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The strange and lovely Surrealism of ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ in the ‘30s
06.10.2015
06:22 am

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Art
Design

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This is the second installation of posts from the influential graphic artist Art Chantry’s forthcoming book Art Chantry Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design. The first is here. Chantry’s clear reverence for and deep knowledge of the history of his discipline, particularly in championing its seediest manifestations and its obsolete processes, informs a body of work which as much as anyone’s has been THE look of garage punk and grunge, and we’re grateful to Chantry and Feral House for letting us use his work in this form.—Ron Kretsch

Above is the cover of Harper’s Bazaar, September 15th, 1939. The cover is by A.M. Cassandre (1901-1968). I was lucky enough to stumble across a stash of these in a thrift store. I have the entire year bracketing from December 1938 all the way through January 1940. With the exception of three covers, they were all designed and illustrated by A.M. Cassandre.

Cassandre is considered maybe the high point of “high” Art Deco graphic design. His most famous poster is of a luxury liner barreling down on you, imaged from the bow of the ship. It’s a stunner. Virtually all of his posters—and he did many—are perfect. Each one is a highly prized collector’s item, a high mark in the history of poster design and graphic design. At his peak, the guy could do no wrong.
 

 
This is not to confuse A.M. Cassandre’s work with Art Deco exclusively. I doubt he considered his work “Art Deco” at all. He was one of a huge number—a legion—of graphic designers simply working in the hip style of the moment. Cassandre was not working in a vacuum; there were hundreds of competitors making similarly stunning posters while he was at work. Cassandre’s output was just a hair more astonishing, just a little “better” than the pack. Now, he’s virtually the only guy whose name we recognize from that era of poster design.

One of the big differences was that Cassandre was a Surrealist. The late 1930s was a period when Surrealism invaded American advertising. Surrealism leaked over from Europe initially through the art scene. But the real transfer of surreal dream imagery didn’t really cross the Atlantic until it hitchhiked on the back of the fashion industry. Euro-trash fashionistas of the ‘30s were avid hipsters, too. So they aped their ideas in a shallow copycat way into their fashionista thinking.

The ads in these magazines are a mind-blowing trip. Instead of real models, there was a proliferation of mannequins. And if that wasn’t disturbing enough, they are set in graphic dreamscapes, often with disturbing defacing elements like vegetables for heads and bananas for hands floating in swirling clouds and watch faces. All very cool, très chic!

Cassandre’s illustration style was part Dali, part Magritte and a little Max Ernst tossed in for shits and giggles. Cassandre’s imagery was so strange that his work looks psychedelic today (the chemical Surrealism of a later time). For an American magazine of this era, his work must have stood out like a big strange thumb.
 

 
Cassandre’s cover work for this period of Harper’s Bazaar was strange, to say the least. Instead of depicting actual fashions, he depicted the fantasy behind the fashion. He concentrated on the “dream of the idea” of what was being said and what the implication may be. It appealed to an emotional level of otherness and spin. The world on the verge of the second world war must have seemed like a bad nightmare unfolding. So Cassandre depicted floating eyeballs over an outline of France to imagine Paris fashion on the brink of catastrophe. Disturbing stuff—especially weird to see on the cover of a fashion magazine.

More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘The Black Power Tarot’: Beautifully illustrated tarot deck with Sun Ra, Richard Pryor and more!
06.09.2015
10:27 am

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Art
Belief
Design

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With the seal of approval from tarot maestro Alejandro Jodorowsky, comes these beautifully illustrated tarot cards by artist Michael Eaton and arranged and edited by King Khan. “The Black Power Tarot” is a version of the Tarot De Marseilles featuring black activists, public figures, comedians, musicians and important historic figures.

The cards are quite lovely if you ask me. If you look closely you’ll see Malcolm X, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and more.

There are 21 high quality prints that come in their own box. The set is £25.00 GBP (or around $39 USD).


 

 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Art Nouveau, ‘Laugh-In,’ and Hallmark Psychedelia—Art Chantry speaks
06.08.2015
08:25 am

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Art
Books
Design
History
Music
Television

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When I got my review copy of Art Chantry Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design in the mail from Feral House, I was mighty thrilled, as I’ve long admired Chantry’s work as a graphic artist. His clear reverence for and deep knowledge of the history of his discipline, particularly in championing its seediest manifestations and its obsolete processes, informs not just his own body of work, which as much as anyone’s was THE look of garage punk and grunge, but the work of the countless artists whom he’s inspired. In my past life as an Art Director in alt-weeklies, Chantry’s posters, record covers, and his work for the Seattle music magazine The Rocket, reproduced in the must-have Some People Can’t Surf, were frequent go-tos for inspiration when Photoshop just couldn’t do the job. Art Chantry Speaks is a collection of opinionated musings on a variety of design topics, and I was struck by a significant overlap between Chantry’s essays and DM’s coverage, so we decided that rather than simply review the book, we’d draft Chantry into service as a sort of guest blogger, republishing a few of his essays as DM posts. This is the first, and we’re grateful to Chantry and Feral House for letting us use his work in this form.—Ron Kretsch

In the mid- to late 1960s, the psychedelic underground revolution had already started to wane. It was a literal flash in the pan. All of the original pioneers had morphed into varying sorts of hacks and quacks, pushing new agendas as far-fetched as Buddhism, meditation, world domination, the Internet and flying saucers. Basically, the acid world was as unstable as the drug itself. Old doses of blotter have short half-lives and lose their potency fast. Vintage blotter acid collectors (yes, there is a huge market) probably couldn’t get high if they ate their entire collections. So goes the culture as well.

Whenever an underground counterculture (a rebellion against some established norm) erupts, there is usually a pushback from the mainstream. The first is “attack” (“Them dirty stinkin’ hippies should all be shot”) and then there is “assimilation” (“Gee, that paisley looks so cool on you!”).

Back in the Romantic rebellion of the late 1800s there emerged a back-to-nature movement that resulted in the Arts and Crafts revival and a rejection of established artistic norms. This rejection of the status quo happens with such periodic intensity, you could probably set a clock by it. During this phase, the reaction was heavily against the industrial revolution.

The initial process of saying “no” in this case was simply to return to handmade objects. This included an embrace of nature forms that was intellectually and emotionally antithetical to the Victorian stye. The immediate result was a rebirth of organic design and the Arts and Crafts movement. Some people literally returned to the woods to live like wild men (at least “wild” from their stilted perspective). Think Emerson, Thoreau or Gibbons.

Of course, industry—powered by the fast buck—saw opportunity and attempted to copycat the new romantic look. The result was Art Nouveau—a homespun manufactured style applied as decoration (just like Victorian motifs). The big difference was the curve. The Art Nouveau manufactured style almost appeared to have been grown on a machine like some kind of vining plant made of iron.

Soon, new archeological discoveries in Egypt and Mesoamerica resulted in another semi-rejection of the current design culture. The ancient “primitive man” geometric stylings as seen in King Tut’s tomb and the newly “discovered” cultures of the Mayans and the Aztecs resulted in quick adaptations to the Art Nouveau style (and so much easier to make with a machine). The result was Art Deco.

Art Nouveau started to look old-fashioned and Art Deco became the new rage of the machine society. Thoreau’s Walden Pond gave way to Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The resulting mechanized World Wars did more to end that dream than any artistic rejection ever could.

Flash forward to the early post-WWII period in America. Displaced vets couldn’t fit into the new peacetime America. Uniformity was valued and loose cannons were depicted in popular media as Communist threats to the social order. The beatniks, biker culture, surfers, hot-rodders, truckers, abstract expressionist painters, gay underground, poets and bop musicians were the new Bohemia and they were derided as decadent trash. But the seeds of rejection they sowed took fruit in the early/mid ‘60s, just as the international modern stylings of the new space age and the “big idea” advertising culture combined with industrial ingenuity to create a new golden era of conformity and high style. “007, meet Helvetica Bold…”

The outsider subcultures were still there, developing their own aesthetic systems, not too dissimilar to the Romantics of the previous century. A new “back to nature” dream and a rebirth of the “community of man” emerged, albeit in scattered pockets. When the psychedelic culture emerged a real alternative to the exiting dominant culture became a possibility. It’s been said that with the hippies, “many puddles became a pond,” and soon many ponds became a lake, then an ocean. Then a tidal wave…
 

 

 
The high art style of this new “psychedelic” look was so heavily borrowed from early Art Nouveau that it was almost an embarrassment. Wes Wilson discovered typography by a famous Arts & Crafts typographer, Alfred Roller, and placed it on a waving baseline—and invented “psychedelic lettering”! Stanley Mouse began to ape Beardsley. Other artists copycatted Alphonse Mucha posters to a T. Rick Griffin followed the hand-drawn like work of scores of Blake imitators and shoved it through surfing and acid to arrive at his incredibly “organic” style.

The psychedelic style was an LSD-washed version of Art Nouveau. Even the communal movement owed its origins to Walden dreams. It was history repeating itself all over again, but this time in mind-blowing colors.

Industry was still there too, cranking out their version of what they thought they could sell. Whenever a new “culture” emerges and finds popular appeal to the young, the marketing monsters are right there ready to go with their mass-produced version of the same thing. But they never get it quite right. The very industrial design process removes the “natural” content and replaces it with uniform mediocrity. In this case, the fake psych look literally replaces the larger mainstream culture’s very idea of what Psychedelia was.

Along came “industrial psychedelia” or, as I prefer, “Hallmark psychedelia” (because Hallmark greeting cards tried so hard for so long to co-opt the style). It was all bright colors, swirling everything, cartoon characters, goofy humor and totally innocent fun. Basically, the exact opposite of the earnestness of the Hippie movement and its goals.
 

 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
East beats West: Sensational Japanese posters of popular 70s films
05.25.2015
09:28 am

Topics:
Design
Movies

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Japanese movie posters of the sixties and seventies kick ass. They always seemed more exciting than their American or British counterparts, managing to take choice images and compose them like frames from a comic book. Even when the posters were just cut and paste jobs there always a sense of drama, as if you have joined the story at a key scene—explosions blossom, machine guns rip, heroes do battle.

This little mix of classy posters show how good graphic art can make average movies like Caged Heat, Serpico, Black Belt Jones and Dracula A.D. 1972 seem like masterpieces.
 
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More Japanese movie posters, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Because love never dies: Put your loved one’s ashes in a glass dildo
04.27.2015
06:45 am

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Amusing
Design
Sex

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In 1901 Dr. Duncan “Om” MacDougall began a series of experiments wherein he placed elderly, terminal tuberculosis patients on massive industrial scales, hospital bed and all. MacDougall weighed six subjects before and after death, and concluded from the postmortem weight loss that the human soul weighs 21 grams—hence the name of designer Mark Sturkenboom‘s “memory-box.”

With 21 Grams Sturkenboom has managed to create an opportunity for a truly libidinal mourning experience. The “kit” comes in a sleek, Jobsian case, openable only with a key that doubles as a lovely pendant necklace. Inside you find an atomizer bulb (to spritz your beloved’s perfume), a set of internal speakers to amplify music from the iPhone dock in the back, and a blown-glass dildo containing a tiny urn of ashes—21 grams of ashes, to be precise. Sturkenboom describes the project thusly:

21 Grams is a memory-box that allows a widow to go back to the intimate memories of a lost beloved one. After a passing, the missing of intimacy with that person is only one aspect of the pain and grieve. This forms the base for 21 Grams. The urn offers the possibility to conserve 21 grams of ashes of the diseased and displays an immortal desire. By bringing different nostalgic moments together like the scent of his perfume, ‘their’ music and reviving the moment he gave her her first ring, it opens a window to go back to moments of love and intimacy.She is able to have an intimate night with her sweetheart again.

Before you go all Social Justice Warrior on Sturkenboom for the heteronormativity of “widow,” (for who wouldn’t want to be penetrated by a loved one’s earthly remains, regardless of gender or marital status?!?), the inspiration for 21 Grams ” is actually an elderly widow—he sometimes helps her carry her groceries. Sturkenboom noticed the urn containing her husband’s ashes, remarking, “she always speaks with so much love about him but the jar he was in didn’t reflect that at all.”

Sturkenboom has not said whether or not his muse is flattered by his tribute.
 

 

 
Continues after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘White Glove Test’: The ‘teenage folk art’ of the Louisville, Kentucky punk scene, 1978-1994
04.20.2015
06:55 am

Topics:
Design
History
Punk

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White Glove Test
 
This week, Drag City is releasing a rad book of American punk rock ephemera entitled, White Glove Test: Louisville Punk Flyers, 1978-1994. This 288-page hardback is jam-packed with what David Grubbs (Squirrel Bait, Bastro, Gastr del Sol) calls “teenage folk art.” The book documents a bygone era—pre-Photoshop and before the rise of the Web—when flyers were hand-assembled and often the only means bands had to promote their shows.

“Ephemera—the most beautiful kind of refuse. Created in a moment without thought of legacy, but standing as a pure record of time, place, and without any Rashomon spin or Zapruder eye. When we were stenciling, chopping, and recombining days before a show, I barely had a thought about anyone not standing on Bardstown Road or near Iroquois Park ever giving these broadsheets another glance. There was a need to leave a breadcrumb trail for the freaks. The newspaper of record saw us as a fringe element not worthy of bulletins. It was the only way to broadcast—to cast broadly. Now they have gained an emotional sheen. The punk rock mayfly (genus Ephemera) is gone, but any of these posters is a microchip bursting with memories.” (Tara Key, a member of a number of Louisville outfits, including No Fun, now considered the scene’s first punk band)

There are over 700 flyers in White Glove Test; here are some of our favorites:
 
No Fun
1978
 
The Endtables
1979
 
Kinghorse
1990
 
Many more amazing punk flyers, after the jump…

Posted by Bart Bealmear | Leave a comment
Siouxsie Sioux dolls
04.13.2015
10:59 am

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Art
Design
Fashion
Music
Pop Culture
Punk

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Siouxsie Sioux doll by Refabrications
 
Somehow I found myself googling “Siouxsie Sioux dolls.” The best ones, IMO, are done by Alyissa Brown AKA Refabrications. I *think* you can purchase the dolls on her website.

I tried to find other Siouxsie dolls by different artists, but sadly the majority of them just ended up looking like Edward Scissorhands.

I couldn’t find the artist’s name for the amigurumi Siouxsie Sioux. So if anyone out there knows, tell me in the comments and I’ll update the post with proper credit and a link.


Siouxsie Sioux doll by Refabrications
 

Siouxsie Sioux doll by Refabrications
 

Siouxsie Sioux doll by Refabrications
 
More after the jump…
 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Ridiculous plateware shaped like specific foods
03.23.2015
08:45 am

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Amusing
Design
Food

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Breaded fish and rice
 
Here’s a whimsical and marvelously impractical plateware idea from Kahla at 5.5 Design Studio: plates designed to fit specific meals. The idea is that you can plan out your week this way, with “Daily Menu Plates” for breaded fish, a chicken leg, a single sausage, and so on.

The drawback of the plan becomes apparent when you try to consider what happens in week 2, of course. Equally obviously, flat plates designed to hold a hamburger will hold a lobster roll equally well.

Here is the explanatory text from Kahla:
 

Au quotidien, les plats qui composent et définissent notre alimentation de base sont souvent un peu archétypaux : jambon / coquillettes, Poulet / frites, côtelette / petits pois, poisson pané / riz.

«Daily Menu» est une collection d’assiettes biomorphiques qui joue de ces clichés et qui nous accompagne tout au long de la semaine. Ces assiettes fonctionnent comme des fiches recettes pour nous suggérer des idées de repas quand le manque d’inspiration nous envahit. A chaque jour son plat et à chaque plat son assiette!

In everyday life, the dishes that make up and define our basic food are often a little archetypal: ham / macaroni, chicken / fries, chop / peas, breaded fish / rice.

“Daily Menu” is a collection of biomorphic plates that plays with these clichés and accompanies us throughout the week. These plates function as recipe cards to suggest meal ideas when lack of inspiration strikes. Each day has its plate and each dish his plate!

 
Shit, I could really go for some bangers and mash right now….
 

Chicken and fries
 

Chop and peas
 
More of these things after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Saul Bass: Great cinema title sequences from Otto Preminger to Martin Scorsese
03.16.2015
11:47 am

Topics:
Design
Movies

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Over five decades Saul Bass designed opening title sequences that were sometimes better than the movies they introduced. His ambition he once said was to “make beautiful things even if nobody cares.”
 

 
Bass started out as a graphic designer and was asked by film director Otto Preminger to put together a poster for his movie Carmen Jones. Preminger was so impressed by the result that he asked Bass to design the opening titles. So began his 40-year career in movies. Bass went on to work with Preminger again on The Man with the Golden Arm and Anatomy of a Murder, he also designed titles for Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, Psycho), and Martin Scorsese (Cape Fear, The Age of Innocence and Casino).
 

 
Additionally, Bass designed the logos for a whole range of corporations and products and even had time to direct the cult science fiction movie Phase IV. As a designer he set a standard for other to follow, which is evident from this hour-long selection of his title work from 1955-1995.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Artist creates beautiful jewelry from the hair of cancer patients
03.11.2015
07:08 am

Topics:
Design
Fashion

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Designer Sybille Paulsen uses unconventional materials for all of her work, but her series “Tangible Truths” is created with one of the rarest and most unique mediums—the hair of women undergoing chemotherapy. These beautiful, elaborate pieces allow women to keep their hair and wear it in a meaningful way. Paulsen customizes each necklace to the personality of the client, taking special care to get to know each woman over the course of the construction process. Her work is produced catharsis for both patients and families.

In the words of one of her clients:

What Sybille created touched me really deeply. The free flow design of the project meant that my hair had not been transformed simply into a piece of art that was separate from me, the flow of the necklace she created somehow seemed to still hold pieces of me within it. The waves of the hair ... still looked so alive and so full of life. ... Her work touched not only me, but also those close to me here in Berlin who have seen it or seen the pictures. One person close to me even teared up because the necklace still looked like my hair and was a reminder of what it had been. ... I was impressed by what she had produced and very proud to have been a part of her project. ... I love the idea of helping create beauty out of what for many of us is a ugly process: chemotherapy.

If you’d like to help Paulsen expand her services to low income women, you can donate to “Tangible Truths” here.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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