OPEN HOUSE NEW YORK 2008

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In New York we’ve just finished the 6th annual Open House New York, run by the organization of the same name each first weekend in October. OHNY celebrates NYC’s built environment, and mostly succeeds in getting some property owners to open doors that ordinarily wouldn’t open to the likes of your webmaster. The event is getting increasingly popular — enough so that reservations are now required at many events. OHNY distributes a lavish booklet every year listing every location, but since its deadline is early in the summer it gives many owners an opportunity to change their minds about opening, or change the schedule, leaving OHNY enthusiasts fuming (needless to say I’m one of them). Those cavils aside, this year’s Open House NY brought me to…

Edward Hopper studio, New York University

Hopper (1882-1967) is one of my favorite artists; that said, he’s an artist that non-aficionados can enjoy, for his matter-of-fact urban portraits. His is the famed Nighthawks, a late-night scene at an all-night diner. He studied as a young man at the New York Institute of Art and Design under Robert Henri, a leading light in the realist Ashcan School of American art.

Hopper lived in a spare, two-room studio at University Place and Washington Square North from 1913 until his death (here in his studio) in 1967, joined there for most of that time by his wife, painter Josephine Nivison. Most of his important works were done here.

The aged stove, refrigerator and other appointments, inclusing a working dumbwaiter, have been kept as they were when the artist lived here.

Probably the most familiar photo of Hopper, at ease here sometime in the 1960s. The potbelly stove, fireplace, easels and artist equipment are as they were when he was here.

View of Washington Square from the studio

This is probably my favorite Hopper work, Early Sunday Morning, a 1930 tableau of a series of storefronts and apartments. It could be from any Amercan city in the mid-20th Century, but I pass scenes in NYC all the time that remind me of this picture. Notice that Hopper did not specify any of the businesses on the storefronts. They all have window stencils, but they are not rendered so you can read them. Only the barber pole tells you the nature of any of them. You can look at this picture and feel contented, lonesome, restless, depending on your particular mood.

“The Manhattan that Hopper pinned down like a narcotized specimen is not a village with friendly dogs and children, and certainly not the Village. It’s a city that is paved over, glassed in, and swimming in heat — the lonely dive in Nighthawks, the erotically charged workplace in Office at Night, and even the generic brickscape of chimney rows and skylights painted from the top of his building in Roofs of Washington Square.

“The critic Robert Hughes credits him with establishing not just the shadowy visual style but also the private investigator trope of film noir. ‘It was Hopper,’ Hughes writes, ‘a man of extreme inhibitions who had no interest in communicating with the world at large except through his art, and then only obliquely, who saw that the old frontier had moved inward and now lay within the self, so that the man of action, extroverted and self-naming, was replaced by the solitary watcher.’” Julie Lasky, via Dan Hill’s City of Sound

Fairfax & Sammons House

A combination of a carriage house built in 1830 and a 1919 addition at 183-185 West 4th Street (at Jones Street in Greenwich Village), the Fairfax and Sammons residence evidences what can be done with a small space, albeit one with a large center space. The building is named for the architects, Anne Fairfax and Richard Sammons, who renovated the house.

Kushner Residence

Would you like a duplex penthouse apartment with a jacuzzi in the living room, a 180 degree view from the roof, and a glass-walled bathroom? Architect Adam Kushner has just the place for you at 79 Barrow Street near Hudson in Greenwich Village, in a one-of-a-kind space he designed, and he lets everyone come in and see for themselves once a year on Open House NY weekend.

Every upstairs surface is either white or clear, and while that makes for great natural light at all levels, a choice seems to have been made somewhere that privacy is not really a priority here … The jacuzzi is one example … the upstairs shower is another (surrounded on 3 sides by glass and on the fourth by a sort of chain-mail shower curtain), and the kicker is the (doorless) upstairs bathroom, which does double-duty as the exit to the terrace. Comments from curbed.com

Photographed October 4, 2008; page completed October 15, 2008.





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