Archive for February, 2011


Monday, February 28th, 2011

Libertad Para Angela Davis, Felix Beltran , 1971

I’m square. I’m pretty sure I’m one of the squarest people I know. So when I watch documentaries about the 1960s, I wonder which side I would choose during the culture war. On one side, I think, “Why couldn’t those hippies just conform? They should get a job and a haircut.” On the other side, I think, “Dissent is the basis of democracy, and they had every right to challenge the establishment.” I was four in 1968. I don’t recall being particularly forceful in my political leanings at that age, but I do recall the extreme distance in thinking between my parents and grandparents. And I remember refusing to wear jeans. See, square.

Some of my favorite posters were designed at this time. In many instances, I don’t know who the designer was; they were typically printed quickly and posted around the Haight. They all share a passion, immediacy, and earnest hope for a better future. They often ignored production issues in the race to get the message to the people. Now, don’t get all riled up and think I’m some sort of pinko commie because I like the Che Guevara and Fidel Castro posters. If you know me, you know I’m the farthest thing from a Communist. I’m just shallow and I like the colors.

Che Guevara, A. Rostgaard, 1969

Fuck the Draft, Dirty Linen Corporation, 1968

I Am A Man: Dr. Martin Luther King poster, Designer unknown, 1968

The Byrds for RFK Benefit, Designer Unknown, 1968

Anti-war poster Mexico Olympics, Designer unknown, 1968

Free Angela Davis Now!, Designer unknown, 1971

Fidel Castro, Raul Martinez, 1968

Angels in Malibu

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

I have a reel that I show my first year students at Art Center. It’s a collection of my favorite classic film titles. Of course I have multiple Saul Bass titles, such as Psycho and North by Northwest. I have Stephen Frankfurt’s beautiful sequence for To Kill a Mockingbird, and other incredible examples. I also have the title sequence for Gidget. Why? Because I love Gidget. If you don’t you are probably a Communist. The sequence is pretty cheesy, but perfect. So laugh if you must at my inclusion of Gidget in my Top 10 titles list. Some day, however, Gidget will be recognized as genius. A little bit of trivia: Sally Field played Gidget, and her brother on Brothers and Sisters, Ron Rifkin, played Mel, one of the gang on Gidget.

The Chamber of Dreams

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Camelot poster, Bob Peak, 1968

How many times have you heard, “You know, my parents had that same lamp/mug/sofa. I wish I’d kept it.” Fortunately, I haven’t had that problem. My grandparents saved every shred of paper they ever received. And my mother moves a lot, so you quickly learn that objects are transitory. There is one item, however, that my mother had for years that I now regret not saving. It was a poster for the movie Camelot. Growing up, I thought it was simply a 1960s groovy poster. Now I realize how beautiful it is. The poster was illustrated by Bob Peak and is a remarkable harmony of images and pattern. Since I spent 18 of my formative years with this poster, I find I know every square inch. I need to find out if my mother still has it, and if so, distract her and steal it.

My parents followed the philosophy that children should be exposed to many things and not sheltered. The first movie I remember seeing was Barbarella, followed by Camelot, and The Fox. The Fox is based on a D.H. Lawrence novella. This is’s synopsis: Sickly, chattering Jill Banford and quiet, strong Ellen March are trying, hopelessly, to run a chicken farm in Canada. A gentle but powerful man, Paul Renfield, returns and puts things in order. But his proposal of marriage to Ellen awakens the lesbianism dormant in the girls: Jill uses her weakness to make Ellen feel protective, and the women become active lesbians.

Clearly this was not The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The art for the poster is also incredible. Based on the art for the book jacket, it is symbolic, sensual, and fluid. I may have been exposed to a whole batch of nudity as a 3 year old, but I also had a crash course in beautiful imagery.

Camelot poster detail, Bob Peak, 1968

The Fox book cover, 1967

The Fox poster, Leo and Diane Dillon, 1967

Barbarella poster, 1968

Barbarella poster, 1968

Cabin in the Sky

Friday, February 18th, 2011

PSA Annual Report, 1967

In the 1960s, Branniff Airlines had a groovy thing going on. Alexander Girard designed a great program that made every other airline look boring and sad. But one little company was leaving Branniff in the dust regarding grooviness. Pacific Southwest Airlines was a regional airline on the west coast. Many of us remember the PSA planes with the smile on the front. But do you remember the super-fine uniforms and graphics? Today, I fly American Airlines exclusively. Their uniforms are clean and professional. My sister is an American Airlines flight attendant, and once I mention that on-board, the other flight attendants are extra nice. I guess it’s good to project a business atmosphere on a plane. However, the PSA uniforms are so incredible and bright. Of course, they didn’t project a business atmosphere, unless it was businessmen watching women pole-dancing.

To learn more about PSA, Chris Laborde has a fantastic site dedicated to all things PSA.

PSA uniforms

PSA cabin

PSA uniform

PSA uniforms

PSA in-flight magazine

PSA in-flight magazine

PSA in-flight magazine

PSA in-flight magazine

PSA ticket folders

PSA ticket folders

PSA ticket folders

Color My World

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Joan Miro, Couverture, 1956

Last Monday, I was talking with Clive Piercy about teaching. We both agreed that the most difficult aspect was assuming a student knows something when they don’t. For example, when I talk about PMS, I assume that the class knows I’m talking about ink, not a biological issue. I have learned the hard way this is not the case. I now carefully explain that it is a production issue and I’m not treading on territory where I have no experience. The same is true about certain artists and designers. “You don’t know who Norman Rockwell is? Are you kidding?”

Joan Miro is one of those artists I assume everyone knows. Doesn’t everyone have a parent or intellectual relative who owns a Miro poster? As I’ve recently learned, I might as well have been discussing astronomy to a housecat. Of course, there was a point when I didn’t know Miro either. Once I discovered his work, a new world of shape, scale, color, and spontaneity opened for me.

Here’s Joan Miro in an offensively short description: Joan Miro was a Spanish artist born in 1893. He didn’t align himself with any specific movement, although his work has clear connections to Surrealism and Cubism. He rejected conventional painting and embraced the non-representational. Miro worked in multiple media: printmaking, painting, collage, objects, and sculpture. His bold color usage influenced the development of Color Field painting. His non-objective imagery evolved the Abstract Expressionists. After Miro died in 1983, his work continued to grow in popularity. Today most therapist offices have a Miro poster.

Joan Miro, Barcelona, 1964

Joan Miro, Homage to Dorothea Tanning, 1974

Joan Miro, Derriere Le Miroir. Paris: Maeght, 1965

Joan Miro, Constellations d'une femme assise

Joan Miro, The Bird Flies Away, 1952

Joan Miro, Cahiers d'Art issue No. 4-5, 1937

Joan Miro, Le Signe de la mort, 1927

Joan Miró: Catalan Landscape (The Hunter), 1923-24

Man Ray, Joan Miro, 1935