Friday, May 27, 2011

Herbert Bayer the expressionist

Above left: Leaning Spiral Tower
Herbert Bayer
Welded COR-TEN® Steel
photograph by versluis, 2008.

This sculptural piece by Herbert Bayer was displayed at the Peyton Wright Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico (2008) and suggests characteristics of monuments designed by Tatlin and Gropius. To the right of Bayer’s “Tower” is the maquette of the Monument to the Third International (1920, unbuilt) by Vladimir Tatlin. Located underneath are pictures (elevation and plan) of the Monument to the Fallen of the March Insurrection (1920-21) designed by Walter Gropius.

Wolfgang Pehnt provides an interesting perspective about the expressive impact of the strong upward and oblique movement in an article titled Gropius the Romantic:

… In March, 1920, during the Kapp putsch which attempted to topple the Reich government, a number of workers had been killed in Weimar. Students of the Bauhaus had taken part in burying the victims and so incurred the displeasure of their director who feared political complications. Gropius, however, did enter the competition for the “Memorial of the Victorious Proletariat.” … this architectonic sculpture demonstrates how completely at home Gropius was with the formal ideas of Expressionism. Its form thrusts in a single direction that forces the observer to consider implications that derive from more than its actual substance: it cuts a rift in space. … [likewise] in Tatlin’s design, also made in 1920, for a monument commemorating the Third International, … [the] diagonal movement [is] similarly exploited for dynamic effect. …[1]
  1. Pehnt, Wolfgang. Gropius the Romantic. Trans. Renate F. Franciscono. The Art Bulletin 53.3 Sept. (1971): 386-87. Print.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Pyramide du Louvre: a melding of the old and new

I.M. Pei, architect
Pyramide du Louvre, Paris, France.
Entrance to the Musée du Louvre, The Louvre palace (Richelieu wing)
Photograph by versluis © 2010

I.M. Pei’s glass and steel “geometric” pyramid, which was commissioned in 1984 and completed in 1989, seems to emerge from underground to push a contrast between the old and the new. As a result the pyramidal structure represents an undeniable quality of modernity in contemporary culture and the compelling impact of design. [1]

In the reference book, A Global History of Architecture the authors give some insight and a brief context to the Pyramide du Louvre :

Postmodern Museum

Throughout the 19th century and into a good part of the 20th, the museum carried with it the imprint [of neoclassicism] of the Enlightenment. The ordering of space, the systematization of knowledge, and the owning of precious objects went hand in hand with the conception of history, the advances of archaeology, and the understandings of art.…

But by the 1990s, with the boom in the global economy and a heightened competition for tourist dollars, the museums soon became more than just signs of a city’s cultural strength; they had become instrumental to the economies of entire regions. A blockbuster exhibition could bring in millions of dollars in secondary revenue and taxes. If there is one buildings type that piqued the interest of architects, planners, politicians, and the public alike, it was the museum. What the civic center or philharmonic hall had been in the 1960s, the pedestrian zone in the 1980s, the museum had become in the 1990s. The transition began with the Neue Staatsgalerie by James Stirling (1977-83 and was completed by the time of the opening of the Pyramide du Louvre by I.M. Pei in 1989.… [2]
  1. Ching, Francis D.K., Mark Jarzombek, and Vikramaditya Prakash. A Global History of Architecture. 1st edition. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2007. 749. Print.
  2. Ibid.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Paris Book Fair at the Porte de Versailles

Upper right, clockwise: 2011 brochure cover design with the new “typographic” logo signifying the new Fair format. Below the brochure cover is the “mascot” symbol/logo that was used on the 2010 Salon du Livre de Paris street banners, which lined both sides of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Book publishing still lives. Street banners photograph © versluis 2010.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

René Clement portrays the heritage of Orange City, Iowa in a book and exhibition

Above: Cassie (Huizenga) Baker dressed in costume and wrapped in the American flag as the Orange City Tulip Festival Queen, 2006. Photograph © René Clement, used with permission. In the upper right, René is shown speaking about his project in Dordt’s gallery during the show reception (photograph courtesy of Jordan Edens). The Promising Land exhibition is on display this summer at Dordt College, Sioux Center, Iowa (installation view). The exhibition, which initially coincided with the Orange City Tulip Festival, has been partially funded by a grant from the Netherlands Consulate General in New York.

Promising Land is a book by award-winning photographer René Clement picturing residents of Orange City dressed in old-world Dutch costumes, shown in a variety of situations from satirical to traditional studio portraits. René says: “I started [the project] with portraits. I was fascinated with how beautiful their clothes were.” In addition, Clement’s portraits reflect the influence of the seventeenth century Dutch Master, Jan Vermeer (reference Girl with the Pearl Earring). The black background and chiaroscuro effect of each portrait is reminiscent of the Italian artist Caravaggio whose style influenced many artists associated with the so-called Golden Age of Dutch art in the 1600s. An interesting side bar note is that Clement’s photographic images perhaps correlates with Vermeer’s supposed interest in camera obscura.

An exhibit of 37 of his photographs will be at the Dordt College Campus Center Art Gallery in Sioux Center May 12-July 24. The gallery is open 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Sioux City Journal did a very nice feature article about René, his book project, and mentions the show at Dordt.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Commemorating the Freedom Rides

We’re posting this piece as a tribute to the Fiftieth anniversary of the Freedom Rides of 1961. The “Freedom Rides” were an important part of the non-violent protest against racial segregation; many of the Freedom Riders were college students.

Illustrated is a digital capture of the abbreviated version of “I Wonder Why…” —a photographic essay by Shirley Carter Burden, which appeared in Reader's Digest in February 1964. From a private collection. © 1964 Reader’s Digest, all rights reserved.

Not surprisingly Mr. Burden received several letters from very offended reader’s criticizing the piece. As Jeffery Dallas Parisi writes: “All letters of this sort were from prejudiced and racist readers across the country and their content is quite shocking and gives clear evidence of the extremely prejudiced sentiments people harbored during the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.” [1]

  1. Parisi, Jeffery Dallas. “Shirley Carter Burden Papers, 1947-1989.” The New York Public Library Humanities and Social Sciences Library Manuscripts and Archives Division. The New York Public Library, Mar. 1993. Web. 15 May 2011.

Following the introductory title page (shown above) the essay begins as follows:

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

a somewhat uncanny resemblance

Interestingly Roy Behrens, an art professor at University of Northern Iowa, has recently posted a well-written piece titled, The Gift of Gabberjabbs, Walter Hamady and The Perishable Press Limited. Behrens actually wrote and published the article in the January-February 1997 issue of Print magazine. The image above is of the title page spread from “John’s Apples,” Perishable Press Book No. 125 (1995). © The Perishable Press Limited. Used with permission.

In the article, Roy writes: “John Wilde and [Walter] Hamady collaborated again in 1995, in a book for both adults and children (‘especially those of well-to-do-graphic designers’) titled John’s Apples, which centered on twelve poems about apples by Reeve Lindbergh).”

© David Versluis
Urban Edge, 1998
Collage/Photostat/Opaque white

The design of the spread is reminiscent of a work I initially did in 1987 and revised in 1998 titled “Urban Edge” (revisions were made over the years). Similar in both composition and typographic college design, I was struck by the somewhat uncanny resemblance. The fact that Hamady’s book is letterpress makes it exceptional. “Urban Edge.” is just a sliced and diced Photostat.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Nuances of a logotype: a case study of the Steelcase logotype

The logotype form of the trademark, Steelcase Inc. “Logotype means the special typographic treatment of the word.” Select the graphic for a larger view of details (image above is from a photocopy).

“Steelcase, the primary mark for all [their] products and services, is registered in block form (unstylized) and in at least two logotype forms. Vance Jonson or (Johnson), a New York-based graphic designer, designed the current version, shown here, in the early 1970s. It was intended for use in one color, blind embossing, or in the spectrum of colors as seen on [their] trucks today.”

“Mr. Johnson started this design with the Helvetica medium typeface; the modifications that make it unique are highlighted in the captions.” (1)

  1. Ross, Robert W., design director; David M. Versluis, graphic designer, and Donald Wheeler, writer. Steelcase Inc., Corporate Communications Standards and Guidelines. Grand Rapids: Steelcase, Inc., 1993. Section 1, pgs 1-4. Print.

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