Gastrotypographicalassemblage, a massive artwork imagined by legendary designer Lou Dorfsman, has re-emerged in New York, after disappearing from the public eye for decades.
Dorfsman, who died in 2008, was a longtime employee of CBS. His designs ranged from Walter Cronkite's set to print advertisements to the typography in Eero Saarinen's 1964 Black Rock skyscraper, the broadcast and media network's Manhattan headquarters. In the 1960s, Dorfsman worked with Herb Lubalin, Tom Carnase, John Alcorn, Stanley Glaubach, and Nick Fasciano to create Gastrotypographicalassemblage for the CBS cafeteria in Black Rock. The artwork is now on display at the Culinary Institute of America's Marriott Pavilion and Conference Center in Hyde Park, N.Y.
In an archive interview posted on YouTube, Dorfsman explains how the wall came to be. He says that he was standing in the cafeteria with Florence Knoll (a "very superb interior designer") and Frank Stanton, then president of CBS, and said he wanted to do something with that wall. Knoll suggested placing old maps of New York on it.
"I wasn't pleased with that idea and I said so," he says in the interview, "and I think what was shot back at me was something like, 'Ok, wise guy, what would you do?' "
Dorfsman explains that he had made a California Job Case—a box used to store letterpress letters—for Stanton's birthday, filled with items bearing a "51/20 Club" (the name of the CBS cafeteria) theme.
"Well in less than thirty seconds," Dorfsman continues, "I remember coming back and saying, remember that box I did for you, with all those type things? I could see that wall as one big, white wall full of white cut out letters in different typefaces, and oh, I think I'd like to put food objects in the wall. I mean just like that—I had a picture of it."
Gastrotypographicalassemblage spans more than 30 feet and contains over 1,650 letters. It stood in the CBS headquarters until a 1989 renovation, according to a Culinary Institute of America press release. Dorfsman and Fasciano, a designer who had worked on the artwork as a fresh Cooper Union graduate, salvaged the work from being tossed out.
According to The New York Times, both Cooper Union and the Museum of Modern Art declined the wall. The Atlanta-based Center for Design Study began raising money for the restoration. But then Fasciano's neighbor, a Culinary Institute of America board member, became involved.
Stephan Hengst, director of communications for the institute, says that the wall's letters had been repainted so much that they "kind of looked like a New York City baseboard." Restoring and transporting the artwork cost $100,000, according to Hengst. The institute covered $75,000 of that, and the William S. Paley Foundation covered the other $25,000. The revamped artwork opened to the public in March, when the institute's new pavilion opened.
Although many letters were repaired or replaced, the words are the same as they were roughly 50 years ago. Visitors won't find "cronut" anywhere.