Thursday, November 6, 2014

Procession revisited: Scarpa and Paul Strand

When I first saw Paul Strand's photograph of his boyhood back yard in the upper West Side of Manhattan, I failed to appreciate the "abstraction" it is celebrated for, in the Metropolitan Museum. Beyond the incidental drama of the clotheslines I saw numerous processional pathways, bridges, elevated porches and decorative channels in the built environments of one of the architects I most love, Carlo Scarpa, whose constructed works must tend to fail the meticulousness of his drawings, some of the most evocative speci-fications a craftsman can ever study. Indeed, one of my favorite possessions is a pencil drawing of stairs at his Brion cemetery, shown here, by a friend who studied them there for hours. And when I turned to another of Strand's photographs from 1917, of a fender with lamp and wire wheel, I admired its parallel arcs as paired, pared reiterations of eloquent movement, processional strokes neither perceived nor projected as abstraction, but as scruples.

i  Scarpa, Olivetti, Venice, 1957

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