Empire of the Sun

I once was asked to think of an idea for a monument for the city of Los Angeles. The last thing I thought LA needed was a big metal something that would fall down in an earthquake. I suggested a television station that would run every episode of Chips continuously. It would be the Chips Channel. The idea was oddly rejected.

I don't know why, but I record Chips on my Tivo and watch it daily. I also watch The Donna Reed Show but that's just a weird Pleasantville thing. Yes, Chips has remarkably thin plots and everything is solved in the last 3 minutes, but there are car chases that end with explosions and cars on their side in every episode. That doesn't happen every day in real life here. To get a car on its side and blow up requires a ramp and explosives. There is something kind of great about it.

I love how horrible Los Angeles looks on Chips. If you don't live here, you probably are saying, "Doesn't it still?" But in the 1970s on Chips the smog was far worse, there were endless streets of odd stores and car washes, and really crappy cars blowing up. It looks so bleak and desolate filled with empty freeways and the blazing white sun.

The other surprising elements are the pants and hair. Everyone has pants that are way too tight. I remember having pants like that myself in high school. I was also desperate for groovy hair that parted in the middle, but mine was wavy, thick, parted on the side, and grew out like Sideshow Bob.

The History of Joy

As some of you know, my most recent course on Lynda.com launched yesterday. This one, Fundamentals of Graphic Design History, was incredibly fun to make. I was challenged to create a course that would provide the basics of design history and make it interesting. I could have gone down the track of, "This is a poster by Jean Carlu in 1929. It has an umbrella. Next slide." But I'm interested in why Jean Carlu made this poster, what was happening culturally, and why it works.

I assume most people think about history as a horrible task, tainted by boring lectures on the War of 1812 in high school. So, how could I make this subject relevant and communicate my passion for the subject. No I don't jump up and down and get overly excited. I simply laid out the facts. The more you see, the larger your visual vocabulary adds to your design skills. It's as if writers were told to not bother reading Dickens or Twain. "Oh don't bother with those, they're old. Just read wikipedia. That's good enough for a writing education."

There's also the joy factor. We all share that same feeling of pleasure when we see something wonderful or discover a new idea. So I designed the course to explain what was happening politically and culturally and how that led to the choices made in design. Why did the Bauhaus designers reject decoration? Why did the Fillmore posters refer to Alice in Wonderland? Why did the Nazis barge into Jan Tschichold's apartment and arrest him and his wife?

Of course there is another version, the Vanity Fair course, that has all the secrets and juicy rumors. But that will need to wait until I'm older or can make up stuff and not get caught.

Tunnel of Love

People say the 1950s were uptight and squeaky clean. But if you've seen Pillow Talk or Lover Come Back, it's clear that people had filthy minds. They are both filled with innuendo and shocking comments. Both have the same plot: Rock Hudson and Doris Day hate each other, but only know each other by talking on the phone; they've never met. When he sees her in person, he takes on a false identity to woo her. She falls in love with the fake version and he subtly convinces her to have sex/get married. That part's a little murky. She's a good girl and seems petrified of any sexual situation. I think she was supposed to be a virgin, since she's unmarried. But she's a little long in the tooth for that. So it appears that she has a psychological issue such as repressed memory or PTSD.

Lover Come Back takes place in the advertising world. It's one of those great Hollywood versions where campaigns are fully develop, products are redesigned, and copious research happens in an hour. I love the idea of an "Ad Council" that is a court determining ethical issues and can eject someone from the advertising world. I don't that's legal, and certainly wouldn't fly with AIGA. But, there's still time and I could do something especially heinous.

Plastic Fantastic Wonderland

I've noticed that every concept car I see looks the same; sort of a swoopy Prius like car with very little headroom. I don't think I want one of these in the future. I want the rounded car with lots of headroom in Sleeper. Granted there are problems with the tiny sliver of a window and it would no doubt bottom out on the easiest of bumps, but it's pretty swell. I also like the pod-like cars on Logan's Run. Again, the lack of a steering wheel, seat belts, or any radio could be an issue, but cool design trumps these.

Dale Hennesy was the production designer on Logan's Run and Sleeper. Both of these have that distinct glossy and slick 1970s futuristic vision. Plastic is big. Chrome is hip. All white interiors like an Apple store or the new Enterprise work well. The furniture is made for awkward lounging and would clearly pose problems when it was time to stand up. Also, it must be quite temperate in the future. The people in Logan's Run seem to wear draping silk scarves as clothing and are really into those low socks. In this story, people are killed at 30 to maintain population control. Given the lack of arch-support if you only wear socks, this is a positive. Otherwise these people would be limping around at 40.

Most importantly, I appreciate the Garanimals approach to clothes. Monochrome is big. Nobody has clashing patterns or colors. Everyone is very matchy matchy. Perhaps people go home and change into plaid pants and flower patterned shirts in private.

The People's Post

  NOLA, No. 16

A couple of years ago, somebody went on a rant on a website about the graphic design profession. This person named a batch of designers, myself included, who they considered the establishment that was holding him or her down. They insisted that the time was coming soon when we would all be the first ones lined up against the wall. I rather liked the idea that I would be put in front of a firing squad because I had the wrong group of friends, or perhaps used Franklin Gothic one too many times.

I've been reading Geoff Kaplan's book, Power to the People. Now to remind everyone, I was not raised on Nantucket, I lived on the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park at the height of the counter-culture movement (1965-1970). Don't get too excited, I was in pre-school. This exposure to radical revolutionary ideas and eccentric characters has left me with a mistrust of anything named "People." People's Park, People's Bank, People's Taxi and People's Co-op are simply code for socialism. Yes, now you know so be careful with the organic food from "People's Farms". I did, however like Geoff's book.

There is wonderful collection of underground design created by civilians. They rejected the look of expertise, Swiss typography, and Madison Avenue gloss, as part of the establishment. The proliferation of cheap reproduction technologies and DIY materials like Letraset allowed non-designers to create work that was concerned with the message over form. We look at this work now as quaint and naive. It has the same sentimental sense of nostalgia as a handmade book of recipes from a church bake sale. It is, however, hard to ignore the intensity of belief displayed here. The raw expression isn't tainted by a decorative or professional graphic design veneer. But, most of these people were probably socialists.

Sean, 1967, San Francisco

img014 img012 img013 img010 NOLA img015 img011

Missionary Position

AIGA article, U&LC magazine 1975

Some of you are probably aware that AIGA has been working on some primary issues for the last several months. The future of the organization, whether the headquarters building should be sold, and a multitude of other issues have been debated vigorously across 67 chapters and 23,000 members. Many of you have sent me kind notes, worried that the stress is getting to me. In all honesty, and this is probably not something I should divulge, I'm not that stressed. First, I know we'll end up in a good place. Second, between the national board, advisory board, and chapter leadership I have the smartest people in the industry working on this. And, third, genetics must be at play. Yes, it's important, but it's not founding a nation.

I found an old issue of U&LC from 1975. It has an interesting article from AIGA about typeface copyright protection. I like that it's set in justified, tightly leaded Tiffany. If a typeface needs protection, it's Tiffany. It's sort of the fat friend who dresses a little too glitzy. I'm also struck by the extreme niche subject matter. It was a time when AIGA was primarily a small New York club with 1700 members. An issue like typeface protection merited a whole page. And I now believe AIGA should drop the current clear and classic logo and go to the Tiffany solution.

 

AIGA article, U&LC magazine 1975

U&LC magazine 1975

Blood on the Walls

Black Flag, CalArts 1982

When I was at CalArts, the older crowd complained that things were never as fun as the "old days." But they seemed wacky enough to me. We knew to not drink any punch at an opening or party as it was laced with LSD. The pool had a clothing optional policy which was enjoyed, of course, by those who should not be naked. My dorm room was right about the jacuzzi which made me privy to conversations each evening, two people shout ing over the bubbling water, "What school are you in?" and "Do you want to come to my room?" The jacuzzi was quickly renamed the jiz-cuzzi.

During one class in a small windowless classroom, the punk group Black Flag came to play a gig. We all sat in our desk/chairs while they set up. Obviously, when they started, it was quite loud. Small classroom are not a typical punk rock concert venue. As Henry Rollins ran toward the class shouting and waving his microphone, everyone stood up and ran to the back of the room. When he retreated back to the stage, we slowly returned to our desks, and again jumped and ran as he moved into the room. Oh yeah, we were cool, but this proved we were all just white suburban punks.

For some reason, one woman who was sitting in the front row of desks refused to budge. She wasn't doing this because she was a major Black Flag fan. Her art centered on hard core feminist themes, so I imagine it was in protest, or as an act of resistance. Unfortunately for her, Rollins took this as a challenge and repeatedly shoved his crotch into her face. At the same time he slammed the microphone against his head until it was bleeding. So she sat there, resistant, while having a crotch thrusting and blood flying around her. Now that was fun.

 

My friend Peter Grant and I, CalArts, 1982

My friend Erica and I, Bob's Big Boy, 1982

Last Chance, For Love

Before I moved to Los Angeles when I was 18, my only perception of the city was through television and movies. I imagined the valley to be like the Brady Bunch or Adam 12. The beach communities were a hotbed of swinging singles and fern bars like Three's Company. Hollywood was a place where teenage runaways became prostitutes and got syphilis via Dawn, Portrait of a Teenage Runaway. West Hollywood was incredibly hip and the center of disco and cocaine as in Thank God It's Friday.

If you are old enough to remember drive-in theaters, Thank God It's Friday is a movie that you would see at one. I think I saw it with some older cousins at a drive-in theater on the border of Reno and Sparks. It was a double bill with Corvette Summer. The only parts of the plot I recall is Donna Summer wanting to sing, the dance floor had a giant spherical DJ Booth, and everyone was rather seedy. It all seemed very dangerous and slick.

By the time I was in college, the disco in TGIF was still there, but was a rock and roll venue. There was also a restaurant with a big whale's mouth across the street. Today, I drive through this intersection every morning. Unfortunately, a hideous Loehmann's and bizarre upscale apartment building replaced the Fish Shanty and Oskars disco.

People in New York complain that neighborhoods are too gentrified and sanitized. They miss the urban danger and grit. In Los Angeles, the gentrification has taken away something more precious: glamorous disco glitter, rows of gas guzzling rust colored Cadillacs, lines of people in sequins and parachute pants, and restaurants with hungry whale entrances.

TGIF

slick leather outfit

TGIF title

TGIF poster

 

 

 

The Millionaire's Club (pre-Oskars)

Oskars replacement: Loehmanns

the intersection

New apartment where Fish Shanty was

Fish Shanty

The 59th Street Bridge Song

Hills Bros. Coffee Menu  

Last week, the crew in the studio allowed me to link to the stereo system and play music from my library. After a few hours of easy listening after the Longines Symphonette played Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head, it was disconnected. Now there is a ban on my hip tunes. In the same vein, I can prove I'm super groovy by sharing these out of this world pieces from Disneyland in the late 60s and early 70s. You might think, "Oh, Disneyland. How square." But check it out dude, this stuff is rocking. Who knew wacky duo-tones and overprinting could be so swell?

Now if we deconstruct the genesis of this style we land in a place about counter-culture mind-altering drug use. I'm sure some guests insisted on taking psychotropic substances and riding Alice in Wonderland. I remember smelling pot in Adventure Thru Inner Space when I was a teenager. I once had a friend suggest we all go to Disneyland and get high. I said no of course. That just sounds un-American. But, I have collected the cool and happening graphics. I'm groovy.

 

Hills Bros. Coffee Menu

Show logo

Grad Nite  1971

Grad Nite 1971

Disneyland Cookbook, late 1960s

Disneyland Bag

Vacationland, 1981

Grad Nite 1970

Grad Nite 1975

Grad Nite 1971

Grad Nite 1971

Grad Nite 1968

69 68b 68

Jai Guru Deva. Om

 

I like the news. Last week CNN aired Our Nixon, a collection of home-movies and media reports from President Nixon's administration. It's not like I was enthralled, wondering where the plot led. Sorry for the ruining the ending, but Nixon leaves office after the Watergate scandal.

At the height of the Vietnam War, Nixon invited the über square group, the Ray Conniff Singers to the White House. President Nixon said, "And if the music is square, it's because I like it square." Oddly, I might say that, which scares me. Carol Feraci, one of the Ray Conniff Singers, hid a message reading, "Stop the Killing" in her dress. Once she walked on stage she removed it and said, "President Nixon, stop bombing human beings, animals and vegetation. You go to church on Sundays and pray to Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ were here tonight, you would not dare to drop another bomb. Bless the Berrigans and bless Daniel Ellsberg." Then she and the group break into a super saccharin rendition of Ma! He's Making Eyes at me.

The response from the room after the group finished included comments like, "She should be torn limb from limb."

The salient moment here is the time between the speech from Feraci and the start of the music. The schizophrenia of the time is remarkably obvious. A revolutionary response to an unpopular war is thrown at the audience with clear language about death and reality. Seconds later, this is swept away and replaced with music that is intended to sanitize and sedate. It is astonishing to see the obvious desperation here with everyone: the desperate revolutionary act, and the frantic desire to shut reality out.

Kent State University, Ohio, May 4, 1970

Ray Conniff, Friendly Persuasion

A Disquieting Metamorphosis

One of my favorite houses is the fictional house in North By Northwest, owned by spymaster and villain, James Mason. The building is structurally impossible, and is a symphony of glass, flagstone, and steel. It is telling that the bad guy lives in a modernist avant-garde house. He is also British. If you pay attention, you will notice that movie villains in the 1950s are almost always European and live in modern houses. The hero, or typical American protagonist, lives in a traditional colonial house with a wife and children. Why is that?

Think of it this way: modernism was a European construct before 1945. In the 1950s, Americans looked back into the past and European modernism and rejected it. The past represented the depression and World War I and II. Due to the Nazi party’s concept of a utopian society, any European utopian movement, including high modernism, was deemed suspicious. House Beautiful editor, Elizabeth Gordon, recognized this and waged a war against all modernist residential architects. She understood the consumerist needs of the public and knew her audience wanted to buy things. The photographs she commissioned from Maynard Parker support the agenda she called, “The Station Wagon Way of Life.”

Parker’s images are traditional, filled with paintings, furniture, objects, and the human element. Whereas Julius Shulman’s photographs celebrate the minimalist form, Parker’s celebrate the post-war traditional domestic sphere. The inside-outside concept of California living is represented often. The images are casual and have no sense of elitism. At their best, they are playful, fresh, and authentic. Jennifer Watts’ book, Maynard L. Parker: Modern Photography and the American Dream is a beautiful collection of Parker’s work. Jennifer A. Watts, is the photography curator at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, and oversees the Huntington’s vast Parker archive

 

This, however, is not a simple appreciation for a group of cheerful 1950s domestic scenes. While most of the photographs feel optimistic and light, there is a subset of images that reads differently for me. When I look at the empty rooms, dark corners, and incessant domesticity, I think, not of Leave it to Beaver, but of Herb and Bonnie May Clutter’s Kansas house (Truman Capote, In Cold Blood). There is something that is airless, stifling, and relentless in certain photographs.

 

Parker images courtesy Huntington Library, Photo Archive

When not choking is good

Tomorrow, Thursday December 6, at 11am PST, 2:00 pm EST I'll be hosting a webcast about AIGA's 100 year history. "Boy, Sean," you say, "That sounds as interesting as a lecture about the history of the UAW." And, if it weren't for the incredible images, you might be correct. The difference is the design solutions created by the nation's leading designers over a century. They didn't design an ordinary poster or publication. These pieces ended up in the hands of their peers, and we know that designers often can have opinions. I've had the experience of asking a designer to create something for AIGA, and then watch them choke. There is something about the pressure that all of your friends, enemies, and heroes will see it. That's understandable. But, the opposite is true. When they succeed they create work that is often some of the best pieces of their career. So, if you want to see some pretty nifty design, and you don't mind listening to me blather on about history, join intomorrow, http://www.aiga.org/webcast-100-years/.

 

 

 

Putting the Gloss onto Glossy

Lately, I’m missing shiny. After two decades of adhering to the flat world, I’ve begun to admire the shiny stuff. For years, clients asked for shiny and sparkly type in three dimensions on every motion design project. Of course, we didn’t do that. We took the opposite point of view, focusing on the simple forms and lack of ostentation. So, why now, am I drawn to airbrush illustration of the 1970s and 80s? Everything in these images is so clean. Even skin is glossy because it’s so pure.

I assume the crystal clear, high gloss approach was a reaction against the earthy and organic design of the 1970s. Much of the airbrush work was done for the music industry at the time. The crunchy political music was replaced by slick disco that celebrated hedonism. So it makes sense that the illustration would also celebrate a slick veneer and present sex, fast cars, and youth as the subjects.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that our Eames conference table at the studio was too matte. Somebody had repeatedly cleaned it with 409 or Windex. That’s not so good with wood. So I brought in my trusty wood oils and wax. After one application of oil, the table still seemed dry and flat, so I flooded the surface with it. “I’ll let this sit overnight and soak in,” I thought. Unfortunately, I didn’t count on someone using the conference room for a meeting. Since I am one of the owners, I couldn’t be fired. But, if I weren’t, oh boy I’d be out the door fast. People don’t like oil soaking onto their shirts and presentations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Thousand Pelts in the Bins

At lunch today, we discussed which fiction books changed each of our lives. People talked about Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Play It as It Lays by Joan Didion, anything by Walt Whitman, and The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald. When the group asked me to list my top three, I admit I was ashamed to admit the truth. “Hmm, well, hmm,” I said in a scholarly tone, “I'm quite fond of anything by Raymond Carver. And, of course, Grace Paley.” I did not tell the whole truth. Yes, I do like Raymond Carver, but one of my favorite books is one I had at my grandparents’ house. It’s The Knockabout Club Alongshore by C.A. Stephens. It doesn’t have interesting symbols, metaphors, or complex narrative structure. It’s a standard issue boy’s adventure book about “The adventures of a party of young men on a trip from Boston to the land of the midnight sun.”

I know every page and spent hours as a kid staring at the maps of Nova Scotia and etchings of sailing adventures. The Knockabout Club was published in 1883. No, I did not read it when it was first released. When you’re eight, and there are icebergs, polar bears, Vikings, and the northern lights the publication date doesn’t matter.

            The deck—when we were able to catch sight of it for “skulps” (seal cub scalps)—was almost slippery with gore.

Lines like these are thrilling to any young boy. No worries, I do recognize now that clubbing seal cubs for scalps is not okay. I look at the book now, and am impressed with the actual design. The bright cover screams sailing adventure. I love the detailed initial caps, or in some instances, initial words. For years, I’ve wanted to go to Antarctica. Now I know the genesis of this desire. I am, however, a little confused as to why my grandparents gave me a book from 1883 to read while my friends were reading Deathwatch.

 

The Petrified Fountain of Thought

Jean Cocteau’s La belle et la bête is one of the most beautiful films ever produced. If you think it is simply a black and white version of the Disney Beauty and the Beast, yes, you are wrong. Cocteau’s 1946 creation is soft, dreamlike, and romantic. It touches on surrealism, Jungian, and Freudian psychology. Each frame is sublime, yet compositionally erratic. Figures are askew, foreground objects hide the main action, and lighting is intentionally operatic. The intention is to create a narrative that is similar to a dream: symbols and the hidden information produce meaning.

The overt theme is that there is good in everyone. However, the characters all behave, at times, cruelly. The Cocteau version is about complex and contradictory behavior. There is subterfuge, hidden agenda, and betrayal mixed with compassion and kindness. Understanding the timing here is important. Cocteau produced La belle et la bête one year after the end of World War II. France was recovering from Nazi occupation, the puppet Vichy Regime, and years of combat. The war forced the French population into complex and unwelcome alliances to survive. The story can be viewed as one of understanding and sensitivity, or a Stockholm syndrome kidnapping. The duality mixed with the surreal set of symbols sets this apart from a simple fairy tale.

The Still Room of Quiet

I like to think of the 1950s and early 60s as some kind of wonderful “Pleasantville” experience. I imagine I’d wear my letterman’s jacket, do well in school, and come home in time for cookies, milk, and an early bedtime. It would all be so well ordered and clear. Recently, I found a box of slides at my grandparents’ house. I sent it out to be digitized and was rather alarmed when I looked at them on screen. They must have been taken around 1963. There is an image of President Kennedy’s funeral on the television. Some of the photos are at my great grandparents’ anniversary party. Others are at an unknown social event.

The upside is the television tray usage. I still have those TV trays. I use them at home with family, but didn’t realize they were appropriate for a party. Now I see how handy they can be. The downside is the subtext in every image of restrained frustration. Nobody looks comfortable. Everyone looks like they could use a stiff martini. I imagine the polite chatter, “Bob, how’s your golf game these days,” “Betty, I loved the coffee cake,” “Could you be more proud of Sherman, valedictorian?” But I’ve seen enough movies to know that everyone goes home drinks too much, cries, and screams. I hope. Otherwise there’s a whole lot o’ suppressed issues here.

This is a glimpse into the reality of the late 1950s. There was no room for differences or individuality. God forbid someone was African-American, Asian, gay, or just a little odd. Somehow this seems obvious on an episode of American Experience, but these slides made it real for me. It clarified why, several years later, my parents dropped out and moved to the Haight. And why there was so much tension between my parents and my grandparents, and I was somewhere in the middle.

Leaving My Behind in the Past

I’ve been thinking about the lyrics to the B-52s song, The Detour Thru Your Mind: I need to leave my past behind. I need to leave my behind in the past. Whenever I work on my historical self-portrait project, I think, “I have to stop this. It’s disturbing and points to insanity. I need to leave the past and move into the 21st century.” Then, I find a new technique to simulate photo grain in 1916 and start again. Some of you may be saying, “This is the most vain thing I have ever seen. How could someone be so self-absorbed?” Others might say, “Sad. Very sad when I mind is lost.”

You know how trans-gendered people feel like they are in the wrong body? I feel like I’m in the wrong time. Working on these images is a small attempt to place myself back in the right temporal place. Of course, I only use family photos. Otherwise it wouldn’t make any sense. I don’t want a different family. And, frankly, it looks fun to spend life summering in Newport and doing the European tour for four months each year, or running for president, or starting an artist colony in Big Sur during the depression. So, for your enjoyment, like watching a reality show when someone slowly goes mad, here is the latest batch.

Walking in Space

I’m pretty sure people are who they are when they are born. My parents were firmly entrenched in the counter-culture movement. I refused to wear jeans when I was 4 because they were what those “dirty people” wore. It sounds kind of prissy to me now. I liked grey flannel trousers like my grandfather’s. When I was 8, my mother started giving rides to hitchhiking hippies. “Mom,” I would plead, “This is illegal. They might be ax murderers.”

In particular, there was a hippie lesbian couple with three kids who were always hitchhiking on their way to Lake Tahoe or Truckee. Once a week, we’d see them standing near the entrance ramp and pick them up. I was sure they had kidnapped the kids, had dope in their bags, and probably committed countless other crimes. My mother insisted they weren’t ax murderers and I should be polite to everyone.

So I sat in the back of the station wagon with a peace sticker on the window, wearing my trousers and button down shirt, shocked by the free spirit of the hitchhiking family. I’m sure they thought my parents must have kidnapped me from an uptight square family.

The East Village Other, February 1971

For Purple Mountain Majesties

It’s hard to imagine a time when the government actually promoted the graphic arts. Yes, it’s true. It was once considered a respectable vocation, not just a haven for leftist intellectuals. Between 1935 and 1943, the Federal Art Project was created to encourage American design and art. It was part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal Works Progress Administration. The federal government created the WPA to help restore the economy during the Great Depression by employing Americans in every industry. Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn this into a lengthy essay on the ramifications and legacies of this leading to Johnson’s Great Society. Let’s stick to the travel posters; they’re a safer subject.

These posters promoted travel in the United States. They take advantage of the limited printing technologies available and use simple shapes to create depth. The colors are unexpected, but never seem incorrect. The Grand Canyon is a study in pink and purple. Lassen Volcanic National Park's poster has a plum colored lake and avocado green sky. Often, the posters employ a strong foreground and extreme shadows. The result is a dramatic and grand landscape similar to a Bierstadt painting. The attraction posters at Disneyland designed 20 years later, employee the same techniques.

What is remarkable to me is the clarity of each poster. They each have a strong point of view and do not appear to be designed by a committee. But, the federal government was the client, so maybe every poster was subjected to 100 committees suggesting a nice blue sky, some culturally, age, and racially diverse happy people, representation of all the available activities, colors that are more lifelike, and more detail. After all, will anyone be able to recognize the blue shapes on the left as mountains?

Welcome to the World of Love

I was pulling together some postings from this blog yesterday for a book Steven Heller is writing. This led me to discover a predominance of posts about counter-culture in the 1960s. Who knew? I’m really square, so I found this odd. Nevertheless, I decided to avoid posts in this vein for a while. Then I found this Call for Entries for the New York Art Directors Club (now the Art Directors Club). Peter Max designed it in 1964. Yes, this is about counter-culture, specifically the psychedelic experience. The collage device refers to Victorian decoupage, Picasso, Matisse, and the Dada movement. The booklet could fall into the trap that much of today’s “collage” approach does, a mishigas of more mishigas.

The strict use of typography and tight composition, however, give it gravity and allows the imagery to take center stage. The spread with the Victorian people looking at the psychedelic cloud is remarkable. It is such a simple juxtaposition, but alludes to so many issues, including the Victorian taste for psychotropic drugs such as opium (see Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland). Allusions aside, the composition is about wonder and different perspectives. So, you see, I had to post another one about counter-culture.