A dazzling early-morning commute

Certainly more vibrant and kaleidoscopic than my sleepy 98 bus.

D A Pennebaker transformed documentary filmmaking. This is his first film
With its frenetic pace, early morning hues, avant-garde touches, and playful use of shapes and patterns, Pennebaker鈥檚 first short, Daybreak Express (1953), made for a precocious debut. The sounds of an eponymous Duke Ellington composition form the film鈥檚 clattering backbone, as Pennebaker crafts an urban mosaic from Manhattan鈥檚 soon-to-be demolished Third Avenue elevated train line. While more experimental than much of the work he would be celebrated for later, Pennebaker鈥檚 career-long knack for kinetic editing, adventurous storytelling and skilfully marrying music and images still permeates nearly every frame.

Daybreak Express

Mir贸 Mir贸 on the wall

New York’s Museum of Modern Art has a Mir贸 exhibition on currently.

Joan Mir贸: Birth of the World
Drawn from MoMA鈥檚 unrivaled collection of Mir贸鈥檚 work, augmented by several key loans, this exhibition situates The Birth of the World in relation to other major works by the artist. It presents some 60 paintings, works on paper, prints, illustrated books, and objects鈥攎ade primarily between 1920, the year of Mir贸鈥檚 first, catalytic trip to Paris, and the early 1950s, when his unique visual language became internationally renowned鈥攖o shed new light on the development of his poetic process and pictorial universe.

A little too far for me to visit, though they have a great set of images of the exhibition. (My favourites of his aren’t to be found, however.)

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Here’s a聽New Yorker article about the exhibition and the painting that gave the show its name.

Joan Mir贸鈥檚 modernism for everybody
The moma show focusses on that apotheosis with its eponymous star attraction. Mir贸 painted 鈥淭he Birth of the World鈥 in 1925, while in the company, and under the spell, of the circle of Surrealist poets and artists around Andr茅 Breton, who called Mir贸 鈥渢he most Surrealist of us all.鈥 It presents drifting pictographic elements鈥攁 black triangle, a red disk, a white disk, an odd black hook shape, and some skittery lines鈥攐n an amorphous ground of thinned grayish paint that is loosely brushed or poured and that soaks here and there into the unevenly primed canvas. The painting yields a sensation of indeterminate depth and expansiveness. It鈥檚 large鈥攎ore than eight feet high by more than six feet wide鈥攂ut feels larger: cosmic. You don鈥檛 so much look at it as fall into it. There had never been anything quite like it in painting, and it stood far apart from the formally conservative, lurid fantasizing of Salvador Dali, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, and other Surrealist painters.

Reading about Miro made me think of Calder and his mobiles, so I was pleased to see the article subsequently go off in that direction.

I remember being a little confused by the relative obloquy, among art-world cognoscenti, of a related and, to my na茂ve eye, equally wonderful artist: Alexander Calder, whose mobiles had taken Mir贸鈥檚 influence to literal heights, with variations on the Catalan鈥檚 repertoire of catchy, nature-allusive forms suspended in air. But I quickly absorbed a message that I must not take Calder seriously. 鈥

Mir贸 now squares up with Calder as an entertainer allergic to portentousness and even, each in his own way, anti-modern, given to timeless, simple pleasures of recalled childhood and artisanal tinkering. Mir贸 is fun. He earns and will keep his place in our hearts, rather exactly like Calder, with abounding charm.

Joan Mir贸: Birth of the World | MoMA exhibition

Taking his camera for a walk

You can’t beat a bit of New York street photography.

“Foot Traffic” by photographer David Nelson-Hospers
A great series from American photographer David Nelson-Hospers. Originally from Western Massachusetts, and currently residing in Brooklyn, “Foot Traffic” focuses on the flow of everyday life in New York City. Documenting the city streets and the people that crowd them he manages to highlight the social landscape and moments that are often overlooked.

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Part of me thinks it must be easier to find such captivating images in an interesting, visual place like New York compared to where I live. But a larger part of me thinks that’s just an excuse I’m making up to mask my jealousy/laziness/cowardice.

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Fancy going up in the world?

The Chrysler Building, the iconic art deco skyscraper in New York, is up for sale.

For sale: New York City’s second most famous skyscraper
The 77-story stainless steel-clad skyscraper, briefly the world鈥檚 tallest building after it was finished in 1930, is 90% owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council, a sovereign wealth fund, with developer Tishman Speyer owning the remainder. […]

The 1.26m sq ft building underwent a $100m renovation after Tishman acquired the property in 1997. Tishman later reduced its holding. The sovereign wealth fund paid $800m when it bought its stake in 2008.

$800,000,000 in 2008? Who knows what they’re asking for now. It’s an amazing building, though.

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Chrysler Building put up for sale
When the building was completed in 1930, it was the tallest building in the world, a title it held for about a year until the Empire State Building opened less than a mile away in midtown Manhattan. Today it is only the sixth tallest building in the city, and will drop down another notch later this year when a new office tower opens on the city’s west side. But it is still one of the city’s most recognizable buildings. It is famous for its triangle-shaped, vaulted windows worked into the stylized crown, along with its distinctive eagle gargoyles near the top.

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Chrysler building, the art deco masterpiece
A look at the famous building currently on sale.

The Guardian have also gathered together some wonderful images showing the development of New York from the turn of the century onwards.

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Rising high: the evolving skyline of New York City
Manhattan鈥檚 skyline is the most famous in the world. Its horizon has been interrupted by verticals from the first 10-storey office buildings in the late 1800s, and will only continue to rise higher.

Sign of the times

This is what happens when people stop paying attention to the details.

Holland Tunnel’s Christmas decorations are ‘OCD nightmare’
鈥淚 look at it and it makes me itch. It gives me anxiety and anger 鈥 why wouldn鈥檛 they just put [the tree] in front of the A?鈥 fumed Cory Windelspecht, 38, of Tribeca, whose change.org petition notes that between one and three percent of Americans have obsessive compulsive disorder.聽One guy told me he avoids it completely and takes the Lincoln Tunnel because of the decorations.鈥

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The perfect size and alignment of that first O sets expectations way too high. I can almost see where they were going with the triangular tree against the diagonal of the N, but that second wreath is inexcusable.

The petition Cory set up to sort this out has close to 2,000 signatories now.

Petition: Move the Christmas Tree on the Holland Tunnel from the N to cover the A
The entrance to the Holland Tunnel (One of the busiest enterance ways into America鈥檚 most populated and famous city) is a majestic site of architecture and history. A site that should be celebrated. However, every Holiday Season it is decorated with 2 wreaths and a Holiday Tree. But for some reason the tree is over the letter N in the word Holland instead of the letter A where it would fit perfectly. This one small thing triggers anyone with the slightest hint of OCD every time they enter the city. On top of that, it鈥檚 just unsightly and ruins the holiday festivities for people to enjoy on such a great piece of architecture.

Cory’s not the only one bothered by this.

Budweister hates the Holland Tunnel’s decorations too
鈥淲e stand with @WhosCory. This is what our Newark Brewery will look like until they #MoveThatTree. #TunnelNotTonnel,鈥 the Missouri-based company tweeted Wednesday, along with an image showing a wreath placed on top of the 鈥淯鈥 in its Budweiser sign and a triangular tree slapped above the 鈥淓.鈥