The Many Faces of History
A few months ago, during a serendipitous discovery that a new art installation shared a theme with an old landmark, the historically-designated Pinecrest Gardens invited the Historical Preservation Association of Coral Gables to be a launch sponsor of Philip Haas’s FOUR SEASONS, the acclaimed towering installation of fantastical sculptures consisting of four 15-foot-tall faces. Thus, the “Faces of History” theme emerged and a friendship forged.
Haas’s faces installations represent the four seasons and bring 16th-century Renaissance portraiture by Italian artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo into modern times. “I started the FOUR SEASONS project wanting to bring Arcimboldo’s Renaissance painted nature imagery into the 21st-century physical world. I can’t think of a better venue than Pinecrest Gardens to inaugurate the Florida tour of this work,” said Haas, the internationally renowned contemporary artist and filmmaker.
The popular exhibit’s final days came to a close in early April, but not before the City of Coral Gables began a preliminary plan to kick-off its 90th anniversary celebrations. The connection between the FOUR SEASONS exhibit was indeed symbolic and timely. The conjoining of themes—past versus present; and seasons versus ages—brought attention to Haas’s new monumental faces as well as the decorative faces on an old Coral Gables landmark—the White Way Lights. These historic lampposts designed by Coral Gables artist Denman Fink in 1926 were designated as a Coral Gables Historic Landmark Site and included on the City Historic Landmark Inventory in 1981.
Faces, reflecting the theme of seasons and ages, were incorporated into the early artistry of many Coral Gables historic landmarks including the City Hall dome murals, the relief panels on the De Soto fountain, and the ornamental bases on the Fink-designed, historically designated White Way Lights. Denman intricately carved the bases with faces depicting labor, architecture, horticulture, and art.
The opportune time of Haas’s faces exhibit helped draw attention to the faces of Coral Gables and its historic lampposts. Unfortunately, out of the original 500, less than 70 historic streetlights remain and these need preservation and restoration. Most are located along University Drive from Granada Boulevard past Ponce de Leon Boulevard and along Riviera Drive from Granada to University Drive.
Make some time to walk down the White Way corridor. The nickname was coined after New York City’s “The Great White Way” – one of the nicknames for Broadway in the late 1890s when the street was one of the first to be fully illuminated by electric light. So take a stroll and experience the many faces of history.