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Song of the Car: 1970 Cadillac de Ville Convertible

Cruising through Brooklyn in the show-stealing Americana land yacht with salsa tunes blaring

by Tamara Warren in Design on 21 October 2014

70s, Cadillac, Classics, Convertibles, Deville, Driving, Music, NYC, SOTC, Salsa Music, Song of the Car, Brooklyn

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Skip the double decker tour buses. There’s no better way to see elegant Fort Greene, Brooklyn on a sunny fall day than through the wide windshield of a 1970 Cadillac de Ville convertible. Lean back and lean low on leather seats and embrace the essence of NYC's biggest and most flavorful borough in a Brooklyn-style big car.

Cadillac introduced the Coupe de Ville in 1949. By the late 1960s, the de Ville had lost most of its fabulous '50s fins, but hung onto a smooth suggestive flair in its rear quarters. The last de Ville convertible was made in 1970, the same year the company muscled up the series with its largest V8 engine to date in order to add the extra kick to maneuver its brawny 4,660 pound bodyweight.

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We tested a de Ville that claims particular Fort Greene pedigree. When it’s not coasting the Brooklyn streets, Sean Meenan's vintage convertible is almost always parked on the corner of Fulton Street and leafy brownstone-lined South Portland Avenue right in front of the seasonal solar-powered café Habana Outpost. Meenan founded Habana Outpost a decade ago as the sister spot to Manhattan’s Café Habana where his ’70 Cadillac first gained notoriety.

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In 1998, Meenan opened Café Habana on Prince Street in SoHo, inspired by the lore of a Mexico City luncheonette that served Cuban food to revolutionaries. His neighbors nicknamed him Cadillac Boy as he routinely parked the eye-catching land yacht on the corner of Mulberry and Prince—once mob boss John Gotti’s designated parking spot. The car is an essential character in Meenan’s New York success story. Neighborhood kids treated it as a playground. Sometimes, Meenan invited a dozen kids to pile in and head up to the movie theater on 31st Street.

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The authorities often had it towed. For a while, the top wasn’t working, which meant that sometimes, Meenan drove back from his Brooklyn boxing gym through pouring rain to the amusement of his downtown neighbors. Once, when the battery failed, he left it parked for several weeks. When he finally went to retrieve it, he discovered that someone had moved in and redecorated the interior. When he approached the man, he said, “Hey man this is my car.” And the fellow replied, “Man, that’s my house.”

The debonair drop-top de Ville harkens back to the era when New York had audacity and attitude. In those days, Cadillac bumpers were hot items among car thieves—except for Cadillacs parked on specific downtown blocks. It wasn’t worth paying the price for messing with a wiseguy’s Caddy.

On the last of the warm autumn days, before Habana Outpost closes down for the winter, the Fania All-Star’s soundtrack wafts from the de Ville’s stereo onto the Fort Greene streets in the spirit of the late Cheo Feliciano, a prominent voice for Latin Music in New York during the '70s. It’s a song and a car that’s a cultural mashup that makes sense in Brooklyn, a place that's the definition of a cultural melting pot. The de Ville swings and sways to the rhythm of the timbales like a magic carpet down Fulton Avenue. “Once you get in the car and go, there’s no better place. I have so much love for the car, I can’t get rid of it.”

Song of the Car matches music with automobiles, old and new. Appearing fortnightly on Cool Hunting, each feature takes a look at a car's distinct personality and pairs it with a suitable song.

Images by Tamara Warren

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New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America

Over 75 artists unite for a first-of-its-kind group exhibition at MAD Museum

by Phuong-Cac Nguyen in Culture on 21 October 2014

Group Exhibitions, Latin America, Mad Museum, NYC, New Territories, Brazil, Recycled Art, Upcyling

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In a first-ever comprehensive look stateside, NYC's Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) is getting ready to launch "New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America” on 4 November 2014. The exhibition showcases the work of over 75 artists who have pushed the boundaries in their respective industries since 2000. The show follows on the heels of what we’ve been observing as a growing focus from the world on the southern region, whether it’s on sports (from the World Cup to the Olympics), politics or creative inspiration (like identical twin street artists Os Gemeos).

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MAD’s chief curator Lowery Sims and a curatorial advisory committee organized the show around six regional "hubs" (Havana, Mexico City/Oaxaca, San Salvador, San Juan, São Paulo/Rio de Janeiro and Santiago/Buenos Aires) with each of those areas assigned to represent a specific concept about art, design or craft—from pushing collectivity and experimentation to referencing iconic artists in the global sphere.

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"This was an organic process," says Sims. "We began by identifying trends and themes that emerged from the work and the various conversations we had as a committee and that we had with the designers and artists and other experts we consulted. That was important because it meant that we were not imposing preconceived ideas on the field but responding to trends and themes that were germane to contemporary practice."

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One of the themes explored in the show is the repurposing of objects. Brazil has perhaps explored this concept deepest with their reputation for “Jeitinho Brasileiro” (the Brazilian way, and further explored in Adriana Kertzer’s "Favelization" book)—and was chosen to represent this idea through São Paulo/Rio de Janeiro. Examples include Zanini de Zanine’s Moeda chair, created from a sheet of metal that was leftover after the process of minting coins, and Studio Swine's "Can City" (melted cans given new a life as chairs) and "Cactus Light" (made with found bottles as bulbs). Rodrigo Almeida’s work is also featured here, with “Servant Lamp,” where he employed everyday brushes to reference menial tasks.

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Within the upcycling theme is the prominent use of recycled plastic as a medium. Museum-goers can see them in the “U Rock Chair” by Davi Deusdará, Érica Martins, Rafael Studart and Tais Costa, created from bottles collected in a park that aims to connect the public’s leisure experience with an object they use inside the park. The colorful, gorgeous hanging weaved lamps by Spain’s Alvaro Catalan de Ocon made in conjunction with indigenous groups in Colombia utilize refuse that would otherwise take decades to decompose.

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French artist Thierry Jannot, based in Mexico City, relied on plastic bottles to see his works come to fruition: His “Coffee Table” is a visually intricate hodgepodge of materials and textures. The ribs of the bottles make up the arms of his chandelier to give it a retro-futuristic look.

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The common thread of re-purposing objects through plastic also appears throughout the exhibit under different themes. Categorized under the Legacy theme, Venezuelan-born Pepe Lopez’s “Geometria Blanda” is a layered, sewn artwork comprised of 300 plastic bags made in China. Meanwhile in the Space theme, Mexico’s Gilberto Esparza transformed PVC pipes into slightly terrifying, moving and seemingly breathing creatures hanging off telephone wires in “Parásitos Urbanos.”

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"I was moved by the commitment on the part of younger designers and artists to working with craftspeople, indigenous communities and small family fabricators as a means not only to produce their work, but also to preserve the skills and know how that can be found in their communities," Sims says. "I was doubly impressed by their savvy as global entrepreneurs."

The six-month exhibit is the latest installment of the museum’s Global Maker’s Initiative that began four years ago with a deep dive into maker culture in Africa. It is accompanied by a detailed website that invites discovery. The expansive site acts as both a resource for researchers and those interested in Latin American art and design. If you can't make the exhibit in person, the site is an excellent substitute.

"New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America” opens 4 November 2014 and will be on view until 6 April 2015.

Images courtesy of New Territories

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Los Grumildos: Self-Moving Sex Puppets by Ety Fefer

A bizarre yet charming NSFW exhibition of explicit automatons

by David Graver in Culture on 20 October 2014

Ety Fefer, Exhibitions, Exhibits, Handmade, Museum of Sex, NYC, Sex Puppets, NSFW

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Down a dark set of stairs, just off the NYC Museum of Sex's main lobby, a new temporary exhibition from Peruvian artist and puppet-maker Ety Fefer transports guests into otherworldliness. "Los Grumildos" succinctly blends inspiration from Lima's old world red light district and the mythic imagination of Fefer. Her handmade automaton puppets oscillate and gyrate, in a perverse manner, as each figure represents something both human and animalistic. This is a dream theater, with miniature musical performances coupled with brothel voyeurism. And while elements of the grotesque manifest strongly, there's a certain charm to each piece—and a sheer attention to detail that defines the quality of the work and the overall Grumildos experience.

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Fefer, a self-taught artist from Lima, began Grumildos as early childhood drawings. It was only after a move to the Czech Republic, where she perfected her craft, that they became self-moving dolls. Over the last ten years, she's traveled the world displaying them in over 40 locations across most continents. As for her origins, Fefer explains to CH: "I started drawing when I was very young. I also used to love playing with dolls, but because I was bad in school, one day all my dolls were taken away. So I started to make my own puppets from plasticine and I've never stopped since then."

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The step toward automation happened through artistic pursuits. "I always wanted to make automatons," she continues. "I was in love with the idea of giving life to a puppet without manipulation—but I couldn't find a place to learn that, so I thought to work on puppet animation films. I did a working experience in Ardmann Studios in Bristol, England. There, I understood that it wasn't for me. After some time, I found a fantastic man who invented a little system that could make my puppets alive. Since then I kept working, trying to improve this system. Today, I feel that making my puppets move is a mixture of mechanics and magic."

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Regarding the appeal of a red light district, Fefer shares, "I was always attracted by those people who are kind of refused by society and that are pushed to live in a world of their own. That is the world I imagine to recreate: one that lives parallel and hidden from the mainstream. It is a world we can all relate to, one way or another." This also infuses Fefer's desire to world-build, the idea of celebrating that difference. "I like the idea of creating a world where these beings not only fit well, but where they seem to enjoy themselves."

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In addition to being half-beast and half-human, Fefer's figures are equal parts Peruvian and universal. "The inspiration has for sure a lot to do with Limenian streets and life, but I feel that the world these beings represent is very universal, almost archetypal. That is why the exhibit has traveled so much, because the world it represents is so universal," she concludes. Her characters could exist in the subversive backstreets of any city across the globe. They're eccentric, inspired and worldly—much like Fefer herself.

With Funland as a perennial attraction, it's never a bad idea to visit the Museum of Sex. However, with Grumildos in the Lower Level Gallery, a one-of-a-kind world lies just beneath, complimenting their already exotic programming.

"Los Grumildos" runs through 11 January 2015 at the Museum of Sex, 233 5th Ave, NYC.

Images courtesy of the Museum of Sex

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