Looking through this amazing site
dedicated to the late illustrator Bob Peak makes me think of how lazy people have gotten lately with Photoshop and such. Show me someone who can master paint
and they get my endless admiration. Peak's dense, montage-filled movie poster designs were the visual staples of '70s and '80s megaplexes. Knowing how ubiquitous he was back then actually makes me appreciate the craftsmanship in his work even more. He also did tons of magazine covers and ads - like the smoothly behatted fellow below.
Heil to the Chief
, this weeks Phoenix New Times
feature story, covers an upcoming political art show at Arizona State University in fascinating detail. Apparently the University bigwigs want the show to be politically balanced or it won't happen at all - the only problem is the curators cannot find any
right wing artists! Love the accompanying art, by Peter Kuper
, Robbie Conal
and others - unfortunately it's too small on the website. You'd have to see the print edition to fully appreciate it.
It's Called ChevronTexaco Now?
Fun little diversion: the 125 year evolution
of the Chevron, Texaco and Gulf Oil logos (via the newly redesigned Kottke
The Gentle Art of Ripoff
This is interesting - a gallery of album covers that copy other album covers
. Some are more artfully done than others; most directly steal from their inspirations. (another swell Sound Scavengers
Wild About Gary
is an artist/illustrator whose biggest inspiration appears to be '50s Asian toy packaging (via Robot Action Boy
). Delightful work.
I've added a new item to my own portfolio - an entry in a design contest my neighborhood is holding for its annual historic home tour. Even if it doesn't win, it's a good piece, so there it will stay.
JetSet Modern has an interesting article
on the architectural style jokingly referred to as "Swiss Miss" - a chunky hybrid of Midcentury Modern and Alpine Chalet. Nice photos of Palm Springs homes in that style. (thanks, Christopher!)
Also, check out the retro-syle cartoons I made for Julie and her Subversive Cross Stitch site. Did you know her stuff is being sold at Urban Outfitters now? Way to go, Julie.
Bride of Lichtenstein
Deconstructing Roy Lichtenstein
- a slow-loading but worthwhile page comparing the Pop Art master's paintings with the comic book panels he appropiated from. Via News From Me
, who has issues
with Lichtenstein's borrowing. I can understand his point, but to me Lichtenstein used pop culture imagery in the same way that a talented hip-hop artist uses sampling. In both cases, the many instances when it's done badly by hacks cloud out the few genuinely brilliant people (like Lichtenstein) who can create new art from old and cannily place it in a new context.
People In Neutra Houses Should Not Throw Stones
Christopher shared with me this interesting article from the L.A. Times: A New Generation of Desert Modernism
. Or, more accurately - Why Everything In Palm Springs Is So Goddam Expensive.
Pierre and Me
Modernist architect Pierre Koenig died
earlier this week. His most famous structure was Case Study House No.22, an angular, glass-walled beauty overlooking Los Angeles. It was captured in an iconic photo
by Julius Shulman. Here's an article
with lots of his homes pictured (all links via things magazine
About five years ago, I got a message from Mr. Koenig. After seeing my email address on the Jetset Modern site, he wrote asking if I knew who designed the Theme Building at LAX. It was very thrilling and strange, as if Roy Lichtenstein dropped by wanting to know who did those paintings with the targets in them. I wrote back saying no but thank you for writing I'm such a fan of your work I love modern architecture blah blah blah. Never heard back from him.
Shell Sweet Shell
The L.A. Times has a good article
on architect Wallace Neff's unusual "shell home" from the '40s. Another one
details the current vogue for Neff homes (skip it if you don't want to be reminded of how Pia Zadora and her husband leveled Pickfair!).
This blows me away -- a fantastic gallery
of signage and typography at Disneyland. These photos are by Cory Holms, who also wrote a Typographica blog entry
on Disney's (wise) decision to use the more expensive method of old fashioned hand-lettering on its theme park signage.
A Yuppie Teakettle for Everyone
from the new Metropolis
posits that "Michael Graves work for Target may be his most enduring legacy." Hmm. Well, it is
appealing (all roundness and pastel colors) and the whole enterprise has helped spread awareness of industrial design to normal folks. On the architechture side, I always found his work to be shallow and self-important - but scaled down to housewares size all I can think is "how cuuute." My only experience with owning
a Graves Target piece is with the desk clock pictured, which Christopher found in a thrift store. With its deco-ish numbers and subtle, brushed metal veneer, it sure is pretty to look at. Look closer, however. The plastic front holds a round piece of glass. Both are attatched to the clock via three tiny pegs. That's it. Before long, the front started falling out, so I had to scotch tape it on top. Then it took a little tumble and the glass shattered. Good design isn't all aesthetics - it has to survive the rigors of human interaction. Which is why something like Henry Dreyfuss' Trimline telephone
is an icon, while the Graves stuff is all a bunch of cotton candy that will likely be forgotten in 10 years.
Concidentally, I'm headed out for Target today - to buy my third coffeemaker in five years. Consumer tip: avoid Black & Decker. They might know tools, but their coffeemakers suck.
Monochromatic Art I
Berenice Abbott: Changing New York 1935-1938
. At the museum opening, we saw an exhibit of modern art from various collections. There was a hanging Calder mobile, a couple of Warhol prints, a snarky Haim Steinbach
shelf installation, and much else. The highlight was a Berenice Abbott photograph showing the nocturnal Greenwich Village of 1933, an abstract matrix of angular buildings which gleamed like a multi-faceted jewel. (thx, Christopher!)
Fun, With a Purpose!
At Home with Ozzie and Harriet
(AZ Republic article
) is an exhibit on '50s design that just opened here at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. It was inspired by a bunch of items Christopher and I donated to the museum. The focus was more nostalgic than we hoped, but otherwise it was a handsomely presented show. The highlight, for us, was an entire wall of colorful Lifetime Plastic
dinnerware credited to designer Jon Hedu. We believe this is the first time Hedu's name has been used in a museum - at least not since The Museum of Modern Art included Hedu's dinnerware in a 1947 modern design exhibit.
Pictured are cups from Russel Wright's line of miniaturized American Modern dinnerware, done in plastic as kids' dishes. Cute, eh?
Weird Art Alert
sent along an email about his upcoming show of digital prints. Check out his art. Very similar to Mark Ryden
, who apparently shares Caesar's fascination with creepy little girls.
The Charles Cushman photography archive
. Weblogger Broken Type's eloquent speculations
on photos in said collection. Don't look at one without the other.
is a "commemoration of dead logotypes" created by clever Brits. They forgot UPS. Or maybe they didn't want to be reminded. (via Speak Up
The NY Times has a small but worthwhile article
on the graphic design firm Chermayeff & Geismar. They did the groovy yet surprisingly durable 70s Mobil identity, among many other things.
Birds, Cats & Things
Here's a place you could spend hours at - Kiki Smith: Prints, Books & Things
, a gorgeous online exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. I like this site's subtle use of Flash as a content-enhancing tool.
Collages by Charles Wilkin
from Metropolis magazine. Includes an interview with the artist.
Images of 1930s Tokyo
Tokyo: The Imperial Capital
, lovely prints by Koizumi Kishio at the Wolfsonian in Miami:
Ueno, Tokyo's great public park, incorporated religious, civic, and cultural sites. In September 1923, Yamashita became the location of an enormous refugee camp for displaced citizens of Tokyo. The stylish young woman shown walking alone in the park at night under an electric streetlight might be Koizumi's way of inviting comparison between the peaceful and safe, modern aspects of Tokyo and the turmoil wrought by the earthquake.
Visual Inspiration Alert
The Greatest Albums That Never Were
. Yeah, I know it's old, but it's pretty cool! Many of the contributions are from illustrators whose work I've admired for a long while. Among them are Gary Baseman's Velvet Underground
, Anita Kunz's Talking Heads
, Phillip Burke's Garbage
, and Mark Ryden's Pink Floyd
We (Heart) The Brothers Quay
A trio of Brothers Quay commercials
. I didn't know they did the RoundUp "dying weeds" ones. Not a surprise, however - those ads have a sick, subversive quality about them. Back in college, I made a half-assed short video that tried to emulate the Brothers' MTV promos. The promos were great, the video wasn't.
Other Brothers Quay links: about the brothers
; a rare interview
That Time of the Month
More book cover reviews
from Cheshire Dave.
We Newspaper Types
A Slate column
on the New York Times' recent, apparently earth shattering decision to use only one headline typeface, to make the paper more reader-friendly. Good piece, despite the author's strange assertion that sans-serif fonts "have been popular among graphic designers over the last five years or so." O-kay. I always liked the Times' mishmash of head types with multiple decks, single-column articles, etc. Very old fashioned and funky looking. Cheltenham
is versatile, warm, friendly looking, and a generally good choice - but I have to wonder if a serious or tragic story's headline would look appropriate in that font.
Gratuitous Subhead Goes Here
In a similar vein is this grumpy column (via ArtsJournal) on subhead abuse in news design. Editors love subheads because they break up articles, making them more appealing to casual (or, depending on whom you ask, stupid) readers. I can't say I agree with everything the guy says, but it hit close to home for me since we've been asked to use them as much as possible at my job. A job which ends tomorrow, I might add.
Broken Bulbs, Rusted Dreams
The graveyard of old Las Vegas signs
is a place I've always wanted to visit. Excellent photographs by Chris Barrus of A Joshua Tree In Every Pot
This is neat - an artist digitally combined every Playboy centerfold
from each of the last four decades. The results are ethereal, ghostly (and work-safe) images. Via J-Walk
The New York Times has a neat article
on the restoration of the 1920s-era ceiling mural in that city's Verizon building lobby. Besides falling to the decay of age, it was seriously damaged on 9/11/01. (thx, Christopher!)
Also, check this out: House In Progress, a weblog on the renovation of an old Chicago bungalow (via things magazine). Apparently the previous owner of 60 years left the current occupants just about everything stored in the house. In the What On Earth archives, they catalog most of the items -- a veritable treasure trove of nifty stuff. I am so envious. The only extra things we got out of our vintage home purchase were some '50s ceramic dishes (pretty cool, actually), a ladder, and a stinky plaid-covered sleeper.
Two Stoic Men in Charcoal Suits
A Gilbert and George tutorial
. I wanted to some find info on G&G after seeing them (hilariously) spoofed in a French and Saunders
DVD we recently rented. For the uninitiated, Gilbert and George are to the art world what the Pet Shop Boys are to music - enigmatic, dark and droll, the epitomy of all things British and gay. I always liked the graphic immediacy of their work. Apperantly they live their lives through their art, like a strange extended performance piece. It turns out French and Saunders weren't too far from the mark.
Step Right Up
Gritty, fascinating photo gallery
of 1970s carnival strippers. Via Snarky Malarkey
, who also posted a groovy little ditty I sent her - "Papa, Won't You Let Me Go to Town with You"
by The Sugar Shoppe ('68).
A peek at Target's Halloween 2003 design scheme
created by the Charles S. Anderson agency in Minneapolis. Target knows the value of good design. Target is smart.
Props to Piven
by illustrator Hanoch Piven (via J-Walk
). These are a lot of fun. I've always been a fan - not just for the economy of color and shape, but for how Piven chooses props that somehow reflect upon the person he's drawing. In the Roseanne Barr portrait here, she has an Oreo cookie for a mouth. Perfect!
Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign
Photos of Signs
, roadside American signs to be exact. Lovely!
Kidd Is Godd
on book cover designer extraordinaire Chip Kidd, via Arts Journal
. Designing jackets for a major publishing house like Knopf would be as close to a "dream job" as I could aspire to. Kidd's work is as brilliant, whimsical and eye-popping as can be - although there have been examples where he's not as good. I bought the Lucille Ball biography Ball of Fire recently and was surprised to find it has a Kidd cover, since the actual design
is rather uninspiring.
Furniture for Obsessive-Compulsives
Anybody get the west elm
catalog? Lovely stuff, but the presentation is a little freaky to me. Products are shown in perfectly color-coordinated ensembles, set against white walls and floors. Everything is so clean, dust particles would likely be too intimidated to settle anywhere. The only non-west elm items on display are the occasional meticulously placed coffee table book. It's quite a contrast from Pottery Barn
, who takes pains to show their products in homey settings for their catalogs.
Diane Arbus: Genius or Weirdo?
Today's New York Times Magazine has a great, long article
on Diane Arbus and her impact on photography. The piece includes a small portfolio of never-published photos and a glimpse into one of her notebooks (detail above). In case you're unfamiliar with Arbus, open this page
in a separate window as it shows many of the photos mentioned in the article.
I'm so jazzed about Esquire magazine's cover gallery
. Yep, every cover going back to 1933 is there. It's an easy way to experience the venerable mag's graphical ups and downs. Such as: the weird little mannequin tableaus on the WWII-era covers. The eye-popping abstractions of the '50s. The audacious messages of the '60s. The ill-fated experiment with a different masthead. The casual sexism of recent celebrity covers (male: cool dude; female: babe in a flimsy wet top).
And, if that's not enough, Cheshire Dave is back with another round of insightful book cover reviews (both links via Coudal).
Design-y, Media-y things: poynter.org has a short column
on the dangers of readymade clip art. And foliomag.com has an article
remembering Dynamite magazine. Dynamite was a staple in '70s classrooms, but I was surprised to hear that it hung in there until 1992. Here's a little tribute page
, outsider artist. Her work is almost as fascinating as the story
of her life and how her drawings were discovered. (via GMTPlus9
A Clown Has Feelings, Too
Diane Keaton's clown paintings
are getting an exhibition at the Warhol Museum. How, I wonder, do people react when Ms. Keaton tells them she's a collector of clown paintings? Do they arch their eyebrows and say "how subversive"? Or do they nod and smile blankly, then laugh behind her back?
Adventures of Space Kitty
's artwork is so girly and retro, you'd swear they were lost Mary Blair
illustrations. Subject-wise, most involve a saucer-eyed girl and her pet kitty. The cute-averse have been warned.
Eat and Gaze
Stars at the Inn
is an online exhibition of vintage '30s movie star photos which once hung at the Universal Studios commissary. Part of the Universal archives and collections
, which hasn't been updated since 1999 but is pretty neat nonetheless.