Sunday, March 31, 2013

Form, rhythm, texture: architect, John Van Bergen’s Prairie Style

Robert N. Erskine Residence, 1913 – 
714 Columbian, Oak Park, Illinois

Looking northeast a three-quarter view of the Erskine house and showing the Griess House in the background. The addition on the back of the Erskine house is not original.
Mrs. L. Griess  Residence, 1914 
– 716 Columbian, Oak Park, Illinois
Photographs by Versluis. 2013

Architect John Van Bergen (1885–1969) had the privilege of working for both Frank Lloyd Wright and Walter Burley Griffin in the early part of the twentieth century. The Wright and Griffin influences seem to show in these two residences in Oak Park.

Viewed in tandem, the Erskine house and its next-door neighbor, the Griess house were built as elegant yet affordable middle-class residences in the Prairie Style idiom. In the context of the neighborhood these buildings are very striking but certainly not pretentious. Due to their coherent, precise, and angular design these houses seem to be a practical amalgam of influences from Frank Lloyd Wright (hip roof, stucco and three-dimensional cubic masses) and Walter Burley Griffin (perfection of form).

The street façade reveals a horizontal band of second floor windows, which are stacked as counterparts over the row of first floor windows. This unifying effect is enhanced by the vertical and horizontal ornamental strips, creating a geometric grid that implies and reinforces the stability of the structure. Likewise, the rectilinear strips simulating corner piers emphasize a classic symmetry, which leads the eye up the overhanging eves. The primary structure contrasts nicely with the extension of the horizontal entry porch/veranda on the south side.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New work: 2013 Sioux County Oratorio Chorus Poster

The 2013 Sioux County Oratorio Chorus performance poster
Graphic designer and photographer: David Versluis
Icon artist: Michelle L. Hofer
Size: 11 x 17 inches, 27.94 x 43.18 cm 

This year the Sioux County Oratorio Chorus is scheduled to perform Handel’s Messiah at Northwestern College’s Christ Chapel on Saturday, April 27, 2013. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m.

Dordt College alumna, Michelle Hofer (’98) developed this Messiah icon (after the Hagia Sophia’s Deësis Mosaic) as a 4' x 9' banner for her church in Freeman, South Dakota. The banner and image has an amazing environmental and liturgical presence. The piece is a textile mosaic comprised of thousands of multi-colored 9mm squares cut from iron-on fabrics and applied by hand onto shear purple fabric. Michelle’s banner was selected for Dordt’s 2012 “The Christian Evasion of Popular Culture” conference art exhibition.

In an exhibition interview about her work with icons Michelle states:
My artistic venture into religious imagery grew out of a trip to Istanbul, Turkey in 2001. Visiting some of the world’s oldest churches, the interiors of which are covered with beautiful and breathtaking images, had a profound impact on me. The work I’ve done with Christian icon images is quite personal, and many of the pieces in my show have become sources of deep spiritual strength, comfort and renewal – I carry them in my heart and mind always. 
The poster was printed by COLORFX in Boyden, Iowa.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rethinking art gallery didactics—“Project Projects: Test Fit” exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago

An installation shot of Project Projects: Test Fit exhibition at the AIC.

From a curatorial standpoint it has been suggested that reading the didactics (or wall labels), which ubiquitously accompany the artworks in the gallery, may prevent viewers from actually “seeing” at the artwork. In a sense this seems to be the interesting design premise for Project Projects: Test Fit experimental installation on view at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing until April 28, 2013 in Gallery 286.

The following copy is taken from the AIC’s public relations department:

The exhibition includes nearly 40 printed facsimiles of works in the Art Institute’s permanent collection that reflect Project Projects’ broad interest in the history of design practice. 
Project Projects: Test Fit—commissioned as part of an Art Institute of Chicago series in which architects and designers are invited to explore their own interests and instigate new thinking and practices within and beyond their professional disciplines—is envisioned as a model for an exhibition that could serve as a framework for addressing issues of representation and reproductions in playful, yet critical ways. Project Projects, a New York–based graphic design firm led by Prem Krishnamurthy, Adam Michaels, and Rob Giampietro, has become known for developing publications, exhibitions, and identities for a range of cultural institutions and educational organizations, as well as for creating self-initiated curatorial and research projects.

On display are grayscale facsimiles such as this piece by László Moholy-Nagy entitled Nuclear I, CH.
For Test Fit, Project Projects carefully selected works from the Art Institute’s permanent collection that reflect the concerns of its partners. The studio began with an interest in European modernism, namely its Chicago-based practitioners László Moholy-Nagy and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, but then expanded the scope of the exhibition to indicate a broader sweep of design practice from Louis Sullivan to Bertrand Goldberg and beyond.

Project Projects has also included an unexpected dimension to a mainstay of museum exhibitions—the wall label (shown above)—by including statements such as “This is a building that’s clear and open, at least in appearance” and posing questions to visitors such as “Why are you standing still?” and “Why do the forms appeal to you?” 
Project Projects: Test Fit not only presents an innovative exploration of the Art Institute’s acclaimed permanent collection, but also encourages viewers to consider the exhibition as a mode of creative and cultural expression in and of itself.  The exhibition is organized by the Art Institute of Chicago and curated by Zoë Ryan, Chair and John H. Bryan Curator of Architecture and Design. (1)
  1. Hogan, Erin, and Chai Lee. News Release: “The Art Institute’s Architecture and Design Department Collaborates with New York Based Graphic Design Firm Project Projects.” Department of Public Affairs—The Art Institute of Chicago. 6 Dec. 2012. Web. 17 Mar. 2013.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

László Moholy-Nagy: “Nuclear I, CH,” 1945

László Moholy-Nagy, (American, born Hungary, 1895–1946)
Nuclear I, CH
Oil on Canvas
The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Mary and Leigh Block. 1947.40

This work is on view in AICs Gallery 183 as part of the exhibition They Seek a City and the Art of Migration, 1910–1950 from March 3 to June 2, 2013. The exhibition curator is Sarah Kelly Oehler, and Henry and Gilda Buchbinder, Associate Curator of American Art.

The following information is from the exhibition didactics, which accompany this piece by Moholy-Nagy:
László Moholy-Nagy explored the threat of atomic warfare in Nuclear I, CH, which he painted in response to the bombs that had destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in the fall [August] of 1945. Nuclear I, CH enigmatically depicts a glass sphere, or “Nuclear Bubble,” as Moholy-Nagy’s wife described it, hovering over a rectilinear grid. Reminiscent of a cartographic map of city blocks that evokes the Chicago shoreline, as it would be seen in an aerial view looking south, this grid specifically situates the painting in the city. In the weeks after the bombings in Japan, local newspapers employed such aerial cartographic imagery of Chicago to explain the power of the atomic bomb. These illustrations suggest that Moholy-Nagy might have picked up on this compelling visual theme, which he coupled in the painting with the Nuclear Bubble to signify the force of the explosion.

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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Alexander Calder: “art is the disparity that exists between form, masses and moments…”

Cover, exhibition list of works: Alexander Calder’s Mobiles and Stabiles from the Perls Galleries and Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Horwich
May 18 – August 24, 1969
Grand Rapids Art Museum
Artifacts from Versluis's collection

The following is from the preface:
Question: Which has influenced you more, nature or modern machinery?
Calder: Nature. I haven’t really touched machinery except for a few elementary mechanisms like levers and balances. You see nature and then you try to emulate it. But, of course, when I met Mondrian I went home and tried to paint. The basis of everything for me is the universe. The simplest forms in the universe are the sphere and the circle. I represent them by disks and then I vary them. My whole theory about art is the disparity that exists between form, masses and moments.… Even my triangles and spheres, but they are spheres of a different shape. (1)

  1. Katherine Kuh, The Artist’s Voice, New York: Harper & Row, 1960.

Cover: Printed invitation to Alexander Calder Memorial Ceremony, 1977
Festival 77
Vandenberg Plaza, Grand Rapids, Michigan

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Envisioning Design | 2013 Conference at UNI

University of Northern Iowa 
Department of Art (Graphic Design)

Conference Schedule:
Friday, April 26, 7:00 pm
UNI, Kamerick Art Building, south lobby
Keynote speaker: Sang-Duck Seo
Sang-Duck Seo is the Associate Professor of Graphic Design and Media Department of Art, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Saturday, April 27
Presentations by participants throughout the day, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.

A Call for Presentations:
The conference planning committee is seeking presentations, panel discussions, and other events. Proposals can address the widest range of aspects of graphic and other kinds of design, including (but not limited to) design history, design theory, design education, typography, design technology, design practice, ethics, sustainability, design as business, design and studio art, internship programs, portfolio preparation, job search — and the future of design.

For more information see Prof. Roy R. Behrens’s The Poetry of Sight

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