Silver Screen Scenes (4)

Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley is set in the late 1950’s. Highsmith was a Texas-bred, American novelist who is known mainly for her psychological crime thrillers which have led to more than two dozen film adaptations. The movie’s plot revolves around a New Yorker, Tom Ripley, a young underachiever who was a lavatory assistant, is sent to Europe to retrieve a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy, named Dickie Greenleaf. When Mr. Ripley’s errand fails, he takes extreme, bizarre, and unique measures to make the jet set lifestyle’s privileges his own. The strange, eerie and atmospheric cinematography, set design, and costumes fit the story beautifully.

The movie was mainly filmed in Italy with landmarks in the cities of Rome and Venice used as a backdrop for the narrative. Released in 1999, one of its initial reviews  by Andrew Sarris for The New York Observer writes, “On balance, The Talented Mr. Ripley is worth seeing more for its undeniably delightful journey than its final destination. Perhaps wall-to-wall amorality and triumphant evil leave too sour an aftertaste even for the most sophisticated anti-Hollywood palate”. Most critics, and more importantly, audiences agree that this film is an intelligent and suspenseful exploration of artistry, scenery, and ethics.

The backdrops and filming locations are described as “lusciously seductive”. Using a patchwork of European locales, the film recreates an Europe of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Mr. Ripley leaves from New York City to arrive in an Art Deco Palermo and then off to the the fictional Italian resort town of ‘Mongibello’. The director interprets this as the actual Ischia Ponte, Ischia, Italy.  Most of the street scenes are filmed in the closely San Rocco, Corricella, Procida, Italy. For complete information on the meticulously crafted locales, go HERE.

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At one point, Mr. Greenleaf stays at the ACTUAL St. Regis in Rome. European, Renaissance opulence at its finest.

Image found HERE.

The Bottega Veneta Suites at St. Regis designed by Tomas Maier, found HERE.

St. Regis Rome Designer Suite’s Living Room. Situated in Rome, the capital city of Italy and of the Lazio region.

Designer Suite Entrance to the St. Regis Rome, Detail, image found HERE. 

One can recreate the lifestyle by surrounding oneself with plush fabrics, italian busts, marble countertops, art deco accents, colorful facades, gilded mirrors, woven persian rugs,  atelier urns, ornate chandeliers, wicker cafe tables, European mannerist paintings from the 16th century. The key is lavish, exuberant, and ostentatious details! This bric-a-brac of items can be found throughout several scenes in the film, with a particular focus on mirrors (as an esoteric and philosophical challenge to Mr. Ripley…who is he?).  Believe it or not, comfort isn’t exactly what these spendthrifts are about.

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Art is powerful, cathartic, transcendental, revolutionary, divisive, galvanizing, unusual, and novel. Art has a million attributes and adjectives that make it awesome (I am aware of the excessive use of A’s in that sentence). Because the visceral reactions effused and emanated from artwork can be so striking, some people also believe that art can be dangerous. It happened recently when Catholic University in Washington banned the emotionally charged play “Angels in America” , The School Board of the Fremont Unified School District voted to not include “Angels in America” on its AP English Reading List because of its use of primarily gay characters, and the original playhouse that showed the then burgeoning show (Charlotte Repertory Theatre) has since been shutdown. This occurred due to blatant anti-homosexuality reactions and protests over public funding and whose company and government dollars are funding WHAT art.

The master bedroom of artist Julian Schnabel’s duplex, with Picasso’s Femme au Chapeau. During World War II, Picasso who resided in Paris then was banned from exhibiting his art as his art forms did not confirm to the Nazi views on art. Photographs by Robert Polodori. Image found in Vanity Fair, HERE.

“Plates from a book of Picasso works and a drawing by Eric Fischl hang above a pair of custom­made sofas in the living room; the vintage parchment-covered chairs are upholstered in a Rubelli fabric, the bamboo side tables are family heirlooms, and the rug is by de Gunzburg.” Photographer: William Waldron. Image found via Elle Decor, HERE.

This sort of reaction happened with shock artist Andre Serrano’s controversial work “Piss Christ” (which was still being vandalized as of 2011), The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili (and the ENTIRE “Sensation” show at The Brooklyn Museum in 2000), as well as Robert Mapplethrope’s 1989 National Endowment of the Arts’ funded retrospective The Perfect Moment. Who defines what is obscene, what is normal, and what is acceptable – the artist? the government? the patron?

Renee Cox , Missy at Home, 2008,76 x 101 cm. Jamaican-American artist Renée Cox’s depiction of Da Vinci’s famous, ‘The Last Supper’, entitled “Yo Mama’s Last Supper” (not shown above) included all the apostles as black men (sans one) and Renée herself serving as the centrepiece, posing naked in emulation of Christ. The image was considered banned in New York City by Rudy Guiliani until 2002, when Michael Bloomberg repealed a committee on morality. Image via Galerie Zidoun, HERE.

The National Endowment for the Arts was established in 1965. President Lyndon Johnson said upon signing the enabling legislation for the NEA, “We fully recognize that no government can call artistic excellence into existence…Nor should any government seek to restrict the freedom of the artist to pursue his own goals in his own way.” And yet…..20 grants have been controversial since the NEA’s inception (albeit out of TENS OF THOUSANDS)- and enough public funding has been openly questioned to shut down exhibitions, block a bevy of curse words, and challenge what it means to create something original.

Image from Elle Decor June 2006 of Jane Holzer’s home in Southampton, with vintage Hermès blankets, and photographs by artists Andres Serrano and Richard Prince, Photographer: Douglas Friedman. Found, HERE.

This dining room features tables by Maxime Old and mid-century orchestra chairs, as well as paintings by Chris Ofili (once banned and censored). The chandelier in the hallway was made from a basketball net by artist David Hammons.

The living room, by Joseph Matzo, Paul Vincent Wiseman and James Hunter, of The Wiseman Group, collaborated with architects Legoretta + Legoretta on a Maui house,October 2005. . The diptych is by Frank Stella. In a crazy series of events, Stella’s often quoted 1960’s phrase “What you see is what you see”, banned personal subjectivity and symbolism, this belief was the start of the abstraction known as minimalism – an intense reaction to post–World War II Western Art. Many of the shapes stella uses in his Polish Village series were from once banned Holocaust-era books; however Stella begs the user not to misconstrue his meaning or infer symbolism from a title. To my knowledge, Stella himself was never banned – although controversy has ensured over public funding of his ‘ugly’ works in South Korea HERE.

At one point or another Shel Silverstein, Walt Whitman, Richard Serra, Allen Ginsberg, Sandra Cisneros, Gwendolyn Brooks, Ani Difranco, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Marc Chagall, Lewis Carrol, George Orwell, John Milton, Voltaire, Dr. Seuss, and D.H. Lawrence have all been banned (to name a small few). Even before the days of the fantasy distopic novel Fahrenheit 451, wherein police officers burned books, Nazis were burning “so-called degenerate” artwork in huge pyres. According to Mallory Hellman in Let’s Go Paris, “A large amount of ‘degenerate art’ by Picasso, Dalí, Ernst, Klee, Léger and Miró was destroyed in a bonfire on the night of July 27, 1942 in the gardens of the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris.” Art work is a human’s self expression of individuality and autonomy. Any denial of ideas, creativity, and freedoms should be questioned. For a list of the more current visual art bans, try HERE or HERE or HERE.

Jane and Marc Nathanson hired designer Richard Hallberg to add a gallery for their art collection at their 1920s Art Déco Los Angeles residence, April 2007. The above living room’s fireplace is a 1960 Franz Kline oil. Andy Warhol (whose movies were banned in Boston and Chicago in 1960’s) and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1984-85 GE Tobacco Section is at left. Image found Here.

So as a big F*** You (censored myself, hahaha) to the past nonbelievers and haters of originality or genius – I present you with that idea of decorating with once banned artists. Free people, and create freely. Knowledge is power and ideas CAN be dangerous, but they CAN also be transformative. What is your stance?


Concrete Jungle

Concrete is a composite construction material composed primarily of aggregate, cement and water. Technically speaking, concrete is a heterogenous mixture that has several variations – it’s recipe can include sand, ash, pumice, silica, quicklime, pozzolanic ash, crushed limestone, and crushed granite (to name a few). The chemical process in which concrete solidifies and dries is actually (and ironically) called hydration. The substance and invention actually date from the Roman Empire – indeed the word comes from the Latin word “concretus” (meaning compact or condensed).  Apparently though, after the fall of the Roman Empire this technology became extremely scarce and all but forgotten until the 18th century – that’s thousands of years people!  HOW does something like that happen? The romans used the substance to shape domes, aqueducts, and archways. Several concrete bathhouses still stand from the era. That seems pretty advanced for the time period – and yet POOF! The discovery just disappears.

Via Knight Frank

In the town of Zwickau, Germany, concrete architecture peppers the rivers. Image found HERE. 

 LicenseCopyright All rights reserved by Ty Cole.

Brutalism was an architectural style that flourished in Critics of the style find in the 1950’s to the mid 1970’s. Many viewers found it unappealing due to its “cold” appearance, projecting an atmosphere of totalitarianism (this was the Cold War, folks). Others were upset that the material of concrete was used in residential areas as it lent itself easily to urban decay and graffiti.  Alison and Peter Smithson (British architects) coined the term in 1953, from the French béton brut, or “raw concrete”, a phrase used by Le Corbusier to describe the poured board-marked concrete with which he constructed many of his post-World War II buildings. To learn more about the styles origins, go HERE. 

Concrete is extremely susceptible to environmental damage. The mixes tensile strength can be damaged by wetness, sea water, freezing, and erosion. Today we have a bevy of materials that can hinder this process – however in the ancient days of yore – the Egyptians, and subsequently the Romans, learned to add horse-hair to the mixture in order to stop cracking.

A concrete wall becomes the new neutral. 

Reflective, glossy, air, and bright. Concrete becomes a minimal lover’s landscape. LicenseCopyright All rights reserved by Stebbi.

Concrete floors found in the Dutch Mountains, image via Design Milk HERE.

Brutal concrete stairs via Sisters Agency, HERE.

Sideboards by Eric Degenhardt for Böwer, image found HERE.

As far as being a decorative material, concrete actually can come in colors other than a drab grey! It all depends on the initial mix. Concrete even takes to staining, just like wood! The rock is also extremely energy efficient because it does not allow air seepage (like wooden house frames) – it can help to insulate and keep a building’s temperature constant.

A modern and white space complete with burnished and sleek concrete floors. The material takes on a natural and calming quality. Image found via House to Home, HERE.

This Spanish abode is 1/3 rustic cottage, 1/3 bohemian, 1/3 brutalist minimalism. Image found HERE.

Concrete loft in the West Village, NYC. Bricks, Concrete, Plastic, and Wood mingle in this airy space. Embrace materials. Found HERE. 

For the record, there is an abstractionist art movement called “concrete art”. It was first introduced by Theo van Doesburg in his “Manifesto of Concrete Art” (1930) – it has NOTHING to do with the rock mixture and EVERYTHING to do with casting off the strictures of interpretation. The art form aims to be devoid of symbolic influences or implications, in this way it is a concrete thought, not able to be read. Also affected by the varied uses of the word, “concretism”, is a practice of poetry wherein the visual arrangement of words form a pattern on the page are more importance than phonetic aesthetic. Oh the joys of the English language, etymology, and homonyms!

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