Friday, August 27, 2010

Steam, 1978 by Norman B. Colp

This is not the kind of postcard I usually post for Postcard Friendship Friday, but the truth is this is the kind of postcard I started collecting first: contemporary cards of New York City or artist reproductions, bought at bookstores and museums. Even today, in any museum gift shop, I'm drawn to the postcards, to take home my own little Picasso or Matisse. Or Henry Darger.

"Steam: My view from P.S. 1, a flip book," by Norman B. Colp, is the kind of offbeat thing I like a lot: a postcard rendered from a flip book.

P.S. 1 in Long Island City (in Queens) is a beautiful old school (at least 100 years old) that became studio and exhibition space for artists in 1976. It was exciting to visit P.S. 1 in those early days, and see a great old building and how artists had transformed it. Today, P.S. 1 is an affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art.

These smokestacks were part of the landscape I took for granted when I lived in Greenpoint (Brooklyn) just across the Pulaski Bridge from Long Island City in 1980, when it was affordable, home to mostly working-class Polish families. One of the joys of the neighborhood was being able to walk over the bridge (with a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline across the East River) to see what was going on at P.S. 1.

I just learned that Norman B. Colp is the artist who created one of my favorite subway pieces: The Commuter's Lament/A Close Shave. See this blog for how the installation on ceiling beams looks as you walk down the ramp at the 42nd St./Port Authority subway station.The artist had tapped into the brain of weary morning commuters. There's a missing panel, the last one showing a photograph of a bed (with rumpled sheets, I think). The photo panel was supposed to be restored after some subway work was done, but I haven't seen it, and I still go down that ramp at least once a month.

Colp, who died in 2007, also organized shows at the Center for Book Arts. A New York Times article said he exhibited widely and taught at the School of Visual Arts in the 1980s. Colp was known for his handmade artist's books, accordion books and flip books: "To view them, he created mutoscopes, viewing machines that were a throwback to the nickleodeons of a century ago." My kind of artist!

Thanks to Beth for hosting this forum via her excellent blog, The Best Hearts Are Crunchy where you'll find many more postcards, vintage and modern.


  1. Even a static thing can generate a dynamic view, with proper handling. :)

  2. I'm so glad you shared this postcard--I find it to be fascinating, too. I love the colors and sequential nature of this postcard!

    Happy PFF!

  3. I like to find interesting art cards too, though I do not consider them a real part of my collection. I also like signs--those are one of my favorite collecting topics lately.

  4. Very funny postcard, Linda. I also buy art postcards in museums and accidentally I often buy the same ones when I visit a museum for the second time. Very irritating and a bit reassuring. Thanks for always visiting my blog on friday!

  5. I love buying art cards too, and I love this artist. I followed the link to see the subway piece, and I think it's wonderful. It would cheer my way to work if I saw it.

  6. Those stacks appear in a movie that I saw several years ago, and I can't recall the title. I can't even remember the actor, but there was a hospital involved, and one of the characters got his nose bit off...

    I don't know where I'm going with this comment except that the movie came immediately to mind when I saw this card.

  7. Art cards were the first ones I collected as a young teen too. The only things I could afford in the gift shop. I have a Manhattan postcard too this week.

  8. I love the art postcards, as it seems I often end up learning about an artist I hadn't known about. This one is particularly cool.