Metabolic City

October 10, 2009

In my final year in graduate school I learned about a group called the Situationist International and I became fascinated with their imaginative imagery that drew from architecture and art. I was interested in their concepts of urbanism, the city and Marxism as a creative apparatus. Like the artists in the Chance Aesthetics exhibition, the work and their concepts are rather playful and I think are a reaction to the horrors of the destruction of cities and deaths of millions during World War II. This was their vision of post-war utopia.

Metabolic City focuses on mainly three different groups working at relatively the same time; 1950s-1970. The British architectural group, Archigram, the Japanese Metabolists, and the Situationist International (SI) (mainly Constant Nieuwenhuy).  The exhibition consists of montages, diagrams, architectural rendering, videos that are projected on glass while you sit in a cockpit type module, and models.

All three groups think of the city as a living organism that is flexible, mobile and expandable. They all had their views on economic systems that seemed to permeate their work. They all seemed to embrace technology as a way to make life better. For example, Archiagram and the Metabolists embraced consumerism and mass pop culture. Whereas the SI was very critical of capitalistic society. Their goal was to revolutionise space and mass culture through Marxist revolution. They wanted to liberate man from the confines of capitalism and mass culture. They envisioned urban space as an experimental arena for human interaction and self-realization. In simple terms, let’s think of the SI as socialists and Archigram and Metabolists as capitalists.

The Metabolists

After WW2, Japan was going through social, political and cultural changes. They drafted a new constitution and made dramatic changes in regard to land use. Looking for a positive identity and individual rights led to visions of he city based on metaphor of life cycles. They proposed new territories of inhabitation such as the ocean and social spaces gained prominence. There work defiantly has a biological and natural element to it. Some of it looks like part of living creature or is just closely tied to the natural environment.

Those included are Kisho Kurokawa, Fumihiko Maki and Arata Isozaki

Kisho Kurokawa diagram

Kisho Kurokawa diagram

Fumihiko Maki model

Fumihiko Maki model

Arata Isozaki photomontage

Arata Isozaki photomontage

Archigram

This was a British group in which the members were fresh out of school. They were not too interested in politics and were more enthusiastic about the social aspects of built space and broader issues of urban livability. They were brough up in a time when destroyed cities were being rebuilt in short spans of time and lacked a sense of the vitality found in a living city. Seeing this and the desire for a better life spurred them to push the limits of architecture. Their proposals embraced emerging technologies and commerce to advance individual freedoms and enhance the lives of individuals. Their cities had a patterned look with a lot of alien-like spaceship-like pods that look like they are from some thing of Sci-Fi movie.

Those included are Peter Cook,Dennis Crompton, Michael Webb, Ron Herron.

Peter Cook's Plug-in City

Peter Cook's Plug-in City

Dennis Crompton's Walking City (not in show)

Dennis Crompton's Walking City (not in show)

SI (Constant)

This group was mainly based in the Netherlands and in France. Constant was from the Netherlands and like the Japanese and the British they were hit hard by the horrors of WW2. Constant’s most famous project was New Babylon. It was a sample of what maybe a Situationist city could look like. It focused on the city as an emphasis on the individual, social interactions and the presence of art as part of the environment. The city was an urban framework in which the occupants would be able to create, reconfigure and control their sensory environments.

Others associated with the SI are the activist, Guy Debord and artist, Asger Jorn

Constant's  New Babylon project drawing

Constant's New Babylon project drawing

Constant's New Babylon drawing/diagram

Constant's New Babylon drawing/diagram


Eero Saarinen

February 27, 2009

 

I was feeling a bit unsure about how I wanted to write about the Eero Saarinen exhibition at the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum in St. Louis. The exhibition is called Shaping the Future and it runs until April 27, 2009. 

Should it just be written as an objective entry about an exhibition or should I write about it as it being part of the influence or the inspiration of an artist work? Well, I will address it this way, going to museums, galleries or any other venue to see art is great for any artist or designer. It is a good idea to go seek work that you like and maybe work that you don’t. Just go see art in person. So in that sense, going to the exhibition is an inspiration and can be an influence.

Ok, I live in the St. Louis metro area and everybody does know of this guy and of his work…even if they can’t name the man off hand. One of his structures is so unbiquitious to the area that it seem rather ordinary and nothing to exciting. Eeros Saarinen’s Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (AKA The Arch) is a defining structure in St. Louis. As a kid, I don’t know how many times I have taken the white, “futuristic” egg trams to the top. I can’t count the times I have sat at the foot to watch fireworks or airshows around the 4th of July as I was growing up. It is an awe inspiring stucture but also a structure that has turned into a cliche as part of logos, company names, as a cartoon or mascot for anything that is remotely tied to St. Louis. Just go to www.askarchy.com and you will see what I mean. I am not looking at is as a criticism. It is just how it is. 

 

Final section being installed to complete the arch

Final section being installed to complete the arch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the exhibition is a survey of his work since he began his career at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, worked along side of his father, Eilel Saarinen. Eventually, he struck out on his own in 1950 after his father died. Saarinen became the architect that represented American modernism most famously. He work with Charles Eames to create modern furniture that introduced new materials and technology that would decorate the modern home. He designed the headquarters of many cooporations….basically making the “corporate campus” model popular and did some innovative designs for college campuses, airports and well…the Arch.

 

One of his many chair designs

One of his many chair designs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Deere headquarters in Moline, IL

John Deere headquarters in Moline, IL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is my favorite. Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale 1953

This is my favorite. Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale 1953

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If a person were to pick his defining works, it would be the Arch and the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport

 

TWA Terminal at JFK Airport from the inside

TWA Terminal at JFK Airport from the inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The show was more or less a survey of the highlights that displayed photographs, some furnature, videos and models of his work. 

At the time, his works seemed very futuristic  and exemplified the values of modernism. Now it my seem quaint  because frankly, much of modern architecture has not aged well. However, it does represent a post-war period of hope and the idea that life will get better with technology. 

As I think about it, Eeros Saarinen was like the Frank Gehry of his time. I think the connection is rather obvious when comparing the organic, curvilinear structures of Gehry and Saarinen. Of course, there are many difference in material and theory. Plus, Gehry’s structures are just rather excessive and exaggerated. Saarinen’s structures do have a simplicity and minimalism to them, essentially following modernism’s reductivism. 

 

TWA Terminal from outside circa 1962

TWA Terminal from outside circa 1962

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gehry's Disney hall

Gehry's Disney hall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What I also want to point out is that the Arch design was a competition and really, if you look at the other ideas for the memorial how could Saarinen’s lose. This is the runner up to Saarinen’s Arch:

runnerup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was done by Harris Armstrong, a native St. Louisan. To find out more go to: New Light on the Gateway


Futurism is 100 years old Today.

February 21, 2009

 A few post ago I wrote about Futurism and its relationship to the formation of modern graphic design. Soon I will be writing about the Bauhaus and that was the school that really gave birth to graphic design as we know it. The thing that makes Futurism so important is that there would not be any Dada, Surrealism, Constructivism and many other avant garde movements.

Anyway, today is the day that Marinetti published his Futurist Manifesto in the newspaper Le Figaro on Feb 20, 1909. I will also make note that there are many celebrations going on all over Italy to commemorate the day. Here is a website that makes note of some birthday festivities going on in Italy. Milan Festivities

So whether or not you like Futurism or not, there is no denying its importance. In honor of the manifesto, here it is in its entirety:

We have been up all night, my friends and I, beneath mosque lamps whose brass cupolas are bright as our souls, because like them they were illuminated by the internal glow of electric hearts. And trampling underfoot our native sloth on opulent Persian carpets, we have been discussing right up to the limits of logic and scrawling the paper with demented writing.Our hearts were filled with an immense pride at feeling ourselves standing quite alone, like lighthouses or like the sentinels in an outpost, facing the army of enemy stars encamped in their celestial bivouacs. Alone with the engineers in the infernal stokeholes of great ships, alone with the black spirits which rage in the belly of rogue locomotives, alone with the drunkards beating their wings against the walls.

Then we were suddenly distracted by the rumbling of huge double decker trams that went leaping by, streaked with light like the villages celebrating their festivals, which the Po in flood suddenly knocks down and uproots, and, in the rapids and eddies of a deluge, drags down to the sea.

Then the silence increased. As we listened to the last faint prayer of the old canal and the crumbling of the bones of the moribund palaces with their green growth of beard, suddenly the hungry automobiles roared beneath our windows.

`Come, my friends!’ I said. `Let us go! At last Mythology and the mystic cult of the ideal have been left behind. We are going to be present at the birth of the centaur and we shall soon see the first angels fly! We must break down the gates of life to test the bolts and the padlocks! Let us go! Here is they very first sunrise on earth! Nothing equals the splendor of its red sword which strikes for the first time in our millennial darkness.’

We went up to the three snorting machines to caress their breasts. I lay along mine like a corpse on its bier, but I suddenly revived again beneath the steering wheel – a guillotine knife – which threatened my stomach. A great sweep of madness brought us sharply back to ourselves and drove us through the streets, steep and deep, like dried up torrents. Here and there unhappy lamps in the windows taught us to despise our mathematical eyes. `Smell,’ I exclaimed, `smell is good enough for wild beasts!’

And we hunted, like young lions, death with its black fur dappled with pale crosses, who ran before us in the vast violet sky, palpable and living.

And yet we had no ideal Mistress stretching her form up to the clouds, nor yet a cruel Queen to whom to offer our corpses twisted into the shape of Byzantine rings! No reason to die unless it is the desire to be rid of the too great weight of our courage!

We drove on, crushing beneath our burning wheels, like shirt-collars under the iron, the watch dogs on the steps of the houses.

Death, tamed, went in front of me at each corner offering me his hand nicely, and sometimes lay on the ground with a noise of creaking jaws giving me velvet glances from the bottom of puddles.

`Let us leave good sense behind like a hideous husk and let us hurl ourselves, like fruit spiced with pride, into the immense mouth and breast of the world! Let us feed the unknown, not from despair, but simply to enrich the unfathomable reservoirs of the Absurd!’

As soon as I had said these words, I turned sharply back on my tracks with the mad intoxication of puppies biting their tails, and suddenly there were two cyclists disapproving of me and tottering in front of me like two persuasive but contradictory reasons. Their stupid swaying got in my way. What a bore! Pouah! I stopped short, and in disgust hurled myself – vlan! – head over heels in a ditch.

Oh, maternal ditch, half full of muddy water! A factory gutter! I savored a mouthful of strengthening muck which recalled the black teat of my Sudanese nurse!

As I raised my body, mud-spattered and smelly, I felt the red hot poker of joy deliciously pierce my heart. A crowd of fishermen and gouty naturalists crowded terrified around this marvel. With patient and tentative care they raised high enormous grappling irons to fish up my car, like a vast shark that had run aground. It rose slowly leaving in the ditch, like scales, its heavy coachwork of good sense and its upholstery of comfort.

We thought it was dead, my good shark, but I woke it with a single caress of its powerful back, and it was revived running as fast as it could on its fins.

Then with my face covered in good factory mud, covered with metal scratches, useless sweat and celestial grime, amidst the complaint of staid fishermen and angry naturalists, we dictated our first will and testament to all the living men on earth.

MANIFESTO OF FUTURISM

  1. We want to sing the love of danger, the habit of energy and rashness.
  2. The essential elements of our poetry will be courage, audacity and revolt.
  3. Literature has up to now magnified pensive immobility, ecstasy and slumber. We want to exalt movements of aggression, feverish sleeplessness, the double march, the perilous leap, the slap and the blow with the fist.
  4. We declare that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing automobile with its bonnet adorned with great tubes like serpents with explosive breath … a roaring motor car which seems to run on machine-gun fire, is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.
  5. We want to sing the man at the wheel, the ideal axis of which crosses the earth, itself hurled along its orbit.
  6. The poet must spend himself with warmth, glamour and prodigality to increase the enthusiastic fervor of the primordial elements.
  7. Beauty exists only in struggle. There is no masterpiece that has not an aggressive character. Poetry must be a violent assault on the forces of the unknown, to force them to bow before man.
  8. We are on the extreme promontory of the centuries! What is the use of looking behind at the moment when we must open the mysterious shutters of the impossible? Time and Space died yesterday. We are already living in the absolute, since we have already created eternal, omnipresent speed.
  9. We want to glorify war – the only cure for the world – militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.
  10. We want to demolish museums and libraries, fight morality, feminism and all opportunist and utilitarian cowardice.
  11. We will sing of the great crowds agitated by work, pleasure and revolt; the multi-colored and polyphonic surf of revolutions in modern capitals: the nocturnal vibration of the arsenals and the workshops beneath their violent electric moons: the gluttonous railway stations devouring smoking serpents; factories suspended from the clouds by the thread of their smoke; bridges with the leap of gymnasts flung across the diabolic cutlery of sunny rivers: adventurous steamers sniffing the horizon; great-breasted locomotives, puffing on the rails like enormous steel horses with long tubes for bridle, and the gliding flight of aeroplanes whose propeller sounds like the flapping of a flag and the applause of enthusiastic crowds.

 

It is in Italy that we are issuing this manifesto of ruinous and incendiary violence, by which we today are founding Futurism, because we want to deliver Italy from its gangrene of professors, archaeologists, tourist guides and antiquaries.

Italy has been too long the great second-hand market. We want to get rid of the innumerable museums which cover it with innumerable cemeteries.

Museums, cemeteries! Truly identical in their sinister juxtaposition of bodies that do not know each other. Public dormitories where you sleep side by side for ever with beings you hate or do not know. Reciprocal ferocity of the painters and sculptors who murder each other in the same museum with blows of line and color. To make a visit once a year, as one goes to see the graves of our dead once a year, that we could allow! We can even imagine placing flowers once a year at the feet of the Gioconda! But to take our sadness, our fragile courage and our anxiety to the museum every day, that we cannot admit! Do you want to poison yourselves? Do you want to rot?

What can you find in an old picture except the painful contortions of the artist trying to break uncrossable barriers which obstruct the full expression of his dream?

To admire an old picture is to pour our sensibility into a funeral urn instead of casting it forward with violent spurts of creation and action. Do you want to waste the best part of your strength in a useless admiration of the past, from which you will emerge exhausted, diminished, trampled on?

Indeed daily visits to museums, libraries and academies (those cemeteries of wasted effort, calvaries of crucified dreams, registers of false starts!) is for artists what prolonged supervision by the parents is for intelligent young men, drunk with their own talent and ambition.

For the dying, for invalids and for prisoners it may be all right. It is, perhaps, some sort of balm for their wounds, the admirable past, at a moment when the future is denied them. But we will have none of it, we, the young, strong and living Futurists!

Let the good incendiaries with charred fingers come! Here they are! Heap up the fire to the shelves of the libraries! Divert the canals to flood the cellars of the museums! Let the glorious canvases swim ashore! Take the picks and hammers! Undermine the foundation of venerable towns!

The oldest among us are not yet thirty years old: we have therefore at least ten years to accomplish our task. When we are forty let younger and stronger men than we throw us in the waste paper basket like useless manuscripts! They will come against us from afar, leaping on the light cadence of their first poems, clutching the air with their predatory fingers and sniffing at the gates of the academies the good scent of our decaying spirits, already promised to the catacombs of the libraries.

But we shall not be there. They will find us at last one winter’s night in the depths of the country in a sad hangar echoing with the notes of the monotonous rain, crouched near our trembling aeroplanes, warming our hands at the wretched fire which our books of today will make when they flame gaily beneath the glittering flight of their pictures.

They will crowd around us, panting with anguish and disappointment, and exasperated by our proud indefatigable courage, will hurl themselves forward to kill us, with all the more hatred as their hearts will be drunk with love and admiration for us. And strong healthy Injustice will shine radiantly from their eyes. For art can only be violence, cruelty, injustice.

The oldest among us are not yet thirty, and yet we have already wasted treasures, treasures of strength, love, courage and keen will, hastily, deliriously, without thinking, with all our might, till we are out of breath.

Look at us! We are not out of breath, our hearts are not in the least tired. For they are nourished by fire, hatred and speed! Does this surprise you? it is because you do not even remember being alive! Standing on the world’s summit, we launch once more our challenge to the stars!

Your objections? All right! I know them! Of course! We know just what our beautiful false intelligence affirms: `We are only the sum and the prolongation of our ancestors,’ it says. Perhaps! All right! What does it matter? But we will not listen! Take care not to repeat those infamous words! Instead, lift up your head!

Standing on the world’s summit we launch once again our insolent challenge to the stars!


The Russian Avant-Garde

February 19, 2009

I have already written about the Cubist and Futurist influences to graphic design. Well, you can argue about the former but when I get into modernist French design I think there is a influence of cubism and a general strong connection to the fine arts. Futurism seems to have had a profound  influence on Dada and Constructivist designs and that leads to the De Stijl movement to the Bauhaus school (which has had the most profound and influence on modern design, art and on how design and art was/is taught).

It seems as though Constructivists of Russia mingled with the De Stijl artists and designers (Lissitzky and Van Doesburg). In addition, eventually, many Constructivist and De Stijl artists and designers went on the teach or had some connection to the Bauhaus in Germany (Mondrian and Lissitzky) and vice versa (Maholy-Nagy, Schwitters, Van Doesburg). Really, it seems all these movements are somewhat interconnected and stylistically it does seem that way. To me it makes sense.

So what is Constructivism? This is a primarily an art movement that was based in Russia in the early 20th century. It had a considerable link to the Russian Communist Revolution. They merged the arts with modern technological rationalism for political and ideological uses. Basically, it was a form of Soviet-era Russian propaganda. 

The aesthetics of Constructivism is similar to the geometric abstract Suprematist paintings of Kasimir Malevich. Constructivism was also a departure from Russian Futurism that sought to break and destroy traditions (similar to Italian Futurism).

 

Malevich's Black Square of White Painting

Malevich's Black Square of White Painting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malevich's Aeroplane Flying

Malevich's Aeroplane Flying

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know of three different kinds of propaganda machines the Soviets used. The first being in the form of graphic patriotic street bulletins known as the Rosta Windows that Lenin launched in 1918.

 

Example of a Rosta Window by Vladimir Mayakovsky

Example of a Rosta Window by Vladimir Mayakovsky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next was the works from Constructivist artists that used geometric abstraction along with dynamic angles and view points, photomontage, cinema, abstract uses of light and contrast. The best example of this is “Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge” by El Lissitzky in 1920.

 

Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge by El Lissitzky

Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge by El Lissitzky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally there was Social Realism that became the dominant form of propaganda during the regime of Stalin up until the fall of the USSR. This form of work can still be seen today and is most notibly used in China. Scroll down to another blog of mine that shows some examples of Social Realism. It was a return to a more “conservative” representational image that the modernists rebelled against. 

A good early example of Soviet Social Realism is work of Gustav Klutsis’s work that used photomontage but you can still see the modernist geometric simplifications that the constructivists used. 

 

Klutsis Poster

Klutsis Poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you notice, the Constructivists works are probably the most “difficult” out of the propaganda bunch. Here are some more examples of works of the Constructivist movement. I do want to make note that it seems as time went on the constructivists went from strict geometric forms and abstration to using photo and photomontage in conjunction with the abstract forms. I am thinking this had to do with political regime changes. Eventually abstraction was dropped all together for the social realism that came eventually.

 

Rodchenko Poster/Flier

Rodchenko Poster/Flier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

El Lissitzky "installation" work

El Lissitzky "installation" work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poster for the movie, The Man with the Movie Camera, by Dziga Vertov, 1929

Poster for the movie, The Man with the Movie Camera, by Dziga Vertov, 1929

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rodchenko Photograph

Rodchenko Photograph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lissitzky and Mayakovsky Design

Lissitzky and Mayakovsky Design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tatlin's model of Monument to the Third International (1919-20)(note: never built)

Tatlin's model of Monument to the Third International (1919-20)(note: never built)


De Stijl (The Style)

February 13, 2009

I do apollagize about the few post recently to the blog. I have been taking a class on the program InDesign, starting on some new work and planning my future amongst other things. So I have been rather busy in the real world.

Regarding a previous post, I have been doing some more reading on the subject of graphic design, another history book (Graphic Design: A History, Alain Weill) that says that Cubism wasn’t really a big influence to graphic design. It basically states that the text and the use of montage was basically coincidence and there was no direct influence. So I guess it just depends on who you talk to and what you read. Decide for yourself.

I think I wrote that I would go into Surrealism next but I have changed my mind. I want to write about De Stijl instead.

I think the work of the De Stijl movement (along with Constructivism) is the starting point of the progression of modern graphic design’s rise to dominate the look and feel of corporate advertising and design.

I do find it interesting that the rise of Modernism was born our of revolution and the avant-garde and then grew up and became the language of corporations and authority. 

Anyway, why do I think De Stijl is so important?

First of all, what is De Stijl? Basically De Stijl was born in the Netherlands between 1915-17 and lasted till maybe the 1930s. Russian Constructivism grew simultaneously and there are some similarities and some overlap of artists and designers that are part of each movement. De Stijl sought to create a universal vision through abstraction and rationalism that was pure and austere. They sought a spiritual purity through precise organization and geometric abstraction. This was in a way to protest war, individualism, and nationalism.

De Stijl was a movement that would span though architecture, design, art. It’s principles could be applied to anything. De Stijl work was geometric and avoided the use of curves. It used simple forms and color was pure in its use. It had a grid-like structure. It was formal in its use of dynamic asymmetric balance, and interactions of simple forms (i.e. shapes) and space.

In the way of graphic design and typography, there was a strict adhesion to san serif type and the square was the basic element used for page layout. This use of the grid and geometric frame work and the use of san serif type would dominate graphic design for decades. It basically still dominates conservative corporate and government/public design. Helvetica was not De Stijl but it is a san serif font and is/was seen as the fruition of the perfect san serif font and dominates design that is meant to be authoritative. See the documentary Helvetica. 

De Stijl aesthetic can be seen in the publication De Stijl that was produced by the architect Theo Van Doesburg and the man who designed the typography, Vilmos Huszar.

 

De Stijl Magazine Cover

De Stijl Magazine Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hendrik T. Wijdweld founded the magazine called Wendingen in 1918. He chose a strictly square format and used san serif type. It was a little more eclectic in its design. It seemed to have an Asian influence in the use of Chinese paper and it was bound in a Japanese style binding. Note the typeface used is similar to the one used in the De Stijl publication. There is a use of color but it is minimal and pure in its hue. 

 

Wendingen Cover featuring Diego Rivera

Wendingen Cover featuring Diego Rivera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There was also a magazine called The Next Call. It was created by Hendrik N Werkman. It was even more eclectic than Wendingen was was maybe more experimental and radical. However, I think you can see the geometric use of the format, pure and minimal color, a dynamic asymmetrical balance. 

 

The Next Call

The Next Call

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other works attributed to the De Stijl movement:

 

Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gerrit Rietveld's Schroder House

Gerrit Rietveld's Schroder House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Schroder house is considered to be the pinnacle of De Stijl architecture.

 

Theo Van Doesburg Diagram

Theo Van Doesburg Diagram 1923

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above is an isometric diagram of a building made up of “floating” geometric frames. These ideas were never realized in form and the closest thing really is Rietveld’s Schroder House in Utrecht. It does look like a 3-d Mondrian painting with its use of angular forms and primary colors. These drawings seem to be influential to constructivist architecture, the Bauhaus and eventually the International Style of architecture.


Dada and It’s Influence

January 30, 2009

This is part two of my “history” series. It has been a little while since I last post to my blog. The snow and winter weather has been a distraction. Even though a lot of time has been spent inside, I have decided to work on some art instead of writing. Plus I have been doing some sledding and made a snowman.Well, now I am back…with a sore tailbone from sledding. Ouch, I am getting old.

So part two will be on Dada and it’s sub-movements and how they influenced visual communications/graphic design.

Dada started as a literary movement when Hugo Ball opened the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, Switzerland around 1917. A huge member of this group, in addition to Hugo Ball, was Tristan Tzara, a poet. He published poetry and edited a publication called DADA. 

Example of Tristan Tzara's work

Example of Tristan Tzara's work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These literary figures were interested in sound, nonsense,  and chance poetry. This did spill out into the visual art field in the form of automatic drawing and the allowance of chance and the absurd to infiltrate too.

The Dada movement claimed to be “anti-art” and had a strong destructive and negative element. It was a rejection of tradition and the seeking of complete freedom from past traditions. This was familiar territory of the Futurists and I am sure they did have some influence. 

Also, like the Cubists, they had an interest in letter forms as concrete visual shapes. Letters were not just phonetic symbols.

The art of photo-montage was said to originate from this same movement. The most famous artist to use this was Hannah Hoch. She took found elements from printed sources and patched them together in rather random and/or absurd ways.

Example of Hannah Hoch's work

Example of Hannah Hoch's work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kurt Schwitters…not technically part of the Dada Movement.

They rejected him.

However, he did have great influence on 20th century typography. However, in the art world he is most known for his collage compositions created from printed ephemera , rubbish and other found materials. In all of his work, he combined Dada’s nonsense and chance with strong use design elements and principles. I suppose he was too structured for the Dadaists then. I suppose this is why they rejected him.

From 1923-32 he published a periodical called Merz. Typography and design were major subjects of the publication. In addition, he worked with El Lissitzky, a Russian Constructivist, and he worked with Theo Van Doesburg, a Dutch De Stijl artist who was also famous for his architectural and design/typographic work. 

Schwittters also ran a graphic design studio and the city of Hanover, Germany employed him as a typography consultant for years.

A Kurt Schwitters collage

A Kurt Schwitters collage

Example of Schwitter's work for Merz

Example of Schwitter's work for Merz

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sub-movement of Dada were the Berlin Dadaists. Two of their most famous members were John Heartfield and George Grosz. They sought to raise public consciousness and promote social change through visual communications.

Grosz and Heartfield Design

Grosz and Heartfield Design

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both were highly critical of Germany’s politics and society. Heartfield used the art of photo-montage as a propaganda weapon and innovated the way work was prepared for offset printing. He hated Hitler and Nazi Germany…so much he changed his name from Helmut Herzfelde as a protest against German militarism. 

"Adolf, The Superman" by Heartfield

"Adolf, The Superman" by Heartfield

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

George Grosz, mainly known as a visual artist who is known for his paintings and drawings. He attacked a “decadent and degenerate” society through satire and characature. He did work for several publications such as, Der Blutige Ernst. 

Grosz drawing

Grosz drawing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually, Dada dissolved into rival factions in 1921-22. One faction led by Andre Breton lead to the founding of Surrealism.

Surrealism will be next. I also checked out a book about woman designers so you will probably see some stuff on that soon. As a woman, I am interested in what woman have contributed to design since it seems like, historically, that men have dominated the field.


Obama and Art

January 20, 2009

Is this the year for Obama art? It seems to be. I am only going to give two examples of what I have seen but I have seen many. It seems to be something that is giving artists attention and sales because of Obama’s popularity and people wanting something to commemorate the history that is being made today. 

First is Shepard Fairey’s poster that circulated the streets and then was adopted by Obama supporters and eventually Obama’s campaign. In a sense, it has made him maybe the most recognized street artist since Banksy. However, Fairey is a graphic designer and does artwork too. The work does take from propaganda and posters from the early 20th century Europe and even more specifically Chinese propaganda posters. He sort of mixes the high contrast images used by the Constructivists, John Heartfield’s anti-nazi posters, and even Ludwig Holwein’s Nazi-German propaganda posters, and the social realism of the Chinese Posters.

 

Chinese Poster

Chinese Poster

Soviet Propaganda Poster

Soviet Propaganda Poster

Heartfield's Poster Attacking Press, 1930

Heartfield's Poster Attacking Press, 1930

 

Ludwig Holwein's "Und Du?" german army recruiting poster, early 1940s

Ludwig Holwein's "Und Du?" german army recruiting poster, early 1940s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shepard1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shepard-fairey-say-yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shepard-fairey_barack-hopethumbnail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shepard fairey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is an article about a SIUE graduate student who made an Obama portrait out of coins. He had his work featured in Time and then sold the work on Ebay for nearly 1400 dollars.