Blogs Centerpoints Design

A poster is worth a thousand blogs

Two weeks after the foofarah (I can now cross that word off my “to use” list) stirred by The New Yorker’s Barack Obama cover, bloggers are now blogoplectic over a poster advertising Obama’s speech tonight in Berlin. One conservative gasket-blower has compared it to a poster of Adolph Hitler, though a blogger at Mother Jones […]

Two weeks after the foofarah (I can now cross that word off my “to use” list) stirred by The New Yorker’s Barack Obama cover, bloggers are now blogoplectic over a poster advertising Obama’s speech tonight in Berlin. One conservative gasket-blower has compared it to a poster of Adolph Hitler, though a blogger at Mother Jones is doing his part to balance the hyperbole, saying the poster “may be the finest piece of contemporary mainstream political art I’ve ever seen.” Read into it what you will — and many are reading into it — at least the Obama poster, unlike this one for John McCain, doesn’t communicate he’s a candidate to become God.

Progressive political candidates should reach out more to the deep pool of world-class artists already down, at least in spirit, with the cause. It would probably take one phone call to get Eddie Vedder to write an entire album of tunes implicitly, if not explicitly, pointing the way to Obama. One artist didn’t wait for the phone to ring. Celebrated street artist Shepard Fairey, known chiefly for his Obey Giant guerilla public plastering efforts, approached the Obama campaign earlier this year about “appealing to a younger, apathetic audience” through a new series of posters. Fairey got the go-ahead. Here’s a point-by-point detail about what he went for in his design.

Still, as with the Berlin poster, some saw something more insidious. Meghan Daum of the Los Angeles Times opined: “There’s an unequivocal sense of idol worship about the image, a half-artsy, half-creepy genuflection that suggests the subject is (a) a Third World dictator whose rule is enmeshed in a seductive cult of personality; (b) a controversial American figure who’s been assassinated; or (c) one of those people from a Warhol silkscreen that you don’t recognize but assume to be important in an abstruse way.”

For his part, Obama seemed pleased. In a personal letter to Fairey, Obama wrote: “I would like to thank you for using your talent in support of my campaign. The political messages involved in your work have encouraged Americans to believe they can help change the status quo. Your images have a profound effect on people, whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign.

And the Webby goes to …

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, at the Smithsonian, is among winners of the 12th annual Webby Awards — the Internet’s version of the Oscars — as Best Cultural Institution for its Web site for Design for the Other 90%. The exhibition opens May 24 in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. As it happens, Smithsonian Education was […]

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, at the Smithsonian, is among winners of the 12th annual Webby Awards — the Internet’s version of the Oscars — as Best Cultural Institution for its Web site for Design for the Other 90%. The exhibition opens May 24 in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. As it happens, Smithsonian Education was nominated in the same category, earning the People’s Choice award there. The National Gallery of Art earned nominations in two categories (Art and Podcasts).

The Museum of Modern Art won a Webby in the Art category for its illuminating site detailing Richard Serra’s 2007 retrospective. Throughout, you’ll find captivating video, vivid photography and revealing interviews with Serra, who opens his intensive process and gives a detailed tour of his work on video.

No other American arts institution earned a nomination in the Art and Best Cultural Institution categories.

Mission School Dropouts

It seems that each one of my posts here leads to the other. I spent the last bigger post yearning about ‘cool’ artists posses, or lack thereof, and now the Walker is inviting two really COOL artists, Chris Johanson and Jo Jackson, to speak on Thursday night, and screening the doc Beautiful Losers. In addition […]

It seems that each one of my posts here leads to the other. I spent the last bigger post yearning about ‘cool’ artists posses, or lack thereof, and now the Walker is inviting two really COOL artists, Chris Johanson and Jo Jackson, to speak on Thursday night, and screening the doc Beautiful Losers. In addition to that, Johanson & Jackson have an opening at the Art of This gallery on Saturday. COOL. WACTAC is cooler than cool. In the last couple years they have brought the coolest of the West Coast kids. First Ed Templeton, then the guys from Giant Robot, now Johanson & Jackson. I don’t know if they can get any cooler. That will also be the last time I use ‘cool’ in this entry.

After flipping through Johanson’s book, Please Listen I Have Something To Tell You About Whatis (Witt noted our Arty Pants installation kind of resembled Johanson’s own installations and suburban paintings), I was excited about him visiting. Further research into Johanson & Jackson revealed the phenomena of the “Mission School” movement that really gained steam in San Francisco a few years ago.

A little more research into these artists: Glen Helfand – The Mission school, Leah Modigliani – Marketing the Mission.

It is difficult, as is evidenced in both articles, to market these artists. Not conventionally avant-garde, their involvement with the graffiti community and familiarity with cul-de-sacs, as well as being on the “wrong coast,” lends an easy title: outsider art. But, Modigliani argues, “the very idea of an outsider is problematic and naively nostalgic – it assumes you are outside of something, presumably the artworld.” Well you might say they are outside the art world because they are not in New York. But there is no lack of an art community in California – by marketing a group who has gained popularity outside of the Bay Area as “outsider art,” it tells the rest of the world that the art community in California is just that – outsiders. This is not a good way to promote these Mission School artists and any future artists wishing to gain relevance in the rest of the country.

This is hard. We know what, in the past, has happened to artists who came from the “streets” into the gallery. I’m talking about Basquiat, Keith Haring, and most recently, that former trouble-maker Banksy who now is selling his stencil art for millions (and I love Banksy, I do). We’ve also all seen Style Wars (at least I have about five times), that documentary about the origins of hip hop, featuring graffiti artists who, in the early 1980’s, riding on the coattails of Basquiat, got a few gallery shows and then were abruptly tossed aside, only to reappear in exhibitions with the word ‘graffiti’ in them. In an episode of Art21, Barry McGee says: “Every time I do a gallery piece, I have to put 110 percent more outdoors, to keep the street cred. It’s the audience I’m most concerned with.”

Modigliani argues that most of the artists in this Mission School movement – a short list is Johanson & Jackson, Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen, Claire Rojas – were educated in private art schools. In his opening essay, Aaron Rose, curator and director of “Beautiful Losers,” the exhibition and film of the same name, states, “All the artists included in Beautiful Losers have at some point broken the law in order to express themselves. No other past group of artists can boast this. That is not to say, of course, that there haven’t been situations in the past where artists have brushed with the law, but never has it been such an intrinsic element of their culture.” Is this statement, then quick clarification, what should bring them together?I prefer to associate them with this quote from Jack Hanley in Helfand’s article: “So many of the artists play music, it’s truly a community, and they see each other at more than just openings.”

Like I said, this is a really difficult subject, because I don’t think this roundabout logic and arguing should take anything away from the artists. Let’s go back to this group of West Coast artists – their work is fun, approachable, and aesthetically inviting. Their approach is organic, their influences recognizable, and they seem to have the ability to acknowledge the dilemma of being marketed as outsider graffiti artists or acknowledge it and move on. They’ve learned from the 80s. It is this ability that moves a group of artists, or anyone, really, from being a target for negativity and criticism, to that next level of “cool.” That’s why I love the artists of the Ferus Gallery so much. They are not necessarily making fun of themselves, because that can get tiresome too, but acknowledging something outside of themselves, showing that they are aware and intelligently incorporating these things.

See -“Drumming Circle,” 2003, by Chris Johanson (actually, I just found out this piece really is about the ‘rhythm of life’) and Barry McGee and Josh Lazcano’s animatronic taggers.

THAT is what makes them so cool. And, I suppose, the fact that their art is really, really COOL.

*Images from Deitch Projects, Stretcher, Banksy’s website.

** Also the title is a reference to Grease and not much else.

Cover Up: More Than Meets the Eye

There are a couple notable distinctions to the May/June issue of Walker magazine. The first is the cover — or, more accurately, two covers. Open the front, which bows to the 20th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and you’ll find a second cover, featuring an untitled photo from Richard Prince’s cowboy series — a […]

May June Cover WrapThere are a couple notable distinctions to the May/June issue of Walker magazine. The first is the cover — or, more accurately, two covers. Open the front, which bows to the 20th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and you’ll find a second cover, featuring an untitled photo from Richard Prince’s cowboy series — a nod to the Walker’s Prince exhibition. Why two covers? The short of it: Twice the happiness. The medium of it: We recognize two programs worthy of the cover’s spotlight.

By the way, in house, we don’t call the first cover a cover (not if you want to preserve your kneecaps). It’s a wrap — the first in the short history of the magazine in its current format. It’s printed on rough paper stock and, if one were so inclined, easily pulled away from the glossy magazine proper. Hypothetically, one could carefully pull the wrap away and present the May/June issue with a Prince cover. Nobody would be the wiser (indeed, the issue date and magazine logo are reserved for the inner cover).

Who would do such a thing? And why? You could pin the entire summer slate of Garden-related events (they appear on the back of the wrap) on your refrigerator or on your bedroom wall, alongside your black-light posters. Perhaps you’d like a Prince keepsake on the cheap. The Walker doesn’t recommend engineering this cover separation at home — or at your own museum — nor is the Walker responsible for any ensuing injury.

The second distinction is the illustration adorning the wrap. Again, this is new to the magazine, which traditionally devotes the cover to artwork drawn from a current/upcoming exhibition or publicity still from a performance group or film. This tableau is drenched in PMS 802 — the official color of the summer-long Garden anniversary celebration. Dare to imagine your summer day in the sculpture garden bathed in day-glo green.

Flatstock 16: The sights of rock ‘n’ roll

Lost in the shake and shuffle of SXSW this week is Flatstock 16, a showcase of the best and brightest (at times, literally) in concert poster design. Sharing crawl space on the liquor-lacquered streets and floors of Austin, Tex., are several Minneapolis graphic designers hoping to become the next John Van Hamersveld. Among locals who […]

Lost in the shake and shuffle of SXSW this week is Flatstock 16, a showcase of the best and brightest (at times, literally) in concert poster design. Sharing crawl space on the liquor-lacquered streets and floors of Austin, Tex., are several Minneapolis graphic designers hoping to become the next John Van Hamersveld.

Among locals who made the trek down I-35 — cardboard tubes slung over their shoulders, no doubt, in place of guitar straps — are Dan Ibarra and Michael Byzewski of Aesthetic Apparatus (they’ve worked for Frank Black, the Hold Steady, and The New Pornographers, among many others). Other local poster designers postering and partying in Austin are the company Burlesque of North America (Arcade Fire, Rhymesayers), Dan Black and Jessica Seamans of the collective Landland, Amy Jo Hendrickson and an artist going by the name of DWITT. Hendrickson and fellow Minneapolis poster artists Tooth and Lonny Unitus (a vintage Baltimore Colts fan, I take it) recently opened a Northeast storefront (158 13th Ave. NE) featuring limited-edition screenprinted posters and art prints, an on-site design studio and a screenprinting shop.

In 2007, Eric Drommerhausen, an MCAD grad who lives in Albert Lea, Minn., was the grand prize winner of the first Student Flatstock Contest. Presented by the American Poster Institute, Flatstock is an annual series of exhibitions featuring work by leading concert poster artists.

Couldn’t make it to Austin to oggle the latest in wall wear? No problem — check out the live Flatstock Web cam operated by the folks of gigposters.

IMAGE: “The Redwalls” by Aesthetic Apparatus

eavesdrop 02.25.08: Walker Aquarium Center

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvfOOYht5H0[/youtube]The Walker shop sells a product calledQ-Ba-Maze,a Lego-like system of clear/colored plastic cubes that kids (or you) can fit together to sculpt … well, virtually anything. Drop a marble into any hole, stand back and watch the magic. I bring you this little commission-free plug because the Walker tapped architect-turned-Q-Ba-Maze founder Andrew Comfort to fill […]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvfOOYht5H0[/youtube]The Walker shop sells a product calledQ-Ba-Maze,a Lego-like system of clear/colored plastic cubes that kids (or you) can fit together to sculpt … well, virtually anything. Drop a marble into any hole, stand back and watch the magic. I bring you this little commission-free plug because the Walker tapped architect-turned-Q-Ba-Maze founder Andrew Comfort to fill the shop display window facing Hennepin Avenue with something colorful, grand and plastic. With the help of University of Minnesota art and architecture students, Comfort spent most of Monday (and likely much of today) installing a giant replica of a red snapper. Eavesdrop dropped in on his process.

Disneyland + Suburbia

While digging through press archives a couple months ago, I discovered something extraordinary: a file for the Walker’s 1997 presentation of The Architecture of Reassurance: Designing Disney’s Theme Parks. If only I had lived in Minnesota then, I thought. What I wouldn’t do to go back in time and walk through the Walker’s galleries, set […]

While digging through press archives a couple months ago, I discovered something extraordinary: a file for the Walker’s 1997 presentation of The Architecture of Reassurance: Designing Disney’s Theme Parks. If only I had lived in Minnesota then, I thought. What I wouldn’t do to go back in time and walk through the Walker’s galleries, set up to suggest the hub-and-spoke configuration of Disneyland. Of course, if I had lived in Minnesota at the age of 11, I would not be wishing to go back in time, because 1) I might have seen it and 2) I would not have spent many of my formative years taking car trips down to Disneyland. It’s circular logic, I know.

architecture of reassurance

I feel a kinship between myself and Karal Ann Marling, the curator of the exhibition. In the many interviews I read about this exhibition, she stands up for her area of expertise, “ pop culture,” with intelligence and wit, even with such pointed questions about Disney’s possibly “ untoward imaginative life rooted in childhood” and union labor disputes at the Disney studio in 1941. As for Disney conspiracy theorists? Insane. Television? “ If I’m away from the television for more than five minutes I get nervous.” “ Nothing human,” she declares, “ Offends me.” Her statements would have been a great reassurance to me as a pop culture-minded, aesthetically-driven first-year at a liberal, political college. “ Pop culture” is not historically a thing to be respected or studied by the “ educated.” While everybody opened up their student mailboxes to The New Yorker or The Nation, I opened up mine to Entertainment Weekly. Marling observes: “ There’s so much bashing of materialism at the university, the phrase consumer culture’ gets tossed around as though it’s the next best thing to original sin.”

So what happens when a member of that critical group decides to present these things for further observation? (more…)

Cat Lovers Against the Bomb

This post was supposed to be about The Task Newsletter, the weird and wonderful new project by Walker designer Emmet Byrne, former Walker designer Alex DeArmond, and Oakland-based designer Jon Sueda. I was going to write about the 3/4-sheets of “editorial byproduct” interspersed throughout the book (clippings from emails, websites and images), the excellent interviews […]

cat1.jpgThis post was supposed to be about The Task Newsletter, the weird and wonderful new project by Walker designer Emmet Byrne, former Walker designer Alex DeArmond, and Oakland-based designer Jon Sueda. I was going to write about the 3/4-sheets of “editorial byproduct” interspersed throughout the book (clippings from emails, websites and images), the excellent interviews (with typemaker Eric Olson and Amsterdam-based design duo Mevis & van Deuren, plus one conducted via iChat by Emmet, using a Mac at the Mall of America Apple Store, and Prem Krishnamurthy, at the big Manhattan Apple Store), and the issue’s catchall theme: “The Eclectic Slide.”

Then I got to page 62 and met Cat Lovers Against the Bomb.

An avowed dog person, I’m nonetheless enchanted, as Alex and his wife were:

As with any love affair, I suppose you start by describing the first time you saw someone: It must have been in the winter of 2004. My (now) wife and I were in the line at Seward Co-op in Minneapolis. It stopped us in our tracks, there amongst the new-age wall calendars: Cat Lovers Against the Bomb.

Every year since, the DeArmonds have been buying up these calendars, produced annually since 1984 by a peace group in Nebraska, for themselves and to give as gifts (“always with a fleeting sense of panic: ‘Will they get it?'”). Filled with black-and-white, amateur photos of cats, as well as the occasional trivia item about either cats or peace activism, it’s both the theme and the look that compels.

“The calendars are virtually indistinguishable from year to year, frozen in an aesthetic that suggests the days of 1980’s desktop publishing,” Alex writes. The images, shot by amateur photographers, “give you a glimpse into the world of both the cat and the owner. One chilling image showed a cat sleeping in a dish drainer. Sometimes you can’t wait for the next month so you can move on.”

For me, it’s the refreshing dose of earnestness in an irony saturated age. There’s an honesty here: the calendars are unabashedly political, aesthetically utilitarian, and ardently hopeful — without that humorlessness that sometimes afflicts left-of-center causes. OK, the punny attempts at levity, usually appearing as comments on the lower left side of each photo, sometimes seem to fall short — “Purr-ceptive Progressives Take the Lead” and “Pet Peeve: Human Ambitions of Power” — but on second read, they’re kinda, somehow, right on.

cover.jpg

Click here for more on Task #1.

For those who think the suburbs are scary …

The Walker’s Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes doesn’t open until February 16, but you might appreciate the suburban-focused art and architecture of that exhibition a little more after examining some distinctive urban fingerprints. The WebUrbanist blog, in continuing its thought-provoking Seven Wonders series, trains its latest foray on “the scariest, steepest, longest, widest, narrowest, most […]

lombardstreet.jpg

The Walker’s Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes doesn’t open until February 16, but you might appreciate the suburban-focused art and architecture of that exhibition a little more after examining some distinctive urban fingerprints. The WebUrbanist blog, in continuing its thought-provoking Seven Wonders series, trains its latest foray on “the scariest, steepest, longest, widest, narrowest, most confusing and most crooked urban streets in the world!” (pictured, from the series, is San Francisco’s Lombard Street).

Surprising that with “narrow” and “crooked” among the criteria, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue didn’t make the list.

A hole new course: Designs wanted for mini-golf

Art and architecture merge with miniature golf in this open call to create holes for the next Walker in the Rough — a new, temporary mini-golf course at the Walker Art Center. Walker in the Rough, which debuted in 2004, returns in 2008 to the grass that will house the Walker’s future park, on the […]

Art and architecture merge with miniature golf in this open call to create holes for the next Walker in the Rough — a new, temporary mini-golf course at the Walker Art Center.

minigolf3.JPGWalker in the Rough, which debuted in 2004, returns in 2008 to the grass that will house the Walker’s future park, on the western edge of the museum. Your job, as a potential designer, is creating one of the 10 workable, playable holes that will dot the course. A panel of curators, artists, architects and one golf pro will judge the entries. Selected designers will receive stipends of $3,000. Deadline for submissions is Jan. 14, 2008.

The course, which opens Memorial Day weekend and closes in early September, will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Organizers are encouraging designers to create tie-ins to the traveling exhibition Design for the Other 90%, which comes to the Walker in spring 2008. Proposals should also address issues such as water, communication, shelter, transportation, and sustainability. Extra consideration will be given to holes made of recycled materials or materials that can be recycled.

Print or download an application here. For more info, contact Christi Atkinson, associate director of Education and Community Programs, at (612) 375-7572 or christi.atkinson@walkerart.org.

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