in NYC. We started out with bagels (and that puffy roll I had been obsessing about) at Palca’s, then took the train into the city. We decided to go up the west side of the park because I was remembering that the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum was up there, and of course had forgotten to check the address while I still had internet access. We accidentally got onto an A express train and ended up at 125th Street, got immediately back on a C Local going south, and eventually made it to 96th Street, only to find out that the Cooper-Hewitt was on the east side of the park with all the other museums.

Ted had been wanting to walk through the park anyway, and it was a gorgeous day, so we walked through to the east side and ended up right at 91st and literally in the backyard of the Cooper. We went in the back entrance to the museum into the courtyard, where artsy people were sitting at cafe tables in the sun and kids were playing on the wide green lawn. It was quite idyllic, and a nice contrast to our late afternoon experience at the MOMA, which was much more of what I expected of a NYC museum experience.

The Cooper-Hewitt had a few exhibitions: Rococo: The Continuing Curve, Campana Brothers Select, a selection of pieces from the permanent collection by Brazilian designers Fernando and Humberto Campana, and Multiple Choice: From Sample to Product, which showed sample books from various industries and countries. Each of the exhibits gave me design and pattern ideas, especially the Campana brothers’ choices. I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that humans have always made art, even in the most impossible circumstances, and with the most unlikely materials. There were incredible examples of jewelry created from dyed horsehair and human hair (ca. 1830), incredible prints, and beautiful intricate wallpapers made from hand-cut paper.

I love the insect prints in particular, done in 1927 by a French etymologist named Emile-Alain Séguy. They were so beautifully designed…and the guy was trained as a scientist, not an artist! I’ve wanted to do an insect pattern for years, so maybe this will motivate me to try one. I saw some other wonderful insect illustrations in a Dwell magazine years ago, and have been trying to find that issue ever since. I can’t remember the illustrator’s name, but the drawings were abstract and lovely.

The rococo exhibit was interesting…rococo is not really my favorite style, but the discussion of how it influenced various design aesthetics was instructive. I most liked the modern pieces that were inspired by the rococo style, and there was one quote from the show that stuck with me. Here it is:

William Hogarth’s 1753 work Analysis of Beauty codified twenty years of rococo design by espousing the S-curve as the “line of beauty.”

I’ve had curves on the mind lately, as I’ve been using rounded-edge boxes for my VF materials, including the Surtex booth. There is a certain gentle beauty to a curve that a hard edge can’t convey. Curves are sometimes described as feminine, although I feel like they are more organic than specifically feminine.

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