Friday, July 18, 2008

Analyzing More Old Stuff

July, 1989

I worked on the west side of Manhattan from October of 1987 until September of 1991. In those four years I passed the Javits Convention center regularly, and attended a few shows there as well. I usually went by early in the morning or late in the afternoon, on my way between the shop on West 44 and Penn Station. 11th Avenue is a wide street, ten lanes, with the expansive glass sprawl of the Javits running from 34th to 38th on the west side and the run-down warehouses, taxi garages and livery stables lining the east.

This picture is interesting because of the way we see the inside as well as the outside of the glass skin of the I. M. Pei convention center, plus the reflections of two distant buildings. The darker reflection at the bottom, of a building just across the street, also serves to give us a glimpse of the interior frame. Lastly, the warping of the glass gives an elongated, abstract appearance which makes the distant tower of the Empire State Building look like the spire of a Gothic cathedral.

November, 1989

At the risk of looking like a tourist, I spend a lot of time in Manhattan looking up, because when you do that in the right places, in the right part of town, at just the right angles, you can project yourself back in time forty, fifty, sixty years and more.

Madison Square is a good place to do that, there are enough old buildings in that area: the toy center, the Flatiron, the street clock on 5th Avenue. The park at Madison Square still looks pretty much like it did in the forties and fifties, I have some family pictures from back then, and the same black iron pipe railings mark off the pathways. And of course there's the Metropolitan Life building, with The Light That Never Fails. In 1989 it was still the headquarters of the MetLife company, before they bought the Pan Am building, and looking up at it from 24th Street like this instantly transports me back to the 1930's.


Anonymous said...

One challenge with the body of your work is that if a Martian were to land, it would believe that Manhattan is composed of a Downtown and a West side only. I know the East side is dull, I lived there, but if you take a walk around Yorkville or Germantown you can still find a few older buildings of interest. Or the view of Queens from the East River Drive. Or the park in Murray Hill. (It's there isn't it?)

Or not.

Anonymous said...

Oh, additional notes: Since I walk down 23rd Street weekly, I can tell you that it does not, any longer, appear reminiscent of a bygone era. It's quite high-rised and condo-ised and super-sized.
Also, a technical nit--the Metropolitan Life Building is Snoopy's building, the PanAm. This antique is the Metropolitan Life Tower. ....not that I thought anybody would confuse the two, least likely of whom would be you.

I also spent many hours earlier in the decade visiting CSFB, the primary tenant. I highly recommend you step inside and photograph the renovated lobby of both that and 11 Madison (the northern twin that never had the tower put on top.) They are magnificent. New York Life, two blocks up is okay too.