Archive for May, 2011

The Circus is a Wacky Place

Friday, May 27th, 2011

Hubert Hilscher, 1967

As a design student, I was repeatedly told to study Polish poster art. This was in response to my work that was deemed, “too tasty, too polite.” I spent hours looking at these posters and…, nothing. They made no sense to me, and I could not understand what they meant, how they arrived at this odd aesthetic, or what they had to do with my work. Today, I realize the value of these posters. They transcend the expected. They follow an aesthetic that is fearless and non-traditional. And they allow for gesture and passion.

Now I find myself suggesting the same thing to my students. My students come back and say, “Professor Adams, I don’t understand what they have to do with my work.”  To which I say, “Look at them again.”

The CYRK (circus) posters were designed during the golden age of polish posters, from 1962 to 1989. The state commissioned these posters to promote a new, modern circus. The designers followed this assignment with non-literal, suggestive forms. Often, these contained hidden anti-Soviet and anti-Communism symbols.

In all honesty, they still mystify me. I can imagine how Josef Muller-Brockmann designed a poster, or Alvin Lustig, or even Yusaku Kamekura. They are beautiful and mysterious, but are from a culture so far removed from my reality, that Martians might have designed them.

 

from the Lou Danziger Collection

Wiktor Gorka, 1967

Maciej Urbaniec, 1970s

B. Bolianowski, 1976

J. Rozycki, 1975

Jan Mlodozoniec, 1966

Maciej Urbaniec, 1970s

Maciej Urbaniec, 1968

Waldemar Swierzy, 1970s

Waldemar Swierzy, 1970s

Waldemar Swierzy, 1970

Waldemar Swierzy, 1970s

Waldemar Swierzy, 1968

Roman Cieslewicz, 1963

Roman Cieslewicz, 1962

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“Call Me Eunice.”

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

One of the upsides of being obsessive is having perfectly organized drawers. One of the downsides is that I become engrossed in the wrong story. When we read Wuthering Heights in high school I was bored to distraction by Cathy and Heathcliff. Whiney, whiney, whiney. I wanted to know what happened to Heathcliff’s tortured wife, Isabella. Unfortunately, she is only a secondary character and we are left to imagine her story.

The same is true in the case of What’s Up Doc?. Ryan O’Neal and Barbra Streisand play the main characters, Howard Bannister and Judy Maxwell. But, I only care about Madeline Khan’s character Eunice Burns. She has a nice wig, wears good Republican dresses, and is quite concerned about maintaining traditional behavior. Eunice is incredibly annoying and wonderful. And as they say, if someone has dressed with propriety and buttoned every single button, they must have a huge fire inside to be contained.

Eunice: I’m not looking for romance, Howard.
Howard: Oh?
Eunice: No, I’m looking for something more important than that, something stronger. As the years go by, romance fades and something else takes its place. Do you know what that is?
Howard: Senility?
Eunice: Trust!
Howard: That’s what I meant.

I know that I’m supposed to like Ryan O’Neal’s confused professor character and Barbra Streisand’s wacky free spirit, and they’re fine. Unlike Wuthering Heights that leaves me hanging, What’s Up Doc? gives me the satisfaction of knowing Eunice Burns’ fate. I won’t spoil it for you, but let’s just say she wins the big prize. As she should.

 

Dream Small

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Artificial flowers in the balcony planter

I often cheer people on and tell them to dream big. This works well in many instances, but not when you have a difficult planting area. I have a planting box on my north facing balcony. It gets too much sun in the summer, and no sun in the winter. I’ve tried many plants there and they all died or looked like I was purposely torturing them, “Damn you plant. Suffer, suffer!”

So I decided to follow advice I once heard on Strangers With Candy from Dr. Iris Puffybush, “Dreams are a great thing. But they take a lot of energy. But that’s okay, there’s a job waiting for you down the block that doesn’t require a thought in your head, or hope in your heart. So come on down and work at the artificial flower factory. Why fight it?”

I went to Michaels and bought every artificial geranium in the store. This was brave, as the store was filled with zombie like people with tiny shopping carts mindlessly staring at glue options. I cut up some florists styrofoam and inserted my new flowers. Now I have a perfect planting box. In fact, I overheard a neighbor say, “Oh, look, that’s so pretty. They’re so healthy.” And wonderfully, they’ll be just as healthy six months from now.

See how fresh they look

They go well with the artificial grass

Remember, take the easy way

Nervous Tension

Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

When I hear someone complain about a project, I like to remind him or her that every project can be great. You can imagine how many of these people would then like to beat me senseless. In fact, the project that I have in my head when saying this is Piet Zwart’s 1925 catalogue for NKF. Nederlandsche Kabel-Fabriek Delft was an insulated high-tension cable manufacturer. Zwart worked with NKF for ten years. Now, the catalogues should have been dead dull; so dull that you’d slit your own wrists for excitement while reading them. But, Zwart’s work is dynamic, aggressive, clear, and bold. It makes me want to buy insulated high-tension cables.

Zwart pioneered modern typography. He used ideas from de Stijl and constructivism in his graphic design. If you think the insulated cable company was dull, you should see his work for another glamorous and high-end client, the post office, although it was Dutch.

Piet Zwart, NKF, cover, 1928

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

 

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

Piet Zwart, NKF, 1928

The dog will have its day

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Los Angeles Library Foundation invitation, AdamsMorioka, 2011

While I may seem incredibly confident, some may even say smug, I’m always worried about the content of my presentations. Too much eye candy, and the audience is angry they didn’t learn anything. Too little, and the audience is angry and bored. Last Thursday, I spoke at Julia Rheinhard Lupton’s Design Fictions Conference at University of California, Irvine. Julia is Ellen Lupton’s twin sister. This made me feel I felt as though I’d known her for years, and probably scared her as I was a little too friendly. Added to this was the terror of speaking with two noted and smart architectural critics, Geoff Manaugh and Charlie Hailey. The audience, primarily humanities students, was also smart and literate. And I only had my dancing poodle show. Nobody threw anything at me, so I guess it was okay, and the crowd loved the tutu and flaming hoops with Fifi the Wonder Poodle.

While it may seem that life at AdamsMorioka is a full-time exercise is popular culture, bright colors, and endless hilarity, it’s not. Sometimes we even read a book. One of my favorite projects right now is an identity and cross-media system for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Public Library is such a remarkable resource, and the Foundation is committed to creating something innovative and remarkable. I can’t show the identity yet; it’s still in process. But, I can show a little preview with a little 5″x7″, 16-page booklet that served as an invitation to the Annual Gala. More to come as we proceed.

Los Angeles Library Foundation invitation, AdamsMorioka, 2011

Los Angeles Library Foundation invitation, AdamsMorioka, 2011

Los Angeles Library Foundation invitation, AdamsMorioka, 2011

Los Angeles Library Foundation invitation, AdamsMorioka, 2011

Fifi, the Wonder Poodle (courtesy www.gone-2-the-dogs.com)