Saturday, August 27, 2016

Seville Studios

This may look like it's someplace in Spain, but it's in Greenwich Village, on Cornelia Street.

It has a plaque on the façade which reads "Seville Studios," but that's just a marketing gimmick. The building was built in 1850, and was a tenement building at the turn of the century. The façade of the lower two floors was redesigned by architect James H. Galloway to reflect a Hispanophile trend in the culture at the time. Residences, businesses, and products were given European names and faux-European design in order to convey a sense of Old World elegance and sophistication. In fact, a 1928 New York Times advertisement for this building promised "Old World atmosphere, New World conveniences."

The renovation of this building was part of the revival of Greenwich Village, during the late 1920s into the '30s, which yielded the charming and famous neighborhood it is now. Old, decaying brownstones were renovated, or "upgraded," and reimagined with Spanish-like stucco fronts and tiled roofs, or other European motifs.

In the process, a community of actual Spanish immigrants was displaced, as well as many bohemian-type artists and other minorities and ethnic groups. For example, the 1910 census shows 11 residents in this building, all of whom had ;blue-collar and working class jobs, and 9 of whom were listed as "colored." The 1930 census - after it had been transformed into "Seville Studios" - listed a college professor, an ad salesman, and an aviation draftsman, all of whom were white. I don't think the term "gentrification" had been coined at that time, but the pattern should seem familiar to anyone living in most cities today.

Research on this building from NY Times: "Which to Preserve, the Chicken or the Egg?" and Espanyu: "Eleven Cornelia Street: Too Spanish for Spaniards?"

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Chrysler Building

I don't usually do sketches of famous buildings and landmarks unless I can find an unusual or unexpected view, because, really, does the world need more images of the Empire State Building or whatever? And I generally find the back wall of some old warehouse or the water pipes of an old tenement building to be more interesting subjects anyway. But the Chrysler Building is my favorite skyscraper . . .

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lafarge Plant

Industrial plant on the New Jersey side of the Kill van Kull strait, seen from the Snug Harbor Dock in Staten Island.

I believe the tall towers belong to a company called Lafarge, which makes construction materials like ashpalt and concrete. Their website says, "Lafarge is committed to providing products using sustainable manufacturing practices and improving the environment in and around its plants. Through myriad projects at locations around North America, Lafarge has worked to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, restore wetlands for native plants and animals, and identify waste materials that can be recycled and used at Lafarge plants." I didn't see much evidence of that around this particular plant, which is just one of doszens along a stretch of the New Jersey coast which is miles and miles of giant industrial plants.

That's the World Trade Center in the distance.

Monday, August 15, 2016


Farrell's Bar & Grill, in Windsor Terrace. The business was founded in 1933, the year Prohibition was repealed, when the neighborhood was mostly working-class and Irish, and it remains an authentic old-man, blue-collar bar. Women weren't allowed until sometime in the 80s, though Shirley MacLaine famously forced her way in while filming some movie in the neighborhood. It was also famous for serving Budweiser (apparently, they only serve Bud) in giant styrofoam cups. New York City outlawed styrofoam cups last year; it's unclear if they've phased them out yet. It really doesn't look like the sort of place where someone like me would be welcome, but that's OK. Not everyplace has to be for everyone.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ride The Snail

Because what child doesn't dream of riding a giant snail?

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Crazy pipes

When I was an undergraduate student studying art, I was stuck for a semester with a terrible professor named Jan. The main reason she was a terrible professor was because she was from the school of art education that holds that teaching technique and process is stifling and limiting to creativity, and that the student should merely be inspired to discover and experiment and create. This sounds great on paper, and has inspired many romantic stories about the creative life, a la Dead Poet's Society. In reality, I find that it mostly just allows a lot of people to get away with a lot of bullshit, and leaves others (like myself) without the tools to actualize their creative ideas. It took me a long time to build that creative tool kit, and I'm still working on it.

The other reason she was a terrible professor was because she had very strong socio-political views that she insisted on imposing on the entire class. Not only would she preach about her ideas (some of which I agreed with), but she insisted that your art be about her ideas. But . . . one of her main things was about how industrial society seeks to control nature, so she had us drawing lots of plumbing and making etching of manhole covers and stuff like that, and I actually really took to it. To this day, I really enjoy drawing complicated conglomerations of pipes and plumbing, like this HVAC system at the Wild Project, a performance space in the Lower East Side.

I have no idea what any of these pipes or gauges or doo-dads do. I don't know why this stuff is on the ground floor in the front of the building, while the actual HVAC machine is on the roof in the back of the building. And I sure don't get that red wire, wrapped all around the entire length of the thing. Is that really how they teach you to do it in HVAC school?