Sunday, May 27, 2012

Daniel Burnham and the Dordt College east campus sculpture proposal

The illustrations above are renderings for a proposed Dordt College east campus sculpture in the grass area near Covenant Hall. The renderings are done in Solidworks and indicate the side view shown at the top and the viewer’s view shown beneath. Concept and design by David Versluis, all rights reserved. Illustration by William Morren.

The sculpture is entitled “Enlaced” and references Calvin Seerveld’s quote, “All creation is a burning bush of the Lord God.” The COR-TEN® steel sculpture will stand 7 feet wide x 18 feet high.

Working drawings for a campus sculpture are now finished and the piece is ready for fabrication. However, as the project is currently looking for funding, I’m reminded of this quote from the great Chicago architect, Daniel H. Burnham:
Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. [1]
  1. Thorne, Martha. Unbuilt Chicago. Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 2004. 3. Print.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Thirst / 3st posters on display at Dordt College

The Dordt College Department of Art and Design is currently featuring poster designs created by the Chicago-based design studio, Thirst.

The exhibit is currently on display in the Dordt College Art Gallery located inside the Campus Center, and it will run through July 15. The public is welcome to enjoy the exhibit free of charge Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Founder of Thirst and Graphic Designer Rick Valicenti has shared a sampling of posters that span the company’s nearly 25-year history including the 2011 Show Boat poster which is part of the seminal Lyric Opera of Chicago poster series, a decade of Illinois Institute of Design College of Architecture Lecture series posters, and the internationally acclaimed LOEB posters for Harvard’s Graduate Students of Design.

The exhibition was assembled by art (graphic design) professor David Versluis who spent the spring semester on sabbatical in Chicago working at Thirst. “This is the largest collection of Thirst’s posters outside of their studio,” said Versluis. “Viewers seem to be keenly aware that this exhibition is smart and special with exceptional imagination. Each poster has high visual impact while collectively this body of work is stunning.”

Valicenti has been influencing design internationally since 1988. He is a leader in design, taking on roles of practitioner, educator, and mentor.

In John Foster’s book New Masters of Poster Design, Valicenti says, “The best part of designing a poster is the hardest part of designing a poster—deciding what to actually print. Unlike when designing a catalog or book, the designer has but one page to express the program, the event, or the system, not 32 or 332 pages! I thoroughly enjoy the challenge.”

In 2011, Valicenti was awarded the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Award in Communication Design, an honor designated by the White House. The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) honored Valicenti the Medal in 2006, the highest honor of the graphic design profession, for his sustained contribution to design excellence and the development of the profession. He was recognized as an AIGA/Chicago Fellow in 2004 and has been a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI) since being invited in 1996.

Valicenti has juried the President’s Design Awards for the National Endowment for the Arts during the George H.W. Bush and William Clinton Administrations. Valicenti also serves on the Board of Directors of the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been published in major graphic design publications including Eye.06 (London), Émigré (twice) and Idea (in Tokyo). His book, Emotion as Promotion, was published by Monacelli Press in 2005.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

A photographic montage of the original Carl Street Studio, Chicago

This is a view (northwest elevation) of Edgar Miller and Sol Kogen’s original Carl Street Studios which was erected in 1927. The street name changed sometime in the 1930s to West Burton Place and the building is located in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood. In the last 25 years the studio has become a single family residence. Obviously, I’m not the first to highlight the Carl Street Studios but felt the pictures were interesting enough to be featured. (select the images for a larger view)

The mosaic street number sign at 155 West Burton Place and the home-made commemorative sign honor the Edgar Miller and Sol Kogen collaboration that began in 1927 and continued for nearly a decade. (select the images for a larger view)

A prominent architectural feature is the bay window with carved timbers. The wood timbers and trim was designed and carved by Edgar Miller in a stylized manner and suggests a strong indigenous folk art character. Inset terracotta tiles represent the mythical Greco-Roman deity Dionysus / Bacchus who was regarded as an inspiration to artists, philosophers and writers as well as being a friend to the spiraled horned eland and the antlered elk. Another interest of Miller is the horse motif and equine tiles which are inset on the sides of the bay. (select the images for a larger view)

The initials S and K for Sol Kogen become an integral part of the iron entry gate which is framed by a solid post and lintel threshold and mosaic sidewalk.  The exterior walls of the original house were covered with a new facade of common brick and featured ornamental textural elements and patterns. Edgar Miller designed and made his work himself. Miller felt that it was the responsibility of the artist to not only design the work but have the skill and ability to make it and install it. For Edgar, the best art for the home was literally built into the architecture. (select the images for a larger view)

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jindřich Heisler: Surrealism under Pressure

Jindřich Heisler (Czech, 1914–1953)
Alphabet, 1952; the letter A
Collage of woodcut reproductions on wood
The Art Institute of Chicago
Select image for a larger view

The Art Institute of Chicago currently is hosting a wonderful exhibition titled, Jindřich Heisler: Surrealism under Pressure. The exhibition is on display in the Photography Galleries 2–4 until 1 July, 2012.  Included in the show, as stated by the Art Institute, “is a marvelous alphabet of wooden letters, faced with glued-on xylographic montages reminiscent of Max Ernst.” Heisler collaged images to approximately .125 inch (3.175 mm) plywood and very carefully cut out the shapes. The exhibition curator explains the piece as follows:
Alphabet, Heisler’s magnum opus, is also likely his last extant work. The 25 exactingly designed plywood cutouts (the letter W is not part of Czech and French orthography), covered on one side in 19th-century woodcut reproductions, are both playful and haunting. Each depicts an intricately crafted scene of mystery and violence, and many feature demonic encounters. Heisler apparently used the letters for occult games, such as a version of tarot that involved composing his friends’ names and “reading” the stories they yielded. French Surrealist colleague Robert Benayoun may have had Alphabet in mind when he recalled at Heisler’s death his “inner sense for graphic harmony,” and André Breton used six of the letters to form the word absolu (absolute) at what proved to be the last Surrealist exhibition in Breton’s lifetime, in 1966.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Edgar Miller: master of built-in art

Edgar Miller (American 1899–1993)
Window with Bird Design, c. 1925
Leaded Glass
From the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago
photography by versluis

Chicago artist Edgar Miller was inspired by the pattern of the natural world. Much of his body of work reflects a keen sense of natural form and design. In addition, many of his pieces are built-in and integral to the architectural spaces in which they reside. Here’s information about the stained glass window illustrated above, taken from an Art Institute of Chicago museum didactic:
Edgar Miller moved to Chicago from Idaho to study at the School of the Art Institute. He apprenticed with the artist-craftsman Alfonso Iannelli. Miller became a recognized designer skilled in variety of media, primarily sculpture, stained glass, mural painting, and graphic arts. In 1925, Edgar Miller entered this window in the “23rd Exhibition of Modern Decorative Arts” at The Art Institute of Chicago and won the Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize. Miller felt that figurative art was more accessible that abstract art, and his designs reflect his belief.

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Carson Pirie Scott Building as a City Target Store

Designer, Louis H. Sullivan (1856-1924)
This is a interesting comparison between the ornamentation of the Carson Pirie Scott building (top) in Chicago and a similar artifact/panel (bottom) that’s displayed in the Art Institute of Chicago. The museum artifact shows the original color and surface of Sullivan’s architectural ornamentation. Notice the reddish patina and matte finish. The Carson Pirie Scott building, which will become a City Target store later this year was originally designed as the Schlesinger & Mayer Store in 1899.

Here’s information from an Art Institute of Chicago museum didactic:
Spandrel panel from the façade of the Gage building, 1898-99 (remodeled 1952), painted cast iron.  The Gage group of buildings were constructed to house wholesale millinery firms. The buildings at 18, 24, and 30 South Michigan were engineered by Holabird and Roche, and Sullivan was commissioned to design the façade of number 18. Originally, the base of the building featured decorative cast-iron panels, such as this one. The panels were covered with rich, foliate ornament that was first given a coat of red paint followed by a rubbing of green so that a flickering surface resulted. The exterior ornament of Carson Pirie Scott and Company (1899), 1902-04), also designed by Sullivan, was treated in the same.

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