Leslie Buck, designer of New York’s iconic coffee cup, died Monday…
It was for decades the most enduring piece of ephemera in New York City and is still among the most recognizable. Trim, blue and white, it fits neatly in the hand, sized so its contents can be downed in a New York minute. It is as vivid an emblem of the city as the Statue of Liberty, beloved of property masters who need to evoke Gotham at a glance in films and on television. It is, of course, the Anthora, the cardboard cup of Grecian design that has held New Yorkers’ coffee securely for nearly half a century. Introduced in the 1960s, the Anthora was long made by the hundreds of millions annually, nearly every cup destined for the New York area. A pop-cultural totem, the Anthora has been enshrined in museums; its likeness has adorned tourist memorabilia like T-shirts and ceramic mugs. Like many once-celebrated artifacts, though, the cup may now be endangered, the victim of urban gentrification.
The Anthora seems to have been here forever, but in fact, it was first designed by Mr. Leslie Buck for the Sherri Cup Company in Kensington, Conn. Mr. Buck’s cup was blue, with a white meander ringing the top and bottom; down each side was a drawing of the Greek vase known as an amphora. (“Anthora” comes from “amphora,” as filtered through Mr. Buck’s Eastern European accent, his son said.) On front and back, Mr. Buck emblazoned the Anthora with three steaming golden coffee cups. Above them, in lettering that suggests a Classical inscription, was the Anthora’s very soul — the motto. It has appeared in many variant texts since then; Mr. Buck’s original, with its welcome intimations of tenderness, succor and humility, was simply this:
We Are Happy
To Serve You
Laszlo Büch was born on Sept. 20, 1922, to a Jewish family in Khust, then in Czechoslovakia. (It is today in Ukraine.) His parents were killed by the Nazis during World War II; Laszlo himself survived Auschwitz and Buchenwald. After the war, Mr. Buck made his way to New York, where he Americanized his name and ran an import-export business with his brother, Eugene, who had also survived the camps. In the late 1950s or thereabouts, the brothers started Premier Cup, a paper-cup manufacturer in Mount Vernon, N.Y. Leslie Buck joined Sherri Cup, then a startup, in the mid-’60s. Originally the company’s sales manager (for a time, he was its entire sales force), he later became its director of marketing.
Sherri was keen to crack New York’s hot-cup market. Since many of the city’s diners were owned by Greeks, Mr. Buck hit on the idea of a Classical cup in the colors of the Greek flag. Though he had no formal training in art, he executed the design himself. It was an instant success. Mr. Buck made no royalties from the cup, but he did so well in sales commissions that it hardly mattered, his son said. On his retirement from Sherri in 1992, the company presented Mr. Buck with 10,000 specially made Anthoras, printed with a testimonial inscription. In recent years, with the gentrification of the city and its brew, demand for the humble Anthora has waned. In 1994, Sherri sold 500 million of the cups, as The New York Times reported afterward. In 2005, the Solo Cup Company, into which Sherri had been absorbed, was selling about 200 million cups a year. Today, Solo no longer carries the Anthora as a stock item, making it only on request. Other companies still turn out versions of the cup, though not in the quantities of its 20th-century heyday.
did 21 months for forging Basquiats, then moved to China…
“I never liked Basquiat’s work much… I just knew instinctively it was something I could for — an easy way to make a quick 20 grand.”
The first thing that catches Alfredo Martinez’ attention outside Beijing’s hulking Military Museum is a 400-foot-long Scud missile on a trailer to the right of the entrance. “The Russians didn’t have GPS, so these are just guided by gyroscopes, which means they’re ‘guided’ in the sense that they’ll land anywhere from two to five miles from their target.” A quick discourse on gyro synchronous orbits comes next, followed by an anecdote from the two and half years Martinez spent at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for forging Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings, among other things. While incarcerated he met a Georgian who’d been the first mate on a Russian nuclear submarine before becoming a Brighton Beach mobster. In the navy the Georgian had been an overachiever and wanted to get everything shipshape so he examined the housings of the missiles only to find out the crew had siphoned off the alcohol from the gyroscopes and replaced it with urine and seawater. What would have happened if the missiles had been launched? “It would have looked like a Roman candle.”
Climbing aboard a nearby Chinese copy of a Russian PT boat equipped with roughhewn Exocert water skimming missiles that resemble a high school metal shop project, he’s quick to point out a Type 90 twin-35mm anti-aircraft Chinese copy of a Swiss Oerlikon Bofors gun with a feed way for three bullets. “It operates like a gigantic zip gun, the spring wraps around the barrel, and you have to crank it to cock it. It’s all hydraulic.” The gun’s chair is small, Chinese size, and makes the 6’3” Martinez look monstrous, especially compared to the diminutive Chinese children running around the boat. A former Army corporal, convicted felon, instigator of and participant in Mad Max-like junk jousting tournaments in New York’s Joseph Petrosino Square in the early 1990s, and an artist who fabricates working guns, he has been curating shows and making new art in China for a year. A dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker who’s decamped to the People’s Republic partly for its psychic resemblance to the more chaotic and rougher New York of yore, he has a sophisticated cosmopolitan aspect to his character that belies his childlike obsession with guns. He’s also sarcastic and ironical, two decidedly “Western” rhetorical strategies that sometimes seem utterly foreign in China, as well as possessed of a cutting, occasionally extremely corny wit. When asked, “How’d you get to China?” he deadpans “On a plane” and when told a French friend had enthused that some Martinez drawings he’d seen in Paris were “hallucinant” and “amazing” he says, “Me and Jerry Lewis, big in France.”
I ask him if he was into Janes reference book as a kid and he rolls his eyes to indicate the question is so obvious it’s undeserving of an answer. “I first saw Janes when I was seven, around the time I started drawing. I never progressed to drawing naked girls.” Besides Janes, how does he know so much about guns? “I grew up in a bad neighborhood.” Sunset Park, where he later ended up serving time. There were also the rewards of Reading, Pennsylvania, the comparatively idyllic community to which Martinez moved with his family as a teenager. A man who worked for Lyndon LaRouche was investigating some overdue military reference books from the public library that had disappeared, leading him to 16-year-old Alfredo. They became friends, and with that came the gift of a huge collection of gun magazines.
Martinez looks around the deck the PT boat, studying details and musing, “This is what the U.S. is worried about, these kinds of boats attacking shipping. It’s 1950s technology that still poses a danger and they’ll still be dangerous in one hundred years. They’re cheap, tough to spot, and it’s easy to train the crews. It’s the naval equipment of a pistol—you can still assassinate someone with a pistol and you can take out an aircraft carrier with one of these.” Martinez seems fascinated and amused by all the “old technology dangers” in the world that are just as terrifying and destructive as the more spectacular ones governments tend to emphasize.
Inside the museum’s grand hall, the centerpiece is an upright V-2 that doesn’t appear very different from the Scud outside. Arrayed around it are sundry fighter planes, tanks, and other military vehicles, all appearing a bit worse for the wear. Their shabbiness is striking considering this is the country’s biggest military museum. We inspect a Chinese equivalent of the M1 tank, a modernization of the Russian T-72. “These have a larger turret. Everybody hated how small the T-72 turret was. Have you ever seen a tank soldier? They’re like four feet tall. That’s a T-62, like the tank from the famous Tiananmen Square photo.” Then it’s on to some rumination on the problem of Explosively Formed Penetrators defeating the M1’s armor. “They’re a copper disc shaped like a lens in a can with plastic explosives, about the size of a can of baked beans. A doorbell chime beam sets it off and the explosion forms a core of molten copper that slices through the cobalt armor like butter. The army lost over one hundred tanks in Iraq, and now they all stay on base. The appeal of the Striker Brigades is they’re much cheaper than tanks but they still have a gun that’s big enough to fuck with people. My main fixation is anything that has a gun.”
the full article continues here…
never talk to strangers…
The aliens are out there and Earth had better watch out, at least according to Stephen Hawking. He has suggested that extraterrestrials are almost certain to exist — but that instead of seeking them out, humanity should be doing all it that can to avoid any contact. The suggestions come in a new documentary series in which Hawking, one of the world’s leading scientists, will set out his latest thinking on some of the universe’s greatest mysteries. Alien life, he will suggest, is almost certain to exist in many other parts of the universe: not just in planets, but perhaps in the centre of stars or even floating in interplanetary space.
Hawking’s logic on aliens is, for him, unusually simple. The universe, he points out, has 100 billion galaxies, each containing hundreds of millions of stars. In such a big place, Earth is unlikely to be the only planet where life has evolved. “To my mathematical brain, the numbers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational,” he said. “The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like.” The answer, he suggests, is that most of it will be the equivalent of microbes or simple animals — the sort of life that has dominated Earth for most of its history.
One scene in his documentary for the Discovery Channel shows herds of two-legged herbivores browsing on an alien cliff-face where they are picked off by flying, yellow lizard-like predators. Another shows glowing fluorescent aquatic animals forming vast shoals in the oceans thought to underlie the thick ice coating Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter. Such scenes are speculative, but Hawking uses them to lead on to a serious point: that a few life forms could be intelligent and pose a threat. Hawking believes that contact with such a species could be devastating for humanity.
He suggests that aliens might simply raid Earth for its resources and then move on: “We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach.” He concludes that trying to make contact with alien races is “a little too risky”. He said: “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”
The completion of the documentary marks a triumph for Hawking, now 68, who is paralysed by motor neurone disease and has very limited powers of communication. The project took him and his producers three years, during which he insisted on rewriting large chunks of the script and checking the filming. John Smithson, executive producer for Discovery, said: “He wanted to make a programme that was entertaining for a general audience as well as scientific and that’s a tough job, given the complexity of the ideas involved.”
Hawking has suggested the possibility of alien life before but his views have been clarified by a series of scientific breakthroughs, such as the discovery, since 1995, of more than 450 planets orbiting distant stars, showing that planets are a common phenomenon. So far, all the new planets found have been far larger than Earth, but only because the telescopes used to detect them are not sensitive enough to detect Earth-sized bodies at such distances. Another breakthrough is the discovery that life on Earth has proven able to colonise its most extreme environments. If life can survive and evolve there, scientists reason, then perhaps nowhere is out of bounds.
“STEPHEN HAWKING’S UNIVERSE” begins sunday 5.9.10 @ 9pm on the Discovery Channel — check their website for clips and renderings of Hawking’s ideas…
Shepard Fairey’s “May Day” (opening 5.1) will be the final show at Deitch Projects — as Deitch is taking over as director of LA MOCA…
stills taken from “They Live” starring “Rowdy” Roddy Piper…
What else is there to add to the volume of words dedicated to the art, commerce, and character of iconic American artist, Shepard Fairey? People remember where they saw their first Andre the Giant sticker, some of us more than 20 years ago; and certainly the dust-up over the Obama poster can’t have escaped anyone’s notice.
What is worth noting about Fairey’s work is the balance he has struck over the years between challenging himself and expanding his horizons as an individual artist, while keeping the world’s most recognizable style-and-brand empire in business. Now the juicy art/commerce, rebel/royalty cage match gets even more meta, as Fairey opens a new body of work on the salient theme of May Day, at the imminently closing Wooster Street Deitch Projects.Fairey will be the first to tell you — his game-changing visuals are as much about commerce as they are about art.
Piper with Andre…
Years before the kerfuffle over the authorship and/or originality of his iconic Obama poster, Fairey was incurring the wrath of fine-art traditionalists and social progressives alike for his brazen fusion of progressive social politics and a desire to make a living. How could pictures inspired by Communist history that purport to ignite the free exchange of ideas be sold for money? How could a street artist still claim populist cred once he’s been in a museum? How can printed posters and sticker-tossing street teams ever be real art? Answering his critics with both inspired words and high-profile deeds, Fairey labors on and in true OBEY style, he’s opening up a pop-up shop downtown. Whether it’s a cynical commercial opportunism, or a god-send to east coast fans who can’t afford to shop at Deitch, is entirely a matter of opinion.
“THEY LIVE” 1988 directed by John Carpenter
the first American museum exhibit devoted to photographer Miroslav Tichý is on view now at the International Center of Photography, NYC…
“the mistake is a part of it, it is poetry… for that you need a bad camera”
Born in Moravia in 1926, Tichý studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts (SVU) in Prague in the years immediately following the Second World War. After Czechoslovakia’s adoption of communism in 1948, he left the Academy and turned his back on the official art world, withdrawing from mainstream society, in part as a political response to the social and cultural repressions of the regime. Regarded as a talented painter and draftsman influenced by Picasso and the German Expressionists, Tichý did not agree with the prevailing socialist realism of the day, instead forming an artist collective known as the Brněnská Pětka (Brno Five) with other likeminded SVU alumni.
Constantly threatened and watched by the regime, the group took great risk in producing their work, even holding a clandestine exhibition in the Kyjov hospital in 1956. Tichý benefitted from the small, yet vibrant, cultural scene of Kyjov, taking in dance performances, plays, and beginning his first photographic experimentations with the artist Ladislav Víšek. Prone to mental breakdowns since his youth, Tichý worked alongside his peers until an apparent psychotic episode just before a planned exhibition in 1957 from which he withdrew his images. His work was not exhibited again until nearly four decades later. Over the years, his deliberately nonconformist lifestyle—as well as his mental illness—landed him in trouble with the authorities and led to periods of confinement in psychiatric institutions and the loss of his studio in 1972.
Living in near isolation in his hometown of Kyjov, Tichý conceived a world populated by images of the local women, taking thousands of photographs from the 1960s through the late 1980s. Though he never stopped producing paintings and drawings, Tichý focused the majority of his attention on the photographic medium, practically reinventing it to suit his artistic vision of capturing the feminine essence with light. Save for the film, chemicals, and photographic paper he bought from a nearby drugstore, all his photographic equipment was self-made. Using cameras inventively constructed from found materials—shoeboxes, tin cans, clothing elastic, toilet paper rolls, even cigarette boxes—Tichý obsessively returns to the subject of the female form, whether viewed from afar with his makeshift telephoto lenses, or captured from the television screen. His intuitive method of photographing during daily walks about town might appear amateur in ambition, but the intensity, frequency, and regularity with which he creates reveal a unique and distinctly personal style of photography.
Despite his camera’s crude optics—the lenses were cut from Plexiglas polished with sandpaper, toothpaste, and ashes—and skewed framing, the resulting images are formally complex, reflective of Tichý’s early art training, and vaguely reminiscent of the early works of the classical pictorial tradition. His images of women—often in bathing suits, bare-legged, or simply walking about town—are subtly erotic, taken from afar, often without the knowledge of the subjects. Tichý often embellished the surfaces and borders of these scratched, blurred, torn, and spotted images by drawing directly on them in pen or pencil, heightening the expressive quality created by his imperfect equipment. Sometimes framed or mounted on newspaper or cardboard, these highly personal objects were created for his own viewing pleasure, each negative printed only once with a homemade enlarger.
In 1981, Tichý’s prolific body of work was brought to light by his longtime neighbor, psychiatrist Roman Buxbaum, who began efforts to document the artist and preserve the deteriorating photographs. Tichý’s work has received public attention only in the last five years, first going on view in an exhibition by Harald Szeemann at the 2004 Seville Biennale, where Tichý’s work won the “New Discovery Award.” After this exhibition, the Tichý Ocean Foundation was founded on the artist’s behalf by a group of trustees to preserve and exhibit Tichý’s work, which has since been shown at major museums including the Centre Pompidou in Paris and the Kunsthaus Zürich.
The exhibition, organized by ICP Chief Curator Brian Wallis, includes Buxbaum’s 2004 documentary film, “Miroslav Tichý: Tarzan Retired” and will be accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Brian Wallis, Roman Buxbaum, Carolyn Christov Bakargiev, Richard Prince, and Nick Cave.
on view now at International Center of Photography, NYC — through 5.9.10…
in the 1890’s Mitsubishi mined coal from the sea floor below, and at it’s peak in 1959, the 15.6 acre island housed to more than 5,000 workers and their families resulting in the highest population density in history — in ’74 everyone was relocated to the mainland and the island was left to ruin… in ’09 travel to Hashima re-opened after more than 20 years…
Seen from a distance, Hashima Island might be mistaken for the Japanese counterpart of Alcatraz rising from the ocean like a ragged slab of concrete. Few casual observers would ever guess that, only 40 years ago, this tiny island was the site of a thriving community with the highest population density on earth. One among 505 uninhabited islands in Nagasaki Prefecture, Hashima lies in the East China Sea some 15 kilometers from Nagasaki, its naked crags striking a stark contrast with the verdant peaks of nearby islands. A closer look reveals clusters of unpopulated high-rise buildings pressing up against a man-made sea wall, a battered shrine at the top of a steep rock cliff, and not a single tree in sight. The clue to the island’s mystery lies in coal mining. Reached by long descending tunnels, coal beds below the bottom of the ocean near Hashima disgorged huge quantities of high-grade coal for almost a century. But in 1974 the inhabitants abandoned the island to the wind and salt spray, leaving behind only unneeded belongings and a few stray cats.
After several failed attempts, the Fukahori Family installed a shaft mine on Hashima in 1887, inhabiting it for the first time. Three years later, it sold the island to Mitsubishi Corporation for 100,000 yen. The now world-famous company had expanded rapidly after its inception as a shipping enterprise in 1873. The years that followed witnessed a remarkable surge in Japan’s industrial capacity and military might, encouraged by victory in both the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). At Hashima, Mitsubishi launched a project to tap the coal resources under the sea bottom, successfully sinking a 199-meter-long vertical shaft in 1895 and still another shaft in 1898. The company also utilized the slag from the mine to carry out a series of land reclamations, thereby creating flat space for industrial facilities and dormitories. Completed around 1907, the high sea-walls gave the island the appearance of a battleship riding the waves. The resemblance was so uncanny that a local newspaper reporter dubbed it Gunkanjima (Battleship Island), a nickname that soon replaced the official name in common parlance.
Hashima was producing about 150,000 tons of coal annually and its population had soared to over 3,000 when, in 1916, Mitsubishi built a reinforced concrete apartment block on the island to alleviate the lack of housing space and to prevent typhoon damage. This was Japan’s first concrete building of any significant size. America’s first large-scale concrete structure—the Ingalls Office Building, in Cincinnati—had been built only 14 years earlier. A square, six-story structure built around a dingy inner courtyard at the southern edge of the island, the building provided cramped but private lodgings for the miners and their families. Each apartment consisted simply of a single, six-tatami-mat room (9.9 square meters) with a window, door, and small vestibule—more like a monk’s cell than an apartment, but still a major improvement over previous living quarters. Bathing, cooking, and toilet facilities were communal.
This building was followed two years later by an even larger apartment complex on the sloping rock at the center of the island. Then the tallest building in Japan, the E-shaped apartment block had nine stories on the ocean side and three on the rock side. One multi-story apartment block followed another until the tiny island bristled with more than 30 concrete buildings. Even during the 11-year period before and during World War II, when not a single concrete building went up anywhere else in Japan, the construction of apartment blocks continued on Hashima as part of national efforts to meet the tremendous wartime demand for coal. As a result of these efforts, Hashima’s annual coal production reached a peak of 410,000 tons in 1941. But it was an achievement that exacted a heavy toll in human suffering. While Japanese youth disappeared onto the battlefields of China, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific, the Japanese government forcibly recruited large numbers of Koreans and Chinese to fill the empty places in its factories and mines, and many of these men perished as a result of the harsh conditions and a starvation diet.
Hashima was no exception. By the time the atomic bomb rattled the windows on Hashima apartment blocks and Japan surrendered to the Allied forces in August 1945, about 1,300 laborers had died on the island, some in underground accidents, others of illnesses related to exhaustion and malnutrition. Still others had chosen a quicker, less gruesome death by jumping over the sea-wall and trying in vain to swim to the mainland. The end of World War II brought radical changes to Hashima Island and an important new purpose for its product. Instead of fuel for warships and steel for cannon shells, the coal from Hashima forged the tools for Japan’s recovery from the pit of humiliation and defeat. Ironically, however, it was another conflict—the Korean War (1950-1953)—that catapulted the coal mines, and virtually every other Japanese industry, into a golden period of prosperity and growth.
The population of Hashima reached a peak of 5,259 in 1959. People were literally jammed into every nook and corner of the apartment blocks. The rocky slopes holding most of these buildings comprised about 60 percent of the total island area of 6.3 hectares (15.6 acres), while the flat property reclaimed from the sea was used mostly for industrial facilities and made up the remaining 40 percent. At 835 people per hectare for the whole island, or an incredible 1,391 per hectare for the residential district, it is said to be the highest population density ever recorded in the world. Even Warabi, a Tokyo bedtown and the most densely populated city in modern Japan, notches up only 141 people per hectare. Hashima contained all the facilities and services necessary for the subsistence of this bulging community. Elbowing for space in the shadows of the apartment blocks were a primary school, junior high school, playground, gymnasium, pinball parlor, movie theater, bars, restaurants, 25 different retail shops, hospital, hairdresser, Buddhist temple, Shinto shrine, and even a brothel. Motor vehicles were nonexistent. As one former miner put it, one could walk between any two points on the island in less time than it took to finish a cigarette. Umbrellas were also unnecessary: a labyrinth of corridors and staircases connected all the apartment blocks and served as the island’s highway system.
Equality may have reigned in the corridors, but the allocation of apartments reflected a rigid hierarchy of social classes. Unmarried miners and employees of subcontracting companies were interned in the old one-room apartments; married Mitsubishi workers and their families had apartments with two, six-mat rooms but shared toilets, kitchens and baths; high-ranking office personnel and teachers enjoyed the luxury of two-bedroom apartments with kitchens and flush toilets. The manager of Mitsubishi Hashima Coal Mine, meanwhile, lived in the only private, wood-constructed residence on the island—a house located symbolically at the summit of Hashima’s original rock. Mitsubishi owned the island and everything on it, running a kind of benevolent dictatorship that guaranteed job security and doled out free housing, electricity and water but demanded that residents take turns in the cleaning and maintenance of public facilities. Thus the people of Hashima huddled together, all under the wing of “The Company” and all bent on a common purpose. The community depended completely on the outside world for food, clothing and other staples. Even fresh water had to be carried to the island until pipes along the sea floor connected it to mainland reservoirs in 1957. Any storm that prevented the passage of ships for more than a day spelled fear and austerity for Hashima.
The most notable feature of the island was the complete absence of soil and indigenous vegetation. Hashima, after all, was nothing more than a rim of coal slag packed around the circumference of a bare rock. A movie shot there by Shochiku Co. Ltd. in 1949 was aptly entitled Midori Naki Shima (The Greenless Island). The initiation of a planting campaign in 1963 was a sign of the residents’ first hard-won taste of leisure. Using soil from the mainland they made gardens on the rooftops and enjoyed the unprecedented pleasure of home-grown vegetables and flowers. It was around this same time that electric rice cookers, refrigerators and television sets became standard appliances in the island’s apartments.
Hashima’s fortunes started on a downhill slide in the late 1960s when Japan’s economy soared and petroleum replaced coal as the pillar of national energy policies. Coal mines across the country began to close. Mitsubishi slashed the work force at Hashima step by step, retraining workers and sending them off to other branches of its sprawling and booming industrial network. The coup de grâce came on 15 January 1974, when the company held a ceremony in the island gymnasium and officially announced the closing of the mine. The subsequent exodus proceeded with amazing speed. The last resident stepped onto the ship for Nagasaki on 20 April 1974, holding an umbrella up to a light rain and glancing back woefully toward the empty apartment blocks.
Now desolate and forgotten, Hashima guards the entrance to Nagasaki Harbor like a strange, dead lighthouse, attracting little more attention than the visits of tired seagulls and the curious stares of people on passing ships. But the symbolism is hard to ignore. The tight-knit Hashima community was a miniature version of Japanese society and it straddled a landmass that, except for the lack of water and greenery, mimicked the entire archipelago. The island’s present forlorn state is a lesson to contemporary Japan about what happens to a country that exhausts its own resources and depends solely on foreign trade. Taking note, the Japanese government has used photographs of Hashima in full-page national newspaper advertisements calling for conservation of energy.
read the complete article here…
and check out this short documentary “HASHIMA“ (2002) by Thomas Nordanstad…