Art Poster

Solid idea. Japan needs us.

Halifax visual artist/designer James White, online as Signal Noise, has been busy printing copies of his poster, “Help Japan”, in response to charity-related orders in the cause of quake victims in Japan. Proceeds have gone to the Canadian Red Cross. The poster deal was promoted on White’s blog, sold out at the Signalnoise Store, with hints of a reprint to come. (via The Inspiration Room)

Aleksander Mikhailovich Rodchenko (5 December 1891 – December 3, 1956) was a Russian artist, sculptor, photographer and graphic designer. He was one of the founders of constructivism and Russian design; he was married to the artist Varvara Stepanova.

Rodchenko was one of the most versatile Constructivist and Productivist artists to emerge after the Russian Revolution. He worked as a painter and graphic designer before turning to photomontage and photography. His photography was socially engaged, formally innovative, and opposed to a painterly aesthetic. Concerned with the need for analytical-documentary photo series, he often shot his subjects from odd angles—usually high above or below—to shock the viewer and to postpone recognition. He wrote: “One has to take several different shots of a subject, from different points of view and in different situations, as if one examined it in the round rather than looked through the same key-hole again and again.”

Rodchenko was born in St. Petersburg to a working class family. His family moved to Kazan in 1909, after the death of his father at which point he studied at the Kazan School of Art under Nikolai Feshin and Georgii Medvedev, and at the Stroganov Institute in Moscow. He made his first abstract drawings, influenced by the Suprematism of Kazimir Malevich, in 1915. The following year, he participated in “The Store” exhibition organized by Vladimir Tatlin, who was another formative influence in his development as an artist. Rodchenko was appointed Director of the Museum Bureau and Purchasing Fund by the Bolshevik Government in 1920. He was responsible for the reorganization of art schools and museums. He taught from 1920 to 1930 at the Higher Technical-Artistic Studios.

In 1921 he became a member of the Productivist group, which advocated the incorporation of art into everyday life. He gave up painting in order to concentrate on graphic design for posters, books, and films. He was deeply influenced by the ideas and practice of the film-maker Dziga Vertov, with whom he worked intensively in 1922. Impressed by the photomontage of the German Dadaists, Rodchenko began his own experiments in the medium, first employing found images in 1923, and from 1924 on shooting his own photographs as well. His first published photomontage illustrated Mayakovsky’s poem, “About This”, in 1923.

From 1923 to 1928 Rodchenko collaborated closely with Mayakovsky (of whom he took several striking portraits) on the design and layout of LEF and Novy LEF, the publications of Constructivist artists. Many of his photographs appeared in or were used as covers for these journals. His images eliminated unnecessary detail, emphasized dynamic diagonal composition, and were concerned with the placement and movement of objects in space. Throughout the 1920s Rodchenko’s work was very abstract. In the 1930s, with the changing Party guidelines governing artistic practice, he concentrated on sports photography and images of parades and other choreographed movements. Rodchenko joined the October circle of artists in 1928 but was expelled three years later being charged with “formalism”. He returned to painting in the late 1930s, stopped photographing in 1942, and produced abstract expressionist works in the 1940s. He continued to organize photography exhibitions for the government during these years. He died in Moscow in 1956.

Much of the work of 20th century graphic designers is a direct result of Rodchenko’s earlier work in the field. His influence has been pervasive enough that it would be nearly impossible to single out all of the designers whose work he has influenced. American conceptual artist Barbara Kruger owes a debt to Rodchenko’s work. His 1924 portrait of Lilya Brik has inspired a number of subsequent works, including the cover art for a number of music albums. Among them are influential Dutch punk band The Ex, which published a series of 7″ vinyl albums, each with a variation on the Lilya Brik portrait theme, the cover of Mike + the Mechanics album Word of Mouth, and the cover of the Franz Ferdinand album You Could Have It So Much Better. The poster for One-Sixth Part of the World was the basis for the cover of “Take Me Out”, also by Franz Ferdinand.

In 1921, Russian avant-garde artist Alexander Rodchenko executed what were arguably some of the first true monochromes (artworks of one color), and proclaimed “I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue, and yellow. I affirmed: this is the end of painting.” These paintings were first displayed in the 5×5=25 exhibition in Moscow. For artists of the Russian Revolution, Rodchenko’s radical action was full of utopian possibility. It marked the end of easel painting – perhaps even the end of art – along with the end of bourgeois norms and practices. It cleared the way for the beginning of a new Russian life, a new mode of production, a new culture. (via Wikipedia)

“For the past five years, Cramer-Krasselt/Milwaukee has partnered with Milwaukee’s Penfield Children’s Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping infants and children reach their full potential, to promote its primary annual fund-raising initiative—The Croquet Ball. Each year, artists are commissioned from around the world to bring their unique vision to the event’s promotional posters. The caliber of talent is widespread, from international artists to local students at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, and each artist brings a distinct perspective and enviable talent to the continuing theme of “Make an Impact. Have an Impact.” The donated illustrations are auctioned off at the event. Illustrators (from top): Red Nose Studio, Agnieszka Wojnar, Catalina Estrada and Lillian Duermeier.” (via Communication Arts)

Resently showed at the Chelsea Space in London was an exhibition exploring the working practice of the late, great Barney Bubbles. The show gave an insight into the imaginative mind of Bubbles, featuring letters, sketches and artwork proposals, alongside finished works. Bubbles’ contribution to graphic design has been increasingly recognised of late, especially since the publication of Paul Gorman’s monograph, Reasons To Be Cheerful: The Life & Work of Barney Bubbles. Gorman curated the exhibition at Chelsea Space, and the show included many items never seen in public before, including Bubbles’ student notebooks and sketchbooks, as well as artwork proposals for bands including Ian Dury, Elvis Costello and The Damned. There were also numerous examples of finished work by Bubbles, demonstrating the prolific nature of his talent. Included were record sleeves and artworks for bands, as well as advertising campaigns for the music press and videos.

Bubbles began working as a graphic designer in the mid-60s, and died in 1983, which, as Gorman pointed out in the notes for the exhibition, was just two months before the introduction of the Apple Mac computer. Alongside being a record of Bubbles’ work, the show was therefore also a fascinating insight into the graphic design process in the pre-digital age. An in-depth text (by an unattributed colleague of Bubbles) on display in the exhibition describes the production methods that Bubbles and other graphic designers of the time used, and the show included a number of PMTs (photo mechanical transfers) by Bubbles, created for preparatory artwork as well as a selection of working proofs, some of which included corrections. The text by Bubbles’ colleague also highlights the designer’s playful approach towards the rigid production processes of the time. “As well as working within its limitations, Barney liked playing with the printing process,” it states. “He enjoyed turning convention on its head by creating imperfections and being open to serendipity. The sleeve of Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ Get Happy!! bore deliberate wear scuffs, and there is a paw smudge on Rockpile’s Seconds Of Pleasure where a cat jumped onto the wet painting.”

Bubbles’ sense of humour arises elsewhere too, particularly in a limited edition version of The Damned’s album Damned Damned Damned, which came complete with a deliberate printing error and an ‘erratum’ sticker stating: “Due to Record Company error, a picture of Island recording artists Eddie & the Hot Rods has been printed instead of The Damned. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and the correct picture will be substituted on future copies.” The complexities of Bubbles’ character are also revealed within the examples of sketchbooks and letters that were displayed at the exhibition. These included self-portraits, lists and both personal and professional correspondence, as well as photographs and concert tickets designed by Bubbles in the 1960s. Bubbles has been cited as an influence on designers from Neville Brody to Peter Saville, and his inventive approach created some of the most striking imagery in 1970s and early 80s pop music. The show at Chelsea Space celebrated this work, while giving an excellent lesson on the practice of graphic design before the arrival of the Mac. (via Creative Review)



From MaxiMídia, a Brazilian company focused on modernizing and developing the communications industry, we get this 1950s retro looking promotional print campaign called “Vintage”. They worked with Moma Propaganda in São Paulo to develop this campaign which is focused on advertising seminars for professionals, introducing them to the new opportunities associated with social networking. The ads shows Skype, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in terms of established technologies which are now old so to speak. I like the conceptual idea and the creative result, but I am not sure if they really hit the spot.

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