For all its charm and history, Elfreth’s Alley was not our destination – just a passage to Philadelphia’s most poetic home. A thirty minute walk beyond the Expressway to an area I wouldn’t like to find myself after dark, and there it was. Poe lived in different houses during his six-year residence in Philadelphia, but this is the only one still standing. Poe lived here with his beloved wife Virginia and devoted mother-in-law Maria Clemm who was an excellent housekeeper, a great help to the couple especially while Virginia was in declining health. The house is stripped bare; no objects or furniture belonging to Poe because nothing was left behind when the family moved on to their next home in the Bronx. Only drawings and period photographs indicate how it would have looked back then. Narrow staircases and tiny rooms always make me wonder how much we and our living spaces have expanded over the years.
The cellar, that is said to have been described in “The Black Cat” (1843), a short story written here, in Philadelphia. The reading room, the only furnished one in the house and decorated according to Poe’s ”The Philosophy of furniture”. A library with the full body of Poe’s work is available and visitors are warmly encouraged to sit comfortably and indulge to their heart’s content. Plan ahead though: admission is free but the house is open only Friday through Sunday, from 9am – 12noon, and 1pm -5pm. And they do take their lunch break seriously! Edgar Allan Poe’s House
532 N. 7th Street
The arrangement of objects on the floor (second image) is a sculpture by Richard Serra: Cutting Device: Base Plate Measure, 1969.
The artist took rolled lead sheets, wood beams, marble slabs, and steel piping, and then used a saw to slice them through. The objects were then arranged on the floor as they appeared directly after having been cut.
The row of framed prints on the wall show VALIE EXPORT, photographed by Peter Hassmann for her signature work Action Pants: Genital Panic, 1969.
<<This series of screenprints relates to a performance in which EXPORT reportedly walked into an experimental art-film house in Munich wearing crotchless trousers and a tight leather jacket, with her hair teased wildly, and roamed through the rows of seated spectators, her exposed genitalia level with their faces. Challenging the public to engage with a “real woman” instead of with images on a screen, she illustrated her notion of “expanded cinema,” in which the artist’s body activates the live context of watching. EXPORT’s defiant feminist action was memorialized in a picture taken the following year by the photographer Peter Hassmann in Vienna. EXPORT had the image, in which she holds a machine gun, screenprinted in a large edition and fly-posted it in public squares and on the street.>>
A stylish gentleman Mr. Katz is in his business suit and hat – the clean, sleek lines of his self-portrait devoid of all superfluous accentuating his steady, direct gaze.
<<Ambitious, elegant, impersonal, large in scale, and simultaneously timeless and reflective of its time—these, according to Katz, are the qualities of “high style” in painting, and they are also the qualities of many of his own works.>>
Today’s composition of choice comprises some well known buildings partly glowing in the afternoon sun, paired with some of Marcel Duchamp’s famous ”readymades”. With all due respect to his undeniable contribution to the world of art, if I sign my compositions and designate them as artworks does that make me an artist?
<<Beginning in 1913 Duchamp challenged accepted artistic standards by selecting mass-produced, functional objects from everyday life and designating them as works of art. These sculptures, which he called “readymades,” were aimed at subverting traditional notions of skill, uniqueness, and beauty, boldly declaring that an artist could create simply by making choices. >>
<<“I had broken down the human body, so I set about putting it together again,” Léger said. The smooth surfaces of this volumetric woman, bunch of flowers, and book evoke mechanical parts assembled together… >>
Thus said Robert Rauschenberg, and who I am to doubt him. I could even picture it in frames. One next to the other, frame after frame after frame; each one an individual story, collectively a narrative of the world.
<<When Bontecou first exhibited her steel-and-canvas sculptures, many praised their aggressive, ominous qualities. Fellow artist Joseph Cornell described their gaping black cavities as summoning “the terror of the yawning mouths of cannons, of violent craters, of windows opened to receive your flight without return, and the jaws of the great beasts.”>>
<<”Le Faux Miroir” presents an enormous lashless eye with a luminous cloud-swept blue sky filling the iris and an opaque, dead-black disc for a pupil. The allusive title, provided by the Belgian Surrealist writer Paul Nougé, seems to insinuate limits to the authority of optical vision: a mirror provides a mechanical reflection, but the eye is selective and subjective. Magritte’s single eye functions on multiple enigmatic levels: the viewer both looks through it, as through a window, and is looked at by it, thus seeing and being seen simultaneously. The Surrealist photographer Man Ray, who owned the work from 1933 to 1936, recognized this compelling duality when he memorably described ‘”Le Faux Miroir” as a painting that “sees as much as it itself is seen.”>>