Major Grocer to Label Foods With Gene-Modified Content

By STEPHANIE STROM
NY Times Published: March 8, 2013

Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain, on Friday became the first retailer in the United States to require labeling of all genetically modified foods sold in its stores, a move that some experts said could radically alter the food industry.

A. C. Gallo, president of Whole Foods, said the new labeling requirement, to be in place within five years, came in response to consumer demand. “We’ve seen how our customers have responded to the products we do have labeled,” Mr. Gallo said. “Some of our manufacturers say they’ve seen a 15 percent increase in sales of products they have labeled.”

Genetically modified ingredients are deeply embedded in the global food supply, having proliferated since the 1990s. Most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States, for example, have been genetically modified. The alterations make soybeans resistant to a herbicide used in weed control, and causes the corn to produce its own insecticide. Efforts are under way to produce a genetically altered apple that will spoil less quickly, as well as genetically altered salmon that will grow faster. The announcement ricocheted around the food industry and excited proponents of labeling. “Fantastic,” said Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, an organic advocacy group that favors labeling.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the trade group that represents major food companies and retailers, issued a statement opposing the move. “These labels could mislead consumers into believing that these food products are somehow different or present a special risk or a potential risk,” Louis Finkel, the organization’s executive director of government affairs, said in the statement.

Mr. Finkel noted that the Food and Drug Administration, as well as regulatory and scientific bodies including the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, had deemed genetically modified products safe.

The labeling requirements announced by Whole Foods will include its 339 stores in the United States and Canada. Since labeling is already required in the European Union, products in its seven stores in Britain are already marked if they contain genetically modified ingredients. The labels currently used show that a product has been verified as free of genetically engineered ingredients by the Non GMO Project, a nonprofit certification organization. The labels Whole Foods will use in 2018, which have yet to be created, will identify foods that contain such ingredients.

The shift by Whole Foods is the latest in a series of events that has intensified the debate over genetically modified foods. Voters defeated a hard-fought ballot initiative in California late last year after the biotech industry, and major corporations like PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, spent millions of dollars to fight the effort. Other initiatives have qualified for the ballot in Washington State and Missouri, while consumers across the country have been waging a sort of guerrilla movement in supermarkets, pasting warning stickers on products suspected of having G.M.O. ingredients from food companies that oppose labeling. Proponents of labeling insist that consumers have a right to know about the ingredients in the food they eat, and they contend that some studies in rats show that bioengineered food can be harmful.

Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It, a campaign for a federal requirement to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients, called the Whole Foods decision a “game changer.”

“We’ve had some pretty big developments in labeling this year,” Mr. Hirshberg said, adding that 22 states now have some sort of pending labeling legislation. “Now, one of the fastest-growing, most successful retailers in the country is throwing down the gantlet.”

He compared the potential impact of the Whole Foods announcement to Wal-Mart’s decision several years ago to stop selling milk from cows treated with growth hormone. Today, only a small number of milk cows are injected with the hormone.

Karen Batra, a spokeswoman for BIO, a trade group representing the biotech industry, said it was too early to determine what impact, if any, the Whole Foods decision would have. “It looks like they want to expand their inventory of certified organic and non-G.M.O. lines,” Ms. Batra said. “The industry has always supported the voluntary labeling of food for marketing reasons.”

She contended, however, that without scientific evidence showing that genetically modified foods caused health or safety issues, labeling was unnecessary.

Nonetheless, companies have shown a growing willingness to consider labeling. Some 20 major food companies, as well as Wal-Mart, met recently in Washington to discuss genetically modified labeling.

Coincidentally, the American Halal Company, a food company whose Saffron Road products are sold in Whole Foods stores, on Friday introduced the first frozen food, a chickpea and spinach entree, that has been certified not to contain genetically modified ingredients.

More than 90 percent of respondents to a poll of potential voters in the 2012 elections, conducted by the Mellman Group in February last year, were in favor of labeling genetically modified foods. Some 93 percent of Democrats and 89 percent of Republicans in the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent, favored it.

But in the fight over the California initiative, Proposition 37, the opponents succeeded in persuading voters that labeling would have a negative effect on food prices and the livelihood of farmers.

That fight, however, has cost food companies in other ways. State legislatures and regulatory agencies are pondering labeling on their own, and consumers have been aggressive in criticizing some of the companies that fought the initiative, using Twitter and Facebook to make their views known.

Buoyed by what they see as some momentum in the labeling war, consumers, organic farmers and food activists plan to hold an “eat-in” outside the F.D.A.’s offices next month to protest government policies on genetically modified crops and foods. Whole Foods, which specializes in organic products, tends to be favored by those types of consumers, and it enjoys strong sales of its private-label products, whose composition it controls. The company thus risks less than some more traditional food retailers in taking a stance on labeling.

In 2009, Whole Foods began submitting products in its 365 Everyday Value private-label line to verification by the Non GMO Project.

But even Whole Foods has not been immune to criticism on the G.M.O. front. A report by Cornucopia, “Cereal Crimes,” revealed that its 365 Corn Flakes line contained genetically modified corn. By the time the report came out in October 2011, the product had been reformulated and certified as organic.

Today, Whole Foods’ shelves carry some 3,300 private-label and branded products that are certified, the largest selection of any grocery chain in the country.

Mr. Gallo said Whole Foods did not consult with its suppliers about its decision and informed them of it only shortly before making its announcement Friday. He said Whole Foods looked forward to working with suppliers on the labeling.

March 9th, 2013
Cautious Approval for a Plan to Merge a City’s Museums


Monica Almeida/The New York Times
A view of the exterior of the Museum of Contemporary Art, known as MOCA, in Los Angeles, which has struggled in recent years with money and personnel.

By ADAM NAGOURNEY
NY Times Published: March 8, 2013

LOS ANGELES — For many people in the philanthropic and cultural swirl of Los Angeles, the proposal seems a welcome response to a conflict that has riveted this city’s art world for five years: A merger of its two biggest museums, ending a long-simmering feud, combining two arts collections, and rescuing one of them, the Museum of Contemporary Art, from a spasm of personnel turmoil and fiscal decline.

Yet there is one person now in a position to block it: Eli Broad, one of the city’s leading philanthropists who, at 79, finds himself again at the center of a dispute that captures the conflicting forces of wealth, philanthropy, celebrity and ego that often define Los Angeles. Mr. Broad donated $16 million to bail out MOCA five years ago with a provision that is taking outsize importance: That it would not merge with any museum within 100 miles of its downtown flagship.

That provision, officials involved in both museums said, was aimed at the competing museum across town, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with which Mr. Broad has had a particularly contentious history.

And this latest proposal — to merge the two museums with a promise of $100 million in fund-raising to put MOCA back on course — is being advocated by Michael Govan, the head of Lacma, marking his latest high-voltage effort to upend the art world here. Mr. Govan has become an unlikely celebrity in this town of celebrities with his inventive programming at his museum. Its success has served to highlight the difficulties of MOCA, including high-profile resignations from its board of directors and mocking criticism of some of its programming, like an exhibition devoted to disco.

Mr. Broad did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

The Lacma proposal is not the only potential arrangement being floated before MOCA. Others include one from the University of Southern California and one from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, providing Mr. Broad with some options if he wants to block it. But the Lacma proposal was notable for the positive reaction it drew in many quarters, suggesting that after months of turmoil at MOCA — including the loss of its chief curator, declining attendance and mounting fiscal distress — the environment for such a merger might be warming.

“It’s time for us all to stop lamenting what could have and should have been and recognize that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” said Ann Philbin, director of the Hammer Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Michael is coming to this with great thought and consideration as well as the resources and support of his board. This is not about world domination for Michael; he is really passionate about L.A. and the health and development of its cultural landscape.”

Indeed, officials close to the process said that the Lacma proposal came at the request of some members of the board of trustees at MOCA, worried about an alternative proposal to have MOCA merge its operations with the University of Southern California.

Zev Yaroslavsky, a Los Angeles County supervisor, said that the merger, if embraced by the boards of both museums, could prove an ideal way to resolve the problems of MOCA and expand Los Angeles’s artistic influence at a time when “this region is on a cultural and artistic roll.”

“Common sense would dictate that these two institutions, if they both agreed to it, would be as good a solution as any,” he said. “It would be a Los Angeles solution from two Los Angeles artistic institutions, and it would be hugely important to us.”

The behind-the-scenes turmoil involving these two museums is the latest example of the often churning and competitive environment here. Mr. Broad, who has his share of fans and critics, has been at the forefront of artistic donors and has often set strict conditions for his gifts. He also has voiced his frustration to museum executives about the small ranks of city residents willing make these kind of contributions.

Mr. Govan, who came here from New York in 2006 where he was director of the Dia Art Foundation, said it was these conflicts and struggles that made the Los Angeles arts scene so dynamic now.

“Honestly, the attraction to me right now in L.A. is the turmoil, the growing pains, the newness of it all,” Mr. Govan said. “It’s the growing pains of a cultural metropolis and a culture world coming of age. It’s not old and set. It’s still new and it’s still growing.”

“You’re seeing it at a formative stage,” he said. “The turmoil is attractive. Eli Broad has a lot to do with it, but in a prodding way. He is responsible for helping to found MOCA. He is the one who put a contemporary art museum at Lacma, and he’s the one that gave that money to MOCA. We need more Eli Broads.”

The big question is what Mr. Broad will do now.

Edward Goldman, the host of the show “Art Talk” on KCRW, the National Public Radio station here, said that given the history, Mr. Broad would be likely to block this merger from taking place.

“He will do everything possible to make sure this proposal is killed,” he said. “He doesn’t want to see his influence diminished.”

But several officials suggested that Mr. Broad might not want to stand in the way if it appears there is a growing enthusiasm to a solution to this dispute. No less important, they said, is the fact that Mr. Broad is building his own museum across the street downtown from the MOCA museum, and is increasingly concerned that a downward spiral of MOCA would make it tough to draw attendees. As much as downtown Los Angeles has been on the upswing in recent years, many are still reluctant to make the trip there.

“Eli Broad has been as significant a force in bringing L.A. to where it is on the cultural map as any other individual,” Mr. Yaroslavsky said. “I know Eli very well, I know he loves Los Angeles and I think that Eli will do whatever he can to make sure that L.A. is on the cutting edge of the nation’s and world’s artistic landscape.”

March 9th, 2013
Jacques Gillet


Inhabited sculpture— Immersed in vegetation, in the wilderness surrounding Liège, lies one of the few realised works of Jacques Gillet: a vital and unknown masterpiece of Belgian modernism, and a defining case study in the real-life experience of organic architecture.


The initial idea for the Sculpture House dates from the early 1960s, when the Belgian architect Jacques Gillet encountered Bruce Goff’s organic architecture


The construction method enabled the architects to erect a house in the shape of an “inhabited sculpture”. Its form and spatial organisation were not planned in advance, but created on site during the building process. At some points, the interiors have a spray-finished insulating layer of polyurethane foam


The building springs from a close collaboration between three different professionals: the architect Jacques Gillet (1931–), the sculptor Félix Roulin (1931–), and the engineer René Greisch (1929–2000). The trio worked on the project and its realisation from 1965, by appointment from Gillet’s brother, whose family still lives in the house

By Adam Štěch
Published March 6, 2013
Domus Magazine Issue 966
Photographs by Tomáš Soucek

Recently, Belgian postwar modernism has repeatedly been explored on an international scale. It was the subject of several articles published in specialised journals, and the public has been exposed through exhibitions and monographs to the work of Belgian architects who were previously unknown outside their national borders. Although this country and its people are rarely brought up in the context of architecture or design, the 1950s and ’60s represent the extraordinary growth of applied art in Belgium. At that time, design and architecture found widespread application across the entire society, and architects found great potential to experiment with radical modernist ideals in the mass production of housing developments and villa neighbourhoods.

Exponents of the Belgian architectural scene of the 1950s, including Willy Van Der Meeren, Jacques Dupuis, Lucien Engels and Renaat Braem, among others, dealt with the legacy of functionalism in their respective personal styles. The strict functionality and social ideas were enriched, most notably in the case of Willy Van Der Meeren, by surprisingly expressive and almost decorative forms. This standard would soon come to be reflected even in the work of rather provincial architects. A somewhat “soft” modernism, culminating in the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair, took on a very obvious expression in Belgium, in extreme cases branching into new historical forms, kitsch, and even pre-postmodern elements.

Meanwhile, many other artists dedicated their entire careers to the pursuit of a clean form of modernism, used to create unexpected architectural spaces. Renaat Braem, whose Antwerp studio was made into a museum in 2006, approached a sculptural interpretation of building by the early 1960s, and his residential projects adopted a soft organic expression in the latter part of the decade. The Van Humbeeck House (1966–1970) in Buggenhout or the Villa Alsteens (1966–1969) in Overijse were no longer strict instruments for living decorated only by abstract details, but complex-shaped organisms that often grew into their surroundings. A similar approach to shaping material can be found in the work of the solitary Juliaan Lampens, who interpreted residential buildings and churches as brutalist sculptural volumes in raw concrete, after the example of Le Corbusier’s later work.

The use of raw concrete and formal expressiveness are directly linked with the Sculpture House project, begun in 1962 by architect Jacques Gillet, whose constructive principle and idea of intuitive creation challenge the aesthetics of postwar modernism and instead return to the ancient roots of human existence, nature and organic architecture. Gillet, born in Liège in 1931, completed his architectural studies in 1956 at the Académie des Beaux-Arts and began to explore novel forms of construction in concrete, culminating in the experimental form of the Sculpture House.

In an earlier project, Gillet was asked by engineer Jean-Marie Huberty to collaborate on the “aesthetic impression” of Huberty’s own house in La Hulpe, near Brussels. Here, Gillet encountered the unexpected possibilities of concrete; for example, the roof was designed with Huberty and fellow civil engineer André Paduart as a shell of two parabolic hyperboloids, only five centimetres thick. Gillet immediately acknowledged the constructional and artistic qualities of the material, whose potential thinness he would go on to use in the Sculpture House.

Before the project began, however, he met two soul mates — sculptor Félix Roulin (1931–) and engineer René Greisch (1929–2000) — whose artistic and engineering visions shared a holistic combination of architecture, art and science that would enhance their intuitive approach to creative work. After several joint projects (few of which were actually built), the trio was asked by Jacques Gillet’s brother to design him a house in the suburbs of Liège.

The creators’ dream came true in 1967 as they began to build a living sculptural object, with almost no project plans. During the process of construction, a spontaneous organic architecture emerged, blending into its environment like a rock, as if it had stood there forever. As Jacques Gillet wrote in 1978, “What is a house, for our characters as individuals, for our family as an entity, for the education of our children, for this very place and for this particular time?” This house, in particular, grew up from the ground.

The creators aspired to an original design that would not only fit the specific needs of the architect’s brother and his wife, but would also demonstrate the synthesis of different artistic and scientific fields, forming a complex inspired by nature. Criticisms of standardisation and strict modernism also played their part in the project.

The house, whose moss-covered surface has become a natural residential element today, may be the best functioning result from the 1960s experiments in organic and utopian architecture. Alongside Gillet’s house, Frederick Kiesler’s Endless House, the sculptural houses by André Bloc, the utopian residential visions of the Archigram group, and the experimental 1960s Viennese school were searching for new forms of living and spatial experiments through a return to the past, to the time when mankind lived in caves, to the embryo ensconced in the womb of its mother. The sterile, clean spaces of functionalist houses were replaced by indefinite organic forms that merged naturally with human life. In this case, Gillet’s design adapted to its inhabitants, the modern quotidian cave serving its purpose as well as any other house. Jacques Gillet’s brother and his family have been living in this house for over 40 years; thus, architectural utopia has become a part of ordinary life.

The house was constructed of steel mesh formed in an organic shape around several solid elements, including the concrete floor and chimneys. Its precise location was not predetermined; rather, the designers experimented on site to define the final placement of the walls, using a pliable grid of eight-millimetre- wide steel rods. Next, the designers used a special spraying technique to apply concrete onto the net, forming a five-centimetre-thick solid layer. The spraying was performed by the Pasek company, specialising since 1960 in the application of dry concrete and plaster using a special Refra- Gun nozzle, a process that had to be constantly monitored by workers to ensure even coverage.

The final concrete shell was then completed with large window frames, contrasting with the organic concrete envelope and creating unexpected views from the interior out and the exterior in. Inside, the surface of the shell was finished with a sprayed layer of isolating polyurethane foam. After 14 months of work, the house was completed in 1968. If the exterior alludes to natural rock, the interior of the house forms a bright, comfortable cave, echoing the impression of a prehistoric or nomadic dwelling. The main living area, with a living room, dining room and kitchen, is a freely linked space that opens onto the landscape through the large windows. The house has no stairs; the inhabitants access the different floor heights via concrete ramps or irregular steps that recall well-trodden paths in rocky forest grounds. The house is simultaneously an adventurous site and the host of the everyday life of its inhabitants.

The team, made up of architect Gillet, sculptor Roulin and engineer Greisch, has completed no comparable works since the Sculpture House. Gillet worked as a professor of architecture at the University of Liège and promoted organic architecture through his contact with international practitioners. He invited the legendary Bruce Goff to Liège for a lecture in 1972, inspiring a number of young Belgian architects of the time. Like some of Goff’s organic houses in the USA, the Sculpture House in Liège remains an extraordinary example of intuitive architecture, standing out from all the stylistic categorisations and movements.

March 8th, 2013
A Brick-Watcher’s Favorites


Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Clockwise from left: iron-spot brick, in a diaper-work pattern, at the Church of the Holy Trinity on East 88th Street; the slender Roman brick often seen on Park Avenue, as here at No. 960; and a section of the crazy quilt of clinker brick that adorns the ground floor of 405 East 54th Street.

By CHRISTOPHER GRAY
NY Times Published: March 7, 2013

Stone leaves me cold. Yes, Connemara green marble can be luscious, and the fossils in Indiana limestone may be mesmerizing, but the setting of stone — massive hunks of rock, which must be derricked into place — removes all sense of handwork. A stone wall is the creation of machines.

On the other hand, the human touch is all over brick. It is not difficult to imagine a mason setting each one, squishing down the mortar and filling the joints, moving on to the next, and then starting all over again. Any brick wall is barely a handshake away from the people who, a few months or years or centuries ago, created it; one degree of separation, if you will.

This sense of antiquity is best displayed in Roman brick, usually 12 inches long as opposed to the more common 8 inches. This kind was used before the Romans, and it is not clear how it developed in the ancient world; perhaps in drying, the thinner form was more forgiving in shrinkage. But somehow the empire put its stamp on it, and the part-ruined buildings of Classical Italy are full of these long, flat shapes: the arches of the fourth-century Baths of Diocletian come to mind.

In New York, Roman brick came to be used in all sorts of ways, but the kind I like is all over Park and West End Avenues, where it was fashionable in apartment houses of the early 20th century. The brick at 960 Park Avenue, on the 82nd Street corner, has deep-struck joints; the mortar has been raked out, leaving the brick projecting. Because the brick is irregular and on the thin side, it has a fragile air, as if it might snap off.

Although red brick was the standard in New York until after the Civil War, a quest for variety began in the 1880s. That’s when dappled iron-spot brick was introduced. The 1894 Dakota Stables, a masonry masterpiece of orange iron-spot trimmed with salmon-colored brick, stood at Amsterdam Avenue and 77th Street until a few years ago. Although it was an obvious development site for two decades, only a passing effort was made to save it.

Another striking orange iron-spot brick structure in New York is still with us: the delicate Church of the Holy Trinity on East 88th Street, between Second and First Avenues. Built by the Rhinelander family in 1897 and designed by Barney & Chapman, this is a complex arrangement of French Gothic forms, more like a small town than a single structure, perhaps the best such assemblage in Manhattan.

In addition to iron-spot, it has Roman brick. Instead of the thick joints used at 960 Park Avenue, the architects laid the brick more tightly here, contributing to what The Brickbuilder magazine described in 1899 as “a harmony of color that is only surpassed by nature’s inimitable autumn foliage.”

The flat arches over the basement windows are worth a look, too. The bricks were shaped to form wedges laid one next to the other, spanning the opening. The delicacy of such work is often astonishing; another example is the curved arch on the old stable at 75 East 77th Street, where the bricks reduce to an amazing thinness.

Neither thin nor delicate, clinker brick is the Marlon Brando of masonry: misshapen, blackened in the kiln, historically regarded as trash by brickmakers. The architects George and Edward Blum were among New York’s most versatile designers in brick, and clinkers did not escape their imagination, especially at the 1930 apartment house at 405 East 54th Street, at First Avenue.

The First Avenue side is all storefront, but the brick on 54th Street was laid every which way, a hypnotic whirl of dark red, purple and black chunks of misshapen brick, 95 percent of which would be rejected for a standard colonial-style house. The Blums’ client could afford this technique only on the lower floors. Above, the rubble falls into line — throwaway brick is expensive!

If clinker brick is the Wild One, brick set in the crisscross pattern called diaper work is like a ballerina. In New York the grandpappy of diaper work was the 1865 National Academy of Design at Park Avenue South and 23rd Street, reminiscent of the Doge’s Palace in Venice.

Not everyone loved the crisscross design, covering the entire second floor. The Real Estate Record and Guide could hardly bear to look at it, describing it in 1868 as “architectural delirium tremens, where variegated bricks make up a sort of mosaic front.”

The academy building is long gone, but the Upper West Side has several diapered apartment houses, the Allenhurst, at Broadway and West 100th Street, and the Peter Stuyvesant, at Riverside Drive and 98th Street. The Peter Stuyvesant was designed in 1908 for a group including James T. Lee, a grandfather of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

There, the crisscross covers the top three floors, writ very bold because the building is so tall. Surrounded by great bosses of polychrome terra cotta and underneath a deep green copper cornice, the bricks softly stair-step up the facade. There must be thousands; each one was set by a human hand.

March 7th, 2013
When Mutant Mosquitoes Attack

By MAGGIE KOERTH-BAKER
NY Times Published: February 19, 2013

It’s no wonder that Goethe wrote “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” near the dawn of the industrial age. The poem, which most of us now learn from Mickey Mouse, tells the story of a young man who, left to his own devices, mimics his boss’s spell for making brooms fetch water pails. Once the task is done, he doesn’t know how to stop the thing, so he chops the broom in half, which only enables it to work double duty. The sorcerer eventually returns, fixing the mess his subordinate has made (his situation never got quite as out of hand as Mickey’s). Lesson learned: Solutions to problems at hand can create new, sometimes unforeseeable, challenges in the future.

As scientists consider using genetically modified mosquitoes to combat deadly diseases in the developing world, Goethe’s poem should serve as a warning. Scientists are aware that their interventions in the natural world will have unintended effects, and in order to behave ethically, these potential risks must be considered. Even something as innocuous as a mosquito net may carry a considerable downside.

A mosquito net is a simple piece of technology: it creates a protective barrier between sleeping humans and the disease-carrying mosquitoes that would otherwise feast on them during the night. Combined with antimalarial drugs and in-home spraying of pesticide, nets are responsible for a 25 percent drop in global malaria deaths since 2000. But in Kenya, Tanzania and other countries that use bed nets, scientists are beginning to see evidence of a new problem: mosquitoes might be adapting to the solution, finding workarounds.

We are the mosquitoes’ food, Nora Haenn, an anthropologist at North Carolina State University, reminded me, and like most creatures, they feed where the food is. (Or in this case, when it is.) Mosquito nets work because the mosquitoes most responsible for transmitting malaria in sub-Saharan Africa feed at night. But now they’re trying their luck earlier, and outdoors. In other cases, night-feeding species seem to be losing ground to more flexible competitors — these also carry malaria.

Researchers have yet to prove definitively that mosquitoes are adapting their behavior in response to nets, but Haenn brought up the possibility to make a point: By solving certain problems, we often create new ones. For Haenn, who is part of an interdisciplinary program at N.C. State aimed at inserting discussions about ethics and responsibility into the early stages of biotech research, the side effects of scientific meddling weigh heavily.

There are many different organizations experimenting with mosquitoes in an effort to eradicate malaria and dengue fever — Haenn’s colleagues at N.C. State; a group at the University of California, Irvine; and Oxitec, a private company in England. Of the many ways to tinker with mosquito DNA, two strategies are promising.

One approach, focused on dengue, aims to reduce the mosquito population by making it difficult for them to breed. Fred Gould, an entomologist at N.C. State, has been involved in an effort to design mosquitoes that produce flightless females. Only female mosquitoes draw blood, which they must do in order to reproduce. If they can’t get off the ground, it will become impossible for them to mate, and the subsequent generation will be smaller than it would have been otherwise.

The other approach, focused on malaria, won’t get rid of the pesky things, but it will make them less deadly. There are different types of malaria, Anthony A. James, a professor of microbiology at the University of California, Irvine, told me, and they’re host-specific. Mice can’t catch human malaria, and vice versa. James takes the genes that help mice fend off human malaria and transfers them into mosquitoes. Theoretically these altered mosquitoes would destroy the disease in their own bodies instead of spreading it to humans. To make it work on a large scale, scientists would have to connect this gene to what James calls “a drive system” — some trait that makes the malaria-immune mosquitoes more likely to reproduce than their normal cousins. Should someone figure out how to do this with mosquito DNA, natural selection would do the rest.

It’s a clever solution. But all solutions, whether as simple as a net or as complicated as splicing genes, come with risks. For instance, Aedes aegypti is the species primarily responsible for spreading dengue. It’s present around the world, but outside North Africa, it’s an invasive species. If scientists use flightless female modifications against A. aegypti and succeed in decreasing its presence in, say, Mexico City, then what will fill its ecological niche there? (What is its ecological niche anyway? One entomologist told me that we don’t even have a great understanding of mosquitoes’ place in our ecosystem, because we have focused our efforts on killing them rather than observing them.)

Even curing a disease poses risks, because in all likelihood it won’t stay cured forever. If G.M. mosquitoes completely neutered the malaria parasite’s threat, even in one part of the world, it would be an incredible success story. But what happens if the parasite adapts to circumvent the tools we’ve used to fight it? Today we know how to take precautions to prevent malaria transmissions and fight the disease with antimalarial drugs. But in the future, some version of malaria could surge through a population of humans without the cultural knowledge or pharmaceuticals necessary to defend themselves against it.

This sort of risk-taking is a hallmark of contemporary civilization. In 1986, the German sociologist Ulrich Beck coined the term “risk society” as a way of describing the shift in science and technology’s relationship to risk over the past century. For most of human history, Beck argues, risks came from unknowable and uncontrollable forces — natural disasters, famine, disease. So we focused on mitigating those external risks. Today we have at least partial solutions to many natural risks — levees, industrial farming and antibiotics, say — but each solution contributes to new risks — more destructive floods, obesity and drug-resistant diseases — which then have to be managed with new solutions, which then present new risks.

“What this does though, in the public mind, is undermine people’s belief in science,” Haenn told me. “It creates skepticism.” So science must change the way it engages with the world as it both reduces and creates risk.

Scientists must also consider their complex relationship with those they wish to help. Just because a community has a high incidence of dengue, it might not be keen to introduce G.M. mosquitoes to fight the disease — for any number of reasons. Dengue fever thrives in rural areas of developing nations, parts of the world where well-intentioned Western intervention has not always worked in the locals’ favor. Even if there appears to be interest, researchers must understand the coercive effects of their mere presence. In rural Mexico, where some of this research is taking place with the assistance of the Mexican government, Haenn says there’s unspoken pressure to accept any project that has federal backing. “People feel like if they reject any particular project, they’ll be considered kind of noncooperative players and more goodies won’t come their way,” she told me. Besides, communities aren’t monolithic. Deciding who has the authority to give the go-ahead to scientists who want to release genetically altered pests isn’t easy.

These are not problems that scientists had to worry about in the past. In Beck’s description of how risk societies work, the first round of scientific innovation — when science solves the problems imposed on us by nature — is accepted gratefully, even uncritically. We must now manage the risks that we have created, Haenn said, as well as those we continue to create.

March 6th, 2013
Jim Lambie

Through 9/3/2013

The Modern Institute

via

March 6th, 2013

thanks to silas and nate lentz

March 5th, 2013
By Any Other Name


Illustration by Alex Robbins

By TEDDY WAYNE
NY Times Published: March 1, 2013

Though I endured some grade-school ribbing for my slightly unusual first name, professionally, it’s been a boon. Readers are much more likely to remember a byline with Teddy, my somewhat gravitas-deficient nickname since birth, than one with my more common legal name, Derek. According to the Social Security database, in 1979, the year I was born, Teddy was the 485th-most-popular male name; Derek was ranked 72. These days, I’m not even in the top thousand.

As someone with a split nominal identity, I deliberated briefly over which to use as a pen name. And, I confess, I’ve paid lifelong attention to what people choose to call themselves, both in daily life and on the page, mulling over the possibilities and repercussions. Is it, for example, an advantage for writers, many of whom pride themselves on iconoclasm, to have a name that stands out from the pack? What names sound more “writerly” on a book cover? And what, please explain, is with the current Jonathan craze (Safran Foer, Lethem, Ames, Franzen), when earlier generations did just fine with John (Cheever, Irving, Updike, the Evangelist)?

If there has ever been a golden age for the unconventionally named author, it is now. In addition to the influx of multicultural writers with extravagant bylines like Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, over the past few decades, parents have bestowed upon their children a wider assortment of domestic names. In the 1950s, the 50 most popular names were given to 63 percent of all boys and 52 percent of all girls, said Cleveland Evans, a former president of the American Names Society. By 2004, the top 50 applied to only 35 percent of boys and 24 percent of girls.

Despite this boom in outlier nomenclature, very few academic studies have investigated the psychological ramifications. The touchstone, a 1983 report by Richard Zweigenhaft, a psychology professor at Guilford College, found that female college students with unusual names scored higher on 17 of 18 traits on the California Psychological Inventory, in areas such as “Psychological Mindedness” and “Self-Acceptance.” In a 1981 study, the same population scored higher on a standardized “Uniqueness Scale.” The report suggests “that one of the benefits of having an unusual name for women could be a greater likelihood of creativity,” according to Zweigenhaft. The effects were negligible on males with uncommon names. And, obviously, it is impossible to tease out the influence of the unusual-thinking parents who assign these names in the first place. Nor was there any measurement of related book sales.

But this is the kind of thing writers and would-be authors think about. Curtis Sittenfeld’s parents called their daughter by her middle name from birth to distinguish her from the many Elizabeths in the family. Sittenfeld, the author of “Prep” and “American Wife,” didn’t think much of her name growing up, in part because she attended boarding school, “and no place has more people with weird names than boarding school,” she told me. But as an author, her name has resulted in numerous misreadings. “A lot of people have e-mailed me, ‘I read your story and I was so impressed at how a man could get inside the head of a female character,’ ” she said. “Then when they meet me, they’re much less impressed.”

Of course, there’s a long tradition of women writing under male or gender-neutral names, from George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) to Lionel Shriver (Margaret Ann Shriver) to J. K. Rowling (Joanne, no middle name, though one suspects it would have been Ann). Sittenfeld thinks her name may actually enhance her craft. “Having a confusing name helps you as a writer, because it makes you see a situation from someone else’s perspective,” she said. “You have to anticipate people’s confusion.”

For a writer, there’s another bonus to an unlikely name, one Zweigenhaft might not have fully anticipated in 1983: Nobody will buy the wrong book. Laura Wattenberg, the author of “The Baby Name Wizard,” said that in the digitized world, unique names have “practical advantages, because they’re searchable. If you’re Tom Wilson, there will be hundreds of other Tom Wilsons out there.” On the other hand, there is only one Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, the author of “When Skateboards Will Be Free.” Research strongly intimates that Sayrafiezadeh (I’ve copied and pasted to ensure accuracy) is halfway to memorability. “If you have an unusual name, as long as it’s pronounceable easily, that could only help,” said Evans, of the American Names Society.

But what makes for a so-called literary name, one destined for bold lettering on a hardcover, without misspellings and misunderstandings? While the traditional Anglo-Saxon names we once accorded with prose mastery are outdated in a world of Junots and Téas, certain tried-and-true guidelines remain.

For those hoping to be the next fiction sensation, the rule of thumb seems to be more rather than less. One surefire path is the tripartite name, provided there is some musicality to the pronunciation — the sweet spot may be six syllables. David Foster Wallace, for instance, contains three disyllabic trochees. (In person he went by the more prosaic Dave.) Jonathan Safran Foer wends its way from three syllables to two to one. Foer experimented with variations in college papers (J. S. Foer, J. Safran Foer, even J. S. F. — “each a bit more pretentious than the previous,” he said). He ultimately went with his full name because “it sounded best to me,” he said. “There’s probably a deeper psychological explanation, but I wouldn’t buy it.”

His instincts were right. Shortly before “Everything Is Illuminated” came out, he met an older Spanish writer. The man seemed unimpressed by Foer’s description of the novel. “He asked, ‘What’s your name again?’ ” Foer recalled. “I told him, ‘Jonathan Foer.’ ” He then asked what name was going on the book. The author unleashed his full byline. “His eyes lit up,” said Foer, “and he banged his fist against the table and said, ‘That’s going to be an amazing book!’ ” The enigmatic two- or even three-­initialed (see: M. F. K. Fisher) name also works nicely.

It’s best to avoid informal diminutives like Tom, Dick and Harry in favor of the more dignified Thomas, Richard and Harold. Jennifer Egan has gone by Jenny since she was a child, but, she told me, “I never considered using Jenny when publishing because it seems too casual to stand up to print.” A pen name has other pluses: “I’ve found I enjoy the gap between my name on paper and in person; it helps define the two spheres of my life,” Egan said.

As for the current Jonathan vogue, demographics explain much. The Anglophonic John was the most popular name for boys born in 1922 and a top-10 stalwart until 1987. In the self-referential 1998 novel “Bech at Bay,” John Updike’s alter ego makes this clear:

“Those that didn’t appear, like John Irving and John Fowles, garrulously, Dickensianly reactionary in method seemed, like John Hawkes and John Barth, smugly, hermetically experimental. O’Hara, Hersey, Cheever, Updike — suburbanites all living safe while art’s inner city disintegrated. And that was just the Johns.”

Nowadays, John is ranked 27. Jonathan — which has Hebraic origins and etymologically differs from the Latinate John — mired at 541 in 1932, has consistently gained in popularity, registering at 31 in 2011. Perhaps modern Jewish writers or those with a Jewish-sounding first name feel less pressure to whitewash their ethnicity with the all-American John. The softer Jonathan also comes off as sensitive in comparison with its brusque counterpart, another sought-after attribute in the current literary landscape. It’s hard to imagine a restroom or a prostitute’s customer being referred to as a “Jonathan.”

Personally, I considered my own Foer-esque variations to avoid the Jenny-like informality of Teddy: Derek Edward Wayne, D. E. Wayne, even D. T. Wayne (which risked confusion with the author D. T. Max, biographer of D. F. W.). But I’ve always been Teddy; writing under another name would make me feel like an impostor. Besides, I had other things to worry about: What should be the book’s title?

March 5th, 2013
The Colors and Joys of the Quotidian


“Door, Staircase” (1981)

“Lois Dodd: Catching the Light,” now at the Portland Museum of Art in Portland, Me., is the first retrospective of Ms. Dodd’s career, with 46 of her paintings.

By ROBERTA SMITH
NY Times Published: February 28, 2013

PORTLAND, Me. — Lois Dodd paints with an insistent, sometimes daring economy. She has spent some 60 years making images of her immediate surroundings, and each painting seems to go emphatically as far as she thinks it should and no further. No frills attached.

“Lois Dodd: Catching the Light,” the modest retrospective of Ms. Dodd’s work at the Portland Museum of Art here is populated by paintings of landscapes, interiors and river views; of flowers, garden sheds and lawns; of compact clapboard houses and barns, by the light of the moon or sun; of wood-slat doors and steep farmhouse steps; and, quite often, of reflection-catching four-pane windows.

This list may sound conventional, even pedestrian, but the paintings hold your attention. Many seem at first glance slightly unnerving: awkward, brusque or even unfinished. While they seduce the eye with light and color, they challenge it with an assortment of brush strokes, spatial complexities and compositional quirks, teetering in different ways on the cusp between abstract and representational.

Behind their veneer of homey familiarity, these paintings are tough and unruly. Their main attitude seems to be a blithe, independent-spirited “Take it or leave it.”

So far the art establishment has mostly left it. Ms. Dodd is 86, and this is her first museum retrospective. It is being staged some distance from the New York art world, on whose edges she has quietly lived and worked for decades.

Organized by Barbara O’Brien, chief curator at the Kemper Museum for Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Mo., where it was first shown last year, this exhibition covers 55 years with 46 paintings, supplemented by a dozen of the small, deft oil studies that Ms. Dodd began making on thin sheets of aluminum in 1990. It is making its second, and final, stop here in Maine, where Ms. Dodd has spent summers since 1951, and has been expertly installed by Jessica May, the Portland Museum’s curator of modern art, even though the galleries are less than felicitous.

It is a loss that no New York museum could find room for this revelatory show. But then, Ms. Dodd is a painter at a time when ephemeral, performative and activist art forms are highly favored, and paintings are often dismissed as marketable trinkets.

In addition, Ms. Dodd, who was born and grew up in Montclair, N.J., and attended the Cooper Union in Manhattan, has neither star quality nor much of an art world profile. Her main brush with history is that she was a founding member of Tanager, the first gallery on the block of East 10th Street that became the Greenwich Village epicenter of Abstract Expressionism. She had her first solo show at Tanager in 1954.

Ms. Dodd’s main goal has been simply to paint, every day, what she sees in — or from — her studio or, when she ventures forth, in the city, her yard or some patch of woods. She has a loft on the Lower East Side in New York; a small house in Cushing, Me., some 70 miles up the coast from here; and another in Blairstown, N.J., which she bought in 1976 to be near the Delaware Water Gap, a favorite subject of hers in wintertime.

In this show’s catalog, her friend the painter Alex Katz pinpoints her dedication, recalling a moment in the late 1950s when Ms. Dodd was painting, and her young son, Eli, tied her leg to a table leg. “Lois was surprised,” Mr. Katz writes, “but she kept on painting.”

As impressive as the Portland show is, I suspect an even better one could be done. Rather than select her best paintings, this one too carefully accounts for all five and a half decades of work and a full range of subject matter.

Still, there is plenty to look at, starting with two canvases from the 1950s that hint at Ms. Dodd’s ability and certainly demonstrate her confidence, but also show her squarely in thrall to the improvisatory style of Willem de Kooning, whose studio was near Tanager. Except: Their loosely worked surfaces harbor steep landscapes and several cows and calves. In “Pasture” (1955) they are seen standing up or lying down — from fore, aft or the side — all shaded by a wonderfully clunky if barely intimated tree.

In the mid-60s, Ms. Dodd forsook the cows and hit her stride. In 20 paintings from 1967 to 1979, she diversifies her subjects and establishes that she will always be adjusting her style and paint handling, in restless, not-so-subtle ways, often on the same canvas. The scarcity of paint in “Wild Geraniums” (1967), with its thin green lawn and seemingly dry-brushed plants and blossoms, is startling: barely an image and possibly a riff on Color Field painting.

“View Through Elliot’s Shack Looking South” (1971) is a veritable lexicon of techniques. One of several paintings in which a window is nearly congruent with the canvas’s edges, it gleefully confounds the Renaissance notion of the canvas as a window onto another space by multiplying it. We look into the darkened shack through a white-frame window to a second window in the shack’s opposite wall and out that to a few crisply painted sunlit tree trunks — a painting within a painting. But the glass of the first window provides another such painting; it is confusingly splashed with big, blurry strokes of green and brown, the reflection of the trees behind the painter (and us). Thus a sandwich of planes and spaces is made.

Adding to the complexity of Ms. Dodd’s work is her continuing conversation with the history of painting. Her 1995 “Sunset at Quarry” communes convincingly with Cézanne, as does, in its own way, “Ice in the Trees,” from 1981. The squeezed space of her “Door, Staircase” (1981) — a subtle play of yellow, lavender and white — and “Green Door and Bed” (1994) evoke the architectural Americana of Charles Sheeler and Walker Evans.

Her austere views of a men’s shelter seen from her New York window evoke the abbreviated Precisionism of George Ault, just as the pale reflected sunburst of “Winter Sunset, Blair Pond,” echoes Arthur Dove’s visionary moons. In “Late Water Gap” (1991) and “Baisley’s Shacks” (2003), she converses with Minimalism, specifically with the clean, curved shapes of Ellsworth Kelly and the boxy volumes and open spaces of Donald Judd.

Ms. Dodd loves the observable world, the vagaries of nature and the specificities of old Maine houses: the way they cleave to the ground, or fill the picture frame, or shine, lights on or off, in the moonlight. She always searches out the underlying geometry but also the underlying life, and the sheer strangeness of it all. The prime example of this approach is “Apple Tree and Shed” (2007), with hallucinatory, slightly Cubist orbs of white blossoms and, intruding from the right, the flat, almost collagelike face of a shack in lichen-green clapboard.

Ms. Dodd’s paintings are noticeably devoid of people, except for a few profoundly weird images of nudes that parody the Arcadian tradition. And three paintings here offer deprecating self-portraits of a sort: in one the artist is present as a reflection in a window, painting, stretching her paintbrush toward an unseen easel; in another she casts a comical shadow on the lawn, accompanied by an easel, in a loopy work that gets better each time I see it.

But Ms. Dodd appears in the flesh, relatively speaking, only in a small 1989 work in which she peers through overly large glasses from beneath the brim of a black top hat. Her hair is awry, her expression dubious, her skin rendered in faintly lurid shades of lavender, green, orange and yellow — perhaps the effects of Christmas tree lights. The slightly carnivalesque result reads as an unintentional tribute to her unstinting honesty as an artist, one who paints it as she sees it, secure in her knowledge of the artistic gift of the passing days and seasons.

As this marvelous show demonstrates, a painter who looks carefully and trusts herself can never paint the same thing the same way twice.

March 3rd, 2013
WHITE COLUMNS AT THE INDEPENDENT


Karin Gulbran, Untitled Large Pot, 10″ x 7.5″

Karin Gulbran is an artist based in Los Angeles. Gulbran trained initially as a painter – she received her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1996, and her MFA in 1999 from UCLA, whose faculty included John Baldessari, Paul McCarthy, Charles Ray, and Lari Pittman – but more recently her work has taken the form of functional ceramic pots, decorated with highly stylized, and intuitively drawn images of animals – that bring to mind the earlier anthropomorphic bestiary found in the work of artists such as Asger Jorn or Pablo Picasso (both of whom shared Gulbarn’s interest and investment in folk art forms and ceramics in
particular.) About this shift, from making ‘Art’ with a capital ‘A’ to the creation of what she describes as functional objects Gulbran has stated: “Making pots started as an escape from the dilemmas of making art – the function justifies the form and the decoration appears on the surface. It has been an outlet for some of my tendencies, sentimentality and personal symbols.” A part of the “dilemma” of making art perhaps resides in art’s uncertain status, its remove from the realities of everyday life – a tension that still underscores and reinforces the hierarchies that persist to this day between ‘high art’ and other forms of vernacular art (inc. folk art, ceramics, etc.) Gulbran’s functional works embrace the classic forms of the cup, the bowl, the vessel – forms that are as old as and inherent to the medium of ceramics itself. What transforms her work from being ‘merely’ utilitarian objects is, to my mind, the autobiographical narratives that Gulbran brings to bear on the work’s surface: a form of decoration that is at once both emotional and psychological, and one that explicitly refers to Gulbran’s own biography and her history as an artist. Often operating as memorials to family pets, or to feral animals only briefly encountered, Gulbran’s self-reflexive works are in turn profoundly melancholic, a prevailing sensibility that seems at odds with the exuberant nature of her drawing, a tension that gives the works their charge. Both physical and psychological, both external and internalized, Gulbran’s ceramic works ultimately resist any easy categorization, operating instead in an idiosyncratic territory of her own making, one that oscillates between the elusive nature of art and the rational desires and demands of life.

– Matthew Higgs. Director, White Columns.

MARCH 7 – MARCH 10, 2013
WORKS BY:
JANE CORRIGAN
ROCCO FAMA
MAGDALENA FRIMKESS
KARIN GULBRAN
TYPE 42 (ANONYMOUS)
EDITIONS BY:
MICHELE ABELES
MARC HUNDLEY

White Columns

March 2nd, 2013
Bringing back a piece of L.A.’s Olympic glory


Willie Herron III, left, Mural Conservancy chief Isabel Rojas-Williams and street artist Risk in front of Frank Romero’s work. (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles Times / February 14, 2013)

Most of the 10 murals created along freeways to celebrate the 1984 Summer Games were painted over for protection. A restoration project is underway.

By Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times
March 1, 2013

The midweek traffic along the 101 Freeway is sluggish this afternoon, but that’s nothing compared to two cars along this route that have been stalled for years.

The vehicles, bright pink and yellow, are part of artist Frank Romero’s mural, “Going to the Olympics,” which he painted on the freeway wall in 1984. It was one of 10 murals commissioned that year for the Olympic Arts Festival to commemorate L.A.’s hosting the Games.

After years of being heavily tagged with graffiti, however, most of the murals were painted over by CalTrans starting in 2007 to protect them, leaving them in hibernation until funds were available for restoration.

At the time, Romero sued CalTrans for covering his work. But today, artist Willie Herrón III — whose own mural, “Luchas del Mundo” (Struggles of the World), is part of the Olympic series — is perched atop scaffolding in a hard hat and yellow safety vest, carefully removing the last swath of gray paint that will set Romero’s mural free. Herrón’s efforts are part of a project, now 15 months in, overseen by the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles. The goal is to restore the murals that are salvageable in time for the 30-year anniversary of the L.A. Olympics in 2014.

“These murals are the connecting bridge between street art, museums and galleries,” says Mural Conservancy Executive Director Isabel Rojas-Williams. “This is our history, they tell our story. We decided we had to go back to the freeways and bring them back to life.”

The conservancy cobbled together funds for the restoration from membership fees, Department of Cultural Affairs grants, private donations and other grants, as well as revenue earned from Rojas-Williams’ personally leading mural tours and giving lectures around the city. The California Department of Transportation, Rojas-Williams says, has been instrumental in helping the conservancy coordinate permits and logistics, such as coning off sections of the freeway so that work can be done.

“We’re not putting in funds toward [restoration] this time, but we facilitated it, it’s our property,” says CalTrans spokesman Patrick Chandler. “It’s definitely a working partnership.”

The first mural to be restored, in December 2011, was half of a diptych on the 101 by artist Kent Twitchell, “Jim Morphesis Monument.” Fine Art Conservation Laboratories did the restoration; Herrón is doing the work on the remaining murals. The Twitchell mural’s counterpart, on the opposite wall, “Lita Albuquerque Monument,” was restored in mid-2012. Together they were referred to as “Seventh Street Altarpiece.” “L.A. Freeway Kids,” by Glenna Boltuch Avila and also on the 101, was uncovered in fall 2012.

The Mural Conservancy selected Herrón to restore the murals as much for his rich history in the genre as his technical skill. Herrón, a pioneering muralist in the 1970s, painted with the avant-garde Chicano art collective Asco, whose other members were Gronk, Harry Gamboa Jr. and Patssi Valdez. Herrón has more than a dozen murals up around the city and regularly maintains them himself.

“For L.A. artists to be taken seriously on a worldwide basis, we have to protect our work and it has to be up for decades, not just in a book,” Herrón says. “It’s about students being able to go and see your work 40 years later — to stand in front of it, live, and look at your brush strokes.”

The Romero mural — with its bursting pastel-colored heart, skinny palm and Olympic runner poised to break into a sprint — is set to be fully restored later this month. The Mural Conservancy is in the process of securing funds for the project’s fifth restoration, likely John Wehrle’s “Galileo, Jupiter, Apollo” on the 101, says Rojas-Williams. After that, the conservancy will revisit fundraising efforts.

Not all of the Olympic murals are salvageable. Murals on the 110 freeway by artists Richard Wyatt (“James and Spectators”) and Roderick Sykes (“Unity”) were damaged beyond repair because of highway construction in the late 1990s. One more on the 110, by Alonzo Davis (“Eye on 84”) was so heavily weathered that restoration isn’t possible.

“Hitting the Wall” by Judy Baca, also on the 110, was recently restored in a separate effort last month by SPARC in Venice.

That leaves just two other murals: Terry Schoonhoven’s “Cityscape” on the 110 and Herrón’s on the 101. He says he wants to complete restoration of the others before starting work on his own.

The Mural Conservancy follows international restoration guidelines for determining the proper water temperature and pressure to use. Herrón will touch up sections of the murals using the original pigments the artists painted with decades ago — Romero, who lives in France half the year now, even provided paint samples. A clear, protective coating is being applied, so any future tagging can be easily removed.

Herrón is quick to point out that even though great care is being taken, artistic perfection is not a goal of historical mural restoration.

“We’re trying to leave them looking original, but well maintained … not freshly painted,” he says. “When the colors look too bright, we cheat and add a little black or gray. We say: ‘Nah, nah, let’s back it up a little, let’s mess it up a bit!'”

Restoration work has been done before on the Olympic murals, which were purposely placed along the most visible route to the Coliseum, home base of the 1984 Games.

In 2003 and 2004, there was a state-funded, $1.7-million restoration effort by the Mural Conservancy, Department of Cultural Affairs and CalTrans. After the murals continued to suffer at the hands of vandals, CalTrans painted over most of them. Some were left uncovered but were so heavily tagged that graffiti obscured the visual narrative.

Now, as the pictures come back to life, Herrón says, reaction from passing cars has, at times, been especially animated.

“Honking, clapping, chicks with their legs out the window screaming,” he says. “People are excited.”

Adds Rojas-Williams: “A lot of people grew up with them. They say, ‘I remember driving by with my parents!’ This is personal too.”

March 2nd, 2013
Recent Ruins


Matt Paweski, KeyLime, 2013
Birch plywood, steel, enamel, wax
23″x 23″x 7″

Organized by Julia M Leonard

A one day outdoor exhibition

Saturday March 2nd at 1pm

At the corner of Park Drive and Ewing Street, Echo Park 90026

Ruby Rose Neri
Julia M Leonard
Chris Lux
Torbjorn Vejvi
Calvin Marcus
Michael Dopp
Nicholas Pittman
Erik Blum
Annie Costello Brown
Matt Paweski
Rainen Knecht
Christopher Baird

March 1st, 2013
Ben Bernanke, Hippie

By PAUL KRUGMAN
NY Times Published: February 28, 2013

We’re just a few weeks away from a milestone I suspect most of Washington would like to forget: the start of the Iraq war. What I remember from that time is the utter impenetrability of the elite prowar consensus. If you tried to point out that the Bush administration was obviously cooking up a bogus case for war, one that didn’t bear even casual scrutiny; if you pointed out that the risks and likely costs of war were huge; well, you were dismissed as ignorant and irresponsible.

It didn’t seem to matter what evidence critics of the rush to war presented: Anyone who opposed the war was, by definition, a foolish hippie. Remarkably, that judgment didn’t change even after everything the war’s critics predicted came true. Those who cheered on this disastrous venture continued to be regarded as “credible” on national security (why is John McCain still a fixture of the Sunday talk shows?), while those who opposed it remained suspect.

And, even more remarkably, a very similar story has played out over the past three years, this time about economic policy. Back then, all the important people decided that an unrelated war was an appropriate response to a terrorist attack; three years ago, they all decided that fiscal austerity was the appropriate response to an economic crisis caused by runaway bankers, with the supposedly imminent danger from budget deficits playing the role once played by Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.

Now, as then, this consensus has seemed impenetrable to counterarguments, no matter how well grounded in evidence. And now, as then, leaders of the consensus continue to be regarded as credible even though they’ve been wrong about everything (why do people keep treating Alan Simpson as a wise man?), while critics of the consensus are regarded as foolish hippies even though all their predictions — about interest rates, about inflation, about the dire effects of austerity — have come true.

So here’s my question: Will it make any difference that Ben Bernanke has now joined the ranks of the hippies?

Earlier this week, Mr. Bernanke delivered testimony that should have made everyone in Washington sit up and take notice. True, it wasn’t really a break with what he has said in the past or, for that matter, with what other Federal Reserve officials have been saying, but the Fed chairman spoke more clearly and forcefully on fiscal policy than ever before — and what he said, translated from Fedspeak into plain English, was that the Beltway obsession with deficits is a terrible mistake.

First of all, he pointed out that the budget picture just isn’t very scary, even over the medium run: “The federal debt held by the public (including that held by the Federal Reserve) is projected to remain roughly 75 percent of G.D.P. through much of the current decade.”

He then argued that given the state of the economy, we’re currently spending too little, not too much: “A substantial portion of the recent progress in lowering the deficit has been concentrated in near-term budget changes, which, taken together, could create a significant headwind for the economic recovery.”

Finally, he suggested that austerity in a depressed economy may well be self-defeating even in purely fiscal terms: “Besides having adverse effects on jobs and incomes, a slower recovery would lead to less actual deficit reduction in the short run for any given set of fiscal actions.”

So the deficit is not a clear and present danger, spending cuts in a depressed economy are a terrible idea and premature austerity doesn’t make sense even in budgetary terms. Regular readers may find these propositions familiar, since they’re pretty much what I and other progressive economists have been saying all along. But we’re irresponsible hippies. Is Ben Bernanke? (Well, he has a beard.)

The point is not that Mr. Bernanke is an unimpeachable source of wisdom; one hopes that the collapse of Alan Greenspan’s reputation has put an end to the practice of deifying Fed chairmen. Mr. Bernanke is a fine economist, but no more so than, say, Columbia’s Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate and legendary economic theorist whose vocal criticism of our deficit obsession has nonetheless been ignored. No, the point is that Mr. Bernanke’s apostasy may help undermine the argument from authority — nobody who matters disagrees! — that has made the elite obsession with deficits so hard to dislodge.

And an end to deficit obsession can’t come a moment too soon. Right now Washington is focused on the idiocy of the sequester, but this is only the latest episode in an unprecedented run of declines in public employment and government purchases that have crippled our economy’s recovery. A misguided elite consensus has led us into an economic quagmire, and it’s time for us to get out.

March 1st, 2013
Get Off of Your Cloud

By MAUREEN DOWD
NY Times Published: February 26, 2013

When Marissa Mayer became queen of the Yahoos last summer, she was hailed as a role model for women.

The 37-year-old supergeek with the supermodel looks was the youngest Fortune 500 chief executive. And she was in the third trimester of her first pregnancy. Many women were thrilled at the thought that biases against hiring women who were expecting, or planning to be, might be melting.

A couple months later, it gave her female fans pause when the Yahoo C.E.O. took a mere two-week maternity pause. She built a nursery next to her office at her own expense, to make working almost straight through easier.

The fear that this might set an impossible standard for other women — especially women who had consigned “having it all” to unicorn status — reverberated. Even the German family minister, Kristina Schröder, chimed in: “I regard it with major concern when prominent women give the public impression that maternity leave is something that is not important.”

Almost two months after her son, Macallister, was born, Mayer irritated some women again when she bubbled at a Fortune event that “the baby’s been way easier than everyone made it out to be.”

“Putting ‘baby’ and ‘easy’ in the same sentence turns you into one of those mothers we don’t like very much,” Lisa Belkin chided in The Huffington Post.

Now Mayer has caused another fem-quake with a decision that has a special significance to working mothers. She has banned Yahoos, as her employees are known, from working at home (which some of us call “working” at home).

It flies in the face of tech companies’ success in creating a cloud office rather than a conventional one. Mayer’s friend Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook wrote in her new feminist manifesto, “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” that technology could revolutionize women’s lives by “changing the emphasis on strict office hours since so much work can be conducted online.”

She added that “the traditional practice of judging employees by face time rather than results unfortunately persists” when it would be more efficient to focus on results.

Many women were appalled at the Yahoo news, noting that Mayer, with her penthouse atop the San Francisco Four Seasons, her Oscar de la Rentas and her $117 million five-year contract, seems oblivious to the fact that for many of her less-privileged sisters with young children, telecommuting is a lifeline to a manageable life.

The dictatorial decree to work “side by side” had some dubbing Mayer not “the Steinem of Silicon Valley” but “the Stalin of Silicon Valley.”

Mayer and Sandberg are in an elite cocoon and in USA Today, Joanne Bamberger fretted that they are “setting back the cause of working mothers.” She wrote that Sandberg’s exhortation for “women to pull themselves up by the Louboutin straps” is damaging, as is “Mayer’s office-only work proclamation that sends us back to the pre-Internet era of power suits with floppy bow ties.”

Men accustomed to telecommuting were miffed, too. Richard Branson tweeted: “Give people the freedom of where to work & they will excel.”

While it is true that women have looked to technology as a leveling force in the marketplace, it is also true that tech innovators — even as far back as Bell Labs scientists — have designed their campuses around the management philosophy that intellectual ferment happens when you force smart people to collaborate in person and constantly bounce creative ideas off each other.

Mayer has shown that she is willing to do what it takes, with no coddling. She has a huge challenge in turning around Yahoo — she was the third of three C.E.O.’s at the company in 2012 alone. She had success brainstorming face to face during her years at Google, where she was the 20th employee, the first female engineer and the shepherd of more than 100 products. The Times’s Laura Holson wrote that when meeting with Google subordinates, Mayer came across like a “meticulous art teacher correcting first-semester students.”

Mayer’s bold move looks retro and politically incorrect, but she may feel the need to reboot the company culture, harness creativity, cut deadwood and discipline slackers before resuming flexibility.

Coming into the office, Yahoo H.R. chief Jackie Reses wrote in a memo, ensures that “some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings,” adding tartly that if “Yahoos” “have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration.”

Maybe as Mayer rejuvenates “the grandfather” of Internet companies, as she calls Yahoo, she needs the energy and synergy of a start-up mentality.

She seems to believe that enough employees are goofing off at home that she should bring them off the cloud and into the cubicle. But she should also be sympathetic to the very different situation of women — and men — struggling without luxurious layers of help.

Mayer has a nursery next to the executive suite. But not everyone has it so sweet.

February 27th, 2013
Lucas Knipscher, Win McCarthy, Sigmar Polke


Sigmar Polke, “Untitled (Nugget),” 1986, gelatin silver print, 23 3/4 x 20 1/8 inches, 60.3 x 51.1 cm, unique

Through March 3, 2013

Rachel Uffner

February 27th, 2013
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