Meet The Artist: Robin Roi

Robin Roi has been a Project Manager at EverGreene for more than 25 years. She has worked on EverGreene’s projects worldwide, from traditional marbleizing, to gilding, to inventing custom finishes and designs for hospitality, commercial and residential clients. .

She came to EverGreene after a successful career in New York City as a fine artist. Her work was widely exhibited and she was represented by the prestigious Barbara Gladstone Gallery. Previously, she had earned her Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her MFA from Claremont Graduate School in California.

Memento Mori  exemplifies Robin’s keen eye for pattern, line and material as well as her vast knowledge of art historical motifs. Created in 1980, this piece is currently on loan from a private collector. From the artist:

“A lifelong love of pattern and passion for story telling led me, in the 1980’s, to produce a body of work based on surface patterns with underlying narratives.  The pattern at the center of this painting was inspired by the linen wrapped mummies I saw at the Met. The painting is meant to represent the burial casing of a warrior.  Just as the Egyptian mummy casings told the story of the bodies inside with hieroglyphs and pictographs, I have done the same.  At the bottom are “Scenes from a Battle” –actually, the silhouette from Uccello’s famous painting signifying the warrior life of this hero.  At the top are scenes from his rich domestic life.  The two weeping willows at either end of the wrapping mourn his death while the hand shadows tell the story.”

Click below to view Memento Mori

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A Contemporary Finish; Acoustic Panels in the New Russian Lounge

The Russian Lounge in the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center, in Washington, DC, opens next month. EverGreene artists and fabricators created more than 100 acoustic panels, with a custom plaster finish, to be installed in the newly reconstructed lounge donated by Russian philanthropist Vladimir Potanin. The Russian Lounge joins other reception rooms dedicated to other foreign entities such as Africa, China and Israel.

The artistic vision for the lounge reflects design elements and aesthetics found in contemporary Russian culture. In collaboration with Russian architect Sergey Skuratov, EverGreene’s plaster artisans, fabricated Venetian finishes to be placed onto acoustic panels. The panels absorb sound, creating a restorative environment that is ideal for hosting receptions and dinners.

The Russian Lounge is unique among EverGreene’s projects and complements our historic work. Here, we exercised our contemporary design aesthetic to serve the minimalism rendered in the architect’s plans. Our artisans, trained in traditional techniques of sculpture and well-versed in the practical requirements of plaster installation, met the design challenges to create and fabricate these 12’ x 5’ plaster panels.

To achieve this finish, additives were sprinkled into the panel mold after which the wet plaster was added. The additives react to the water within the plaster, which results in a fizzing, bubble-like pattern in the face coat, giving it a unique, textured finish. The integrally-colored panels also contain a variety of aggregate that causes a sleek metallic sheen to the plaster’s surface.  The look and texture of each panel contributes to Sergey Skuratov’s polished aesthetic for the Russian Lounge while ensuring an acoustically pleasant environment.

In the studio, artists sprinkle an additive into the plaster mold

In the studio, artists sprinkle an additive into the plaster mold 

 

The wet plaster is mixed and added to the mold containing the additive

 


The additives react to the water within the plaster, which results in a fizzing, bubble-like pattern in the panel’s face coat

 


The bubble-like pattern is smoothed and refined resulting in a finished look for the acoustic plaster 

 

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Meet the Artist: Tsering Phuntsok

Studio Artist Tsering Phuntsok

Tsering has been studying Tibetan arts since 1981. A third generation Thangka painter, Tsering was influenced by and learned this traditional art from his late father, Jampa Kalsang. He has created paintings for Potala Palace, as well as the Drepung, Sera, Ganden, Tashi Lunpho and Sakya monasteries in Lhasa, Tibet. He has also created custom art at His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s residence and the Kalachakra Temple in Dharamsala, India. Tsering has produced many Thangka paintings for both government officials and private individuals.

His work has been widely exhibited throughout the U.S. and Europe. Tsering moved to the U.S. and joined EverGreene in 2003. He has contributed his expertise to many of the company’s mural, restoration and gilding projects.

“I’ve worked on murals, plasters, decorative painting, gilding, restorations, residential paintings and much more. One thing I could always love is that the work ethic here at EverGreene’s studio is very professional and friendly. We communicate well with each other, and that is immensely important to the success of the art we create.”

Here is an example of some of his work…
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In the New York Gilding Studio with Robin Roi

EverGreene Gilding Studio Tools

To get ready for the busy holiday season, the Van Cleef & Arpels Flagship Jewelry store on Fifth Avenue at 57th Street in New York City is getting gilt. Robin Roi, EverGreene’s Director of Decorative Finishes, walks us through our New York gilding studio to demonstrate the process of applying metallic leaf to frames that will soon be installed in the world-renowned jewelers as shadowbox display cases.

Nothing befits luxury quite like precious metals. For this project we used a very high-quality caplain gold leaf, which is a combination of palladium and gold. Palladium is a rare metal that is very similar to platinum, but known for its silvery-white quality, and polishes brighter than platinum. It is also harder and lighter than platinum, making it an ideal metal for leaf application.

The caplain leaf we used was processed by Florentine masters, Giusto Manetti Battiloro goldbeaters in Italy, the same firm that beat the gold we are using to gild the dome of the Colorado State Capitol. And at almost $1000 dollars for just a small box of leaf, it was important to waste nothing in the gilding process. Take a look as we walk you through the process of gilding-from the primed and ready frames sanded down to a perfectly smooth surface, all the way to the varnished and burnished final finish. The leaf was treated with a satin, luster effect that will appropriately showcase the gorgeous jewelry displayed inside of them.

Jewelry display case frames without leaf finish

Jewelry display case frames are primed, base coated, and sanded to a perfectly smooth surface prior to gilding.

Gilding with Caplain Leaf

Finishes expert Robin Roi is gilding with caplain leaf in a dust-free, contained environment. 

Applying a square of metallic leaf to adhesive

Each sheet of caplain leaf measures 3 3/8 inches square. The leaf is applied square after square; aligned to minimize the appearance seams.

Applying Caplain Leaf to Display Frames

Applying Caplain Leaf to Display Frames

Brushing away excess metallic leaf

Excess metallic leaf is brushed away with a soft squirrel hair brush, and t>he leaf is smoothed over with a cotton ball swab prior to varnish.

Varnishing the frames for a seamless effect

The frames receive several layers of a sealer coat to achieve the “satin” effect and protect during the delicate installation process.

Finished Gold Leafed frames drying in the Gilding Studio

Finished Gold Leafed frames drying in the Gilding Studio

The frames are set out to dry in the gilding studio, which is a dust-free, contained environment where the varnish can slowly cures for several days before transporting to their final locations. Each frame received two layers of sealer.

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Catalogue Vs. Custom: 3 Things to remember about choosing ornamental plaster molding

St Thomas Aquinas College Chapel DrawingSimply stated, ornamental plaster molding is used to manipulate light and shadow. It can create depth and give the eye something to follow. Over time, molding and ornament has developed its own language . Traditionally, classical ornament was created to enrich the structure and meaning of the building. Sometimes they emphasize structural lines, and sometimes they’re used to hide them. Ornamental plaster molding can give scale, order, and definition to the space to emphasize nature and creativity, or strength and power. Ornamental designs have come to define the way in which our built environment is able to communicate. Over the years, as emphasis on traditional design and craftsmanship is slowing, and construction is streamlined, many turn to prefabricated designs made to emulate traditional styles.

Imagine using Google to translate a Shakespeare sonnet into Chinese, then reversing it back into English. If you carefully compare the important words, you may still be able to interpret the overall message, but the poetry of the language would be lost. The joining words and tenses may become skewed, and the results would be almost comically unpoetic. Architectural ornamentation is similar—without unifying the subtleties in the play between light and shadow, color and depth, symbolism and iconography under the same language—the message is diluted or skewed. Prefabricated ornamental molding may work in certain situations, but for the most part, it rarely fits the criteria needed to harmonize with the language.

Theory of Moldings Perspective

1. Perspective matters.

Objects further away appear smaller. This may be obvious, but what is less obvious is that this is one of the most important aspects involved in choosing the right ornamental plaster. Anamorphosis refers to the phenomenon where objects or images are skewed and stretched, but remain visually proportional from a specific point of view. The great masters of sculpture knew this, and took into account their viewer’s perspective when defining proportion. Sculptures placed in high, out of reach places, would have looked odd when placed on the ground—with heads way too big for their small torso, and even smaller legs. Their proportions were adjusted to correct for the viewer’s perspective. Leonardo Da Vinci first challenged the idea in 1485 when he created illusions that were unrecognizable straight on but were clearly visible from an extreme angle. Hans Holbein the Younger also played with the phenomenon in 1553. Ornamental architectural plaster molding is no different. Proportions must be adjusted for their placement. This means that the higher up the molding, the more it should lean inward toward the viewer, while moldings below the viewer should tilt upward. This creates an overall “face” of the molding, referred to as a facial angle. Just exactly how the scale of the molding elements are rendered depend completely on the nature of the building and can’t always be standardized.

2. Light is directional.

Theory of Architectural Moldings

In the same way that colors look different under different light, so does ornamental plaster molding. It is incredibly difficult to know how it will read when it is taken out of context. One of the purposes of molding is to manipulate light and shadow to create a three-dimensional surface that draws the eye into a visual path through the interior of a space. We’re naturally drawn to visual contrast, and the more definition ornamentation has, the more pronounced and eye catching it will be. Just as you would paint a swatch of color in place to see how it looks in the lighting, moldings should be chosen and studied for their placement—with the direction of lighting true to its final viewing point. That is why moldings should be interpreted by the effect of their shadows, not by the line of their profiles. They have a relationship with the specific direction and intensity of interior light.

acanthus leaf drawings

Variations of style depicting the acanthus leaf

3. Generational nuances in design can be subtle, but are still important for accuracy.

We often work on projects where the plaster ornament has been decayed over time and weathered by the elements. Re-instituting the decorative plaster ornament seems as simple as removing the damaged pieces and purchasing and installing the new. The subtleties of the original designs are always influenced by the time period in which it was created, and removing those influences completely is not possible. Without taking into account the historical influences, and unifying design elements, the shapes and structures begin to lose continuity. Take for example, the acanthus leaf, one of the most commonly used icons in art and architecture.

This image shows how differently the same subject can be rendered—due to the styles and cultural values of the time periods they were designed. Mixing one with the other causes distraction, and weakens the rhythm and language of the interior.

 

Sometimes you can find a piece of prefabricated ornamental molding that works, but when you take into account all these factors, it becomes difficult—almost impossible—to find a “perfect” match that won’t injure the harmony of the building. As caretakers of the buildings we’ve inherited from previous generations, it is our responsibility to act with sensitivity to the original designs, and more often than not, custom designed plaster ornamental molding is the only way these structures can be returned to their former splendor, and preserve the language with which they communicate.

Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity

Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, Thomas Aquinas College Chapel. EverGreene designed, fabricated, and installed custom ornamental plaster molding.

 

 

1Blunck, A., and David O’Conor. Lessons on Form,. Second ed. Berlin: B. Hessling, G.m.b.h., 1905. Print.

2Walker, Charles Howard. Theory of Mouldings. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007. Print.

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WPA Murals: The Cultural Importance of Preserving Artwork in Architectural Settings

Daniel Turner Inside the White CubeMost of the world’s great museums strive to strip architectural ornament away, presenting their works in a “white cube,” free from distraction. Murals – especially those in prominent and public buildings – are designed to interact with the viewer and the space in which they are placed. They often tell a bigger story; a story about a specific time, a specific place, and specific people.

The Bronx Post Office (1937; Thomas H. Ellett) has been in the press quite a bit recently. The historic civic building was just sold, but despite its landmarked exterior, its interior along with it’s 13 historic murals, was recently in jeopardy before the New York Landmarks Conservancy just announced they will be saved. The series of murals are significant Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals painted by the prolific Ben Shahn (1898-1967). Shahn’s murals can be seen all over the country, and we helped to conserve the mosaic murals he designed for the Nashville Temple in 1959. Preservationists are fighting to keep Shahn’s important works off the chopping block.

The WPA, created by President Roosevelt during the Great Depression, is the most extensive federal work program ever developed. From 1935 to 1943, the WPA created more than 5,000 jobs for artists, and produced over 225,000 works of American art. In addition to artists like Shahn, this was also likely the first time African Americans were hired to create public works of art. Such was the case with the Harlem Hospital murals. Georgette Seabrook, Charles Alston, and Vertis Hayes were all African Americans commissioned by the WPA in 1936 to create murals for the hospital. Those murals remain as culturally significant for the neighborhood and for New York City today as they did when they were painted. However, these works did not earn their place without controversy. Depictions of African Americans in the WPA era are often criticized today for being unfavorably stereotypical. But at the time they were created, they faced an entirely different set of obstacles just for existing. So if these are so surrounded by unfavorable opinions, why should be care about preserving them?

It is because these murals illustrate progress. Both literally and figuratively. WPA themed art often dealt with themes of industrialism inspired by the social issues of the day by muralists like Diego Rivera. But more than industrial growth, they illustrate a societal change. Looking beyond the depictions of African Americans, the murals stand as a symbol for the introduction of black art into the modern world. Shahn’s goal as a social realist was to show the Bronx (which was predominately foreign-born Jews in the 1930’s) scenes of American life as it existed on other areas of the country. With that came depictions of African Americans picking cotton, along with other rural and industrial depictions of labor. These murals preserve a unique perspective on 1930’s American industrialism and social inequalities that have shifted since their conception.

These murals also serve to empower communities. Cultural diversity is a hallmark of progressive communities, and marginalized communities are given a voice through the stories they tell. In 1937, sixteen year old African American prodigy Georgette Seabrook was ordered by the hospital to add white people to her depiction of a black Harlem, lest people begin thinking of Harlem Hospital as a black hospital. She painted them in, but not without making her point. She added several white figures, but had them looking away from the viewer, or obscured their faces. This is in part why Seabrooke’s Recreation in Harlem is so significant, and why it is a major symbols for the hospital and local community.

 

These works can be a powerful medium of study. At the University of Tennessee, we are removing and storing The History of Tennessee, painted by Marion Greenwood in 1954. The mural was installed in a ballroom which is being razed to make way for a new student center. We will conserve the mural once it is installed as part of an exhibition in 2014. The mural, influenced by the style of the WPA era, dynamically illustrates the history of music from the region and is one of the university’s most important artworks. But it has been covered for most of its life due to the way it portrays African Americans as “cotton-picking” laborers and because it was vandalized in 1970. The mural was first covered by wood paneling, but then it was placed behind curtains that were only opened to allow for academic study. This mural is a piece of history, and when studied, it serves to foster greater cultural understandings.

Murals and artworks completed as part of the WPA helped to facilitate the inclusion of a broader points of view that previously didn’t have means of finding their audience. We’re grateful to the artists who told these stories and to the preservationists who fought – and continue to fight – to keep them a part of our buildings and cultural consciousness so we may build stronger connections between our past and present.

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Preservation Vs. New Construction: Could NYC “Landmark Away” Its Future?

We’ve worked in hundreds of landmark buildings around New York City and across the country. Restoration for historic buildings is one of EverGreene’s core competencies and much of our work comes as a result of preservationists who fight to keep the city’s architectural history alive. We believe that preservation is not only important for the city’s history, but also economically smart. We also believe that having criteria for imbuing significance on a building is also important.

Archdaily writer Rory Stott, in his article on New York City landmarks, wrote that diversity and checks & balances are essential for the city – or ANY urban area to be successful – financially, aesthetically, socially, creatively…almost any  “-ly.” This would include having a built environment that reflects what New York City was, where New York is now and what New York aspires to become. And these clearly don’t need to be separate districts or “preservation petting zoos.”

Take the High Line. In 2012, Travel + Leisure, named the High Line one of the top 10 most popular landmarks…in the world. It is historic preservation at an urban scale. Along the High Line, development has been ferocious: from the soon-to-be Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District to the soon-to-be headquarters for Coach in Hudson Yards, there have been dozens of buildings and billions of dollars of construction. Architects and designers including Neil Denari, Zaha Hadid and Foster+ Partners are bringing aspirational design to New York that keeps the city vibrant and relevant. Yes, the neighborhood has changed, rents have risen and many people have been forced to relocate, but jobs have been created, new people are living in the neighborhood and people from across the globe are flocking to walk that 1.2 mile stretch. While this reinforces what Francis Morrone says – that the flaw in Bloomberg’s policies is that it will “push up process and force all but the richest to leave New York,” one might argue that the displacement of people and businesses around the High Line in Manhattan helped to spur the growth, development and innovation in Brooklyn, Astoria and other hip locales in the region. No world-class city can remain alive and be static

The High Line has had enormous consequences – good and bad – for the City. But there are smaller rumblings happening all over New York where preservation and development, contemporary and historic design are working together to improve the City.

The new Harlem Hospital, designed by HOK, opened September 2012. Within the hospital are a series of WPA murals that were removed from the old hospital, stored for several years while the new building was constructed, then re-installed in a new space specifically designed for them. The murals, commissioned in 1936, are tremendously interesting and important. They were among the first federal government commissions awarded to African Americans. They depict scenes of African American heritage and, like the Georgette Seabrooke mural, “Recreation in Harlem,” scenes of everyday life.  The restored murals can be viewed in some of the public spaces at Harlem Hospital and, in a grand gesture, portions of Vertis Hayes “Pursuit of Happiness” mural have been translated into glass panels to form a primary façade along Malcolm X Boulevard. Historic, contemporary and aspirational combined in a single building that will have a tremendous impact on an entire neighborhood.

Preserving historic structures and artworks that have lasted the test of time and have gained significance over many decades or centuries is not “landmarking away” New York’s future. But the American Folk Art Museum, which Stott features an image of in his article, is different. A handsome, award-winning building, it is just over a decade old. It was designed by notable architects, Billie Tsien & Todd Williams. What should be the criteria for granting significance to such a young building? Clearly, saving every building will greatly restrict New York City’s growth. Not every building (or public space) qualifies as significant, but without criteria, like those established by the Secretary of the Interior, it becomes almost impossible to determine what to save and what to raze and reuse for a higher and greater (and yes, economic) good.

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Creating an American Renaissance: Theaters and LHAT

Theaters are the epicenter of culture for American cities and towns. From Hamlet to Star Trek; Stravinsky to Gershwin we flock to theaters to be entertained by plays, movies, music and dance. Theaters enrich us personally and they enrich our cities and towns. Often, the restoration of a theater is the foundation for urban revitalization.

The restoration of the New Amsterdam Theatre in 1997 was critical to the redevelopment of Times Square in New York. The New York Times called the renovation the “turning point in the revival of Times Square.”

The $24.5M renovation and expansion of Proctor’s Theatre attracted the touring company of Disney’s The Lion King, which brought in an estimated $20M to Schenectady from just 32 performances. Without the renovation, it is likely that Proctor’s would not have been able to accommodate such a big show. Click here for more information about Proctor’s Theater.

On stage and off, theaters are harbingers of hope. The work we do at EverGreene is all about bringing the audience back to historic American theaters. We’re thrilled to have contributed to the restoration of more than 200 fantastic theaters, and this new interactive booklet tells the story of 20 of those theaters.

EverGreene will be at this year’s League of Historic American Theaters national convention in Minneapolis from July 17-20th. We’ll be participating in the conversation about “The Future of Creative Placemaking,” the theme of the convention, with theater owners, directors, designers, and architects. The convention is the largest gathering of historic theaters in the nation, and we are honored to be sponsors. If you’re planning on attending, come meet President, Jeff Greene, and Midwest Director of Restoration, Terry Vanderwell! We’re looking forward to seeing familiar faces, and hopefully some new ones too.

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Richard Rodgers Restoration: Exhuming a Lost Proscenium

EverGreene is appearing on Broadway…once again . We’re providing restoration and conservation services for the Nederlander Organization on the Richard Rodgers Theater, 226 West 46th Street in Times Square. The Theater is distinguished as housing the most number of Tony-award winning best Musical or Play recipients.  Recent productions include Private Lives, Seussical, Footloose, Chicago, and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

It’s a beautiful theater, but there is a lot of work to accomplish in a very short time frame. We have about six weeks to completely re-paint and restore just about every square inch of the theater. We’d like to share several aspects of this restoration project that we’ve found particularly exciting…

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How Gold Leaf is Made

Founded in 1820, Giusto Manetti Battiloro is one of Florence’s oldest businesses still in operation. They manufacture gold leaf, and this video gives you an idea of how it’s done. This summer we’re gilding the exterior of the newly reconstructed dome at the Colorado State Capitol. EverGreene gidled the dome once before, in the early 1990′s, and we were asked to regild it in 2013 as a final stage in the Capitol’s seismic retrofit. We started from raw native gold mined at Cripple Creek Mine in Colorado, and shipped it to Italy where Manetti melted, processed, and pounded the gold into thin sheets.

Gilding has been a form of decoration since about 4,000 BC and has been used by many cultures on decorative objects and building interiors and exteriors. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 10 of the US state capitol buildings have gold domes.  Click here to learn more about gilding.

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