Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Carl Regehr | Brower Hatcher

Satellite 1982, a blind embossed print, by Carl Regehr

Brower Hatcher’s sculpture detail, Prophecy of the Ancients (1988) at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Photograph by David Versluis.

When I was just starting out as a designer I discovered the art of typography after seeing the work of Carl Regehr (1919-1983) that has resulted, ever since, in my great affection for letters. Regehr is known as a designer and educator as well as being a founder and the art director for Chicago Magazine. I recall Carl’s body of work from a show at RyderGallery, 500 North Dearborn, in Chicago—see the The Chicago Design Archive for examples and documents for information about Regehr. In November 1983, I served The Society of Typographic Arts (STA), as a member, by helping to take down the Regehr show and install the Ken Nimi Design exhibition. But, I knew something about Carl Regehr, the year before, when STA members each received a keepsake—a blind embossed print entitled “Satellite 1982” by Regehr. My print is 92/300 of the edition.

However, while I have the print, unfortunately, I no longer have the lyrical and poetical introduction that Carl wrote, which accompanied the print and expressed his love for letters. However, I’ll try to paraphrase what I remember about it and perhaps get close to the mark.

The overall theme of “Satellite” carried the metaphor that letters, are like stars, which constitute the constellations. All we need to do as graphic designers is to encourage interactivity with our material by reaching-out to the stars to arrange information like a celestial display. In addition, the metaphor may also suggest different cultural meanings of constellations throughout history or about navigating a course by the stars.

Regehr’s introduction generated a spirit of wonder, which is usually the first step in motivating one to reach-out to learning.

Hatcher’s presentation drawing from 1987. Courtesy of the Walker Art Center.

Interestingly, I think Regehr’s print correlates with Brower Hatcher’s sculpture, “Prophecy of the Ancients” (1988), at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden / Walker Art Center. The Walker Art Center Collections and Resources website explains Hatcher’s piece this way:

In 1972 he began work on a series of steel sculptures that incorporated domed roofs. Hatcher makes sculptures that are a cross between sophisticated puzzles for the mind and visionary architecture. His stainless-steel mesh structures seem both whimsical and high tech, filled with floating objects such as turtles, tables, chairs, ladders, numbers, letters, and books. “Prophecy of the Ancients” was commissioned especially for the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and consists of a futuristic wire mesh dome resting on six classical columns. An assortment of disparate objects that suggest cultures both past and present are suspended within the structure of the steel dome. The structure of the dome itself suggests complex constellations or a visual model of space. With this sculpture the artist provides an environment for meditation and thought.
Text for Brower Hatcher, Prophecy of the Ancients (1988), from the curriculum guide The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden: A Garden for All Seasons, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1998.
As a side note, some of Hatcher’s suspended objects are suggestive of Native American Zuni fetishes. On the other hand, Hatcher’s structure is reminiscent of a classical balustraded temple. It’s good to remember that the ancients thought of the earth as surface plane and the sky as the dome (hemisphere) of heaven. Architectural domes, both old and new tend to promote this concept too.


  1. from thirst's Rick Valicenti:


    i wrote a post... but it would not publish...
    i thanked you for rediscovering and sharing Carl's sublime typographic keepsake and closed with these words...
    Ephemera endures longer than one imagines.

    please post the above from your end... and thank you.


  2. I was a student of Carl Regehr in my senior year at The University of Illinois C-U in 1978. Carl had a profound influence on my life and career. He would conduct his course by gathering the class in a circle around him in discussion. At the time he was undergoing chemotherapy for throat cancer and he would share this deeply personal experience with us, not so much emotionally, but as a problem solver, describing the treatment. He deciphered Milton Glasers first book by crypting stick figure drawings of all the ways to solve a visual problem based on the principles of Milton's book and gave it to us a handout. I recently shared this document with Milton and he enjoyed it immensely. Carl, who was raised a Mennonite in Colorado I think, really taught us how to digest any problem in life, be it in design, illustration or even our personal lives. He would invite us to his home and we were in awe of his vast collection of sketchbooks. Upon graduation he supplied all of us with a list of designers and illustrators to go see with his personal referral-supplying us all with such confidence and support. We students adored Carl and I was so fortunate to have known him as my teacher.

  3. Cathie... Thank you so much for taking time to give us your anecdotes and insight about Carl Regehr. As a side, I find Mr. Regehr's upbringing in the Mennonite tradition to be very interesting, mainly, because of the strong Mennonite "peace church" tradition. I'm curious as to how much influence, if any, the Mennonite tradition had on him.

  4. Versiuis, It really was so wonderful to see that you wanted to celebrate Carl here. Every student that had him, revered him. I think Carl's sense of discipline and kindness were a result of his upbringing but I remember having the feeling that leaving the Mennonite's was a difficult but necessary departure for him but it was definately reflected in his work and his generosity as a teacher.

    You inspired me to take out my notebook from his class and here are some of the things I wrote about him in my book: Carl Regehr-an open person that doesn't close himself to anyone or anything. Starts class with thoughts that are personal, then subjects of national and current issues. Works subtly and dislikes TV. Likes Birds.

    Gave us a mantra list of virtues of the designer: 1.Cleanliness is next to Godliness, 2.Reverence 3.Perseverance 4.Good Designers Do Not Cry 4.Vision 5.Arrogance to judge value systems 6.Soul 7.Humor 8.Decide-Pro or Amateur.

    a quote from Carl:
    "Every artist should cut a hole in his drawing board so that he can see whats going on ..on the other side."
    Carl also introduced me to the work of not only Milton but also Tomi Ungerer.

    Thanks for the memories of this great influence!


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