Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Met: Part I

Early this year I visited NY for the first time. I saw lots of amazing things, but my favourite place was The Metropolitan Museum. I spent the entire day there and it still wasn't enough time (I strongly recommend packing lots of snacks when you go). I took alot of pictures of interesting things that inspired me, I plan on posting one or two every week. Here's the first!

Below are some of the beautiful things I came across in the Greek and Roman section.

(fragment of a gold wreath, Greek ca 320-300 BC) I don't know if some ancient greek woman wore this in her curly black hair but that's what I would like to think, and frankly if she didn't she was missing out.

Grave stele of a little girl, ca. 450–440 B.C. I've had a picture of this pasted into a sketchbook for years so it was a very nice surprise to come across it in the Met. The doves she's holding were likely her pets who she's saying goodbye to (sniffle) it really is a beautiful sculpture, I especially like the stylized doves.

Shameless Plug: My Dad's Blog

Sometimes you just gotta do something for your dear old dad. And seeing as how I introduced him to blogging I think it's only right that I promote his new blog . Not only does it have good hones advice on real estate, but charming photos (come on, you gotta love that cow) of the Fraser Valley and local insight on good day trips in the area.

Book Review: Rex Ray Art & Design

Title:Rex Ray Art & Design
Author:Rex Ray, Douglas Coupland (Foreword), Steven Skov Holt (contributor), Michael Paglia (contributor)
Publisher:Chronicle Books
Published: October 2007
Price:$40.00 CDN

This is a beautiful book. Rex Ray is an amazing painter/collage artist whose unique colour sense and whimsical compositions are just plain fun. Which is something you don't see much of in contemporary art. Ray himself says of his early collages "they began as simple, personal exercise, a way of forgetting everything I know and getting lost". I think there is a quality of that in all of his work, where you can see he's lost himself in crazy colours and twisting shapes seeing how far he can go.

The book has a foreword by Douglas Coupland and a short essay by Michael Paglia, I much prefer Coupland's intro. Paglia's is too formal for my taste, while Coupland's is relaxed and conversational. However, the best glimpse into Ray's art and his method is an interview with him by Steven Skov Holt at the back of the book. In it Ray is very revealing about his process. I love his description of choosing colours, he talks about purposely working under at night under bad light because it would result in unusual colour combinations he wouldn't have dared use under good light, but ultimately were so wrong they were right. He goes on to describe how he will force himself to start with colours he hates and then work with them. It's fascinating to me his very deliberate process since I had assumed his vivid palette was a result of an innate colour sense, rather it seems to be something he works hard for.

One thing I don't understand is the inclusion of Ray's graphic design work in this book. It isn't as strong as his painting and collages and doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the work. That said the book is very nicely designed, I especially love the faux wood grain spine that continues into the books inside cover, referencing the vintage feel of Ray's work as well as his use of wood panel.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Book Review: Andy Warhol Giant Size

Title: Andy Warhol: Giant Size
Author: Editors of Phaidon Press
Publisher: Phaidon
Published: February 21, 2006
Pages: 624
Price: $ 125.00 (US)

Andy Warhol once said, "don't pay any attention to what they write about you just measure it in inches", for that reason alone he would have been thrilled with this book since it's 2 1/2 inches thick. Chronicling Warhol's career from his years as a commercial illustrator to his later work with the artist Basquiat the book is a testament to the sheer volume of his work. It's strangely fitting that the man whose work explored notions of commercialism and mass production should have left behind such a large inventory.
This is the only book on Warhol I have seen that gives equal attention to his entire career from movies, magazines and paintings as well as biographical information. The book includes information on his life and analysis of his art but far more revealing are the many personal photos, letters and reference material that fill the pages. Espically interesting are reference photos of some of his silkscreens, for example a contact sheet that shows the various compositions he considered for his hammer and sickle series. His many fabulous quotes are also spread throughout the book such as, "...because when you do something exactly wrong, you always end up with something right" all of which make it clear Warhol was a master of the soundbite. This is defintly a book to own, just make sure your book shelf is reenforced.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

NY graffiti

I have a couple of really great book reviews coming soon, but right now it's too hot to type so I thought I'd post some pictures I took of graffiti when I was in NY this January.

All of this was from either the meat packing district or Brooklyn mostly around Williamsburg. I loved the layers of graffiti and wheat pasting you see on the walls.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book Review: 365 AIGA Year in Design 29

Title: 365: AIGA Year in Design 29
Author: editors of Wallpaper magazine
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Published: April 15, 2009
Pages: 367
Price: $ 40.00 (US)

365: AIGA Year in Design 29 is a really nice design annual. The layout is clean so as not to take the focus from the work but there are still enough quirky design elements to give it personality, like the cover which I love. One of the constant criticisms of design contests is that too many of the award winning projects are one off's that the public will never see. In the introduction, Sean Adams defends this annual, stating that while there are unique small run projects there is more work produced for mass audiences than he has seen in a long time. I think he's right there is a good balance of "designy" work for non profits and boutiques and good solutions for huge corporations.

One of the nicest things about this annual, besides the content, is how large the pictures are. Tiny pictures are one of my pet peeves about magazine design annuals where often the work is so small you can't see the details enough to fully appreciate the work. The cross section of work is also nice, categories include everything from typographic design, and experience design to entertainment and experimental design. Ultimately it's the work that makes a good annual and AIGA is full of exciting and inspirational design solutions, I'm sure I'll flip through it often in the years to come.

One Perfect Day cover, Penguin Group, art director Darren Haggar, Jacket designer Evan Gaffney,
This is one of my favourite jackets of the year.

Les Allusifs cover series, Paprika Montreal, creative director Louis Gagnon, art director Francois Leclerc, Jacket designer Francois Leclerc, illustrator Alain Pilon

I love seeing the design solutions to creating book jackets for a series. These covers by Paprika are fabulous, the circle around the title is so strong and despite the many formulas that have come before they created something new, fresh and beautiful.

Everthing is OK, a public design experiment, Mine San Francisco, designers tim belonax and christopher Simmons, creative director Christopher Simmons.
Simple and genius. Put a smile on my face.

posters for the 2009 Honens International Piano Competition, Wax Calgary, designer Monique Gamache, illustrator Tara Hardy, writer Tent Burton I love the bad photocopy texture on the faces and the way the bright colours of the other collage elements interact with it

Monday, July 6, 2009

Book Review: Wallpaper City Guide Vancouver

Title: Wallpaper City Guide Vancouver
Author: editors of Wallpaper magazine
Publisher: Phaidon
Pages: 240
Price: $19.95 (CDN)

Wallpaper Magazine has been publishing city guides since 2006, with over 60 guides already available and now it's Vancouver's turn. I saw a rack display of these pocket sized guides (6.2 x 4.1 x 0.5 inches) in Chapters and I have to admit they looked pretty darned good all lined up with their minimalist colour coded covers. The Vancouver guide is probably the most attractive miniature travel guide I've ever seen, and it should be since it's designed for the type of person who would rather die than be caught holding a glossy Fodor's guidebook. The slick design is also very functional and well thought out. There are foldout maps on both front and back covers, tabs for easy navigation, and a handy colour coding system that lets you know what neighborhood each location is in. The photography is also top notch, with a much more modern aesthetic than the typical over saturated photos found in travel books.

While this is a great looking book the content is definilty not meant for the average tourist. The bulk of the information concerns luxery hotels, restaurants and stores most of which I personally have never set foot in. There is a nice summary of the architectural highlights of the city (not that we have many) but the book doesn't include any information on "tacky" tourist spots like The Vancouver Art Gallery, The Aquarium, or the Capilano Suspension Bridge. Essentially the guide is aimed towards a very select target market whose needs it meets very well, but whose lifestyle is not shared by the average person. Also, in a testament to the importance of good editing, the trendy neighborhood Yaletown is misspelled as Valetown several times.