Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Eyewear exhibit: Joseph Ungoco sees all

A long time ago, before Giuliani cleaned up New York City, my overprotective friends would advise me on how to “look like a New Yorker” – and not a mugging victim. One sage piece of advice that they gave me was to “walk with purpose.” Regardless of whether I was walking straight into a brick wall, I must always remember to stride confidently and purposefully.

Ten years later, I consider myself a “New Yorker” and nothing pleases me more than to stop dead in my tracks – exactly like the tourist I always feared I would appear to be – and admire what the city has to offer. On one recent afternoon, in Grand Central Station, arguably one of the busiest pedestrian venues in the city, I did just that. In Vanderbilt Hall, which to most people who use the station is just a blur on the way to the street and the never ending flood of humanity that is sidewalk traffic, I relished a few stolen moments away from being glued to my Blackberry.

What had caught my eye and captured my attention was a magnificent exhibit of eyewear. The Italian Trade Commission and the Italian Optical Goods Manufacturer’s Association had installed a brilliantly curated – by Alessandra Albarello - a selection of eyewear perfectly illustrating the title of the exhibit: “Eyewear from the Beginning to the Future: The History of Eyeglasses from the Invention in Italy to the Latest Trends.”

In just a few loops around the exhibit cases, I felt like I had taken a fantastic journey through the history of eyewear. The installation itself was designed by award-winning Italian Architect Giorgio Borruso and resembled the scaled down city models one might see in the Museum of New York.

Instead of building steel and glass cases to mimic our cities instantly recognizable skyline, Borruso created a design that acted “as a metaphor for the modern eyewear and the subways, roads, paths, and histories that fracture, connect and reveal the spaces we inhabit.” The overall effect was one of visiting a miniature village with the inhabitants being the chicest and most interesting examples of eyewear.

From the spectacles from the 18th century in horn, tortoise and precious metals to the finest examples of today’s designs in acetate and metallic alloys, the exhibit covered every important stage in the history of eyewear and while being respectful of the past, glorifies the present and the future.

Italy has played a major role in the development of eyewear and continues to be a driving force. By developing new technologies in manufacturing and introducing new and exciting materials, the Italian Optical Goods Manufacturer’s Association keeps Italy on the forefront of both design and manufacture and ensures an endless supply of high quality goods for an insatiable group of consumers. For more on the exhibit, see this AP-TV video.

There may not be many roses around for New Yorkers to “stop and smell,” but there are always interesting and educational experiences in which we can immerse ourselves, even if only for a few moments between Blackberry appointment reminders. The next time you find yourself rushing from place to place, “stop and see.” You never know what visual and interactive delights you will encounter.

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