Archive for the ‘Brooklyn’ Category

A Tale of Two Architects: Upjohn & Cram in Carroll Gardens

Friday, October 8th, 2010

Billed as “the largest architectural event in the United States,” Open House New York Weekend is this Saturday and Sunday, October 9th and 10th. Landmark buildings of historic architectural importance all over the five boroughs of New York City will be open to the public for viewing each day. Among Brooklyn’s  architectural wonders participating in the Open House event will be St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Carroll Gardens, situated on the corner of Clinton and Carroll Streets.

Originally designed by Richard M. Upjohn (1828-1903), St. Paul’s was built in the Gothic Revival style popular during the 19th century. (R.M. Upjohn and his father also designed Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery Gate, just a few miles away in Sunset Park). After a fire damaged the church, Ralph Adams Cram (1863-1942) was commissioned to redesign the interior in 1907, and this is where the story gets interesting: Cram is noteworthy among early 20th century architects for his resistance to the overwhelming current of early modernism. He’s been referred to by at least one writer as the “high priest of American Neo-Gothic,” in deference to his passion for pre-renaissance, medieval, Gothic architecture.

An agnostic in his youth, Cram underwent a dramatic spiritual conversion during a Christmas Mass in Rome and subsequently became a fervent Anglican—in fact, the Episcopal Church has honored Cram, along with Upjohn and John LaFarge, with a special Feast Day on the liturgical calendar, December 16. St. Paul’s, an Anglo-Catholic Episcopal church, is the only place where the work of these two important architects, Upjohn and Cram, is layered together within a single structure. Along with his writings on Religion, Art and Architecture, Cram is also the author of a book of ghost stories, Black Spirits and White.

“Gothic is less a method of construction,” Cram once suggested, “than it is a mental attitude, the visualizing of a spiritual impulse.”  In the early twentieth century, this kind of attitude went against the grain of the growing, dominant trends of Modernism with it’s trenchant iconoclasm and absolute disdain for anything that valued a sense of continuity with the past. Cram’s sense of history and place, his embrace of mystical philosophies and eloquent theological musings on the nature of art were simply out of place in the cultural milieu that eventually gave us Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum or the austere, curtain-walled designs of Mies van der Rohe’s glass box buildings.

The following information comes from St. Paul’s Press Release for the 8th annual Open House New York Weekend:

“On Saturday, October 9th from 11 am to 5 pm, there will be ongoing guided tours and self-guided tours in conjunction with “openhousenewyork.” On Sunday, October 10th, there will be an Organ Recital by St. Paul’s Music Director, Andrew von Gutfeld at 1:30 followed by guided tours and self-guided tours from 2-5 pm. Naturally, the parish welcomes everyone to Sunday’s 11 am mass.

“St. Paul’s has a rich history that dates back to Brooklyn’s pre-Civil War era, having been founded in 1849 by Irish Protestants, an often overlooked but important early New York emigrant group. In 1866, the parish asked R.M. Upjohn to design its church, which celebrates the Gothic Revival architectural style that was so popular in mid-nineteen-century America.

“In the decades following 1874, the year St. Paul’s Church was consecrated, the parish faced an identity crisis, with many of its original families having moved away, uncomfortable with Brooklyn’s increasingly non-protestant feel. However, the parish ultimately adopted Anglo-Catholicism, a popular reform movement that combined medieval ritual and community service.

“During this time, the parish commissioned prominent architect Ralph Adams Cram to redesign St. Paul’s interior, after a fire damaged the church in 1907. Cram, who designed the nave at St. John the Divine in Manhattan, gave St. Paul’s interior the Neo-Gothic flavor that it retains today.

“It is important to note that St. Paul’s enjoyed a racially diverse congregation since the 1920s, as it attracted members of Brooklyn’s West Indian community, who worked mostly as servants for wealthy families in Brooklyn Heights.  Irving King, a current parishioner of West Indian descent, said his mother liked St. Paul’s because it was the first church where she was not “told where to sit.”   This was at a time when segregation in many churches was the norm, when even the taking of communion itself was a segregated act—but not at St. Paul’s.

“Like Brooklyn itself, the church has always changed with the times and reinvented itself, welcoming newcomers in the last twenty years who have gravitated toward an increasingly gentrified Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill. St. Paul’s today attracts a wide range of people from a range of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, drawing in many young families new to the neighborhood. ”

Click on an image to enlarge:

Post to Twitter

The Temple of Blooom at Cinders Gallery

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

The Cinders Gallery on Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg is just closing out one of the more amazing shows of the summer today—The Temple of Blooom is an installation of drawings, paintings, collage and sculpture.  There are too many good things in this show to give an exhaustive description of what’s going on in the space; that such an engaging, inspiring installation could be assembled in the relatively small confines of a storefront gallery is testament to the vibrant energy that runs through the Brooklyn art scene, even during the Dog Days of summer.

Hisham Bharoocha has put together a group of collages that resonate at once with 1960’s San Francisco psychedelic poster art and the dreamlike imagery of Joseph Cornell, or the poignant poetics of the late Joe Brainard’s collage work.  Kelie Bowman’s delicately rendered drawing of flowers arranged in the shape of human forms might easily have been included in this year’s Biennial, across from Aurel Schmidt’s Arcimboldo-esque Minotaur drawing as a counterpoint to some of the Biennial’s brooding pessimism.  The entire gallery has a magical, ritual-like atmosphere, as if one had walked into the after-effects of a Vodun rite.  The black and gold painted papier mache shrine to “the gods of plants” by an artist who calls himself Sto, and John Orth’s mask-like drawings of disembodied, abstract spirit-faces further enhances the mysteriously evocative atmosphere of this show.

Photos and video from Friday’s musical performance by Inferior Amps, Noveller and Brian Chase are on the Cinders Gallery blog,  along with pictures from the closing party tonight.

Click on an image in the gallery to view a larger photo:

Please visit more of Harold’s Sketchbook @

Post to Twitter

Snow on New Year’s Eve in Brooklyn

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Click on an image to open a larger view:

Visit Harold’s Sketchbook at

Post to Twitter

The Blizzard of 2009

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Happy Holidays everyone!  Here are some photos I made of the snow in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn; click on each photo to see a larger image:

Post to Twitter

View Out My Windows

Friday, December 18th, 2009

28°F Friday December 18, 2009
S’posed to snow maybe tomorrow–need to water my plants–Wes Montgomery on the radio


Post to Twitter

The Brompton Sketchmobile: Harold’s Sketchblog Bike

Monday, December 7th, 2009

My Brompton folding bicycle is a mainstay of my experience as a sketchbook artist & photographer in New York.  I commute all over the city with my sketchbooks, pens, and camera in the shoulder bag that mounts onto the front of the frame.  My “other bicycle” is a Motobecane Nomade from the late 1970’s, which I purchased from a Goodwill store for $40 over 10 years ago.

Sketchblog artist Harold Graves with his Brompton T-6 folding bike on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Sketchblog artist Harold Graves with his Brompton T-6 folding bike on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Visit Harold’s Sketchbooks at

Post to Twitter

More Sketchbook Drawings

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

Here are some drawings I made while visiting Cambridge a couple of years ago:Here are some drawings I made while visiting Cambridge a couple of years ago.

And here’s a few pen & ink drawings I made this week:

orthodox Jewish manwoman_w_arms_crossedbusinessman_looking_upBally Men's

Visit Harold’s Sketchbook at

Post to Twitter

Drawings from the Archives

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Pen and Ink drawing I did this last year of the skull of a 28-year-old (Croatian?) man who was apparently killed by a blow to the head. This is an epoxy plastic copy purchased from Maxilla and Mandible in New York City, near the Natural History Museum.

New York City Checkout Line at the Met Foods on Smith Street in Brooklyn

Checkout Line at the Met Foods on Smith Street in Brooklyn

Visit Harold’s Sketchbook at

Post to Twitter

A Summer Afternoon on The Brooklyn Promenade

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Man with a Camera

Man with Dog


Lower Manhattan Towers

Post to Twitter

Free Umbrellas

Friday, August 21st, 2009

Bagels by the Park

The entrance to the Gowanus Yacht Club on the corner of Smith and President Streets in Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens.  A sudden thundershower today broke up the heat wave for a moment.

Post to Twitter

Twitter links powered by Tweet This v1.8.2, a WordPress plugin for Twitter.

Get Adobe Flash player