Master Set Designer George Tsypin Gives a Peek Inside His Process

'George Tsypin Opera Factory: Invisible City' is a new illustrated monograph from Princeton Architectural Press.

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Oct 19 2016, 2:00pm

Spiderman. Credit: © Jacob Cohl

If you’ve ever seriously considered a career in set design or tech theater, you’ve probably heard of George Tsypin. The illustrious American stage designer, sculptor, and architect has constructed sets for some of Broadway’s most inspiring productions and has just recently authored a new book entitled George Tsypin Opera Factory: Invisible City. This illustrated monograph is not only a survey of Tsypin’s life work but an expressive first person narrative of the artist’s process and relationship to the metropolis. In addition to production shots and designs, Invisible Cities features original essays that rundown 20 of Tsypin’s creations.

Grendel. Credit: © George Tsypin Opera Factory

Tsypin’s work isn't confined to the stage. In addition to his work for the theater, the artist incorporates works in sculpture, architecture, and scenography. Some of his more well-known projects include the Seaglass Carousel at The Battery Conservatory, the set for the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards, and the grand opening ceremony for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. More recently, Tsypin designed the modernist set of the late musical Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark and has staged iconic performances of The Little Mermaid, West Side Story, and the Grendel opera.

Sochi Olympics. Credit: © Ralph Larmann

Invisible Cities takes its name from the novel by Italian writer Italo Calvino, in which explorer Marco Polo gives lyrical descriptions of the many cities he has passed through during his years of travel. The publishers write, “Like Marco Polo [...] Tsypin embarks on an imaginary journey to exotic cities only to realize that he never left; each metropolis in George Tsypin Opera Factory: Invisible City is a version of New York City.

Fiery Angel. Credit: © George Tsypin Opera Factory

Tsypin developed his architectural creations at 5Pointz, a collective of art studios located within an open air graffiti mural in Long Island City, Queens. 5Pointz gained a lot notoriety in 2014 when developers decided to knock it down to make room for high-rise apartments. Tsypin describes his old studio as “mega multi-dimensional collage—an infinitely intricate interplay of vivid color, dilapidated walls, slanted roofs and sky-lights, and precariously hanging fire escapes.” His descriptive remembered experiences of 5Pointz are woven into book’s narrative. The publishers of Tsypin’s Invisible Cities write, “This book is not only a journey through the urban mindscape of Tsypin but also an act of creative mourning for 5Pointz. The ephemerality of Tsypin’s time-bound performances echoes his studio’s destruction.”

West Side Story. Credit: © George Tsypin Opera Factory

George Tsypin Opera Factory: Invisible City was published by Princeton Architectural Press on October 18, 2016. You can pick up your copy on Amazon or the publisher’s website. To learn more about George Tsypin and his work, head over to his website, here.  

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