Thursday, November 12, 2009

Edgar Miller on Saturday, Isaac's Knowledge Box on Monday, Lyster's Infrastructural Ecologies on Wednesday, and more!

Every time I turn around, I stumble on still more great events to add to the November calendar.

(lecture Saturday, November 14) -Edgar Miller and the Handmade Home - Chicago’s Forgotten Renaissance Man - This is the title of the new book by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams, with photographs by Alexander Vertikoff, which chronicles the work of Edgar Miller, a key figure in the Artists Colony - also including such names as Carl Sandburg and Ben Hecht - that took a decaying neighborhood that was originally a fashionable 19th district of Victorian mansions and reimagined it into what would become Old Town, a bohemian conclave transformed by Miller's design. Miller partnered with Sol Kogen, who bought a mansion at 155 West Carl Street (now Burton Place) to create Carl Street Studios, a home for young artists. The result, including other rehabbed buildings on Burton, remains to this day one of the most distinctive blocks in Chicago. The interior of the mansion was gutted and laid out anew by Miller to provide light-filled artists studios, with both interiors and exteriors reconceived with striking frescoes, stained glass, mosaics, and more, the materials often scavenged not only from the neighborhood's demolished mansions, but from everyplace from Maxwell Street (Kogen was the son of a Maxwell Street merchant) to the buildings of the 1932-33 Century of Progress World's Fair.

The new book by Cahan and Williams documents the long career of Miller, who was born in Idaho and lived to the age of 93. He became a Chicago resident after coming to the city to study at the Art Institute in 1917. Among his other work, Miller collaborated with architect Andrew Rebori on the facade and artwork of the Fisher Apartments on North State, created murals for the Art Deco Tavern club, and beautiful sandblasted glass relief panels for the late, lamented Diana Court. a sample of which can be seen in the architecture gallery at the top of the Art Institute's great stair. Miller was unapologetically eclectic in his approach, described in a quote Alan Artner included in his Chicago Tribune obituary:
I accepted influences from anyplace. Every time I saw something that was value, I absorbed it. Influence is nothing but nourishment and you grow by it. To be afraid of influence is like being scared to eat.
Miller's life and work and the new book will be subject of a lecture this Saturday, November 14th, sponsored by the Chicago Art Deco Society in the 2nd floor Congress lounge at Roosevelt University, with a reception at 3:00, and a lecture at 3:30 - copies of the book available for purchase and signing by the authors.

(panel Monday, November 16) - Knowledge Box Re-created. This is an intriguing series I've dropped the ball on, a schedule of late Monday afternoon panels presented in conjunction with the School of the Art Institute's Learning Modern exhibition. This Monday's panel promises to especially interesting, as it includes Ken Isaacs, creator of 1962's Knowledge Box, an amazing precursor of today's multimedia world in which 24 slide projectors saturated the interiors of a 12 foot wood-framed cube with images, text and textures. Originally constructed in Mies van der Rohe's Crown Hall, it's now been recreated by SAIC students for the Learning Modern exhibition.

The panel also includes Victor Margolin, Professor Emeritus, Design History, University of Illinois, Chicago and Susan Snodgrass, project curator. It takes place from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., Monday, November 16th, in Sullivan Galleries, 7th floor, 33 S. State.

(lecture Wednesday, November 18th ) -
Infrastructural Ecologies - 6:00 p.m., Center Core, Crown Hall, 3360 South State at IIT. A lecture by Clare Lyster, architect and one of the most original thinkers in the city today.

but wait, there's more! - Tayrn Mead lectures on Biomimicry in the Built Environment on the 24th, Ronald Jones discusses Moholy-Nagy and the Bauhaus Curriculum on the 30th, Modern Technologies at the Sullivan Galleries on the 23rd - November is going away quietly. There are nearly two dozen events just next week, 11 just on Thursday, the 19th, including a 6:00 p.m. screening of documentaries by Mathieu Borysevicz, Shu Haolun, and Sylvie Levey as part of Columbia College's Museum of Contemporary Photography remarkable exhibition, Reversed Images: Representations of Shanghai and Its Contemporary Material Culture. Plus CAF's Patron of the Year awards, the Chaddick Institute's conference, Shrinking Cities: Redefining & Reengineering Distressed Cities & Suburbs, Harboe Architect's Bob Score on Restoring Carson’s Iconic Cast Iron, S. Lloyd Natof on Reading Wright and . . . well, check out all the great stuff still to come in November on the calendar here.

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