Archive for the ‘Design’ Category

Exhibition | Comic Strip Originals

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Charles Forbell, Naughty Pete,
The New York Herald, 23 October, 1913
Private collection



Pioneers of the Comic Strip
Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt
Frankfurt | Germany
Until 18 September 2016



Lyonel Feininger, The Kin-der-Kids,
Sunday page, Chicago Tribune, 29 April 1906
Collection Achim Moeller, New York,
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016



It was the mass-produced, throwaway quality of comic book art that first attracted the interest of pop artists in the 1950s, who set about reproducing carefully selected details from them as large paintings. In consequence, wider attention was drawn toward the exceptional qualities of the original source of this inspiration: the newspaper comic strip. Countless millions of these were printed, and many more produced, but few from the trailblazing, early years have survived.

Cliff Sterrett, Polly and Her Pals, detail
13 November 1927
Private collection



Frank King, Gasoline Alley,
The Denver Post, 24 August, 1930
Private collection,
© Estate of Frank King



Although the format had existed in Britain since the early 1880s – Ally Sloper’s Half Holiday, first published on 3 May 1884 is regarded as the first comic strip magazine to feature a recurring character – comic strips first began to appear in American newspapers in 1897, immediately captivating the middle and working classes, as well as fascinating newly arrived immigrants. Their success there in the early 20th century was integral to the meteoric rise of newspapers as mass media that, due to the development of high-performance printing presses and decreasing paper costs, became affordable for all US citizens.

Comic strips would gain such importance that the growth or decline of a newspaper became dependent on their popularity, and they became tactical weapons in the war between American media barons, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst.

Winsor McCay, Little Nemo in Slumberland,
The New York Herald, 23 September, 1906
Private collection



Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt’s new exhibition, Pioneers of the Comic Strip, presents around 230 rare examples produced between 1905 and the 1940s, including original drawings, and features six outstanding, primarily American illustrators, who shaped the genre’s early history: Winsor McCay, Lyonel Feininger, Charles Forbell, Cliff Sterrett, George Herriman, and Frank King.

All images courtesy Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt


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Design | Olivetti’s Anti-Machine Ethos

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Poster for the Valentine typewriter,
Designed by Walter Ballmer, 1969
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function
ICA Fox Reading Room
London | UK
25 May > 17 July 2016



Olivetti Showroom, Venice, Italy
Designed by Carlo Scarpa, 1958
Both photos Marco Ambrosi
Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan



My first typewriter was an Olivetti Praxis 20 Electronic Typewriter, designed by Mario Bellini in 1983. At the time I couldn’t type. I bought it because I admired its sculptural beauty. Even now, having used computer keyboards for some 30 years I remain a one finger typist. If not for Olivetti’s pioneering and beautifully designed products and their attention to the environments in which they were sold and used – hailed as the precursors to the user-friendly Apple products that began to appear in the late 1990s and and the Apple stores that followed – it’s possible that the world may not have taken up desktop and personal technology quite so swiftly or as readily as it has over the past three decades.

Polymath Ettore Sottsass, who was responsible for designing the bright red Valentine portable typewriter (above) – produced by Olivetti from 1969 to 1975 – once remarked: ‘When I began designing machines I also began to think that these objects, which sit next to each other and around people, can influence not only physical conditions but also emotions. They can touch the nerves, the blood, the muscles, the eyes and the moods of people. Since then I have never designed a product in the same way as I would design a sculpture, and I have been utterly obsessed with the idea that by designing an object or a machine I would be setting off a chain reaction of which I understood very little.’

Poster for the Divissuma 24 calculator
Designed by Herbert Bayer, 1950s
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Olivetti Lettera 22, poster
Designed by Giovanni Pintori, 1954
Courtesy Associazione Archivio
Storico Olivetti, Ivrea, Italy



Adriano Olivetti had established the importance of design as a pillar of the company founded by his equally forward thinking father in 1908 in Ivrea, Italy, that was growing at a phenomenal rate. As the company expanded and occupied more and more space within the city, hiring some of the country’s leading architects, the philanthropically-minded Adriano built carefully planned new neighbourhoods with abundant green space and compact apartment blocks to accommodate the expanding workforce. Arguing that because workers inside must see the mountains and valleys where they come from, and that people outside the factory should be able to observe what was going on inside, the new factory buildings were built almost entirely of glass.

In the 1950s designer Australian designer Gordon Andrews and FHK Henrion, a key figure of British post-war design, were asked to create the Olivetti London Kingsway showroom, and in 1957 Adriano commissioned architect Carlo Scarpa to design the showroom in Venice – opened in 1958, restored in 2011 – on the basis that it would be a space designed to show the products, but also to showcase Scarpa’s talent as an architect.

Sottsass was brought on board as a consultant in 1958, and in 1959 Adriano’s son, Roberto, insisted that he be allowed to design the Tekne, which would transform the typewriter into the first systematically conceived business machine. That same year Olivetti won the prestigious Compasso d’Oro with the Elea 9003, the first Italian electronic calculator (computer). Under Roberto Olivetti’s aegis, with the engineer, Mario Tchou, and using his ‘anti-machine machine’ approach, Sottsass’s relationship with the company thrived and he went on to create a series of technically innovative products that thanks to his love of pop art and interest in beat culture looked and felt very much of the moment.

Olivetti Showroom, Barcelona, Spain,
Designed by BBPR, 1965
Photo F Català Roca
Courtesy of Navone Associati, Milan



Numerous other well-know designers, architects and artists including Gae Aulenti, Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, Mario Bellini, Milton Glaser, and Herbert Bayer were commissioned by Olivetti, who had also established a commercial art department within the company in 1937. From 1940 to 1967 this was led by the innovative and versatile Giovanni Pintori whose approach and aims: ‘I have always believed in the strength of simple ideas and the demand for clear, immediate language that is accessible to everyone. This doesn’t mean that the language of graphics is downgraded to the most common taste. Just the opposite: it means that the language intends to improve average tastes,’ sum up the progressive cultural ideals at the heart of the company’s ethos: a model that still resonates today.

Olivetti: Beyond Form and Function at the ICA Fox Reading Room presents Olivetti’s design work from the mid-20th century.

All images courtesy the ICA


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Design | Georges Jouve – Mid-Century Master Potter

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Calice vase, circa 1955
Black and white glazed ceramic
Estimate €4,000 > 6,000



Design
Sotheby’s
Paris | France
Exhibition 19 > 21 + 23 May 2016
Sale 24 May 2016



Three Boule vases, circa 1955
Ceramic, glazed in orange,
red and green
Estimate €15,000 > 20,000



You can see it in the simple, sculptural forms of Serge Mouille’s lighting designs of those few years, and in Charlotte Perriand’s Free form table, 1956. It was as if, suddenly, in the mid-1950s, all the avant-garde French designers agreed to adopt a different kind of modernism. The mood swing, however, could be attributed to a growing international interest in the elegant forms emerging in the new and popular kinetic art and the effect of technologies developed during World War II that had been taken up by designers such Charles and Ray Eames, who had experimented with fibreglass, plastic resin and wire, to produce new types of furniture and home accessories that were stronger, but lighter in feel than anything that had existed before.

The new products had a knock-on effect to interior design, and, so as not to look incongruous in the new settings, ceramics would have to change, too. All of the examples of work shown here are by the prominent French ceramicist Georges Jouve (1910 > 1964) and were created in or around 1955.

Occasional table, circa 1955
Metal, black and white glazed
ceramic and cement
Estimate €8,000 > 12,000



Banane bowl, circa 1955
Yellow glazed ceramic
Estimate € 8,000 > 12,000



In the 1940s Jouve, who had trained as a sculptor at Paris’s prestigious École Boulle, and who, having escaped from a German prison camp, learnt local potter’s techniques in the South of France, began producing rustic semi-figurative, decorative work inspired by the religious figurines of the locality. Back in Paris, in 1944, he was producing robust pottery, often demonstrating an ironic humour; his Vase femme a nichons – literally translated as Woman with tits vase – of which he produced many versions, is a bust of a voluptuous woman with large breasts squeezed onto a pedestal base.

Table lamp, circa 1955
Red glazed ceramic
Estimate €3,000 > 4,000



Cylindre vase, circa 1955
White and black glazed ceramic
Estimate €4,000 > 6,000



Toward the end of the Forties, the influence of cubism and African art was discernible in his latest pieces, and was destined to remain as Jouve started to pare down and to simplify his vases and pitchers, on which in the early 1950s he would sometimes scrawl Picasso-esque line drawings. As the decade’s mid-point approached the surface decoration diminished and all but disappeared, the shapes became more defined, refined, and often more delicate; the potter’s former, murky palette was replaced with a fresh one restricted to strong reds, oranges, yellow, apple green, black, white and grey. Much imitated during the 1960s, the stripped-down tiled-surfaced, rectangular tables illustrated with brash, colourful abstract designs that Jouve had introduced in 1950 would become a fixture of his repertoire, but by 1955 all extraneous structural detail had been abolished, the tile pattern reduced to linear monochrome designs. Each piece retained its handmade qualities and all were signed by the hand that made them.

Jouve’s jokey Banane bowl is a clear indication that he never lost his talent to amuse, and it’s clear in his Calice vase design (both shown above) that while he developed a new style, which was appropriate to the period, he did not make a total departure from his earlier, more solid way of working: he sometimes simply streamlined it a little, which had a similar effect to putting a generously-proportioned lady into a more flatteringly-cut dress.

The forthcoming Design sale at Sotheby’s in Paris includes forty works by Georges Jouve, spanning his entire career.

All items designed by George Jouve
Photos Sotheby’s / Art Digital Studio


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Exhibitions | Victoria & Albert’s Secret

Friday, April 8th, 2016

Contemporary
dominatrix ensemble
from House of Harlot
© Sister Sinister



Undressed:
A Brief History of Underwear

Victoria & Albert Museum
London | UK
16 April 2016 > 12 March 2017



In Serge Nazarieff’s classic book Early Erotic Photography (Taschen, 1993), aside from a little gauzy chiffon, the odd petticoat or gartered stocking tops, all the women shown are totally naked, many in full frontal poses. Reminiscent of anthropological studies, with little left to the imagination, the images  – although they almost certainly did at the time they were taken – paradoxically, emote no particular sexual excitement. As the designs of lingerie company Agent Provocateur, joint-sponsors of the V&A’s forthcoming exhibition along with Revlon, exemplify, underwear contrives to be far more provocative than actual nudity could ever be.

Shorty stretch brief
designed by DaDa



Jean Paul Gaultie
underwear-inspired
dress, 1989



Wearing underwear is generally understood as a mark of civilisation, but far from being developed for practical purposes female underclothing was originally developed as a fashion aid. The crinoline depended on a hidden wooden framework and eighteenth and nineteenth century wasp waists were made possible via the use of a substantial corset. American dance pioneer Isadora Duncan shed her restrictive corset in the 1910s, and while in the following decade Coco Chanel discarded it in favour of comfort and casual elegance in her clothing designs, Karl Lagerfeld would reintroduce the corset for the Chanel Spring 2014 Couture collection. Controversially, in the 1950s, to make it possible for women to wear his New Look, Christian Dior came up with the ‘waspie’, which may have been only five or six inches deep, but was usually worn over an additional, body-shaping panty- or roll-on girdle. Rather than by the mythical bra-burning of American women’s liberationists, the new independent spirit of the 1960s women was encapsulated in Mary Quant’s body stocking.

1950s Y-front point
of sale material



Side hoop petticoat
covered in linen,
retailed by A Schabner,
England, 1778



It has existed for centuries, and entry to its world had become freely available on the internet for anyone with the appetite to search, but the 2011 publication of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey initiated the masses into the ‘kinky’ side of sex, with the result that sales at lingerie and sex toy retailer Ann Summers, according to the industry monitor Draper’s, rocketed by a dramatic 78% year-on-year. However, with around 25% of sales, Marks and Spencer’s somewhat tamer women’s underwear continues to dominate the UK market.

Nylon and lycra
girdle, 1960s



Man’s linen shirt,
Great Britain, 1775 > 1800
and underdrawers,
France, 1775 > 1799



For this show, men’s underwear, too, is coming out of the closet and women, eager to get men out of their practical, supportive, but lumpy Y-fronts and into something softer and more appealingly-streamlined, have played a strong role in popularising current styles. Calvin Klein’s spring 2015 men’s underwear marketing featuring Justin Bieber might have been a clear homage to the brand’s iconic 1992 campaign featuring Marky Mark (Mark Wahlberg), but Kate Moss’s inclusion in the earlier video, wearing identical shorts to Mark, guaranteed the product’s success. In a tribute to Moss’s performance, last year Rihanna, who became a creative director for the brand’s women’s wear posed topless in a pair of men’s Puma undershorts.

Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear at the Victoria & Albert Museum will display more than 200 examples of underwear from custom-made 18th century items to pieces by designers such as John Galliano, Juicy Couture, Stella McCartney, La Perla, Rigby & Peller, Paul Poiret, Schiaparelli, Paul Smith, and Vivienne Westwood.

All images courtesy the V&A
All items © Victoria and Albert Museum, London, unless otherwise stated


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Art | John Piper: Man of the Cloth

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Air Motif , 1966
from Chichester Cathedral Tapestry



John Piper:
The Fabric of Modernism
Pallant House Gallery
Chichester | UK
12 March > 12 June 2016



John Piper photographed by Nicholas Sinclair, 2000



Try to bring to mind what a typical, domestic, post-war British fabric design looked like. The image inside your head, if any, will probably resemble one of John Piper’s screen-printed designs for Arthur Sanderson & Sons.

Now imagine how a typical Anglican Church minister (albeit off-duty) should look. Sallow, long in the face, with high cheekbones and large fleshy ears – even by middle age his hair has receded and turned white – your vision might easily be John Piper himself. In his later years, the pious look would become increasingly appropriate to his output, especially with regard to his work in textiles.

Born John Egerton Christmas Piper in 1903, after art school at Richmond and Kingston and a brief year at the Royal College of Art, he began his career as a landscape artist then, after a visit to Paris in 1933, turned to abstraction, producing paintings, prints and collages inspired by Picasso. By 1938, however, he had returned to representational painting. In the 1930s, in pursuit of his great love of architecture, he had worked with John Betjeman on the Shell County Guides, and having been accepted into the Anglican church in 1939, while working as an official war artist from 1940, he asked to be allowed to concentrate on bombed churches. That year he would arrive the morning after the air raid that destroyed medieval Coventry cathedral to record the scene for a series of haunting paintings. During the following decade, having his first exhibition in New York, providing decorations for the British Embassy in Rio de Janeiro, and supervising the design of Battersea Pleasure Gardens with Osbert Lancaster, Piper would achieve national and international fame.

Chiesa de Salute, 1959, issued 1960*
Screenprint on Sanderlin fabric,
made by Arthur Sanderson.
Private collection



Abstract, 1955
Screenprinted rayon.
Published by David Whitehead Ltd.
Private collection



The repeat patterns of his commercial fabric designs – often abstract, sometimes based around architectural themes and landscapes and also including churches – reflected all that was going on in his own life and work in the 1950s. His involvement with textiles wasn’t unique, among his artist contemporaries, Henry Moore and Edward Paolozzi dabbled in fabric design too. But perhaps the catholic mix of subject matter in Piper’s work that rendered it suitable for use in modern, as well as more traditional homes ensured the commercial success that made it ubiquitous.

In 1958 Piper would return to Coventry Cathedral – then under reconstruction by Sir Basil Spenceto design a stained-glass window for its baptistry. The ecclesiastical robes he had created in the early 1950s for the clergy to wear for services at Coventry, and for Chichester and St Paul’s cathedrals may be clearly influenced by those designed by Matisse for the Chapel of the Rosary at Vence in France, but also make reference to the ballet productions Piper was involved in in the 1940s, and for the series of operas by Benjamin Britten, which he worked on.

But religion went out of fashion in the free-loving 60s, and just as Piper was on the cusp of elevation to the immortal pantheon of great British artists, by sacrificing fame for faith, consciously or otherwise, he was perhaps unjustly relegated to the second tier. Piper’s first tapestry designs, however, produced in 1966 for Chichester Cathedral represent a gathering together of a lifetime’s worth of ideas, imagery and personal fervour and are amongst the most important examples of twentieth century religious art. They form the centrepiece of the exhibition John Piper: The Fabric of Modernism at Pallant House Gallery.

All works by John Piper, © The Piper Estate, except* image reproduced by kind permission of Arthur Sanderson, a wholly owned subsidiary of Abaris Holdings Ltd, owners of the original copyright.
All images courtesy Pallant House Gallery


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Culture | From Bauhaus to Black Mountain

Friday, February 19th, 2016

Hazel Larsen Archer, Merce Cunningham dancing,
contact sheet, c1952-53
Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer and Black
Mountain College Museum and Arts Center



Leap Before You Look:
Black Mountain College 1933-1957

The Hammer Museum
Los Angeles | California | USA
21 February > 15 May 2016



Josef Albers, Tenayuca, 1943
Oil on fibreboard
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
© The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/
Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



Adolph Hitler did modernism a great service. Paradoxically, in trying to stamp out the movement’s philosophies, in particular by systematically harassing the Bauhaus, whose staff eventually decided to close the school rather than compromise with the Third Reich, he guaranteed the international dissemination of modernist teaching.

Some of the key Bauhaus figures passed through London, leaving a legacy of teaching ideas that would be a major influence on institutions such as the Royal College of Art in the postwar period. But sooner or later, the majority of them emigrated to the USA.

When former director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe arrived in Chicago in 1938, where he was appointed head of the architecture school at the Armour Institute of Technology (later, Illinois Institute of Technology/IIT), László Moholy-Nagy had already established the New Bauhaus there the previous year. Walter Gropius, would become a senior professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, while Marcel Breuer taught at Yale. In 1933, the year the Bauhaus had ceased operations, Josef Albers, speaking no English, had also begun teaching at Yale. However, via a recommendation from the Museum of Modern Art, he was soon hired as the first head of Black Mountain College, a new art school in the relative obscurity of Ashville, North Carolina.

Far less well-known internationally than the New Bauhaus – only scant references are made to it via any currently available UK sources – 10 years ago London’s Arnolfini gallery held an exhibition of a limited selection of the school’s works – the Tate website honours it with just 200 words  – by the 1940s, Black Mountain College became the ideal of experimental arts education in America.

Anni Albers and Alexander Reed, Neck Piece, 1940
Aluminium strainer, paper clips, and chain
The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
© The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation/
Artists Rights Society New York.
Photo Tim Nighswander/Imaging 4 Art



Buckminster Fuller, Black Mountain College,
1948/1990, Nancy Newhall

Gelatin silver print
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
©1948, Nancy Newhall, ©2014 The Estate
of Beaumont and Nancy Newhall.
Permission to reproduce courtesy of
Scheinbaum and Russek Ltd, Santa Fe, NM



John Cage, Hazel Larsen Archer
Gelatin silver print
Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer and Black
Mountain College Museum and Arts Center



Conceived by the – by all accounts – brilliant scholar John A Rice, BMC was a completely new type of college based on US philosopher John Dewey’s principles of progressive education. Dewey – reputedly the most significant educational thinker of his era in America – believed that human beings learn through a ‘hands on’ approach and that teachers and students must learn together. Bauhaus students and staff had lived and eaten side by side and embraced a modern lifestyle that included the whole person – body, mind and soul. In the 1919 Bauhaus manifesto Walter Gropius had announced that theatre, lectures, poetry, music, and costume parties, were all part of the programme. The parties promoted contact between the college and the public, an idea that Dewey also endorsed.

Josef Albers, despite his language difficulties, would quickly develop a system that successfully combined both Dewey’s and Bauhaus educational principles, and assemble a board of directors that included Albert Einstein. With great aplomb he put together a formidable and diverse faculty made up of, among others, his talented textile-designer wife Anni Albers, Walter Gropius, Jacob Lawrence, Willem de Kooning, R Buckminster Fuller, Ruth Asawa, and Cy Twombly. Famous alumni would include Robert Rauschenberg, who would describe Albers as having influenced him to do ‘exactly the reverse’ of what he had previously been taught, and John Cage, who staged his first ‘happening’ at the school.

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S 272), c1955
Copper and iron wire
Private Collection. © Estate of Ruth Asawa.
Photo Laurence Cuneo



Albers left in 1949. As a result of a shift in trends that saw students and faculty drawn towards the cities of San Francisco and New York, in 1953, BMC, having endured 10 years longer than the Bauhaus, closed. A powerhouse, modern educational establishment, the college’s revolutionary and influential methods and ideas would fundamentally change the way in which the visual arts were taught across America, and leave behind a lasting legacy.

Presenting a broad selection of paintings, sculpture, textiles and photography, and including over 250 objects by nearly 100 artists, Leap Before You Look: Black Mountain College 1933-1957 at The Hammer Museum is the first comprehensive museum exhibition about the school.

All images courtesy The Hammer Museum


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Exhibition | Jasper Morrison: The Designs of Others

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Portrait, 2014 © Kento Mori



Jasper MorrisonThingness
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Zürich | Switzerland
12 February > 5 June 2016



It’s great that the Museum für Gestaltung is presenting a major retrospective of internationally-acclaimed British designer Jasper Morrison’s work. On the other hand, it’s interesting to be given an insight into what prominent designers like Morrison think of other people’s work. So, in addition, and as part of their My Collection display series, the Museum have asked him to select items from across their permanent collections – not one to do things by half, Morrison picked out eighty-six pieces – and to explain what in particular fascinates him about each. Here are just a few of his choices and comments.

Berthold Akzidenz-Grotesk, 1966 > 1980.
Master font sample sheet.
Designed by Josef Müller-Brockman,
Müller-Brockmann + Co, Zürich, Switzerland
for H Berthold AG, Berlin, Germany

Donated by Shizuko Yoshikawa
Josef Müller-Brockmann Archive /
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich /
Graphic Design Collection



‘I have always felt there to be a mysterious connection between chair design and typography, perhaps typography is the two-dimensional equivalent exercise. Subtle adjustments of shape and width result in extreme differences of expression in a typeface. The quest for a modern looking, ‘normal’ typeface has been long running and brought forth various tangible results, but no font was as successful as the old Berthold Akzidenz-Grotesk. Even major players like Josef Müller-Brockmann used it in his advertisements.’

Steiger-Fauteuil Armchair, early 1930s.
Sprung-chair, designed by Carl Steiger
Bent wood with webbing
Donated by Ruggero Tropeano
Property of Zürcher Hochschule der Künste /
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich /
Design Collection



‘If I could pick one thing from the collection and keep it, it would be this chair. I’ve never heard of Carl Steiger and all I can find out about him is that he seems to have been a talented aviation designer, and that his son was a modern architect. The chair itself seems to be a prototype and some of the connections are hinged, suggesting a certain amount of movement in the structure allowed by the cantilever. The sectional flatness of the structural elements, the sled like shape of the arms, the extended floor rail and the way the back leg lands on it at a reclined angle all add up to suggest great comfort, while the woven webbing is economic, lightweight and decorative and would also have added comfort. It’s one of the Museum’s treasures, a lesser known masterpiece.’

It has long been proven – Traditional
products of modern design, 1970.
Poster designed by Emil Ruder for
Museum für Gestaltung Basel, Switzerland
Property of Zürcher Hochschule der Künste /
Museum für Gestaltung Zürich / Poster Collection



‘Could it be that the shape of a spoon communicates such an elemental sense of objectness because it’s the first tool we learn to use in life? Presented here as a silhouette in white on a black background it’s particularly powerful and effective in representing an exhibition of time-tested forms.’

Wooden trolley, c 1954.
Designed and produced by Benedikt Rohner
For Benedikt Rohner
Property of Zürcher Hochschule



‘The lines of this trolley are uncompromisingly modern for its date of birth. This would have been relatively ahead of its time and quite out of tune with most interiors of its day, except in Switzerland perhaps where there seems to be a natural and traditional appreciation for rational form.’

U-Turn LED spotlight range, 2012.
Designed by Michel Charlot

Produced by Belux



‘The U-Turn family of lights represents something new both formally and technically and that’s quite an achievement these days with the frequency of new products launched on the market. The lamp ‘head’ fixes to the stem magnetically and can be detached and then reattached as it was or flipped over to send the light the opposite way. It can also be very easily adjusted to direct the light with nothing more than the push of a finger. The circular crater pattern on the back of the lamp head serve to increase the surface area and improve cooling of the LED light source, while the middle one serves as the magnet fixing point. The formal elements are well balanced and the result is an accomplished design with added function and lots of character.’

Jasper Morrison’s My Collection is included alongside the exhibition Jasper Morrison – Thingness at the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich Schaudepot.

All images courtesy and © Museum für Gestaltung Zürich


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Design | Sitting on top of the 20th Century

Friday, December 11th, 2015

Gerrit Thomas Rietveld (1888 > 1964)
Steltman chairs, pair, designed 1963
(T
he second is a mirror image of the above)
Stained oak.
Estimate $80,000 > 120,000



Design Masterworks
Christie’s
Rockefeller Plaza
New York City | USA
Exhibition 12 > 16 December 2015
Auction 17 December 2015



Marc Newson (1963 >)
Lockheed Lounge, designed 1990
Fibreglass-reinforced polyester resin core,
blind-riveted sheet aluminium,
rubber-coated polyester resin.
Estimate $1,500,000 – 2,000,000



Looks can be deceiving. Amongst the rare and much sought-after items in Christie’s forthcoming Design Masterworks sale, a pair of Steltman chairs, for instance, designed by Gerrit Rietveld in 1963 – placing their production firmly in the mid-century period – are rooted in the far more remote early modernist years, while hints of the 1960s’ brutalist architectural style are also easily detected in the form.

Superficially, with its Sputnik aesthetic, Marc Newson’s three-legged Lockheed Lounge, with a blind-riveted sheet aluminium finish, also reminiscent of post-war airliners, produced as a limited edition of ten, in 1990, toward the end of the twentieth century, might well have been designed when Arne Jacobsen was sketching out his Drop chair for his SAS Radisson Blue Hotel in the late 1950s. (Incidentally, recently relaunched by Fritz Hansen, the Drop is now available with a plastic shell in a selection of colours with matching powder-coated legs.)

Arne Jacobsen (1902 > 1971)
Drop chair, designed c 1958
Copper-plated steel, leather
Estimate $20,000 > 30,000


Hans Wenger (1914 > 2007)
Easy chair, designed 1953
Oak, leather, fabric upholstery
$30,000 > 50,000



The spindly legs, of course, are always a dead giveaway, but, paradoxically, the upholstered full, rounded back and chunky armrests of Hans Wenger’s Easy chair, 1953, are strongly suggestive of the art deco period that spawned Jean Prouve’s Sanatorium armchair, whose tapered seat shape and slimmer armrests in turn foreshadow the lightness of form that would appear in late 1940s and 1950s furniture design, made possible through the use of new materials and improved production techniques brought about by advances in technology.

Jean Prouvé (1901 > 1984)
Sanatorium armchair, c 1932
Painted metal, leather, stretched canvas
Estimate $140,000 > 180,000



Although more chair designs, notably by Gio Ponti and Finn Juhl are included, Design Masterworks at Christie’s isn’t confined to seating. The tightly-edited series of lots, each with impeccable provenance and stand-alone individuality, flying in the face of chronological categorisation, features a striking c 1930 wall light from the palace of the Maharaje of Indore made by Max Krüger, Flavio Poli’s Valva siderale internally-decorated glass vase, 1954, and Carlo Mollino’s anthropomorphic maple, tempered glass and brass An Occasional Table made around 1950.

All images courtesy and © Christie’s


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Fashion | Iris van Herpen: High-Tech Hero

Friday, November 6th, 2015

Voltage, dress, January 2013
In collaboration with Philip Beesley
Laser cut 3D polyester film lace, micro fibre.
Collection of the designer



Iris van Herpen:
Transforming Fashion
High Museum of Art Atlanta
Atlanta Georgia | USA
7 November 2015 > 15 May 2016



Biopiracy, dress, March 2014
In collaboration with Julia Koerner and Materialise
3D-printed TPU 92A-1, silicon coating

Collection of Phoenix Museum of Art.
Gift of Arizona Costume Institute



It was announced this week that the focus of the Costume Institute Benefit at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art in May 2016, will be on technology’s impact on fashion. The event will be co-chaired by Jonathan Ive, Taylor Swift, Anna Wintour and Idris Elba – a somewhat mixed bag of nevertheless prominent names – while the eminent Karl Lagerfeld, Miuccia Prada and Nicolas Ghesquière will sit as honorary chairs. Oddly, Swift is the only American included and Ive the only one with any in-depth technology-related knowledge. Sounding, perhaps appropriately, like the latest blockbuster video game, Manus x Machina will be the title of the accompanying exhibition, with the subtitle Fashion in an Age of Technology. The image – a dress with a silicon feather structure and mouldings of bird heads on a cotton base – used on the Met website with the announcements for both events is from the autumn/winter 2013 > 14 collection of visionary Dutch designer Iris van Herpen (b 1984).

Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion, opening tomorrow at the High Museum of Art Atlanta – a comprehensive survey of her career to date, with 45 outfits from 15 collections, designed between 2008 and 2015, includes some of the world’s first examples of 3-D printed fashion.

Hybrid Holism, dress, July 2012
Metallic coated stripes, tulle, cotton.
Collection of the designer



Magnetic Motion, dress, September 2014
3D printed transparent photopolymer,
SLA (sterolithography) resin.
High Museum of Art, purchased with funds
from the Decorative Arts Acquisition Trust
and through prior acquisitions



Lady Gaga and Beyoncé have worn van Herpen’s futuristic dresses, as has British actress Tilda Swinton. Björk is a big fan, too – donning the designer’s creations for live concerts and for the covers of both her Biophilia album, and the single, Crystalline. In 2014, eminent champagne-maker Dom Pérignon approached van Herpen to be the most recent collaborator in its Power of Creation series, which has seen creative talents such as Marc Newson, Jeff Koons and David Lynch produce innovative special edition packaging for the brand. Earlier this year, van Herpen, who trained as a classical ballerina for fifteen years before working for Alexander McQueen – whose Spring / Summer 2010 show, incidentally, was all digitally-printed – created bespoke garments for visionary dance performance in Spatial Reverse, Warren du Preez and Nick Thornton Jones’ ethereal short film in which the definition of contemporary clothing is pushed to the limit.

Andrew Bolton, Curator of The Costume Institute, is quoted on Vogue.com as saying, ‘Traditionally, the distinction between the haute couture and prêt-à-porter was based on the handmade and the machine-made, but recently this distinction has become increasingly blurred, as both disciplines have embraced the practices and techniques of the other.’ Van Herpen is responsible for some of that blur. Having garnered international acclaim for her couture designs, which interweave traditional handwork with groundbreaking technology, computer modelling and engraving, constructed in collaboration with architects, engineers and digital design specialists, she has cleverly adapted and applied the same ideas for use in her phenomenally-individual and successful prêt-à-porter clothing. A selection of her acclaimed shoes designs (including 3D-printed examples), created in collaboration with United Nude – co-founded by architect Rem Koolhaas – will feature in the High’s show.

Capriole, ensemble, July 2011
In collaboration with Isaie Bloch
and Materialise.
3D printed polyamide.
Groninger Museum, 2012



With a long list of awards including, most recently, the 2015 Marie-Claire Prix de la mode, for best Dutch conceptual designer and the 2014 ANDAM Awards Grand Prix, Iris van Herpen is widely heralded as a pioneering new voice in fashion, known and respected for her willingness to experiment – exploring new fabrics created by blending steel with silk or iron filings with resin. While she may not (yet) have such a big name as those chairing the Costume Institute Benefit, perhaps an additional chair should be pulled up to the table for one whose forthcoming show at the High must be considered as far more than a taster for next year’s Manus x Machina, in which, no doubt, her work will feature prominently.

The designer’s first solo show in the USA, Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion, makes it’s debut at the High Museum of Art Atlanta before touring North America.

All images courtesy The High Museum of Art Atlanta.
All photos Bart Oomes, No 6 Studios, except 5, by Ingrid Baars, © Iris van Herpen


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Culture | Hippie Modernism Comes of Age

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Haus-Rucker-Co
Environment Transformer / Flyhead Helmet, 1968
Archive Zamp Kelp
Photo © Haus-Rucker-Co, Gerald Zugmann



Hippie Modernism:
The Struggle for Utopia
Walker Art Center
Minneapolis | Minnesota | USA
24 October 2015 > 28 February 2016



Archizoom Associati
Superonda Sofa, 1966
Archive Centro Studi Poltronova
Courtesy Dario Bartolini
(Archizoom Associati)



In the year 1967 – incidentally that in which contemporary artist Olafur Eliasson was born, but more of that later – the total number of American troops serving in Vietnam was increased to 475,000. Peace rallies multiplied as the numbers of anti-war protesters swelled. In the Middle East the Six Day War saw Israel attacking Syria, Egypt and Jordan, resulting in Israel’s occupation of massive areas of land outside their previously-designated borders.

That summer cities throughout America exploded with rioting and looting, Detroit being the worst-effected, where, to restore order 7000 National Guardsmen were drafted in.

In stark contrast, 1967 also played host to the ’summer of love’. For three days in June, 200,000 young Americans gathered at the Monterey International Pop Festival in California where they smoked a lot of dope, danced and were entertained by some of the biggest names in music including Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Janis Joplin, Simon & Garfunkel and the Mamas and the Papas, and where Scott McKenzie would sing the words of his anthem that came to symbolise the era, ‘If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…’ While it is claimed that the counterculture movement began in the USA before it became established in Europe, the peace symbol, designed and first used in the UK during the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, later became synonymous with opposition to the Vietnam War, and was much in evidence at events such as Monterey. Elsewhere the ‘flower children’, or ‘hippies’, as they became known, stuck flowers in the barrels of guns held by US National Guardsmen in demonstrations against the masculine culture that gave rise to wars and supported racial discrimination.

Was the hippie culture naive and deserving of the scorn that was poured over it over the next few decades? Once dismissed as both a social and aesthetic failure, the counterculture of the period embraced themes and ideas – ecological awareness, audience participation, the resurgent interest in yoga and spirituality, organic foods, local agriculture, marijuana legalisation, climate change, alternative energy, and social protest movements – that persist and are growing in popularity today. Step into one of fashionable contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama’s immersive visions of endless dots and nets or infinitely mirrored space – currently on show at Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art – and you’re sampling experiences that began life in the ‘hippie’ era. Indeed, regarding them as fundamentally important to her life and work, 86-year old Kusama, who talks of seeking a cosmic vision, longs for love and peace.

Corita Kent
yellow submarine, 1967

Silkscreen
Corita Art Center, Immaculate Heart Community, LA
Photo Joshua White



Sheila Levrant de Bretteville
Women in Design: The Next Decade, 1975

Poster, cut blue-line process print
Courtesy Sheila Levrant de Bretteville


The conceptual work of the Viennese group Haus-Rucker-Co, founded in 1967, explored the performative potential of architecture through installations and happenings in which, using pneumatic structures or prosthetic devices that altered perceptions of space, viewers became participants with the possibility of influencing their own environments. The radical ideas promoted by seminal British group Archigram include Walking City, a peripatetic giant reptilian structure, Living Pod a miniature capsule home and Instant City, an airship containing all the cultural and education resources of a metropolis which could land in remote areas giving inhabitants a taste of city life, ideas that were not lost on Richard Rodgers and Renzo Piano when they came to design the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, and later on Future Systems, founded by experimental non-conformist architect Jan Kaplický, said by fellow Czech and also British-based Eva Jiřičná to be ‘considered one of the visionaries of modern architecture’.

As radical as they come, Ant Farm, though rooted in architecture, was devoted to cultural critique in different forms, especially video with Cadillac Ranch Show (1974), Media Burn and The Eternal Frame (both 1975) ranking among the most poignant early examples of the genre: the collective is infamous for having briefly ‘kidnapped’ their hero Buckminster Fuller, whose ideas and work continue to influence new generations of designers, architects, scientists and artists working to create a sustainable planet.

Fuller’s former protégé, Icelander Einar Thorsteinn (1942 > 2015), sometimes referred to as architecture’s mad scientist, worked with Frei Otto from 1969-1972 helping to design the futuristic Munich Olympiapark for the 1972 Summer Olympics and later designed mobile lunar research laboratories for NASA. In 1996, he would team up with Danish-Icelandic Olafur Eliasson, 25 years his junior, and become the mad scientist collaborator behind some of Eliasson’s more renegade works. It would be Eliasson, who would pick up the torch of countercultural experimentation and carry it into the third millennium, in so doing making himself into one of the most successful artists of our era. In 2003 he installed The weather project at the London’s Tate Modern, converting the massive open space of the gallery’s Turbine Hall into an awe-inspiring sun-worshipper’s paradise. His design for the annual London’s Serpentine Pavilion in 2007 was produced in collaboration with Kjetil Thorsen of Oslo and New York’s Snøhetta architectural practice. The timber-clad structure, resembling a spinning top, acted as a ‘laboratory’ where, every Friday night, artists, architects, academics and scientists lead a series of public experiments. The programme culminated in an extraordinary, two-part, 48-hour marathon event exploring the architecture of the senses. In November 2013, at the Falling Walls Conference in Berlin, Olafur presented with Ai Weiwei, connected via an internet link from Beijing, their collaboration Moon, an open digital platform that allows users to draw on an enormous replica of the moon via their web browser, is a statement in support of freedom of speech and creative collaboration. For Contact, which ran from December 2014 to February 2015 at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, and reflected Olafur’s on-going investigations into the mechanisms of perception and the construction of space, artworks appeared as a sequence of events along a journey. Moving through passageways and expansive installations, visitors become part of choreography of darkness, light, geometry, and reflections. Rooted in the late 1960s and 1970s, Eliasson’s ideas lead us on into the future.

Neville D’Almeida and Hélio Oiticica
CC5 Hendrixwar / Cosmococa Programa-in-Progress, 1973

Coloured hammocks, 35mm slideshow, audio disc
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis
T B Walker Acquisition Fund, 2007



Explorations into domestic living during and after the hippie period led to innovative designs such as Ken Isaac’s Superchair – a frame structured structure with inbuilt shelving, suitable for books, and supporting a platform that doubles as an easy chair or bed. In 1973, Switzerland’s Ubald Klug combined diverse elements into ‘lounge landscapes’, comparable to layered topographical models, on which Mick Jagger posed for an advertising shot illustrating the extent to which the concept captured the contemporary zeitgeist. Also in Switzerland, Danish architect and designer Verner Panton, who idiosyncratically fused pop art with design, created a domestic utopia in his own home, which he used as a showroom and laboratory for his experiments. Echoes of this pioneering spirit could be seen at London’s V&A Museum in 20111, when French designers Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec laid a striped field of fabric loungers inside the Raphael Court as part of the London Design Festival. The Textile Field installation covered 240 square metres of the gallery floor and encouraged gallery visitors to sit or even lie down, to contemplate the renaissance artworks exhibited rather than merely to view them.

Works on show in a new exhibition at the Walker in Minneapolis include Ken Isaac’s pioneering The Knowledge Box (1962 > 2009), a room-size chamber where one is immersed in a montage of projected images culled from the popular press. According to the Time Life website ‘built in 1962, [it] predated the internet by three decades — but also hinted at information-gathering techniques that we all use today, everyday, online.’ An integral part of the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas designed potent, hard-hitting artwork for newspaper illustrations, posters and pamphlets that became symbolic of the movement and which inspired many to act are also included. Meanwhile, work by Corita Kent, aka Sister Mary Corita, who gained international fame for her vibrant typographic silk screen prints during the 1960s and 1970s, who was a sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, running the Art Department at a convent until 1968 when she left the order to pursue her commitment to social justice and hope for peace, is featured.

Loosely assembled around the American psychologist, writer and advocate for psychedelic drugs, Timothy Leary’s famous mantra, ‘Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out’, Hippie Modernism: The Struggle for Utopia, at The Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis examines the intersections of art, architecture, and design of the era.

All images courtesy The Walker Art Museum


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The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us that we think might interest you.

The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees that may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier



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