The Naysayers by Alex Ross
Do Ho Suh in his studio
as the palace of versailles undergoes a monumental renovation, pierre delavie’s warped-perspective piece allows viewers to seemingly peer into the royal court gardens.
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"Warhol at the Glass House" Photographed by David McCabe in New Canaan, Connecticut, during the winter of 1964-65.
Here’s the story behind the photograph:
“Oh, he’s so fabulous, wait till you see his house,” Andy told us. “It’s been in all the magazines” The Glass House! You know, the Glass House, Philip Johnson’s Glass House. “It’s holding an open house on Sunday,” he said, as if it had a life of its own. An icon of modernism- and its creator, Philip Johnson, had invited us (or so Andy said).
And so, on the chilly Sunday afternoon in the winter of 1964-65, we –David McCabe, my sister Sarah, and I- go out to Connecticut to see Philip the Brazen in his famous glass slipper. Andy is already out there somewhere in the manicured wilds of Connecticut. Not the least of today’s agenda will be a photo op for Andy, the Glass House being essentially another stage set.
Early in the morning, we get to the Glass House. It is a cold, gray day. The Glass House has a fieldstone wall and a well-behaved lawn, too, just like all the other saltboxes and faux plantation houses- yet it stands out against the bland New England landscaping like a postcard of itself. Andy is nowhere to be seen. We are stumbling around the place. There are people in the Glass House, but we don’t know them, and they look very imposing. On top of this, we don’t really know if Andy has told them we’re coming, Andy being Andy. Plus, we don’t see Andy in the Glass House, and you can see everyone inside quite clearly, like figurines under a bell jar.
It isn’t a conventional house with a front door and a bell. With glass walls you don’t need a bell. Your alien presence on the immaculate green lawn is the bell. Unsure what we should do, we bump into one another like kinetic garden ornaments set in motion for the amusement of the people on the other side of the invisible wall. The Glass House looks oddly formidable. The common wisdom about people in glass houses feeling exposed is here turned on its vitreous head. It is we, the peasants gawking at the modernist symbol, who feel vulnerable and want to hide.
We creep around the estate looking for Andy. “I bet he’ll be in there,” says David, pointing to a low lying white guest house. The windows are in the shape of a portholes. We peek in. There is Andy in bed. In shades! I knew it. He never takes them of these days, even in bed.
The room has a shrine quality to it. It isn’t exactly cozy, more like the bed sacrificial virgin sleeps in the night before being ceremonially dispatched on the altar. The bed-spread is black leather, and above the head of the bed is a filigree wire sculpture by Richard Lippold- who had created, among other installations, Orpheus and Apollo, the five-ton bronze- bar-and-gold-wire sunburst that hovers over the lobby in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center. When Andy saw us looking through the window, he motioned for us to go around the door. Oh, that was the door? With modern architecture these things aren’t always that clear.
A clawlike hand reaches up from the corner of the porthole. Then an impish, close-cropped head. “Oh” says Sarah, “isn’t that David Whitney?” It is.
Andy walks us over to the Glass House. Inside, a group of dignified gents in chinos and Brooks Brothers shirts are sitting in echt-modernist chairs around a glass coffee table, proffering ex cathedra opinions on recent openings, the Beatles, Jackie Kennedy, and the weather. Sixties topics, but a very fifties scene. Except in certain highly evolved quarters, the great freight train of the sixties is only just starting to pull out of the station. After the exchange of art-world pleasantries, the gents get up and leave. Changing of the guard.
We can see a group of buildings in the shape of a staggered cross at the edge of the lake. We all go over to the windows-uh, walls-to take a look. The most interesting thing about the pavilion is the optical illusion. From the house it looked spacious and grand as if you could’ve held a summer ball in it. But that was the trick. “How big do you think it is?” Johnson asks. “Gee, I don’t know.” That was the right answer, Andy. “Well, would you be surprised if I told you the roof is only a little over six feet high?” “Oh, but it looks so big,” Andy says with feigned astonishment. But he already knew all about the trompe I’oeil building. It had been in all the magazines.
We walk down to the pavilion, and the scale-shifting effect is starting even when you know it’s coming. It’s an architectural conjuring job, a folly, its scale implying a much larger building. Andy stands under the miniature pavilion’s rood to have his picture taken, and his head almost touches the ceiling: Andy as architectural scale model in the off-scale pavilion.
As we walk back toward the Glass House, Andy says, “People always ask me, ‘How does he go to the bathroom in that place?” Andy knows there is a central core where the bath-room and all the other stuff is stowed. It’s just Andy being naughty.
The sun is going down on the Glass House, and it’s time for us to leave. As we depart, the courtly Philip Johnson seems strangely perplexed. Something has changed, and he isn’t quite sure “what it was or the meaning and the cause.” Something.
Carlo Mollino, Wooden Chair, “polished with visible grain” (1948)
Commissioned by Giovanni Michelucci in 1946 for Galleria Vigna Nuovo of Florence. It was also produced in a version with a slightly thinner back.