Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Empire State Building Shrinking


The Empire State Building Shrinking

Empire State Building, Once King of Midtown

The Empire State Building from High Line Park © Deborah Julian

Did you know that the Empire State Building reached its peak in 1931? By coincidence, that's just when the American economy was hitting bottom.
The Great Depression was at its worst across America. They moved in opposite directions.
It takes more time, though, to build a physical structure than it does to destroy a state of mind.
So, after only fifteen months, there it stood, the "Empty State Building," as wise guys called it.
The power was officially switched on remotely by President Hoover, who is also credited with bungling us into the Great Depression.
At 100 stories plus, the Empire State Building remained unprofitable for twenty years, from its birth in 1931 until 1951.
That made its success perfectly timed for me. Three years old, then, I'd hear references to the Empire State Building, it being the tallest and, therefore, the most American building, all the years I was growing up.
It seems to be getting smaller, these days, and - also - odder.
When I came to live in New York City in 1989, I arrived in the hometown of the Empire State Building.
You had the World Trade Center downtown, where nobody ever went, except for work and government, but the way the Empire State dominated the core of the city, Midtown, where all the action was, was inescapable.
(Image credit: The Empire State Building from the High Line, Copyright Deborah Julian, used with permission.)
It's shrinking now, a monument to memory, 1,454 feet of tower on a grid, an icon for tourists who remember, nostalgia that doesn't go away.
Unless otherwise Indicated, all images on Is The Empire State Building Shrinking are mine and may not be reproduced without specific permission from me. All rights reserved.

My First Time

Everyone Remembers Their First Time

When my wife and I drove from Buffalo to New York City as tourists for the first time, we went up to the top on a Sunday evening in autumn.
This was before the Empire State got oriented well as a tourist destination, and so, the crush that sends visitors into cattle pens in the basement, today, hadn't been born.
It was a clear, chilly evening. As the sun went down, you could see out to the Poconos across the congested lights of New Jersey. In the south, New York's poetically beautiful harbor opened to the Atlantic, the string of beaches from Sandy Hook down making the sparkling border between land and sea.
To appreciate the grandeur of Central Park, the most valuable undeveloped real estate in the world, you have to see how it consumes Central Manhattan in a view from the Empire State.
A few, scattered lights interrupting the tree-filled rectangle of darkness firmly holds back all the traffic and towers on its flanks.
Over in the East River, Roosevelt Island, the narrow sliver of rock on which they piled enough earth to build high rises, the place where my wife and I would eventually make our home, waited.
If New York is the center of the world, and it is, you saw its expansiveness and power best from the observation deck of the Empire State Building.
The view was so astonishing, it felt fanciful as soon as you left. It couldn't be.
We wandered over into Times Square and had something to eat at a Chock Full O'Nuts shop on Broadway. The contrast was so extreme, it couldn't hold.
Chock Full O'Nuts, Lindy's, Howard Johnson's - all soon collapsed under the weight.

Once The Greatest Building in America



9" Silver Pewter Empire State Building Statue, New York City Souvenir Statues and Gifts
9" Silver Pewter Empire State Building Statue, New York City Souvenir Statues and Gifts
If you're like me, you prefer your souvenirs already put together.

A Building Aways There, Dominating Midtown Manhattan

The Empire State Building As A State of Mind

My first job in New York was on Madison Avenue - the other one, the one without Mad Men.
Our offices were on a block alongside Madison Square Park, where I'd sit with squirrels for lunch, people-watching. Outside my bosses window, the newly gilded top of the New York Life Building glittered in the sun.
Across the park, the Flatiron Building, a piece of architectural genius, split Fifth Avenue from Broadway at 23rd Street.
It seemed that, walking in the area, the Empire State Building rose up over every intersection. Strong and solid, invincible, its footprint forced the orientation of everything else.
Once when an expansion meant that I’d be assigned a new, private office, out the window of which was a panoramic vision of the Empire State with aspiring competitors clustered around, I was excited.
Before I had time to wonder whether I could focus on my job under such conditions, that plan was scotched in favor of another, and I had to settle for glimpses of the Wonder of the World soaring above us I'd become used to.
Imagine how King Kong must have felt before being blitzed by aircraft.
My wife worked near the intersection of 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, and I used to walk up the slope to meet her after work. The rush hour foot traffic matched the congestion in the streets.
Don't Block The Box signs with warnings about fines struggled to keep the buses, trucks, vans, taxis and cars from freezing.
We pedestrians practiced the art of "playing the lights." The Walk/Don’t Walk signs were irrelevant. What mattered, in getting where you wanted to go, was your awareness of what the cars were and, often, were not doing.
The drivers' attitudes were similar. Moving past the signals wasn't all that dependent on the signal in front of you.
Ahead of me as I made my mental adjustments to walking up 5th Avenue, just after 5:00, was the Empire State Building, already awash in white light in winter. It was the generator of all this energy.
A grid of buildings, streets, cars and people spread from its firm footprint at 34th Street.
I've prayed many times in my life, usually in desperation or under duress, but I remember few as clearly, as joyful or as frequently repeated as this one:
"God," I used to say to myself, "don’t let this ever get to seem normal.

American Exceptionalism - To Be The Biggest, The Tallest, The Most American

From The Brooklyn Bridge To The Empire State

History's instructive and also subject to interpretation.
A fact of which I've long been aware is that, a century before I moved to New York, the tallest manmade structure in the city was the spanking new Brooklyn Bridge, completed in spite of the day's politics, a work so powerful it had to be completed.
The Brooklyn Bridge depended on insights learned by its designer, John Roebling, during the Civil War. Its immediate predecessor for tallness - Trinity Church, another icon that still stands near where Wall Street houses its nexus of international finance.
By the time the Woolworth Building passed the Metropolitan Life Building in 1913, an invention had changed everything about the future of New York City. The commercial elevator made New York possible as a vertical city, able to hold many more people than imagined.
Then, courtesy of August Belmont and the Rothschilds, New York City got a subway.
Look at a subway map, these days, and the many lines look like feeders for the towers in Manhattan, shuttling people in to work and back out to the other boroughs to raise their families and indulge in the pleasures of urban neighborhoods.
Chrysler Building Half-Moon / © Deborah Julian
That's what made the Empire State Building so perfect a symbol when it opened as New York City's tallest and most iconic building in 1931, beating out the Chrysler Building, which held the title for just eleven months.
I love the Chrysler Building, a perfect example of art deco extravagance, too. But it lost the competition and will never be as honored, despite and somewhat because of its gargoyles and references to the cars its owner built.
For all its solidity, the Empire State Building is working class, strong and steady.
It should be of concern to Americans, the way it seems to be shrinking, along with the working middle class it represents.

The New York Adventure, Discovering Contrast

In the last months of 1999, as one century pulled to a celebrated close, my wife and I returned to New York City after being away for a couple of years.
I landed a great job that allowed me to spend hours every day going from meeting to meeting with customers in buildings, new and old, all over town.
The views from some of the conference rooms were a challenge for paying attention to the business at hand. Glass towers with wraparound views dominated new construction, even after Time magazine foolishly declared Midtown "overbuilt"in the early 1990s.
In my first weeks, the receptionist at a prominent law firm asked me to wait in their conference room for my meeting with their IT Director. It was New Year’s Eve, and a deal had to be signed before the end of the day.
Looking out the 40th Floor window at Lower Manhattan drained all the panic out of me before he arrived.
The lobby of Navigators Insurance’s executive offices had a similar view, only higher up in One Penn Plaza. I used to hope I’d be forced to wait there for an extended period when I came for meetings.
A year after Navigators became my customer, their staff watched from that spot as the second plane smashed into the World Trade Center. Their horrifying view was panoramic.
From a more pleasant perspective, a nonprofit operation supporting the blind looked out over the entrance to Central Park at Fifth Avenue and 59th Street.
Across the way, the Plaza Hotel did something impossible. It became even more elegant from high above.
And, yes, while they still stood, I met with customers in both towers of the World Trade Center.
Invited into the CEO’s office after a sales conference, he invited me to look out his 101st story window at the Hudson and the emerging centers of commerce in New Jersey that thinned as the hills rolled up toward Pennsylvania.
We watched a helicopter fly by - below us.
What strikes you, as bright as some of the glass towers may be, is that they are designed to be looked out from, not looked up at in awe or admiration from the ground.
There's a separation from city life that can't be avoided. To go from one of the towers into the street feels like entering another world, the effect is so different.
Their lobbies are caverns for directing traffic to elevators, even those that strive to humanize with live music during lunchtime.
They may gleam, but they have no art. Or heart. The glass towers are utilitarian, functional. They evade the urban space buzzing around their feet.

As A Second City Rises

It's an easy thing to take a history lesson that you can mull for whatever insights you can gather. Here are some simple instructions.
Start out at the 5th Avenue entrance to the Empire State Building. The doors take you from the street into lobby where you pause immediately. It's a place intended to stop you in your tracks, an art deco design that’s meant to be appreciated, not simply walked through.
Savor this for a few minutes before you exit to 34th Street and take the two block stroll past Macy’s and all the commercial buzz around Herald Square, until you reach 7th Avenue and One Penn Plaza.
Built above the new Pennsylvania Station, a monument to utility and artlessness, a venue that ceaselessly shuffles passengers like tokens, One Penn Plaza has a lobby that is a salute to elevators.
Here, they are not tucked out of sight, as they are at the Empire State Building and 30 Rockefeller Center. Here, the elevators are little more than extensions of mass transit, efficiently lifting commuters into cube-dominated spaces.
If the working middle class is disappearing, it’'s into and out of, in the rinse, of office blocks and commercial plazas. Art and personalization are vanishing in the rush.
The Empire State Building may be disappearing with them.
And with that goes the America my generation grew up with. It would be better for us if the replacements had important dimensions other than height - like artful design and people friendly spaces.
Instead, it's all about utility, about getting people in an out with as little mix in the urban spaces as possible.

Conclusion

The Empire State Building is shrinking, and it isn't just that the new buildings will be taller and free to block views in a way it never did. It's that the esthetic are so diminished that artistic values are being reduced.
We are beginning to believe that taking the trouble to create greatness isn't worth all the trouble. And besides, it gets in the way of profits.
David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page
© 2014 David Stone



Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Secret of Edward Hopper's Life in Paintings And Prints

Secret of Edward Hopper's Life in Paintings And Prints

Edward Hopper, The Artist's True Story Behind His Paintings, Posters and Prints

Edward Hopper's paintings may be the most misunderstood among well-known artists. Rarely is what people love about them what he had in mind when he painted them.
Hopper, the man, is also one of the most misunderstood.
Mistaken as a romantic curator of city life or as a dreamy lover of landscapes and lighthouses, Hopper was far from easy to know nor was he charismatic.
He was a loner, who both depended on and resented his wife (without whom he might well have stayed unknown), a cold fish who created intense, emotionally touching artwork.
Note: Each of the posters and prints below is for sale. Just click an image for details.
The best collection of his paintings is owned by the Whitney Museum of American Art, and I've been lucky, as a New Yorker, to see them many times, aware of how they reflect his life story.
Hopper is considered a "realist," but he was more a surrealist. His most unforgettable works emerge from his own inner turmoil, especially his four decades of battle and armistice with his wife, Josephine, better known simply as "Jo."
It seems odd that a painter of such isolation and disappointment found the popularity that he did.
One of the two most likely reasons is that his paintings have a cinematic quality, including design elements with powerful, enigmatic symbolism.
His pictures, like the best movies, say something visually where words are insufficient and, interestingly, have become inspirations for scenes in films like Days of Heaven and Psycho (1960).
Tom Waits, one of my favorite musicians, used Hopper's Nighthawks as muse for a studio album full of subtly complex stories about urban life.
Another likely reason is that the Hopper paintings speak directly to a singular self within each of us that finds expression only through art. We feel like we know the Hopper doing the painting.
Edward Hoppers' realist symbolism has been replicated in so many other works, including variously re-imagined and hopelessly misunderstood versions of Nighthawks, a picture the painter said represented predators, not victims or lost legends, it seems likely he will be admired forever.
Probably misunderstood, too.

Edward Hopper Nighthawks

Nighthawks has been re-imagined and parodied to the point that it's basic look is familiar to plenty of people who never go to art galleries and couldn't tell you who Edward Hopper was.

Eddie and Jo Hopper, Mismatched Set

His private life had a lot to do with Edward Hopper's paintings.
Writers have often mentioned that the Hoppers were a genuinely odd couple. She was bright, lively, and outgoing, and he was grumpy, inward, and resentful.
Yet, they were exceptionally close and mutually antagonistic. All but for the brushstrokes, they collaborated on his paintings.
She was often his model and kept notes on the artworks in progress as well as everything else in their tumultuous life.
Jo managed his career of which he saw very little success before their marriage, but even as she subordinated her career to his, she also resented his arrogance.
The fact that final results of his efforts present so comprehensive a set of human qualities, however surreal, is a testament to their intimacy and collaboration.

Edward Hopper Lighthouses - A muse

Another subject Edward Hopper became famous for are his lighthouses. He painted many, and here again, in their isolation even while prominent in a crowd, we can see the subconscious poking into the everyday.

Lighthouse Hill- Edward Hopper - CANVAS OR FINE PRINT WALL ART
Lighthouse Hill- Edward Hopper - CANVAS OR FINE PRINT WALL ART
This view, seemingly from the shore in a rural landscape, has always been a favorite of mine. I'd like it, no matter what the subject was, the color composition and balance is so natural.

Edward Hopper Artist Paintings

A Small Gallery of Prints

Jo Hopper's observation about the man with whom she shared a life:
"Sometimes talking to Eddie is just like dropping a stone in a well, except that it doesn't thump when it hits bottom."
Jo Nivison Hopper.

1945 Rotogravure Shoreline Coast Lighthouse 5 AM Light Sea Ocean Edward Hopper - Original Rotogravure
1945 Rotogravure Shoreline Coast Lighthouse 5 AM Light Sea Ocean Edward Hopper - Original Rotogravure
Rotogravure is a kind of print, most often used for newspaper supplements. Here, it gives Hopper's painting a ghostly ambiance.

Edward Hopper, A Person Few People Know

Behind the Paintings

People tend to love Edward Hopper's work, rarely crediting Jo for her contributions, but seldom are they aware that, as an individual, he was seen as generally miserable and unpleasant to be around.
The reasons were consistent and obvious.
The actress, Helen Hayes, hardly known for biting commentary, had this to say:
"I guess I never met a more misanthropic, grumpy individual in my life."
Still, the paintings are sublime, penetrating, often beautiful and very easy to like. For me, understanding their roots better actually intensifies the enjoyment.

Best Edward Hopper Biography - insightful and informative.

Getting the real Edward Hopper, artist and husband, to step forward.

The Edward Hopper Few Knew


Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography
Edward Hopper: An Intimate Biography
An intimate as you can get look at understanding Edward Hopper.
The impression people have of him, based on his paintings, is so at contrast with the personality of the man who painted them, Hopper becomes as much mystery as legend.

In His Own Words - Edward Hopper

Hopper claimed to have more interest in the design elements in his painting, the actual architecture of the scene.
But he also said this:
"Great art is the outward expression of an inner life of the artist, and this inner life will result in his personal vision of the world. The inner life of a human being is a vast and varied realm."

Looking at the Art as It Relates to the Artist


Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist
Edward Hopper: The Art and the Artist
Intrigued by what you know and probably don't know about Hopper? Levin creates her own picture for the gallery with the best collection of Hopper's work in the world.

The Long Leg by Edward Hopper 24x36 Art Print Poster Wall D?cor American Museum Master
The Long Leg by Edward Hopper 24x36 Art Print Poster Wall D?cor American Museum Master
Hopper was popular for his images of the sea and, unforgettably, lighthouses.

(11x14) Edward Hopper Rooms by the Sea Art Print Poster
(11x14) Edward Hopper Rooms by the Sea Art Print Poster
Real or surreal? Beautiful, either way.
Do you have an Edward Hopper reflection you can share?

David Stone
Find all my books on my Amazon Author Page.