Grand Central Terminal
As Above, So Below, 1998
Glass, bronze, and mosaic in Grand Central North passageway
The historic ceiling in the main concourse at Grand Central Terminal reveals the night sky with golden stars that form the constellations. Grand Central becomes a metaphor for our connection with the wider world beyond New York City and As Above, So Below takes the viewer around the world to the night sky above five different continents, representing myths, civilization, heavens, and the underworld. These scenes bring to life ancient tales that demonstrate how the stories told about the heavens reflect the way we live on earth. A close look at any of the faces in the work reveal their diversity, as indeed, the people in these mosaics represent many different backgrounds. However, the artist has altered them to take on the attributes of mythical figures. The work summons the everlasting and the ephemeral, reminding us of our spiritual and worldly past while we hurry through the station.
Bad Teinach is a town in the district of Calw, situated in the Black Forest area of southwest Germany. The town is famous for the large alchemical-kabbalistic triptych that is mounted in a large baroque case near the altar of a small church in the town. I believe this triptych to be a major work of esoteric symbolism; it may even be considered by some people to be an example of “Objective Art” as defined by G. I. Gurdjieff or as “Symbolique Art” as defined by R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz.
This is a large work; with the panels closed, it measures approximately six meters high and five meters wide; it dominates the area to the right of the altar of the church. It seems to have been prepared as a “teaching painting” (“Lehrtafel” in German) for the use of Princess Antonia (1613-1679) of the Duchy of Württemberg. She was the daughter of Frederick I, Duke of Württemberg (1557-1608). Frederick had been an alchemist and occultist, who, in 1603, was invested into the Order of the Garter by King James I of England. The Lehrtafel was designed in the 1650s by several friends and academic advisors of Princess Antonia; it was completed in 1663 by the artist, Johann Friedrich Gruber (1620-1681), the court painter at Stuttgart, and was presented to the Princess on her fiftieth birthday. For 10 years (1663-73) the triptych remained in Stuttgart, in the bedroom of the princess as a devotional image. But in 1673, on the sixtieth birthday of Princess Antonia, the triptych was installed at the church in Bad Teinach, the town where the ducal family used to take their summer holidays. Antonia’s brother, Duke Eberhard III (1614-1674), had established the church as a private family chapel.
Corrado Parducci is mostly referred to as an architectural sculptor, however, I think a proper title would simply be designer. These days, he would probably best be known as an Industrial Designer, with having designed countless commissions of architectural sculpture, interior plaster work and bronze work. Additionally, he designed hub caps for Budd Wheel, and bumper designs for Hudson Motor Car Company. In his personal time, he sculpted busts of Greek and Roman figures from antiquity, painted intricate patterns on the walls of his home and even wove tapestries.
Parducci was revered by many architects who wanted him to work on their most exclusive projects – both in Detroit, Michigan, and nationally. Because of Parducci’s training at New York’s Beaux-Arts Institute of Design (BAID) and the Arts Students League, he was able to quickly see the architect’s vision for a space. Many times, the architect would provide a set of architectural drawings to Parducci where blank spaces had been left for him to fill in his designs. By working with Parducci, this would free up the architect’s draughtsmen for other things. Prior to this, the draughtsmen would furnish full scaled drawings of sculpture, ornamentation, or even doorknobs and window casings. It’s important to remember that during the early 20th century, everything was custom made for each architectural project. There was no Sweet’s Catalogue, whereas even Parducci said, “today we design by number.”