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Time revisited: series one

Posted by Chris Wray on Aug 31, 2009 in art, essays

In graduate school, I developed a series of essays and visual investigations on the concept of time. I thought it might be interesting to offer the following excerpts to my blog followers for your reflection and comment. At the risk of dating myself, nearly all my meaningful grad school work was done at the cusp of the digital revolution. High performance Mac desktops (remember the Mac II?) had just begun making their way into the graphic design scene. 3-D design software on the Mac platform was rudimentary at best, so I spent most of my creative hours building dimensional models in paper, foam-core and wire. I then photographed the models using an SLR 35mm camera with Ektachrome film (the significance of using Ektachrome slide film will be discussed in my next blog post).

My initial studies began with readings about the historical and cultural meanings of time. My body of work concluded with a more personal interpretation: time as a creative process and catalyst for growth.

Series One: Eastern and Western interpretations

I found the Eastern concept of time to be poetic and holistic. For example, the Chinese word for universe, (yǔzhòu), consists of compound characters that literally mean space-time. Chinese philosophers viewed the passage of time from eternity to present as zhòu and space in all directions, above and below as .

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Three pioneers in American photography

Posted by Chris Wray on Jul 13, 2009 in art

The three photographers Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, and Frederick Sommer irrevocably charted a new course in photography during the mid-twentieth century. Collectively, these photographers pushed classical photography beyond its traditional representational boundaries to one of pure abstraction and metaphor. I had the pleasure of recently seeing At the Crossroads of American Photography: Callahan, Siskind, Sommer, a featured exhibition at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA). According to SMoCA, this is the first full comparative exhibition of these three pioneers. All self-taught, Callahan, Siskind, and Sommer elevated photography to fine art, using seminal techniques and creative compositions to achieve remarkably fine art.

Paracelsus, © Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

Paracelsus, © Frederick and Frances Sommer Foundation

I found the exhibition, consisting of some 150 high quality prints, to be an intimate and meditative experience. While many of the works I had seen reproduced in art history books, several were heretofore unseen; on loan from private collections. A favorite work of my wife and mine is entitled Paracelsus. This gelatin silver print was created without a camera, using a synthetic negative. Listen to a detailed audio description of Paracelsus from the Norton Simon Museum.

At the Crossroads of American Photography: Callahan, Siskind, Sommer had been held over through August 9, 2009. If you’re in the Scottsdale area, this show is well worth the price of admission. A large format catalogue of beautiful reproductions is available from the SMoCA Store.

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Marienplatz: Munich’s city center since 1158

Posted by Chris Wray on Jun 20, 2009 in architecture and urban spaces

Located in the heart of Munich’s bustling city, Marienplatz (Mary’s Square) has been the city’s market center since the 12th Century. Today, old traditions intermingle with new as vendor stalls dot the pedestrian mall next to trendy fashion boutiques. Marienplatz is a must-see destination when visiting Munich. During my recent visit to Munich, I took the U-Bahn underground rail system to the Marienplatz stop, a major transportation hub that serves the urban and suburban mass transit lines. As you disembark, you walked through an ultra-modern subway tunnel with glistening orange ceramic tiles, then up the escalator to the street level of Marienplatz, where you’re greeted by Gothic architecture—what a visual contrast!
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Railyard Santa Fe: rebirth of a vibrant district

Posted by Chris Wray on May 30, 2009 in architecture and urban spaces

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With the rapid decline of railroad transportation in the early ‘80s, rail districts throughout the U.S. slid into urban decay. The rail yards and adjacent neighborhoods of Santa Fe, New Mexico were declared a blighted area in 1987, characterized by property abandonment, unemployment, crime, and barren urban landscapes.

Fast-forward twenty years and you will see the same urban geography has been redefined by a vibrant, revitalized community. The design process involved hundreds of participants: citizens, land planners, architects, and city council members. The resulting redevelopment—dubbed The Railyard Santa Fe—incorporates an eclectic mix of performing art venues, restaurants, retail, art studios and galleries, a permanent structure for Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, and 13 acres of open space including a park, plaza, and pedestrian promenade.

During my recent trip to Santa Fe, I visited The Railyard and was surprised how well the redevelopment project integrates with the surrounding urban and natural landscape. The hard-edged, rugged look of the buildings reflects the city’s intention to preserve the industrial feel of the original rail complex. The shinny corrugated metal surfaces, exposed hardware, and strong rectilinear walls unexpectedly harmonize with the prevailing adobe architecture.

The multi-use Railyard Park is a real gem, with its eco-friendly, drought-resistant garden with outdoor performance and picnic areas, playground, and walking-biking trails. Original iron rails and rusted rail car wheels are cleverly integrated into the linear walkways and gardens.

The Railyard marks its one-year anniversary this September. Enjoy my picture gallery (click on the water tower image) and let me hear your comments. For more information on The Railyard, visit www.railyardsantafe.com.

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Motion in repose: sculpture revisited

Posted by Chris Wray on May 21, 2009 in art

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I’m revisiting some early wooden sculptures I built. More accurately these works are assemblages, as they incorporate found objects (rock and rope) along with wooden forms that I’ve created.

My work reflects a fascination with physical properties: weight, mass, force, and gravity. I feel mechanical devices best demonstrate the qualities of motion because they embody the principles of physics. I was also inspired by the invention drawings of Leonardo da Vinci.

What does it all mean? Well, as a child I spent hours pulling apart old watches, clocks, electric motors and the like in an effort to understand how they worked. This inquisitiveness gave way to understanding and further curiosity as I examined the contraptions, their connections, articulations, and transference of forces. It is this phenomena of intrigue that I want to convey in my artwork. More specifically, my assemblages are a celebration of human curiosity, exploration, and invention.

I feel that my wooden sculptures bridge the gap between design, art, and science. Although the work is subjective, it nonetheless addresses universal experience of intrigue. Have a look at the gallery of images and let me know what you think.

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Contractor Blooper of the Year Award

Posted by Chris Wray on May 11, 2009 in architecture and urban spaces

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I thought I’d start off my architectural photo blog series on the lighter side. Click on the adjacent photo and have a look at the gallery of contractor mishaps from around the world. Let me know which one you think qualifies for Contractor Blooper of the Year Award.

And the nominees are…

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The Kelsey Excelsior: A Brief Ode to the Letterpress & Memory of James Trissel

Posted by Chris Wray on May 4, 2009 in essays

The Kelsey letterpress represents a last modern vestige of early printing technology. Based on Gutenberg’sicon_external_link movable type invention of the fifteenth century, the letterpress uses individually cast, reusable letters set together letter-by-letter, word-by-word to form blocks of text that are pressed onto wet paper. With great patience and skill, the letterpress page can become a work of beauty—combining the visual and literary arts.

Kelsey Excelsior 5 x 8 tabletop letterpress

Kelsey Excelsior 5 x 8 tabletop letterpress

As hobbyists, my parents purchased a Kelsey Excelsior 5×8 tabletop letterpress during the late 1950s. Together they created personalized stationery, greeting cards, and even my birth announcement. These handmade ephemera represented the state-of-the-art in personal desktop publishing during the mid-twentieth century.

I developed my appreciation for the letterpress and book arts during my freshman year at Colorado College. I spent many hours hand setting type for poetry broadsides and limited edition books under the guidance of Jim Trissel, founder and proprietor of the Press at Colorado College from 1977 until his death in 1999.

Today, as a marketing manager for a hi-tech company, I am consumed with internet communications: search optimization, web analytics, and the obsession for “sticky” web content—topics seemingly far afield from the aesthetics and tactile beauty of the letterpress. Yet Jim’s mentoring taught me that the art of the letterpress is not something to be rushed. It is carefully planned and executed in a deliberate and precise manner. Fine letterpress work is as much science as it is art. Jim instilled in me a sensibility for good typography and an understanding of a well-balanced page—skills that I invoke daily as a professional designer.

While the pervasiveness of electronic communication calls into question the future of the printed word, I am certain the letterpress arts will endure for they educate and inspire. They are art forms born of a guild tradition that brought forth matchless beauty from press beds beaded in sweat and perfumed by mineral spirits.

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Monopoly! Mike Daisey’s brilliant monologue

Posted by Chris Wray on May 4, 2009 in reviews

I was awed by Monopoly!, a hilarious and riveting one-man performance performed recently in Colorado Springs. Written by master storyteller Mike Daisey, this 100-minute monologue brilliantly weaves his own autobiographical stories with seeming disjointed historical tidbits, which in the end, reveal a profound and unified tapestry of philosophical and historical events.  In Daisey’s own voice, he brings to life George Parker of Parker Brothers Monopoly fame, inventors Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, the quiet genius Nikola Tesla, and even billionaire Bill Gates in an unscripted and extemporaneous tale that leaves you howling with laughter, and by the end, inspired by Daisey’s sublime poetic verse.

Have a peek at Invincible Summer, Daisey’s sharp-witted, personal accounts of New York City.

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