Monday, April 02, 2012

Moving into the 20th Century


I found my new house the other day while hanging out at Kelly DeLong's Old House Dreams blog, where I spend time fairly often. It's a great blog if you like old houses, which I do.

The sad fact of the matter is that Louis Kahn's 1960 Esherick House is now "old," although some 14 years younger than I am. The price tag is a little steep, $1.5 million for a one-bedroom house, and the Philadelphia location a challenge, but when you're dreaming, so what. And then there's that flat roof --- always problematic in Iowa, but when I move it here I promise not to plop a machine-shed roof atop it.


But the space, the clarity and the light are wonderful and the craft that went into its realization remarkable. I've already picked out a couple of spots to move it to, but won't share that.

I haven't quite given up on moving Philip Johnson's 1949 "International" glass house, currently located at New Canaan, Connecticut, to Iowa, too --- but have concluded that there's probably just too much window here for practical living. Guest house, perhaps?


Remember, the operative word here is "dream." I actually live in a nondescript late 20th century house surrounded by a pile of nonsecript stuff --- although I'm fond of both house and stuff.

Blogger DeLong specializes in mining Realtor sites for interesting old homes, most of them much older and considerably mustier/fustier than a Kahn design --- although the spareness of the Esherick House is paralleled in the simplicity of classic colonial, Greek revival, even Iowa farm house.

The Esherick house is something of an architectural icon, so there are plenty of other photographs of it out there if you're interested, including this site and this Flickr series.

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The other good thing about a move into the Esherick house is that I might finally have wall space for Jackson Pollock's pioneering 1943 abstract expressionist "Mural," which has arrived for a temporary stay at the Art Center in Des Moines, into a gallery that opens Thursday.


The price tag here, estimated well in excess of $140 million, would be a bit more of a challenge, but you never know when it might come on the market since Iowa legislators, bless their hearts, threaten to sell it now and then.

You may remember "Mural," commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim and given by her to the University of Iowa art department in 1951 --- after Yale had turned it down. It's been homeless for a few years, since flooding destroyed the University's art building, but will return permanently to Iowa City --- providing it's spared by the Legislature --- once a new art center is completed, a long and slow process.


One thing I didn't know before, but learned from The Register's weekend coverage, is that Pollock was almost an Iowa boy. Although Pollock was born (1912) in Cody, Wyoming, and grew up in scattered fashion across the West, his parents, Stella May (McClure) and LeRoy Pollick, were natives of Ringgold County.

So that's another reason, besides being riduculed coast to coast if it were sold, for hanging onto the work.

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I'd also like Keith Haring's 1989 "Unfinished Painting" for my new walls, please. Executed by the Haring in 1989, as he was dying of AIDS, it was left with threads of the tapestry hanging --- so symbolic a self-representation that it was selected to represent the AIDS pandemic in the National Portrait Gallery's "Hide/Seek" exhibition, now on the road in Tacoma.


Visiting the other day with my favorite group of artists, I was surprised that none had heard of Haring, iconic in his time --- and still. But they're fairly involved in looking backward and quite good at it, as many Iowans are. And that's fine.


Here's a brief presentation about Haring's work by David C. Ward, co-curator of Hide/Seek and historian at the National Portrait Gallery.

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