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Michener’s Bertoia exhibit focuses on monoprints taking shape in sculpture

By Peter Crimmins @petercrimmins

Harry Bertoia made enormous architectural sculptures for buildings around the country and tiny jewelry pieces the size of your finger. But he is perhaps most well known for his brass sculptures that resonate like bells.

"People come out of the woodwork around here when you mention Bertoia," said Lisa Tremper Hanover, the president of the Michener Art Museum. “‘I’ve got a Bertoia! ‘I’ve got a Bertoia!’ ‘I ruined a Bertoia because I didn’t know what I had!’ But among the pantheon of American sculptors, he’s right up there.”

Bertoia also made monoprints, which he used as studies of shape and line. Hanover noticed many of Bertoia’s monoprints feature shapes that would become the basis of his sculptures, and she curated the exhibit "Harry Bertoia: Structure and Sound."

The show is a modest size, with the walls of two gallery rooms ringed with monoprints: abstractions of line clusters and thick, sensuous shapes. In front of the prints are the objects that seem to have evolved off the page. There are cases of silver jewelry, a ball of radiating wire hanging from the ceiling, an irregular grid of bronze plates and several sound sculptures.

"What I’m doing with the installation is bringing together objects that relate to the monoprints, so you see how the monoprints have influenced the 3-D sculptures," Hanover said. "He’s playing with organic plane shapes and using vertical lines to see what might work aesthetically and aurally."

The sculptures are clusters of thin bronze or stainless steel rods planted in a base. When you push the rods they sway and gently knock against each other. Of course, you’re not supposed to touch them because they are art.

Chairs made of air

In 1950, Harry Bertoia, born in Italy, was living in Southern California and developing a name as a fine artist. He suddenly moved to Pennsylvania to make office chairs. He accepted an offer by Knoll, the furniture company, to come to East Greenville in Berks County, where he designed a set of modernist chairs made of contoured wire.

"They are mainly made of air," Bertoia said of them. They are still one of Knoll’s most popular products.

"Now, into a fourth generation, we deal with students who save their money just to buy this furniture," said Carol Connell, an account manager at Knoll. A native of East Greenville, she has worked for the company in various capacities since 1978 and married Bertoia’s former studio assistant.

Bertoia worked at Knoll for only two years, designing just one line of furniture. But the small-town, rural life of central Pennsylvania grew on him. He bought a farmhouse with a barn near Bally, a few miles from East Greenville, and stayed there until his death 25 years later.

He was never far from Knoll, and Knoll was never far from him. The international company—which still retains its headquarters amid the soybean fields of East Greenville—often brought clients and VIPs to visit the famous sculptor’s studio.

Soothing the spirit with sound

"He had a big gong. At the entrance, he had a leather-wrapped mallet and would ask someone to bang the gong before entering," Connell remembered. "He was an amazing man. I loved him."

That gong still greets visitors to the studio in Bally where his son, Val Bertoia, continues to make sound sculptures and gives daily tours.

"He worked with metals all his life and career," Val Bertoia said. "It was using metals first to make the physical human body comfortable and still using metals later in life to make the human spirit comfortable with sounds."

Harry Bertoia made hundreds of sound sculptures, arranging dozens inside a barn on his property where he made recordings. Called Sonambients, he released seven LPs filled with layers of metallic resonance struck randomly. The sounds are loud, formidable and meditative.

"In this way, when a sound comes, you cannot quite control it. It has its own life. You have to sway along with it," Bertoia said in the 1977 short film "Sonambient." "They are very powerful. They seem to be the sounds of the bowels of the earth."

A 10-minute demonstration of the Sonambient sculptures is included on the tour of the Bertoia barn. Val Bertoia said the sound sculptures do not make music—you cannot play them like instruments. Rather, his father was trying to make sound uncontrollable.

"There was inspiration from nature, birds, cicadas, even frogs in a swamp," Bertoia said. "He would hear these sounds in nature, and make metallic versions."

Visitors to the Michener museum in Doylestown are not allowed to touch the sculptures. But if you ask the museum docents, they will don white gloves and set Harry Bertoia’s resonated rods in motion.

Encouraging first-time art collectors — and visits to Philly

By Peter Crimmins 

In 13 years, Bridgette Mayer has built a successful art gallery in Philadelphia’s Washington Square. Her clients and artists span the globe. When she first started out as a consultant, she believed she couldn’t buy art for herself.

"I knew I didn’t have the money, or at least I didn’t think I had the money," said Mayer in an online video. "But I ended up putting $50 down, and in a few months I paid it off in $50 installments."

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How a Philadelphia portrait painter got to know the Iron Lady
Her conservative politics were as ironclad as her swept-back hair. Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, was almost never seen without pearls and a power suit. She died Monday at age 87.
Her resolute image was immortalized by Philadelphia portrait painter, Nelson Shanks.
Shanks has looked long and deeply into the faces of some of the most important people of the 20th century, including Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, and Princess Diana.
The portraitist, who opened an art school in Philadelphia’s North Chinatown called Studio Incamminati, was hired to paint Thatcher’s portrait, twice. Once in 1994, and again in 1998. Each occasion required her to sit still for more than 40 hours.

How a Philadelphia portrait painter got to know the Iron Lady

Her conservative politics were as ironclad as her swept-back hair. Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, was almost never seen without pearls and a power suit. She died Monday at age 87.

Her resolute image was immortalized by Philadelphia portrait painter, Nelson Shanks.

Shanks has looked long and deeply into the faces of some of the most important people of the 20th century, including Pope John Paul II, President Ronald Reagan, and Princess Diana.

The portraitist, who opened an art school in Philadelphia’s North Chinatown called Studio Incamminati, was hired to paint Thatcher’s portrait, twice. Once in 1994, and again in 1998. Each occasion required her to sit still for more than 40 hours.

It all started when Roberta and Richard Huber discovered Spanish colonial art at a small museum in Buenos Aires. They were hooked by the beauty of the paintings and sculptures — and their revelations of a rich, complex history that spoke of power, religion and global commerce.  

Spain and Portugal ruled most of the world as far back as the 16th century. The far-reaching influence of this imperial dominance can be traced through Iberian art works on exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Journeys to New Worlds,” based on the Hubers’ collection, runs through May 19.

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A city’s skyline is like a signature. It’s how the world knows it, and how the city knows itself. 
A series of illustrations by Yoni Alter shows stylized skylines comprising landmarks in a colorful array. 
There’s no Philadelphia — but check out Pittsburgh! Can you pick out the Fort Pitt Bridge, the 10th Street Bridge, PPG Place, Highmark Place, Gulf Tower, Cathedral of Learning, Allegheny County Courthouse, and the Point State park fountain?

A city’s skyline is like a signature. It’s how the world knows it, and how the city knows itself. 

A series of illustrations by Yoni Alter shows stylized skylines comprising landmarks in a colorful array. 

There’s no Philadelphia — but check out Pittsburgh! Can you pick out the Fort Pitt Bridge, the 10th Street Bridge, PPG Place, Highmark Place, Gulf Tower, Cathedral of Learning, Allegheny County Courthouse, and the Point State park fountain?

Hand-Drawn Floor Plans of Popular TV Show Apartments and Houses
Iñaki Aliste Lizarralde, a Spanish interior designer, has hand-drawn a series of floor plans for popular television character residences.
Can you guess whose house this is?

Hand-Drawn Floor Plans of Popular TV Show Apartments and Houses

Iñaki Aliste Lizarralde, a Spanish interior designer, has hand-drawn a series of floor plans for popular television character residences.

Can you guess whose house this is?

Not to be confused with wit’ da Ack-a-mee grocery store chain prevalent in these parts, a very different sort fo ACME supplied provisions for WIl E. Coyote’s more hare-brained schemes to catch that elusive Roadrunner.

Rob Loukotka, an enterprising artist in Chicago, created a poster featuring sketches of all 126 ACME products ever “produced” — anvils, complicated explosives, a tornado kit, a rocket-powered pogo stick, everything.

Thankfully, his Kickstarter campaign to produce and sell the poster was a complete success. The world needs more ACME posters.

travelingcolors:

Wooden Cityscapes

American studio McNabb & Co based in Philadelphia has created this beautiful collection of wooden sculptures called “City Series”. Beautiful representations of buildings to explore in the following.

Beautiful cities.

This series from photographer Thierry Cohen shows what some cities might look like at night without any lights on.
Kinda reminds me that we on planet Earth are a part of this huge thing called outer space.

This series from photographer Thierry Cohen shows what some cities might look like at night without any lights on.

Kinda reminds me that we on planet Earth are a part of this huge thing called outer space.

Famed architect Furness also fascinated with the human facade

The Athenaeum of Philadelphia is the repository of working drawings by the great 19th-century architect Frank Furness.

Currently it has something more whimsical on exhibition. Bulging eyes. Prolonged noses. Mouths twisted in grotesque grimaces.

"He had a great way of looking at your face and finding the couple distinctive features about your cheeks, forehead, or nose, and stretching them to the point where you are recognizable but making you look — frankly — ghastly," said Michael Lewis, a professor of art history at Williams College.

Lewis curated “Face and Form: The Art and Caricature of Frank Furness,” a selection of drawings from Furness’ personal sketchbooks, most of which are privately held by his descendants and have never been seen publicly.

Throughout his long career as an architect, Furness constantly drew funny faces for his own amusement, often at the expense of friends, clients, and relatives who were the subjects of the drawings. The quick but deftly accomplished illustrations hang beside examples of his architectural work to show that an exaggerated chin and comically sloped forehead are echoed in the bold, expressive elements of his buildings.

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