Pipes, Pumps and Valves: The Art Of Modern Plumbing

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(Pic #1) Roof drain rain discharge line, Santa Barbara, California

“The only works of art America has given are her plumbing and her bridges.”   – Marcel Duchamp  (1917)

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with the colorful, clunky metal shapes decorating farm land in Camarillo, California. These forms also appear in basements, maintenance yards, and water treatment plants that no one notices. From Southern Cali to the bowels of turn-of-the-century skyscrapers in NYC, you can find the most elegant, gentle curves serving man’s plumbing needs. Pretty basic stuff. But they are both sculptural and beautiful.


(Pic #2) “Fountain” by Marcel Duchamp (1917)

Perhaps the most famous plumbing fixture in history appeared on the American fine art scene in 1917 – when French conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp submitted a “readymade” porcelain urinal titled, “Fountain” to an exhibition that would ultimately reject the work. (Pic #2)

Duchamp dismissed the assumption that art must be linked to the “craft of the hand” and instead argued that a work of art should be primarily about the artist’s idea — a contention that became one of the most far-reaching principles of 20th century art.

To me, there is real beauty in these utilitarian objects. Check out the ones we’ve collected below. Heck, I even like the sound of the names assigned these sweet supplies, like: backflow preventers, hose bibs, swivel joints, valve actuators, flush valves, and discharge lines. TMI ?

round red pipe 4tlr I4tlr MG_1817 copy

(Pic#3) Detail, Industrial cooling system, Manhattan, NY

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(Pic #4) Google’s Asian night time cooling and thermal energy storage system, Taiwan.

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(Pic #5) Agricultural irrigation system, Fillmore, CA

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(Pic #6) Agricultural hoop house piping, Camarillo, CA

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(Pic #7) Detail, Industrial cooling system, Manhattan, NY

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(Pic #8) A little rough around the edges -water spigot, West Hollywood

red pipe wires 4tlr MG_1835 copy

(Pic #9) Detail, Industrial cooling system, Manhattan, NY

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(Pic #10) Detail, Industrial cooling system, Manhattan, NY


Chew On This: Gorgeous Gum Wrapper Art

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That’s a wrap! Colorful chewing gum papers provide meaningful daily devotion for one Los Angeles artist.

 Artist/analyst  discovers the joys of art making – in minutes.

I preach it in my workshops – and to anyone who will listen: “Do something creative – ten minutes a day.” I know about the dramatic impact of daily creative activity – how it changes the way we look at things, and how we approach problem-solving.  But every time I see what Leslie Howard produces consistently – I’m talking every day – I’m knocked out.

Leslie is a Los Angeles psychoanalyst writing a complex dissertation for her doctorate degree. She has been spending most of the last 5 years reading, writing, and working with patients. But somehow, she manages to stay true to her commitment: making art from trash – the tiniest of throwaways – and recording the little sculptures on her iPhone. She made over 300 of them last time I checked. She will soon complete a full year.

They are beautiful, whimsical, and sometimes daunting. Daunting because you can’t imagine how anyone can produce another month’s worth of compelling forms. They are tossed out gum wrappers, for heaven’s sake. How does she find so many new ways of re-inventing them? Well, I think the answer is in the task: the more we create, the more ideas flow.


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Red Light Rauschenberg

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(Pic #1) Grab shot on Olympic and Bundy, Los Angeles

Let traffic serve as your muse

Next time you’re stuck in one of our city’s nightmarish jams, take advantage of the unplanned stop. The wait at the stubborn red light just might provide an opportunity for a grab shot worth keeping. I’ve always  been a fan of Rauschenberg’s “combine paintings,” and lately I keep seeing quirky versions of them right through my windshield. From tractor trailers to local pool guy trucks, I always find exciting shapes, lines and textures. They make fantastic photographic compositions (Pic #1) — with little or no planning.

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(Pic #2) Grab shot in downtown Santa Barbara

The stoplight strategy works for sweet architectural encounters too. (Pics #2, 3, 4)  All of these were  shot out the window on the way to or in Santa Barbara while waiting for the light to change. Today’s sprawling urban landscape just begs to be captured – and you don’t need extravagant light kits or 10-thousand dollar lenses — just a willingness to conquer the congestion with a fresh look at exactly what’s in front of you.

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(Pic #3) Santa Barbara second story. Photo by Josh Kaplan

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(Pic #4) Subtle wall wash, Malibu, Cali.  Photo by Josh Kaplan