Friday, May 28, 2010

Famous Rides

For the first time this year I went to the New York International Auto Show on the second Press Day. Holy crap. This is like night and day. I really couldn't believe it. When the show is open to the general public, it's complete insanity. Every car--and especially the really cool ones--is literally crawling with people. If you've ever been there, you know: it's thousands of people--mostly kids, mostly teenagers, mostly rednecks--thousands of them milling around every booth. You can barely see anything. Forget about sitting in the driver's seat of any car that might be remotely interesting unless you want to wait a half hour.

Even the first Press Day was presumably a little busier than this. The second was almost surreal. There were times when I thought I might be the only person in the entire Javits Center who didn't work there. I would quite literally be the only person--particularly on the lower level with the utility vehicles--in booth after booth after booth. It was so easy, pleasant, and quick to walk around and see everything that I actually sat in quite a few vehicles. I was able to really eat up everything I was seeing. There's no question I'll be doing this every year from now on.

I've decided to do something very silly to start the posts for the Auto Show. I'm going to begin with the Dezer Collection Museum & Pavilion in Miami. They actually have quite a few impressive things in their collection. Aside from a whole slew of bizarre, obscure vehicles like Messerschmitts and things, they also have some great cars from movies and TV shows.

This wasn't at the show, but they have the 1981 Cadillac hearse from
Terminator 3:

Let me tell you something right now: I would TOTALLY drive this around and would get the greatest kick ever from telling people who asked what happened to the car that the Terminator shot it all up.

They also have General Lee 1969 Chargers from
The Dukes of Hazard, which also weren't at the show as far as I can remember. The regular model:

And the stunt model:

The exterior of the stunt car, for obvious reasons, looks essentially the same. The main difference is how pared down and heavily padded its interior is.

At the show they had the
Speed Racer car:

There was also the Monkeemobile 1966 Pontiac GTO:

I never liked The Monkees because I never found them funny or charming, and the show was such a sad rip-off of Hard Day's Night and Help! that I just could never get past it (Neil Diamond's songwriting notwithstanding). Anyway, it is sort of cool that it has this big old lounge in the back:

And then they had the KITT 1982 Trans Am from
Knight Rider:

This one also had a surprisingly basic interior. It looked like the dashboard for a horseless carriage from 1893 or something.

I loved this show SOOO much
when I was a kid. Looking back, it was really quite a stupid show, but seeing the car in person still took me back. The rep offered to take my photo with it, but I'd forgotten my camera.

It's actually kind of sad looking back on all those shows I had romanticized from my youth, CHiPs, Three's Company, Knight Rider, Dukes, I was never wild about The Facts of Life or Diff'rent Strokes, but I watched them [EDIT: Sort of spooky that I thought to mention that last show only one day before its star passed away]. They're all just so painfully one-dimensional and horribly morally self-righteous. Those final scenes where everybody learns a very important lesson just make me want to wretch. The only ones that seem to still hold up in comparison are All in the Family, which was just so brilliantly written, or the ones that were wonderfully campy: Buck Rogers, Wonder Woman, Brady Bunch. I need to check out The Six-Million Dollar Man again to see how that one fares in retrospect. I still remember my Steve Austin action figure. If any of you had one also, you'll remember just how freaking awesome it was.

Dezer also had in their booth a Batmobile from one of the movies, and the Munsters' Drag-u-La. I never really liked
The Munsters much either. They were sort of the trailer trash version of the Addams, who were way cooler and had so much more class. But it was still sort of fun to see it.

©2010, Ryan Witte

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Peddle the Metal

Well, this is a crazy busy time of year, and I've been working on a pretty big project which you'll hear about soon enough. So I'm getting way behind on my posts. I hope to remedy that in the next few months.

To start discussing the Architectural Digest Home Design Show, I thought I'd return quickly to a designer I've posted about before, Denis Collura. I think I've bumped into Denis every year since I first noticed his work, and I'm pleased to say that he's become a very good professional acquaintance. I always enjoy talking to him and his work is consistently fantastic.

As his work progresses, it seems to be getting more robust, more muscular, and more mechanically sophisticated. Honestly, in all these years, I don't think I've seen a single designer do hardware better than this guy, and I've seen quite a few. A new piece this year, "Burst," shows off his talents beautifully:

--Click images for larger.
There's something very visually familiar--almost Rococo or something--in what he's doing. At the same time, there is no question that this fixture is entirely new. I think that's what I love most about it.

It's difficult to see from this angle, but there are a few different lengths of arm. The first tier is rotated into a different position from the second, so they overlap in an intriguing way: there's something very straightforward and simple about this, but it's executed in a way that it becomes more complex, but without being loud about it.

I was terribly impressed by the "Gustav" lights, both wall-mounted and floor:

The mechanical operation of these pieces has become a stylistic element of their design. It's taken Collura's metalwork to a whole new level, which I find exciting.

--Definitely click on that to see how forceful it is.
Not so much with the nickel wall version, but when I first saw the brass one, I told him it looked sort of Steampunk to me. The only difference being maybe that the brass isn't antiqued, and of course, the lampshade.

If you held a gun to my head and forced me to come up with something I'd improve upon in these pieces, I'd have a very difficult time. But I think I'd have to say the shades. That's not to say that they don't often work perfectly. In fact, in most cases, they beautifully amplify what's so great about this work: the fact that it pulls from so many and such disparate historical references. In other cases, I wonder if the shades don't fall a little bit short of the exquisite craftsmanship of the hardware and get swallowed up by it.

The first thing that popped into my head was a collaboration. But it would be very difficult to find existing work by another designer that compliments Collura's, remains true to the stylistic vision, and wouldn't overshadow it, either. It's a big shoe to fill. Some of the most interesting work in lampshades that I've seen is by a British company called Noodle, but stylistically that's all wrong, and they appear to have gone out of business, unfortunately.

Now I'm thinking I can imagine something that, from afar, would have this late-1950s/ early-'60s sensibility that works so perfectly, but upon closer inspection, reveals itself to be some crazy, high-tech DuPont fabric with metallic and glass fibers in it. I imagine also fabric with metallic fibers that mimic the detailing in the metal hardware. Or, since I'm always fascinated with CNC technology, complex three-dimensional textiles.

As I indicated, this is truly a minor point. In whatever direction in goes, I'll be watching anxiously to see how Collura's work evolves.

©2010, Ryan Witte