Author: Dominic

Dominic Umile lives, writes, and drinks in Brooklyn, New York.

Documenting subway station design for 40 years

Lots of good-looking publications in Curbed’s picks for 2018’s “best design and urbanism books”—Archigram: The Book, Serious Play: Design in Midcentury America, and more. I’d forgotten about having read a piece or two in recent years on the book from printer, artist, and Rhode Island School of Design graduate Philip Ashforth Coppola, which is also included in the feature.

Philip Ashforth Coppola drawing NYC subway

Coppola has been creating painstakingly detailed ballpoint pen drawings of the design work at New York City subway stations—their decorative elements, the tile patterns, the typefaces, and more—since 1978 (I think that cartoonist Julia Wertz might appreciate his effort). In May of this year, Princeton Architectural Press published One-Track Mind: Drawing the New York Subway, a hardcover book that includes 130 black and white illustrations culled from a collection of thousands of sketches with the help of editors Ezra Bookstein and Jeremy Workman. Coppola’s handwritten annotations point to the names of architects or firms contracted for the original labor—based on research he’s conducted at the library or elsewhere—or simply to the colors utilized, as the book is in black and white. See Jessica Leigh Hester’s 2018 Atlas Obscura feature on the artist and his book. More details about One-Track Mind are at the publisher’s site.


We referred to it as ‘the neighborhood’

At Bklyner., reporter Pamela Wong talks with photographer Larry Racioppo, whose new book of 128 black-and-white photographs documents a neighborhood of South Brooklyn that existed long before you needed at least $2,500 monthly for a one-bedroom in Park Slope (and yes, I know where we live is worse). From Bklyner.:

Born in South Slope, Racioppo’s family moved to 40th Street between 4th and 5th Avenues in Sunset Park when he was in second grade. “When I was born my parents had an apartment on 6th Avenue between Prospect Avenue and 17th Street,” he explained over the phone. “The building was torn down to build the Prospect Expressway.”

“My parents, my grandparents, all came from southern Italy,” he continued. “They worked as laborers. My grandparents never learned how to speak English. They had Italian friends that had Italian bakeries, Italian stores. They all settled in South Brooklyn and Sunset Park. My dad and five or six of my uncles were longshoremen. They all worked on the docks,” he recalled.

“We referred to it as ‘the neighborhood,’” he said of the area he grew up in, which serves as the setting for his book. “This vague thing, somewhere from 10th Street to 18th Street, from 4th Avenue to 6th Avenue. All my mother’s friends and cousins lived there. They were all from southern Italy.”

Read the story on Racioppo at Bklyner., and see the exhibition of his work at the Central branch of the Brooklyn Public Library until December 29th.


Pierre on Plath

Cartoonist Summer Pierre reviews for The New Yorker‘s site two collections of letters from poet and novelist Sylvia Plath, who suffered from depression and took her own life in 1963. For her drawn consideration of the books, Pierre works in color, sharing context and her reaction to Plath’s letters by way of a long scrolling column of single panels organized vertically. The focus swings between the artist-as-critic in her Hudson Valley area home—digesting these volumes that have her both spellbound and heartbroken—and renderings of Plath, frequently at the typewriter, preparing what is “over fifteen hundred letters” she sent to her mother, her brother, and others. Read “Sylvia Plath’s Last Plan” here.

Also this month, Pierre spoke about her process and the making of All the Sad Songs, her new graphic memoir, in detail with Gil Roth on his Virtual Memories Show podcast.

I wrote about Pierre’s ongoing autobiographical Paper Pencil Life comics/zine series as well as her brand new graphic memoir All the Sad Songs. It’s great to see her A) working in color and B) doing long(er)-form stuff. Her books and art are available at her Etsy store.