Saturday, February 26, 2011

Andy Warhol and the parodic model

The Dordt College 2011 Annual Junior Art Show poster was designed by Ellie Dykstra and others with photography by Annemarie Osinga.

This year’s Junior Art Show poster is an imaginative parody of the parody by referencing Pop artist Andy Warhol’s reproduction of media stars. It may seem obvious, but the art show poster is based on the parody of multiples in Warhol’s Hollywood imago pieces of the 60s and 70s, which he serigraphed photos taken from glossy magazines. The junior students are using pseudo serigraphy from Adobe Photoshop, but I enjoy the colors and density of typed information in the poster layout. In addition, what I appreciate about the Dordt Student’s poster is expressed by the tongue-in-cheek attitude and bright toothy smiles that critique and mimic Warhol’s work but without the mockery, which seems to characterize much of postmodern art parody. The poster is filled with signs of life, energy, and enthusiasm without the inanimate vacuity sometimes associated with Warhol’s Pop art. [1]

This poster, besides being fun, is also about the relationship of images and their originals.
  1. Kearney, Richard. The Wake of Imagination. London: Century Hutchinson Ltd. and Routledge, 1988. 254-397. Print.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The close affinity of advertising and art in Holland

In the background of this photograph is the Amsterdam Centraal Train Station as it faces the city centrum. One arrives on the Metro and enters through the station and into the city, which is an interesting transition. Photo by versluis, March 2004.

The extended contemporary billboard contrasts strikingly against the 19th century Neo-Renaissance and Neo-Gothic style architecture. The train station was designed by Pierre Cuypers and A. L. van Gendt, and opened to the public in 1889. The billboard functions as both advertising art space and for covering the back of kiosks of various vendors. Apparently the tour boat is docked because of lack of space somewhere else.

It seems the billboard advertisement or art photography is related to a photo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum or is it promoting men’s outerwear? Perhaps the display suggests “The Old Man and the Sea” theme of body and spirit. The photography sequence describes both the external ocean atmosphere, but also the inner landscape within the soul. The result is when advertising alludes to art and visa versa. However, on the other hand, perhaps the mural is suggesting worries about global sea level rise.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Laurens Jansz Koster (or Coster) (1370-1440) and Johann Gutenberg

Photograph by versluis © 2011

In the market-place of the city of Haarlem, The Netherlands, adjacent to the great St. Bavo Church stands a bronze statue of Laurens Jansz Koster, who apparently was the first European to print with movable type. In his hand he holds up the letter “A”, representing this fact in that Alpha (beginning) is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. The base of the statue has this Latin inscription: Memor’uc sacrum Typographia, are artiuin omnium coneervutrix, hir. primum invenla, circa annum 1440.

Obviously, Johann Gutenberg is known as the originator of movable type and the beginning of modern Western printing. In 1450 he produced the first typographic book (1). However, running contrary to this fact is that for centuries the Dutch in Haarlem have claimed and honored Koster as the first European to print books using movable type. Never mind that the Chinese and perhaps the Koreans were developing movable type characters around 1040 A.D., 500 years before Gutenberg (2).

According to Gutenberg expert Albert Kapr:

A monument still stands in Haarlem’s Grote Markt to the ‘inventor of the art of printing’. The Frans Hals Museum in the Groot Heiligland has a fine collection of blockbooks and prefigurations of printing from movable type, including copies of the Biblia pauperum and Donatus, an Abecedarium, a Septem vitia mortalia [Seven Deadly Sins], and the previously mentioned Spieghel onzer behoudenisse. In the Vleeshal, where the Enschedé Museum is housed, reposes an over-lifesize sculpture of Laurens Janszoon Coster, who holds a piece of type, and Hadrianus Junius, book in hand. The Coster legend lives on. (3)
As an aside, my mother’s maiden name is Koster; very likely no relation, but I like to think that there is.

For a brief biography of Koster please see Koster, Or Coster.
  1. Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. 2nd ed. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992. 65. Print.
  2. Ibid. 28.
  3. Kapr, Albert. Johannes Gutenberg: Persönlichkeit und Leistung. Trans. Douglas Martin. Brookfield, Vermont: Ashgate Publishing Company, 1996. 106. Print.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

“Print + Environmental Graphic Design” — a presentation by Sarah Franken

Photograph of Sarah Franken beginning her presentation. Photograph by versluis © 2011

On Wednesday 9 February a group of us from the AIGA Dordt student group gathered to participate in the presentation by Dordt College alumna Sarah Franken. Sarah’s topic conveyed her experiences working since graduating from Dordt as an Environmental Graphic Designer.

The web site for the Society for Environmental Graphic Design (SEGD) describes Environmental Graphic Design this way:

Environmental Graphic Design embraces many design disciplines including graphic, architectural, interior, landscape, and industrial design, all concerned with the visual aspects of wayfinding. [In addition,] the SEGD is the global community of people working at the intersection of communication design and the built environment and dedicated to communicating identity and information, and shaping the idea of place.
Dordt’s adjunct instructor in web design, Matt Van Rys, graciously provided notes on Sarah’s presentation, which we are publishing here:

Sarah Franken is a gifted graphic designer with unique experience in exhibition design.

Sarah is a 2006 Dordt graduate. While at Dordt, Sarah spent the spring semester of her junior year attending Chicago Semester; looking for some interesting experiences in the big city, being a small town Sioux Center native. Many art students at Dordt who use this opportunity gain excellent experience. Shortly after graduating, Sarah began working as a full time member of the Field Museum’s Exhibition Department in the Graphic Design division.

Sarah’s work as a member of The Field Museum design team had special emphasis on gallery/exhibition environmental design. The Field Museum is part of Chicago’s Museum Campus, which includes The Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium, the Shedd Aquarium and Soldier Field. This is an active area, full of tourists, located along the shore of Lake Michigan.

Sarah shared some of the process of exhibition design. One of the main components is to understand the hierarchy of information. The curators, 3D designers and graphic designers are all responsible for maintaining this hierarchy. The hierarchy usually begins with the entrance to the exhibition, the “attractor area,” to draw visitors in. The entrance often includes a signpost of information that is repeated later in the exhibition when the visitor transfers from one gallery to another, within the overall exhibition. Changing galleries also involves other visual shifts, such as carpet color or changing other graphic elements. In addition, the planning process involves figuring out what the voice of the exhibition needs to be.

Sarah described what an exhibition team would consist of: a project manager, 3D designer, graphic designers, production manager (budget and building), developers (information/writing), builders, media team (web, video and projections); about 10 people, give or take. This group of people can end up working together anywhere from 1 to 3 years depending if an exhibition is temporary or permanent or on the size and complexity of an exhibition. Once the donors, curators, researchers and other planning parties determine the direction of the exhibition, the team begins concepting the 3D space. Using the hierarchy of information they begin the designing. Sarah mentioned that quite often much of the graphics come together in the last six months before the installation and opening of an exhibition. In addition, the graphics department is heavily involved with the additional printed and web collateral for promoting the exhibition. When she started out in exhibition design, her job consisted of about 80% production work, 20% design. But Sarah notes that this is key for building the skills to be a technically stronger designer. She suggests that if you have an internship opportunity, use your time to learn by asking questions and by being a polite nuisance.

Sarah expressed that one of the rewarding parts of exhibition design is sifting through the information while designing and then ultimately watching the visitors interacting with the exhibition; absorbing, learning and sharing with the artist and the museum. Other highlights include working with large format printing and unique substrates, working with show installers and suppliers and understanding how lighting a 3D space, such as a gallery, vastly changes the impact of the space and how the visitor perceives it.

Although Sarah doesn’t work at The Field Museum anymore, she recently began working for the Science Museum of Minnesota designing exhibitions for various institutions around the country.

Some of the exhibitions Sarah designed:

In March 2007, “The Ancient Americas” permanent exhibition opened. This was the first major exhibition Sarah worked on for the Field Museum. Permanent exhibitions are a big deal, as they often take 2-4 years of work by the design team and are kept in the museum for several years, sometimes up to 20. For “The Ancient Americas,” Sarah was primarily a production designer, taking direction from her Lead Designer, working up the graphics within the established structure.

The next large exhibition Sarah worked on was “The Aztec World”. Sarah was involved from the beginning as co-designer and played a key role in determining the overall design of the exhibition and branding elements. One of the key elements of the design was a signature color, turquoise. This color was used to it’s largest impact by creating a 45 ft wide Styrofoam “slab” of turquoise at the entrance to the gallery.

Sarah’s first solo exhibition as Lead Designer was an exhibition of The Field Museum’s Chinese Rubbings collection, called “Lasting Impressions”. The Field Museum’s collection is the largest and best outside of East Asia. One of the challenges of this exhibition was presenting the rubbings in a budget-friendly way that would allow them to be rolled up and stored later. The solution was a large acrylic frame, creating shadow boxes with magnets holding the rubbings in place.

To see examples of Sarah’s superb print design and exhibition design, visit her on-line portfolio.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Bernbach formula: a visual/verbal fusion

This is the 5th carbon — how come you’re still making carbon copies?

Xerox print ad published in Time magazine, February 26, 1965
from the collection of David Versluis

Negative space successfully emphasizes the image and headline while the visual weight at the bottom third of the page draws the viewer to the text and signature. While I’m not certain this is a Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) print ad it does seems to model the Bernbach formula.

In Philip B. Meggs’s important book on graphic design history he wrote:
A synergistic relationship between visual and verbal components is established.… [In mid-twentieth century advertising] Bernbach and his colleagues smashed through the boundaries separating verbal and visual communications and evolved the visual/verbal syntax: word and image are fused into a conceptual expression of an idea so that they become completely interdependent.…

…Because concept becomes dominant, the design of many Doyle Dane Bernbach advertisements is reduces to the message: a large arresting visual image, a concise headline of bold weight, and body copy that stakes its claim with factual and often entertaining writing instead of puffery and meaningless superlatives. Often the visual organization is symmetrical, for design arrangement is not allowed to distract from the straightforward presentation of an idea.…

Meggs, Philip B. A History of Graphic Design. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company Inc., 1983. 412. Print

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Monday, February 7, 2011

AIGA Student Group presentation — Sarah Franken, graphic designer

Poster design by Sarah Franken © 2011

Sarah Franken will be our next guest designer for Wednesday, February 9, from 4 to 5 p.m. in CL room 1223. The focus of her presentation will be about Print + Environmental Graphic Design. There will be a time for Q and A as well.

Sarah mentions that:

My life and work since graduation from Dordt in 2006 has involved: Chicago, museums, public transit, cats, concerts, and striving for great design. Extra special emphasis on the 2nd and last items on that list, since that’s what you all might be the most interested in. I’ll be talking about my time working as a graphic designer in a museum setting and the kind of design skills I’ve learned, some of which I never expected or even knew I needed to learn. Hope you’ll join me.

Here’s some more basic info:
• Here’s a link to my portfolio.
• I currently work at the Science Museum of Minnesota as a Graphic Designer.
• I’m a member of AIGA Iowa.
• Previously, I worked at The Field Museum (of Natural History) in Chicago.

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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Quotations on creativity — Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Art is the gift of God, and must be used
Unto His glory.…


This quote is found in a dramatic lyrical poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow entitled, Michael Angelo. Longfellow’s illustrated book was published in 1884.

Longfellow, Henry Wadsworth. Michael Angelo. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1884. 25-26. University of California Libraries/California Digital Library. Web. 5 Feb. 2011.

Head-Piece engraving from the book; S.L. Smith, illustrator. p.7

A scene from the poem: “A Chapel in the Church of San Silvestro. Vittoria Colonna, Claudio Tolommei, and others.” The noblewoman, Vittoria Colonna has received the Pope’s blessing to build a new convent. Caption: Vittoria Colonna, Michael Angelo, and others. In the Chapel of San Silvestro. “If friends of yours, then are they friends of mine. Pardon me, gentlemen. But when I entered I saw but the Marchesa.” Book engraving was illustrated by F. D. Millet. p. 23

The scene begins as the building committee is meeting with Michelangelo. The scene unfolds with Vittoria and Michelangelo discussing the design of the convent. Here are passages from pages 25 and 26 that reveal Longfellow’s quote (I’ve used bold face for emphasis):

But that
Is not what occupies my thoughts at present,
Nor why I sent for you, Messer Michele.
It was to counsel me. His Holiness
Has granted me permission, long desired,
To build a convent in this neighborhood,
Where the old tower is standing, from whose top
Nero looked down upon the burning city.

Michael Angelo.
It is an inspiration!

I am doubtful
How I shall build; how large to make the convent,
And which way fronting.

Michael Angelo.
Ah, to build, to build!
That is the noblest art of all the arts.
Painting and sculpture are but images,
Are merely shadows cast by outward things
On stone or canvas, having in themselves
No separate existence. Architecture,
Existing in itself, and not in seeming
A something it is not, surpasses them
As substance shadow. Long, long years ago,
Standing one morning near the Baths of Titus,
I saw the statue of Laocoön
Rise from its grave of centuries, like a ghost
Writhing in pain; and as it tore away
The knotted serpents from its limbs, I heard,
Or seemed to hear, the cry of agony
From its white, parted lips. And still I marvel
At the three Rhodian artists, by whose hands
This miracle was wrought. Yet he beholds
Far nobler works who looks upon the ruins
Of temples in the Forum here in Rome.
If God should give me power in my old age
To build for Him a temple half as grand
As those were in their glory, I should count
My age more excellent than youth itself,
And all that I have hitherto accomplished
As only vanity.

I understand you.
Art is the gift of God, and must be used
Unto His glory.
That in art is highest
Which aims at this. When St. Hilarion blessed
The horses of Italicus, they won
The race at Gaza, for his benediction
O’erpowered all magic; and the people shouted
That Christ had conquered Marnas. So that art
Which bears the consecration and the seal
Of holiness upon it will prevail
Over all others. Those few words of yours
Inspire me with new confidence to build.
What think you? The old walls might serve, perhaps,
Some purpose still. The tower can hold the bells.

Michael Angelo.
If strong enough.

If not, it can be strengthened. …
Soli Deo Gloria

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Reminiscences about “Plucked Chicken Press” — founded in 1978 by Will Petersen and Cynthia Archer — specializing in lithography

Front and back of the Plucked Chicken Business Card, c.1980 — from the collection of David Versluis

One afternoon, perhaps in the fall of 1980, while researching art internship sites for students at Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Illinois my colleague Jake Van Wyk and I visited Plucked Chicken Press and met with Will Petersen to discuss the possibility of providing a student internship. Cynthia Archer was there to greet us as well as we entered the workshop, which was housed on the second floor of an old industrial building. Petersen was professional and friendly and with a sense of humor — he was a genuine character. We were impressed with his collection of lithographic stones. The press was located in downtown Chicago just west of the fork in the Chicago River.

Along with the “Plucked Chicken” logo and printer’s mark — the business card design is based on the printmakers numbering system, which is a good way of recognizing a limited edition original art print. Usually, but not always, for authentic prints the artist signs their name in the bottom right-hand corner on the front just below the image. On the bottom left corner opposite the signature the artist writes the number of each print in the edition. So, for example, a print numbered “3/30” signifies that it is the 3rd print out of 30 in the print run.

As published in the current Plucked Chicken Press website (courtesy of Oakton Community College, Skokie, Illinois) here’s a nice synopsis about the origins of the Plucked Chicken logo:

Plucked Chicken — The Journal and the Logo:

Plucked Chicken, a journal of art and poetry, was founded in Morgantown, West Virginia, in 1977. The Chicago poet and writer, Effie Mihopoulos, provided a glimpse of the journal’s birth in an April 1981 Serials Review:

The magazine was started because Petersen just having quit his teaching job [at the West Virginia University] (at 49) and feeling like a plucked chicken, had boxes and boxes of notes, letters, prose and other miscellanea that needed sharing, an outlet. He had a strong editorial background ranging from work with mimeographed magazines in grade school to [poet] Cid Corman's second Origin series; he was also associated with Bussei, which published [poet] Gary Snyder's first poems and [writer] Jack Kerouac's first haiku. Working with shapes one day, Petersen and his wife [Cynthia Archer] came up with one the size of a postage stamp that they liked — it looked like a plucked chicken, and since it seemed symbolic of the artist (a bird that can't fly, ready for the stew or to be barbecued, all goose bumps and no feathers), the name stuck.

The journal ended in 1980 with issue number six when Petersen and Archer moved to Chicago, but the name and logo continued to identify the press they had founded in 1978. Every print published by the Plucked Chicken Press was embossed with this logo.

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