The shorter evenings and bonfires on the horizon cheer no one but there are silver linings to those approaching autumn clouds. One of them is the new record from Ryley Walker, who started small in Rockford, Illinois, and has grown up to become a folk-rock wonder of the world. Walker’s intimate yet expansive songs – which are difficult to take off your turntable – beautifully dance a line in the long grass somewhere between John Martyn and Kevin Morby. The soft-psychedelic front cover of ‘Golden Sings That Have Been Sung’ suggest that Walker owns a much-loved copy of Nick Drake’s ‘Pink Moon’ too. Mists and mellow fruitfulness indeed.
The colour blue has always sparked a certain fascination – just look at Yves Klein’s monochrome series. It’s also the inspiration behind artist Siba Sahabi’s newly launched Blue Alchemy collection of felt vases. Guided by her Middle Eastern and European roots, Sahabi fuses heritage craftsmanship with contemporary designs. The style of her vases mirrors the look of the first ceramics created on a potter’s wheel in Mesopotamia around 3,500 BC, while the use of felt gives it a contemporary twist. Simultaneously the uniform cobalt blue that characterises her new designs references the first man-made pigment developed by the ancient Egyptians from the rare lapis lazuli stone. The historic hue spread throughout Mesopotamia, Greece and the Roman Empire and eventually had a great impact on European art – as is plain to see. Sahabi’s vases are pieces of art but they expertly marry form and function thanks to a glass tube inside the felt vases that prevent spills.
As Swedish designer Carl Malmsten once famously opined, chairs are deceptively difficult to design. Tracing the history of the chair and writing a book about it, though, might be a more manageable feat. Canadian-American architect Witold Rybczynski would know; his latest book is a 256 pager that celebrates the chair by showcasing its most iconic iterations, such as Michael Thonet’s first bentwood bistro chair and those created by Charles and Ray Eames. Published on 23 August, Now I Sit Me Down: From Klismos to Plastic Chair: A Natural History is not merely a catalogue; it’s an exploration of how design can fundamentally affect the way we live our lives. “We are good at walking and running, and we are happy lying down when we sleep. It’s the in-between position that is the problem,” writes Rybczynski. “Every chair represents a struggle to resolve the conflict between gravity and the human anatomy. Sitting up is always a challenge.”
Sweltering sun-worshipers seeking respite from the rays in Central Park this weekend would do well to visit the Met Breuer (the second floor to be precise). Photography buffs will already be au fait with Diane Arbus’s seminal black-and-white portraits of the Big Apple’s misfits but this exhibition of her early work – dating from 1956 to 1962 – is an intimate and unexpected addition to her portfolio. The show, suitably titled Diane Arbus: In the Beginning, sharpens its focus on the formative first seven years of the photographer’s career. Many of the negatives it showcases remained undiscovered in boxes at her Greenwich Village home until after her death but were finally gifted to the Met in 2007, where they’ll be on show until November. The images themselves feature the same oddballs as subjects and the same tenderness that came to define Arbus’s work but, valuably, a fresh picture of the origins that gave rise to her rightly lauded legacy.
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