During this, the last winter of antique dealer Harold Hanson’s life, my late friend used to always ask me why I never wore any color. Frankly, never having been asked this question before, I found myself having to scramble up a number of reasons. The first, quoting Chekhov’s The Seagull, was “Because I’m in mourning for my life” — a very funny line, I always thought (an answer to the same question in the play), but Harold didn’t laugh or seem satisfied. So I came up with more accurate reasons: that I do wear color but black and gray were what I tended to switch to in colder seasons; that I’m a native New Yorker; that I simply didn’t have Harold’s foppish flare for color, etc. None seemed to satisfy. “We’ll just have to do something about it” he would always end the conversation. (NOTE: Now that it’s summer, dear Harold, you might think Walt Disney himself was my personal designer, as Judy Garland once joked to the press on one bad hair day.)
Our sartorial conversation is something I think of these days, since there seems to be an ever increasing number of buildings –or important details of them – that are being painted a far less number than fifty shades of gray. We all know about Eric Galloway’s fondness for Greek Revival; less known is his proclivity to paint sometimes invaluable multicolored architectural details a uniform charcoal gray. One example is 412 Warren Street, whose once fancily detailed mansard roofing has been handsomely deadened in that shade. (CORRECTION: This should should have read “less known is his proclivity to replace … architectural details with those a uniform charcoal gray” and “…deadened with new slate in that shade” –or something to that effect. Thanks to the invaluable Carole Osterink and her The Gossips of Rivertown for setting me straight on the gruesome facts here.) Ditto his 501 Union Street, and now, it turns out the former HQ of the Register Star, 366 Warren Street, which will be the new locale of Hudson Home. (One was hoping that the renovation of this building would perhaps reveal something of more architectural interest than is currently visible, although the owners of Hudson Home, Richard Bodin and Greg Feller, will no doubt do their usual expert job in making it all look luscious.)
If memory serves, the owner of 72 North 3rd Street was the first homeowner to go this route; at the time it seemed a brilliant flash of fashion in a rather humdrum area. Recently returning to see the owner’s gorgeous garden during Mrs.Greenthumb’s day, it had less impact –needing some neighbor to do something different but with equal style.
The fad seems to have even reached Green Street, where a converted Greek Revival church and a quite quotidian house across the street have gone to the dark side. Frankly, mea culpa, Harold, I love gray and black, and think they can be clever choices for older buildings (and clothes!), but the idea of them becoming Hudson’s new default colors of choice for renovations is a tad …dispiriting. –Scott Baldinger
Saturday, July 19 should be a busy day on Warren Street. Sutter Antiques, whose staging of half of the storefront at 551 Warren I mentioned in a previous blog about vacant but seemingly occupied businesses, will be coming to life with a sale, moving all of its warehouse inventory to the 551 address for a day of large markdowns. The many classic pieces—including a Widdicomb dresser, a Paul Frankl headboard, and an atomic-sculpture — will be 40-50 percent off.
On the same day and right next door, Stair Galleries will be having an Exhibition Auction, including much of the estate of Kenneth Battelle, the hairdresser of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and sundry other superstar personalities who sported echt 60/70s doos And since, as All About Eve’s Addison Dewitt says, “We all come into this world with our little egos equipped with individual horns. If we don’t blow them, who else will?,” I feel compelled to mention that I wrote for Stair about Battelle (a seemingly lovely fellow) and the general sale of which it is part. Read at your leisure.
Farther down Warren at 426 Warren, Watson’s Cabinets have been filled with various ointments and tinctures, and is now open for business. I was generously given a sample of one of the store’s tisanes, which contained hibiscus and a couple of other herbal ingredients. I rushed the cup home and put its pleasant contents on ice; it made me feel–pretty much the way I felt before, but I’m sure that many of my internal organs were happy. — Scott Baldinger
Linda Mussmann, the co-artistic director with Claudia Bruce of Time & Space Limited, has certainly received her share of brickbats, including from this blog, largely (from me at least) because of her inflammatory opposition to historic preservation. But credit should be given when it is due, as it certainly is when it comes to TSL’s recent film programming. When I first saw the list of silent film masterworks that TSL will be showing for free every Friday eve through August 1 at the The Pocket Park (330 Warren Street), my heart leapt. Man With A Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov’s purely cinematic, non-narrative dazzler, which was shown last night ), George Pabst’s Pandora Box, with Louise Brooks, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (which looks like much of life to me nowadays), and perhaps my fave, Buster Keaton’s The General — are so infrequently shown in public these days that it’s hard to think of a greater public service than to do so, so long as they look good. Which, from the evidence of last night’s showing, they do: perfect prints, sharply projected, all accompanied by a modern percussive musical ensemble that sounded terrific – a bonus that one might find only late one lucky Sunday night on Turner Classic Movies. (One caveat: It is simply verboten to have any kind of spoken-word accompaniment to any silent film, but particularly one like Man With a Camera, which specifically says in the opening titles that it is a work completely free from the influence of theater or literature; Bruce’s Gertrude Stein-like poetry, which she recited throughout the film, was at best, an annoying distraction, at worst a slap in the face to the artist’s intentions. Let’s just cross our fingers that she doesn’t do the same with narrative films like Pandora Box or The General.)
A look at TSL’s scheduled indoor programming also should bring a round of applause (and audience members): Eric Rohmer A Summer Tale (not to be confused with Rohmer’s Summer, from ten years earlier, and also a fave) and the new Polish film, Lydia, one of the years most acclaimed arrivals that seemed to take forever to get to these parts, are two glorious highlights. This is the Linda that I at least can truly relate to; just imagine if you’re a kid and your mom or dad brings you to The General (which he or she should) and you see Buster Keaton’s beautiful face for the first time — a public service that only a cultural institituon like hers can provide with such panache. – Scott Baldinger
The 500 block of Warren Street is considered by many to be Hudson’s busiest and most “desirable” location – a fact that makes the sight of its handful of recently unoccupied stores all the more noticeable. Perhaps that’s also the reason why landlords feel that having just a for-rent sign and a window covered in brown paper is not quite sufficient. I’ve noticed that many of the storefronts for nonexistent stores leave passersby scratching their heads about what exactly is going on (yes I’ve actually seen some scratching), as they stop and ponder wordless windows revealing rooms filled with stuff – or storefronts arranged so attractively that they look like operating businesses. This isn’t a bad thing at all: It’s just part of the fun of walking around this beguiling but quirky thoroughfare.
At the top of the list is 551 Warren Street (above). Formerly the locale of Noonan Antiques, we’ve seen, since former owner Tom Noonan retired and auctioned off his goods, the gorgeously detailed entranceway’s two-sided display windows filled with a variety of eye-catching items belonging to other establishments. This is perhaps the first time I’ve noticed a store for rent so convincingly staged, this time by the landlord The Caldwell Group, which enlisted the help of neighboring businesses to advertise a sample of their wares. These include Hudson City Books (553 Warren), which provided an impressive collection of Visionaire, an uber-fashionable magazine put together three times a year since 1991 and whose back issues have become enormously valuable in the intervening time. (For example, issue no.18, the “Fashion Special”, contained a Louis Vuitton pouch within its own leather and was reportedly sold at an auction for $5,000). Behind those and books such as Madonna’s Sex (“more about being laid out than being laid,” The New Yorker wrote at the time) are original Eames shelving from Mark McDonald (555 Warren); on the right side, Sutter Antiques (556 Warren) has filled the entire section with their mix of midcentury and more venerable beauties.
Right up the street is 557 Warren, being meticulously restored by John Knott and his partner John Fondas. Knott and Fondas are the kind of historic property owners that a landmarks commission dreams of. (They also just purchased the Home for the Aged at 620 Union Street and plan wonderful things for that as well.) From the last I’ve heard, Knott is still working on opening a branch of his Quadrille decorative arts empire in the Warren Street building, a part of which is his fabric outlet on Route 9 in Valatie. At the moment the storefront contains what looks like a neoclassical rattan (or bamboo) chest of drawers —pretty modest compared to the handsomely lush display that James Gottlieb (of Gottlieb Gallery- 524 Warren) put together for Knott previously but also not quite as potentially controversial (filled as the former was with antique blackamoores).
At the other end of the block, No 504 is a head scratcher. Formerly the location of Elijah Slocum, which moved to where Elements once was (508 Warren), there’s nothing in the window currently announcing any future tenant. Clearly visible inside, however, is a floor covered in rugs — nice ones too — a case perhaps of the wool being pulled under our eyes? — Scott Baldinger
To say that it is not my usual habit to comment on the dizzying variegations of the world of tradesmen is hardly an understatement. Indeed, it is usually something that I dutifully avoid, being happily unaware of trends when it involves the of exchange of money for goods and far more preoccupied with my work at our local hospital and the unending crisis’s that family always seems to be throwing at my rather aching feet.
The auction of English, Continental & American Furniture, Fine Art and Decorations at Stair Galleries on June 28, however, has compelled me to break my silence about such matters. Focusing, among other things, on the glories of the furniture, objets, and art of the middle and late Georgian eras and slightly beyond, it is nothing less than an antidote to the vulgarity of the modern age. (I can’t help recalling that appalling day when they switched on all of the newly installed electric lighting at Downton Abbey; it felt as if I was suddenly thrust permanently into the Gaiety!). It is hard to imagine furnishing a venerable country estate without at least a few of these, but from what people tell me, it’s all going for what, in common parlance, is called “a song.” (As it seems often the case, other, far later period styles are more in vogue at the moment.) There is an especially impressive focus on the remarkable craftsmanship of the work produced during the lengthy range of George III, a good friend of our great grandfather and a man with a quite sensible and down-to-earth nature, excepting a notorious but brief period of illness and what my daughter in law and her fellow country folk have been taught in their school books.
Indeed, perhaps reflecting George III’s pragmatism as regent, this was a time of greater simplicity and functionality, at least in furniture design. At the auction, there are numerous comely examples from this period, which lasted quite a long time (1760-1820, god be praised!): a George III walnut chest, which sits atop a chest/secretary; a fine, light-toned pair of George III inlaid satinwood console tables; a rare George III mahogany mechanical kneehole desk; a pair of George III mahogany hall chairs with a family crest; and a pair of mahogany knife boxes in the Palladian manner, perfect to place on a sideboard in your dining hall. Preceding George 111 was of course George 11, and during this time, while the rest of the world was going mad for rococo, our level-headed nation was producing work such as a George 11 mahogany reading stand, handsomely simple but with a flourish of playful curves at its feet.
There is also fine work closer to our own age, among them a pair of Victorian carved oak hall chairs, sturdy and practical but with a shape of originality and inherent style and taste. Although it took some time for us Europeans to learn how to make porcelain, our nation – due to the admirable efforts of the British East Indian Company – was able to obtain some of the finer products of such decorative yet utilitarian items from lands far away, including a pair of Chinese blue and white porcelain moon vases. Like nearly all of the items to be bargained for during the auction, even these foreign pieces speak volumes about the admirable efforts of our ever-expanding British empire.
Full Disclosure: A fellow named Scott Baldinger, who is a rather loquacious scribbler, even for an American (particularly during teatime, when he partakes in a larger than usual quantity of scones and clotted cream) provided helpful aid in the writing of this quite — for me — unusual project. He tells me he also penned a little something about it for Stair Galleries as well…which could be read here.
All I can say about this year’s joyous Hudson Pride parade, for which spectators seem to have clearly outnumbered those for last week’s Flag Day event, is that I’d much rather have the guns at left pointed at me … than those shown below (pic courtesy of Carole Osterink’s The Gossips of Rivertown). – Scott Baldinger
Concepto Hudson, Jeff Bailey, NOBO, two branches of Retrospective, and this weekend the R Wells Gallery, not to mention big chunks of Valley Variety and other sophisticated venues. There have been so many openings of serious new art galleries in the upper and lower parts of Warren Street in recent months (bringing the total to over twenty in the town) that one might begin to wonder if this actually means something. Even though we might still need a cobbler, grocer, and even a picture framer more at this point, it’s a healthy development, happening as it is in previously sedate retail areas of Warren Street and bringing even more young Brooklyn types here, at least at openings. (Maybe one of them will open one.)
Many of the new galleries in Hudson have so far had hip, skilled, freshly representative takes on what’s happening out there in the art world, the style du jour seeming to be “finding your inner child” – or at least not telling him to quiet down and go to his room. As it turns out, my favorite shows currently running happen to be more adult in spirit, and, coincidentally, are in galleries that have been here for a slightly longer bit of time. There’s Mark Wasserbach’s exhibition of sculptures at McDaris Fine Art, and most particularly, Color as Environment at Hallam + Bruner – a selection of works by color field artists who came to the fore in the 60′s 70′s and 80′s, including Ilya Bolotowsky, David Roth, Walter Swyrydenko, Robert Goodnough, and Hudson’s very own Myron Polenberg – which is nothing less than an abstract dazzler.
David Roth’s work (one of which is pictured above) is particularly dominant here. When people think of geometric art like Roth’s, as well as Wasserbach’s large-scale metal sculptures, perhaps the furthest thing that comes to mind is an evocation of nature. But, in essential ways, such art can be as much an accurate representation of the natural world as the most detailed figurative painting. Roth’s geometric screen prints, paintings, and drawings present nature at its most fundamental level – an artist’s intuition of the mathematical and quantum physics as known and most recently discovered by physicists at Cern and around the world: the laws of gravity, spectrums of light, and subatomic forms and electromagnetic forces that are the very foundation of everything we see around us and, and in fact, are what we are ourselves. The impulse of Roth and perhaps his fellow artists in Color as Environment and currently at McDaris as well, is to reduce – or rather expand – natural elements into purely lined and colored works of beauty. Their efforts are not only graphically appealing but, drawn large, a recognition that, as physicists have recently discovered, everything on earth, even a multi-formed leaf, consists of purely geometric fractals, and beyond that, a mysterious world of unpredictably moving particles. They represent not necessarily what we see right off but the unseen world lying underneath the world we see. – Scott Baldinger
When I first arrived in Hudson over ten years ago, I was struck by the number of people who looked exactly like some of the musical theater icons I would occasionally run into in New York City. There was the man, whose name I can’t recall and who left town soon after meeting him, who was a dead ringer for Adolph Green, the lyricist/book writer, with Betty Comden, of musicals such as On the Town, Singing in the Rain, The Bandwagon and Bells Are Ringing. When I told him who he reminded me of, he said “Yeah everyone says that,” a statement that put Hudson in a very good light to me –“everyone” around here actually knew who Adolph Green was and what he looked like?…Hmmm perhaps I could make my home in this odd Brigadoon-like place.
To this day, I still see a guy who reminds me of Jerome Robbins, the ingenious but famously ill-tempered director/choreographer; coincidentally his Hudson lookalike seem as steadfastly chilly as his late Upper West Side counterpart. (Even after seeing this Hudson man weekly for almost ten years, I’ve never received a “hello” in return to mine, while even Robbins did nod back at me once in a Korean grocery.) Then there’s the lovely woman seen below who looks just like Elaine Stritch. To her, “I’d like to propose a toast…” as “The Ladies Who Lunch,” the Sondheim song that the actress made famous (and vice versa), starts out — just for her being able to be her as well as someone else I adore.
Since then, just like the musical icons themselves, their Hudson doppelgangers have been appearing fewer and far between. But there are plenty of others worth pointing out who bring to mind note worthies from other media, of which I’m equally fond. – Scott Baldinger
Honey Wilde Elaine Stritch
James Reynolds (Mid-Hudson Cable President)/ Lon Chaney in London After Midnight
Damara Rose (musician) Mia Farrow
Linda Mussmann (TSL Co-director) Fred Mertz (William Frawley)
Mark Schafler (Helsinki Hudson co-owner) Ed Koren drawing
You can say that every day is a show on Warren Street, put on by some of the best retail/show people in the country. So who needs a movie theater right in town? (Actually I do….but our stores make a stroll up the street a consistenly engaging enterprise. So who needs Planet Fitness? Actually I do, etc..) The following are a few of the personal highlights spotted a day or so ago, when the weather was balmy enough to have been able to be pleasantly surprised every other block or so. Ah the old days.
A colony of Arne Jacobsen Grand Prix chairs at Vincent Mulford antiques, which are often mistakenly called ant chairs. (Jacobsen did those too, and they look very similar). Yup, mid century modern is still here…get used to it! Decorative arts genius that he is, Vince only does it when it’s something very special, and these chairs, designed by the Danish designer for the Fritz Hansen furniture company in 1957, are as desirable as ever.
A painting by David Levine at the Terenchin gallery. Terenchin always manages to come up with terrific art within reach, and this painting by Levine, who became famous for his biting caricatures for the New York Review of Books and other publications, is a find. Compare the lushness of the artist’s paint strokes with the deadly accuracy of his ink and pen works, one of which of his most famous is displayed here.
Frontal fashion on Front Street and Warren, at Kasuri, a new clothing store for men and women in a long unoccupied retail space, kicks off Warren Street with appropriate panache.