Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), escultor estadounidense, uno de los pioneros del ensamblaje. Nació en Nyack, estado de Nueva York, y su obra refleja la influencia del movimiento surrealista, de la abstracción cubista y de la técnica de collage. A mediados de la década de 1930 empezó a crear sus obras más características, entre las que se incluye una caja, cuyo frente es de vidrio, que contiene objetos encontrados, tales como fotografías y material impreso, así como fragmentos de imágenes múltiples en una cuidada yuxtaposición surrealista. Más que cuadros o esculturas, sus obras se suele calificar como construcciones.
Nueva York, 1903 - Long Island, 1972
Escultor estadounidense de formación autodidacta. Es considerado como precursor y pionero en el arte del "assemblage", en sus construcciones vemos el reflejo de una meditación personal cargada de riqueza poética
En 1925 conoce la obra de Picasso, Derain y Rousseau, cinco años después conocerá los "collages" de Max Ernst y así como la obra de otros miembros del surrealismo J. Lévy.
Su aportación más original la constituyen sus cajas de cristal: cajas que sirven de soporte a colecciones de curiosidades románticas o victorianas, en las que se combina la austeridad formal del constructivismo con la fantasía del surrealismo, que adentra al espectador en un ámbito onírico.
Joseph Cornell (1903-1972), escultor estadounidense, uno de los pioneros del ensamblaje. Nació en Nyack, estado de Nueva York, y su obra refleja la influencia del movimiento surrealista, de la abstracción cubista y de la técnica de collage. A mediados de la década de 1930 empezó a crear sus obras más características, entre las que se incluye una caja, cuyo frente es de vidrio, que contiene objetos encontrados, tales como fotografías y material impreso, así como fragmentos de imágenes múltiples en una cuidada yuxtaposición surrealista. Más que cuadros o esculturas, sus obras se suele calificar como construcciones.
En la actualidad, cuando muchos artistas trabajan con medios electrónicos, tecnológicos o con el legado de la abstracción, John Currin (1962), radicado en Nueva York, representa una corriente alternativa que reconsidera las posibilidades de la pintura figurativa.
Stamford After-Brunch. 2000
Polémico por ello, sus obras son un intento por encontrar la manera en que la figuración puede ser relevante y actual en la cultura presente. Su primera exhibición individual en 1992 a punto del boicot lo lanzó a la fama.
En los años que cubre la exhibición, coorganizada por el Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Chicago y exhibiéndose en el Museo Whitney de Arte Americano en Nueva York, vemos que Currin ha explorado muchos estilos inspirados por una extensa gama de imágenes, desde las pinturas de los maestros renacentistas y manieristas italianos y del norte de Europa Botticelli, Mantegna, Pontormo, Durero, pasando por las ilustraciones y anuncios de revistas americanas y la fotografía pornográfica.
The Pink Tree, 1999.
La constante en su trabajo es su interés en la figura humana, por lo visual y por ser ésta un vehículo para entender los códigos sociales.
Mientras Currin es mejor conocido por sus pinturas de mujeres algunas de ellas desnudas y usualmente muy sexualizadas su trabajo incluye figuras masculinas, y parejas, tanto heterosexuales como gay.
Ms Omni, 1993
Ninguna de las imágenes es cargada con tabúes sociales, confiando acertadamente en la habilidad del arte para sustentar y elevar aun los más comprometidos o problemáticos temas.
Dentro de las diferentes fases de su obra, encontramos los solitarios retratos de mujeres de mediana edad con fondos monocromáticos de principios de los años noventa, cuando Currin comenzó a realizar desnudos, y no siempre de la manera convencional.
Bea Arthur desnuda (1991) muestra a la veterana estrella de la exitosa serie de televisión The golden girls desnuda de los senos hacia arriba. Otro trabajo, titulado Trasero, representa las nalgas de una mujer en una casi abstracta simplicidad.
Nude on a Table, 2001
Aunque algunos detractores de su obra lo acusan de perpetuar los estereotipos de género, sus pinturas más bien crean una ambigua representación de los roles tradicionales, llegando a convertirlos en caricaturas sociales y trayéndonos a la mente a Otto Dix, Hogarth y Daumier.
Sus mujeres de senos desbordantes contrastan con las famélicas figuras como Ms. Omni. Y aun cuando él ha explorado las más violentas distorsiones y variaciones de las técnicas pictóricas, ha producido sutiles obras, entre ellas Sin corazón (1997) y El árbol rosa (1999) pintado bajo la influencia de Lucas Cranach, arquetipos de la sexualidad femenina, mujeres con formas sinuosas que reflejan sensualidad y a la vez inocencia.
Skinny Woman, 1992.
Uno de sus más recientes trabajos, Pescadores (2002), refleja su interés actual en las composiciones dinámicas de los períodos Barroco y Rococó. Inspirado por artistas como Giambatistta Tiepolo y Francois Boucher, esta obra se caracteriza por las formas interrelacionadas de líneas complejas y en movimiento.
El trabajo de Currin está lleno de contradicciones, pero es indudable su virtuosismo técnico y su capacidad de síntesis, absorbe de diversas fuentes, tanto de la historia del arte como de la cultura popular. Su trabajo puede parecer artificialmente bello y muchas veces chocante e irónico. Nada mal para el más celebrado y reconocido artista norteamericano en la actualidad.
The Producer. 2002.
posted by ANTONIO TRASHORRAS.
Walking through the Serpentines new exhibition, a retrospective of American artist John Currin, brings an immediate smile to my face. A smile at the intrinsic humour of many of the paintings, but also smiles of recognition as the influences from the history of art are gradually revealed.
Critic David Cohen described Currin as a disingenous and meretricious hack in an article that claimed the artists audience was in fact, the artworld insider and contrasted his vulgarity with Norman Rockwell: While Rockwell sought to console the million, Currin would probably be content to rake one in. Strong stuff, but also more than a little unfair and misguided.
John Currin is an alumni of the prestigious Yale University where he received his MFA in 1986 and since then his star has risen fairly quickly. A solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 1995 was followed by inclusions in major international shows such as the Carnegie International 1999/2000 and the Whitney Biennial (2000).
Hes a painter of portraits; fictitious portraits in most cases. Often inspired by photographs from old magazines and the facial proportions of his wifes face, he was initially drawn to painting as a reaction to the more progressive media then in vogue in the early nineties such as installations, performance and video art. As Currin himself confessed in an interview with Rochelle Steiner: it was very easy to exploit peoples inhibitions about painting.
The work itself is technically impressive, and cannot be divorced from the subject matter which oscillates from the flatly realistic to the thickly cartoonish, often within the same painting. The women in his paintings smile blankly or give hollow laughs for the viewer, which create a sense of uncomfortable anxiety.
Men are seldom featured and when they are, they're pushed out of the frame or cropped by the paintings edge, such as Park City Grill (2000). The exception is a brief series of images dealing with homosexuality or featuring gay men.
It would be accurate to suggest that Currin feels uncomfortable painting men: they lack the unforced sensuousness and variety of the women, but make a mildly diverting subgroup, a lukewarm and slightly unconvincing attempt by Currin to diversify. That's not to say all his male renditions are failures, far from it, and some, such as Two Guys (2002) radiate genuine warmth and an affection for his subject.
But Currin comes alive with the female form and sensibly devotes most of his time to his portraits and scenes of women.
The exhibition begins chronologically with his paintings from the late eighties and early nineties featuring strangely blank-faced women, often looking off-frame, with dark, expressionless eyes, devoid of any highlight. It's as if their eyes are black holes sucking inwards any light that they would normally reflect.
This is followed by paintings of from 1993, where Currins technique begins to nod towards the Expressionist techniques of Max Beckmann with thicker, more obvious brushstrokes and exaggerated features. He also began his series of girls lying stationary in bed as if too ill to move or communicate, blankets pulled up to their chins. Currin describes them as completely passive a reaction against the earlier paintings where he felt that the harsh, minimalist backgrounds were like acts of violence.
Feminists have sometimes reacted unkindly to Currins portrayal of females, particularly his series from the late nineties featuring women with insanely large, almost inflatable chests, such as The Bra Shop (1997) and Jaunty and Mame (1997). Currin is too clever and calculating to be unaware of the reaction these paintings would cause, and he concedes There was an opportunity to make provocative paintings. I took that opportunity although I eventually got tired of working that way.
Perhaps more disturbing than the large breasts is the treatment of the faces. While the bodies are lovingly painted with gentle curves, the cartoonish faces are rendered with violent impastos of thickly applied paint. The contrast in the approaches to the face and body is the reverse of the later Buffet (1999), where it's the face that is carefully painted and the background and body quickly dashed off with vigourous brushstrokes.
This sea-change in stye and approach to women could perhaps be explained by his marriage to sculptor Rachel Feinstein, whom he began to use as inspiration for many of his subsequent paintings. Although the women in his later works are not precise recreations of his wife, it's clear from his first actual portrait of her, Rachel in Fur (2002), that he has been drawing on the proportions of her face.
From 1998 Currin began a series of works inspired by Renaissance paintings, which seem at once familiar and refreshingly new, almost as if Post-Modernist paintings of Carlo Maria Mariani, Tibor Czernus and David Ligare from the 1980s had never happened.
Whether or not you enjoy the exhibition really hinges on what stance you adopt on his attitude to his subjects. Personally I find the off-kilter humour, laced with a kind of unsettling melancholy, gives the work a depth that makes the images stick in the mind. Its clear that Currin loves the female form and intrigued by the feminine mind, and when combined with influences that range from Italian artists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries to cheesy girlie magazines the results are unexpectedly beautiful and arresting.
Painter, illustrator, skateboard designer and sometimes comics artist Esao Andrews grew up in Mesa, Arizona and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York in what he claims is a drunken splendor with his dog Soybean. A frequent contributor to the Meathaus comics anthology, Esao is now
concentrating on paintings for several future gallery shows and a cover for the upcoming Graphic Classics: O. Henry. His very entertaining website can be visited at www.esao.net.
Entrevista con Esao Andrews aparecida en www.pixelsurgeon.com, y realizada por Jason Arber.
Growing up in the Arizona desert and now a part of New York City's creative community, Esao Andrews has carved himself a niche as a unique artist and painter of dark, dreamy worlds. Inhabiting the paintings is a gothic cast of strange creatures and mysterious females. We spoke with Esao about his upbringing and what impact, if any, that may have had on his surreal, blackly humorous work.
* Give us a little bit of background about yourself, where did you grow up, where you regularly beaten at school and so on...
I grew up in Mesa, Arizona. We lived on a plot of land that would end up becoming a neighborhood years down the line. When I was a baby, the landscape was just a bleating desert in all directions speckled with mobile homes and double-wide trailers. My father was in the Air Force for 26 years and retired to become a teacher on an Indian Reservation. I guess the land was cheap and it was close to an Air Force Base which we went to for medical care and to get groceries.
I love the desert. I spent most of my childhood jumping dirt mounds on my bike, collecting bugs and sun dried nudie magazines. For some reason I had an obsession with collecting the marbles inside old spray-paint cans.
* You'd be amazed of the variety, metal bearings, wooden or glass marbles, and sometimes nicely designed Pachinko balls. I even found a cat's eye marble once.
As for elementary school it wasn't too bad. Being one of the only Japanese people around contributed to a small share of name calling and the neighborhood had its bullies. There was basically one family that made up the bully population in the area, The Bedwells. There must have been 15 of them. The oldest and was pretty cool to me. His name was Bubba, no joke. There was also a mean one named Maurice. I visited my old neighborhood a few years ago and I couldn't believe when I saw Maurice still riding a BMX around. He did a double take at me as I drove by, not that he recognized me, but just looking to be tough. Keepin' it real I guess. I got into skateboarding when I was 11 which was probably the best life altering choice I ever made and basically made me who I am today.
* When did you decide that you were creative? Was there a life-defining moment or have you always been creative and are now channelling it?
I guess there was never any deciding moment to pursue art, because I think I was always interested in creating stuff. Drawing wasn't something I did exclusively. Building all sorts of props and gadgets whether out of cardboard, broken electronics or anything I could find some use of was my main pastime. When I was around 8 years old I used to have a system of pulley's to close and open my bedroom door and control the light switch from my bed. It didn't really work too well cuz I had to pull so hard to get enough momentum for the door to move. Drawing came more into play when we moved into a house for a while, most of the junk that was laying around got thrown away and the pressures of aging curbed me from making toys to play with. By high school it was set, I wanted to go to an art college.
* Do you have any formal art training?
I went to the School of Visual Arts in NYC.
* Do you make a living from your paintings or do you subsidise it with design work?
I wish I made a living on just painting, but its rough to deal with galleries and the usual 50% cut they take. At this point, illustration is still more rewarding financially then selling a painting (plus you get to keep the illustration). I got a sweet gig doing skateboard designs for Baker Skateboards. It's really anonymous work-for-hire stuff but it's a main source of income and can be fun.
* Many of your drawings and paintings feature enigmatic, almost alien-looking, young women; does this represent some kind of erotic desire on your part?
There is definitely something erotic about my subject matter. I think a lot of it has to do with the attitude of the characters themselves rather than any fetish I may have for distorted figures. It's not that I want to sleep with aliens or anything. I try to make the eroticism subtle enough for the viewer to make up their own story about what's happening in it.
* There's a bizarre mix of nightmarish surrealism teetering in balance with humour in your work. If the see-saw were to tip, would you say your work deals with a subconscious horror or strange humour?
Though a few of my paintings have been somewhat neutral on the serious/humor scale lately, I definitely enjoy putting a bit of humor in all of my work. I think it was a defense mechanism I developed a long time ago so I could pretend to everybody that I didn't take my artwork too seriously. Its gotten to the point that if I don't have a humorous element, then I feel it takes on an even greater form of cheesiness. Unfortunately its become a crutch, but I'm working on it. Been thinking about painting from life more, doing landscapes, still lifes and even building some furniture.
* Are your paintings created with real paint or are they digital?
Oil on wood.
* You live in a metropolitan area now. What kind of inspiration, if any, do you draw from your current surroundings, or is your work more internal?
As for fashion sense, hair styles and any other kind of female inspirations are inspired right from the street. But all the other surroundings are all internal. If I incorporate a setting, its usually a quaint antique look, simple, or deciduous. Which is pretty different from a condensed city or the desert where I grew up.
* What's the obsession with ballerina's feet?
I had to do an illustration for a magazine and needed some feet for reference so I asked my roommate and his girlfriend. She was a ballerina and when I saw her feet I was so amazed, I guess I never really thought about how grossly calloused they get from all the tip-toeing and that made me have sort of an obsession with them just because the ballet is so perfect a mechanical. When they got married I attended the wedding and through the course of the drunken night asked all the girls to let me take photos of their feet. I must have taken a few dozen photos, but only a few came out due to me being drunk, having a cheap camera, and it being wintertime (which made them reluctant to take off their shoes for long.)
* There seems to be the influence of John Currin in your work; who else is an influence for you?
I have the usual collection of influences: Klimt, Schiele, Mucha, Victorian/Pre-Raphaelites painters, Joe Sorren, I met the most talented bunch of friends in college and just living in NYC and they are hands down my most influential artists: James Jean, Tom Herpich, Tomer Hanuka, Patrick Smith, Autumn Whitehurst. For a while I was totally obsessed with the comic artist Al Columbia which still sometimes leaks into my drawing even now. Its funny, I never heard of John Currin until a few years ago. I have gotten comparisons and I guess the influence he has on me now is to try and not be compared with him so much. Its been good for me to keep evolving. Its not that I don't like his work, I do, it's just that I don't want people to think I've been trying to bite his style or something which isn't the case. I shouldn't worry about that kind of stuff because someday I'll grow into my own unique voice and there's no need to force it. I came across this very amazing digital artist named Ray Caesar this year. I was completely blown away. I wrote to him saying that our paintings could be from the same world but his work was light years ahead of what I was hoping to achieve aesthetically/technically in my lifetime. He said maybe we knew each other in another life or that we eat the same kind of cheese before bedtime. Who knows how things turn out the way they do and how influences, how different they may be, can produce a idea within a similar vein.
* Your site's homepage is very funny; how did that concept come about?
When I was in school, Tomer got me a job at an education kids website hired as an illustrator. They ended up teaching me flash and as it evolved I was doing short animated cartoon with little games in them. I didn't take any computer classes in college, but work was like getting payed to learn, most of my friends worked there. All I knew how to do in flash was animate and make animated buttons. So thats why the site is entirely that. When I saw vectorpark my attention to detail increased immensely. I still don't consider myself a computer guy and ask Patrick to help me out with scripting questions when I can't figure them out because he's the best action scripter around.
posted by ANTONIO TRASHORRAS.
Since a young age Jeff Soto (1975) has been captivated by the visual arts. He credits early exposure to the work of artists Mercer Mayer and Patrick Woodroffe as stimuli for his creativity. When he was 15 he began to dabble in the art of graffiti, which he credits as a major influence in his art. His artistic influences are too many to list but include Van Gogh, Paul Cadmus, Lisa Yuskavage, Twist, Otto Dix, Georganne Deen, Alex Gross, Manuel Ocampo, Margaret Kilgallen and the Clayton Brothers (to name but a few). Jeff's work has been shown in galleries across the US, and recently in Europe. He graduated with Distinction from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. In his spare time he likes to sleep in with the wifey, look for aliens at night, read comics, take crappy photos, and nurture the always growing cacti farm.
Entrevista realizada por Shane Bryant para su página web Crown Dozen (www.crowndozen.com):
Sifting through the immense amount of graffiti-influenced and so-called lowbrow paintings that we see these days, there is one artist whom has developed a style consisting of instantly recognizable icons, incredibly attractive emotions, and still completely approachable ideas, all wrapped up in some of the most incredible talent and natural instinct I have seen in recent years. Studying hard to become what he is today, and shaped by the pokes, jabs, and then soothing caresses of a hard-knock art world, his name is Jeff Soto and if you havent been peeping his stuff already, take note because he is one to watch.
Jeff has already shown in US and European galleries, has commercial clients including Sony Music, Spin Magazine, and Morrow Snowboards, and is
still as creative, prolific, humble, and hungry as he was when he first
began. Theres not much else to be said that isnt covered below, but I will add that honestly, if I could pick only one painting to hang in my living room, it would be Jeffs Turtle God piece that I have included below. Yup.
* So, how has the Jeff Soto style evolved over the years?
Style is a hard thing to talk about, especially how its evolved. I guess my style has evolved to include all the types of techniques I enjoy- collage, mark making, drawing, stenciling, being messy and rendering things very tight with acrylics. Im actually creating similar imagery to
what I was doing 5 years ago, only my process and consequently my style
has changed. Im really into creating chaos and then redefining that chaos
until I feel the piece is done. Im really into layering and repainting areas until it looks right.
Interview With Jeff Soto
By Dorian Denes & Agata Janus
From graffiti walls to gallery spaces - tell us more about this development.
I started doing graffiti the same time as I got interested in painting on canvas (sophmore year of high school). The two always went hand in hand for me, I wanted to show in galleries and at the same time rock walls. After I got out of high school I had more 'success' in the world of graffiti, but as I got older my emphasis started turning to expressing myself through painting and drawing. There were limitations to what I felt I could do with spraypaint, for example there were only certain colors available back then. Graffiti was a big part of my development as an artist but I don't consider myself a 'street' or 'urban' artist.
What about the American "underground" scene? Are you a part of that?
I don't know. I'm not trying to fit into any scene, I'm just trying to create work that I'm proud of. My work gets grouped in with the underground artists- graffiti, illustration, hot rod, skate, comics, etc. and I know many of these people so maybe I am part of the movement. I'll let someone else decide.
Do you like Art critics?
I'm cool with the critics, but haven't had too many reviews. In a way I think it's unfair for one person to make a decision on someone's work without meeting the artist or seeing them work and create in person.
Your images have a great amount of detail. How detailed do you do your sketches?
The sketches are pretty basic, just enough detail to get me started with an idea. The paintings usually turn out pretty different. I like working that way because it gives me freedom and lets things happen accidentally which sometimes end up nice.
Any interesting "rituals" before you start creating?
I used to go on walks and look at plants and nature to clear my mind. I also used to paint from my dreams. But these days I'm too busy so I just paint everyday and build off of past projects.
Do you have prefered working hours? Do you pay attention to the time of the day or maybe specific lighting?
Late at night, my best work comes during the hours of 11pm-5am. No one calling on the phone or asking me for help. Just me and my music and my mind. I love it.
You also seem to paint on "recycled materials" - do you consider it to be a concept? How important is it?
It's not that important, I just like the way it looks. But sometimes a nice old plank of wood will inspire me to paint something particular on it.
Who buys your paintings? To be able to successfully sell your art must be very rewarding.
I love the fact that I'm living off my art! It's been my dream for so long and I'm grateful to everyone who's bought pieces in the last couple years. All kinds of people have purchased pieces- from the rich to the practically poor. Designers, art collectors, other artists, professionals, students, all kinds of people from several countries. I love them all!
You mention that you have many influences, but is there one artist in or one particular art work that leaves you speechless?
There's been several but the one that stands out was a Van Gogh. It was one of his many olive tree grove paintings. There was nothing really special about it, not one of his famous paintings or anything, but, I felt his presence, I could read his brush strokes, I could see his hand. It really affected me, and Van Gogh remains one of my favorites to this day.
Have you met an Alien yet? Your favourite robot?
I've met illegal aliens. Does that count? Nope, never seen any aliens, but I do think they must exist somewhere out there. It'd be sad if our planet was the only life supporting place in the universe. My favorite robot? Probably the transforming Valkyries from Macross. Or maybe Darth Vader.
How is your cacti collection?
My plants have been doing alright lately but I lost several of them last summer when I forgot to water them. Most people think cacti don't need too much water, but they do when the temp. is above 100. What sucks is that sometimes you can't tell if they're dead for months.
Are you planning another chapter to the Robots Have Feelings Too collective? Can you reveal any other future plans?
That group show was fun and a lot of work. I'd like to curate another group show sometime maybe in 2005 but with only 8-10 artists that follow a theme in their personal work. I have some ideas but nothing set in stone yet.
READERSVOICE.COM: Can you talk a bit about the hernia operation you just had, how hernias come about, how it has affected your art work or your schedule, and how you're spending recovery time? Has the experience benefitted you in any way?
JEFF SOTO: Before I answer any questions I want to warn everyone that I tend to ramble. Okay now I'll answer some questions!
Hernias can come about by straining when lifting something heavy. Sometimes it's a defect that people have from birth that rears its ugly head later in life. It's caused by the intestines pushing through a weakness in the abdominal muscle wall. It's one of the most common surgery procedures, and I've met so many people in the last few months that have had an operation. I think it's more common in men than in women, but I've met a few women that have gone through it.
The actual operation was strange and fascinating actually. I'd never had surgery so it was all new to me. I was interviewed by half a dozen nurses and poked a couple times by the nurse who was having a hard time hooking up the IV.
Then they wheeled me off to the surgery room. I asked the nurses if they ever watched ER. "Nope", she said, " I get enough of that working here every day".
Then I was laying on a table looking straight up into turned off lights. It was just like the movies, someone placed an oxygen mask over my face and told me to take deep breaths. Immediately I felt a little weird.
I wanted to laugh, and I might have actually, because I took a few deep breaths and it felt like I was shrinking into my brain!
All the sounds (they had James Brown playing in the background) abruptly slowed down and my vision seemed to darken and things got smaller. I think I probably fell asleep with a big smile because it was just so wrong man!
Next thing I know I'm opening my eyes and I'm in a different room. It felt like a second went by. I was thinking maybe I didn't even have the operation. So I felt down with my hand and I was shaved and bandaged! It was so weird!
After the operation they make you hang out a bit and make sure you have no problems taking a piss. It was very difficult to walk, I hobbled over to the bathroom, a nurse holding my IV thing. I think my ass was hanging out of the back of my gown. Am I sick that I think it's funny that people saw my hairy ass hobbling down the hall? After that I went home and have been recovering by watching TV, sleeping a lot, playing a video game, and recently getting some illustration work done.
I think the experience of surgery has given me some insight into the whole process of how it all works. If that makes any sense...
RV: Can you talk a bit about where you grew up and what it was like? Did you go to college in the same area, and where do you live now and what's it like?
JS: I could easily write a book on my life up to when I completed college (I got my BA two years ago at the age of 26), but I'll try to keep things short.
I was born in Fullerton, CA, but I grew up in Riverside which is around 60 miles east of Los Angeles. I was ten when my family moved out here and I had three younger brothers.
We did all the things kids do in the suburbs. We played sports in the street, climbed trees, threw rocks at houses, found vacant lots to play in, explored the Santa Ana river which was about a 1/2 mile away.
We did a lot of drawing too, even though I'm the only Soto brother to pursue art as a career. We all enjoyed drawing. Skateboarding was big in our area so there was always a jump ramp in the street and we found old concrete drainage ditches to skate in. I think at the time skateboarding and art went hand in hand, so it was natural to be interested in both. Somehow, in high school I got heavily into graffiti. I became obsessed and my grades plummeted to D's and F's. I got my shit together last minute and barely graduated.
I started community college and ended up being there for six years. Then I transferred to Art Center in Pasadena, CA. I still live in Riverside and not much has changed it seems. It's part hick, part gangsta, part dirtbikers, part Goth, a little ghetto at times and yes, I've seen a few mullets around here. It's a pretty normal town, it's not very wealthy but not super poor either. There's no good bookstores out here, the art scene is small but growing, and the smog seems to be getting a little better.
READERSVOICE.COM: Generally, what sort of books do you like to read?
JEFF SOTO: I used to read more in college than I do now. It's sad but I never seem to have the time to read a book. When I get home after working I just want to sleep.
When I do have time I like to read fiction. I love the old Sci-Fi writers from the 50's, they had such an interesting view of spaceflight and what we'd encounter in the universe. I get all these old books from my dad who's a big time reader of horror and Sci-fi. I really love The Martian Chronicles.
I used to read 'popular fiction', y'know, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robert McCammon. The first book over 100 pages I read was Swan Song by McCammon in 6th grade.
I have a huge collection of art books but I usually don't read them, I just check out the pictures. I just read half of a book last night that I'm illustrating the cover for. It's a campy horror tale called Gil's All Fright Diner. It's a story about a werewolf and a vampire that get sucked into a small town's zombie problem. I'm really enjoying it so far, it was nice to just read for hours.
I've also started a book called The Radioactive Boyscout, a true story about a kid who started experimenting with radioactive materials.
My friend Darren just gave me a book by Vonnegut that sounds cool, I just need to find time to read!
RV: What are some of your favorite magazines or newspapers, or websites?
JS: Magazines- I have subscriptions to Spin, Playboy, Juxtapoz, Jane, plus I get tons of magazines from illustration work.
I like reading Newsweek and National Geographic. Also occasionally I'll pick up random magazines like Men's Health, Tropical Fish hobbyist, Giant Robot, Vice, Tokian, Fine Scale Modeler, Communication Arts, Rolling Stone... I usually get my news at BBC news online
Some websites I frequent:
RV: Can you list your five favorite books of all time, whether fiction, biography, art books, anything, and maybe say why you liked them?
JS: Professor Wormbog in Search of the Zipperumpazoo by Mercer Mayer. Still one of my favorites. The art is so perfect for the story with all its subtle details. A real masterpiece.
Mythopoiekon The art of Patrick Woodroffe. An English artist/illustrator, his work was and is inspirational to me.
Battle Circle by Piers Anthony. One of the Soto brothers' favorite reads. Epic in scale.
Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit I read all these before the movie came out and loved them. Tolkien is the man!
Also: 1984, Swan Song, Che, the new Clayton Brothers book, Broken Wrist Project, and the hundreds of art books I collect.
RV: What's your daily routine usually?
JS: Wake up, get ready and head out the door. I try to get into the studio by 9:30 then start looking through email and taking care of office stuff (such as record keeping, organizing, and returning calls). I try to get a few hours of painting in each day. Lately I've been really busy with both illustration work and gallery shows so my routine is all messed up and differs day to day.
READERSVOICE.COM: What sorts of things trigger a painting for you?
JEFF SOTO: I don't know, I guess that's the hardest part. I'll see something new or have the rare original idea and pull something from it. When I had more time to read and explore it was easier to come up with ideas.
Sometimes I don't have any ideas so I'll just start working. I'll start with an abstract style of painting which sometimes leads me to ideas about what to do next.
RV: Your paintings have many details and lots of almost mini-pictures within them sometimes. I was wondering what sort of scrapbooks you might have and where you might collect ideas from, and what notes you might write in scrapbooks?
JS: My sketchbooks are very loose and undefined. I jot down notes and do quick sketches for possible paintings- everything is very unfinished at this point. It's also filled with artists names and phone numbers, maps, and to-do lists.
I think the sketchbooks are more important than the paintings because they show how I arrive at a finished piece. I have about 20 sketchbooks from the last ten years and I keep them in a milk crate for easy access if we're ever evacuated (I live in the land of earthquakes and brush fires).
RV: This is a big question, but I was wondering if you could give a layman's description of the steps involved in creating a painting like Gumivore Love. (one of the paintings featured in the Crown Dozen interview which can be found on Jeff Soto's website under "art") http://www.jeffsoto.com
JS: The Gumivore Love painting took a while to complete. It's four feet by two, one of the largest paintings I've worked on in the last few years.
I had an initial sketch for the piece, inspired by both environmentalist ideas and science fiction. Once the wood was cut out, I began by laying down a base coat. Sometimes this is house paint of various colors, but I think this time I used a bright red acrylic paint. Then I started blocking in areas of color, letting subtle areas of the red come through.
From then on I loosely followed the drawing, leaving things out and adding elements as I went. When it was done it didn't resemble the original drawing too much but that's how I work. I painted a few hours every day for a couple of weeks- the longest I've worked on one piece. When it was finished I felt it was my masterpiece, and I was happy that it was featured recently on the cover of Juxtapoz.
RV: Does your interest in model making, like the gunship from Nausicaa, and the Trade Federation tank from Star Wars, spill over into your painting? Are those figures you paint like toys or models you are assembling?
JS: I used to be into model making as a kid, though I never finished one in its entirety. It's something I rediscovered recently and is pretty much unrelated to my art. It's just a fun hobby that relaxes me when I get a chance to do it.
RV: What sort of illustration work did you do for magazines like Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, Field and Stream? How did you go about getting work from them?
JS: I've done all kinds of illustration work in the last two years. Editorial pieces for all kinds of magazines, advertising work, maps, posters, CD covers and book covers. That's one of the things I love about illustration, it's always a new challenge and there's always a new subject to learn about.
The illustration work is different from my fine art work because there's usually an art director and an editor who have a say in the final piece. I try to keep things in my style, and the best art directors will just let me do my thing.
To get the jobs a newbie illustrator must send out promos and make the rounds in New York. It's a long term project, you must always look for ways to promote yourself. For me it was a combination of hard work and getting references to certain art directors. To an extent it's all about who you know, but I also like to think my work has something to do with it and maybe that's led to some jobs!
READERSVOICE.COM: Can you talk a bit about your high school interest in graffiti, and a bit about your graffiti years?
JEFF SOTO: I could write a book about my graffiti experiences. It was an addiction. I'd tag all over, I was terrible.
There were a few things I was exposed to that got me into graf. It seems kinda cliche but skateboarding actually got me doing my first bit of graffiti. Probably around 1986-87 we started skating in a drainage ditch by my house called "The L" (it was shaped like an "L"). There was old graffiti already painted on it, not of the Hip Hop variety but just kids drawing obscenities and some gang graffiti.
We would take spraypaint out of our parents' and neighbors' garages. We redecorated The L with skate logos like Powell Rat bones, Independent, Santa Cruz, and lots of random arrows, checkers, names and doodles. I think I saw ramps painted with graffiti in a magazine I'd get sometimes called Freestylin', maybe we were trying to do something like that.
Then, a few years later in high school I started looking at art books. I had always been into art since I was little, but I started getting into the history of it, and looking at individual artists. I was really into modern art, artists like Andy Warhol, Barbara Kruger, Keith Haring, all these New York artists.
One day at the library I found a book on New York street art. It had all these artists who took their projects to the streets; it had postering, billboard art, sculpture, stickering...and graffiti. When I saw the graffiti photos I just knew I had to try it.
That was 1989, my freshman year. I consider it the start of my involvement with graffiti.
I dabbled in graffiti and did my first piece before I ever did a tag. At first I didn't even know tagging was part of graffiti, I thought it was only about painting letters. I worked solo for maybe half a year, in which time I learned a lot about can control, and graffiti etiquette.
I started painting with my friend Maxx, and we created a crew called CIA which stood for Criminally Insane Artists and Call It Art. We started meeting other writers at our high school and beyond. We painted in abandoned areas like old cement reservoirs, underneath bridges, behind buildings along train tracks and derelict buildings in vacant lots.
In the meantime the whole Chaka thing blew up and graffiti was in the news. Almost overnight graffiti became a fad and it seemed that all of Southern CA was being destroyed. By then our crew was pretty well respected in our area, at least as piecers. We painted at a place called Twin Palms (which sadly has been bulldozed recently), we considered it our yard.
Then in '92 tagbanging came into existence. It left a bad taste in my mouth; knowing that I'd devoted 3 years of my life to graffiti and it'd turned into kids shooting each other. Looking back you can't really blame the kids. The country was in a recession and everyone in my area was poor. The economy was jacked up, especially because of So. CA's aerospace industry dying out. Everyone's parents were being layed off and kids were probably not having the best homelife. Despite all this, I continued to do graffiti seriously until 2000.
I was never arrested for doing graffiti, most likely because I didn't pursue the high profile spots and wasn't much for simple tagging.
I don't paint graffiti too much anymore. The consequences of getting caught outweigh the fun. Plus my wife would kill me if I was arrested.
As far as my art skills, yeah, graffiti really taught me something. I learned a lot about scale and color combinations. And it helped me develop my style.
RV: You spent many years in college doing many different subjects and I was wondering if you would do things the same way if you could do those years over again.
JS: I'm super happy with the way things have turned out. I think if things were done different, I'd be doing something else right now. All the years I spent in community college prepared me for Art Center which was a very serious college and I feel that I took full advantage of the resources that were available.
RV: What sort of jobs did you do over the years and did they influence you as an artist at all, or were they just survival?
JS: I worked fast food, was a shopping cart pusher at Target, and worked for a school district. These jobs had no influence on my art other than driving me to be a successful artist so I didn't have to work at these places again! I quit my job at Target when I was 23 to pursue art and things were very tough.
I worked freelance for clothing companies, did logos for people's businesses, did window painting, tried to do comics, and tried to get into galleries. I learned about certain aspects of commercial art, but the crappy jobs I'd get never really influenced my paintings. It was hard to make any money and I felt my work could improve so I stopped working freelance and decided to apply to Art Center. Things never really took off until I finished college.
READERSVOICE.COM: Can you describe whether there was a lot of pressure on you after leaving the Art Center College of Design? What sort of steps did you take to ensure success and how much painting and drawing would you do per day?
JEFF SOTO: I felt intense pressure and stress when I graduated. I had been surviving on my financial aid checks which would come every few months. I knew I had to work hard and try to compete for illustration jobs. So I did a few things a year before I graduated.
I put a plan in place. I started taking out the maximum amount of loans (even though I was getting lots of scholarship money). I started saving a little from each financial aid check and started budgeting money. I put some aside to pay bills, some was set aside for promos and a trip to New York.
When I graduated I had enough saved up to pay off my car and pay my bills for a few months and I had saved enough to do a postcard mailer and fly to New York for meetings. The downside of this is that I owe a crapload of money!
The other things I did were to start entering contests, compile a list of possible clients, trying to get in gallery shows, and networking with my teachers and fellow students.
Before I graduated I had been in a few shows and had done a piece for Entertainment Weekly- the art director had no idea I was still a student at the time. After doing all this preparation for a year, I still had a hard time after graduation. The jobs came in but sporadically, and they never paid very well.
I was a very stressed out dude! I had trouble sleeping, acid indigestion, big bags under my eyes. I was making just enough to scrape by. Then things started picking up after a trip to New York.
At first I didn't do too much art. It sounds funny but illustration is a business and there was so much to take care of that drawing probably only took up 30% of my time. Things are different now that I don't do as much self-promo.
RV: You said in another interview that you get very passionate about interests you develop. Can you talk a bit about your interests, like your cactus collecting days and other interests you've developed and how you've pursued them?
JS: I have too many interests and not enough time. I love plants, camping, all things nature.
I tend to get a bit obsessive about my hobbies, for example checking out ten books on cacti from the library. Or buying way more plastic model kits than I could ever finish. Or going through my phase of wanting to go camping every weekend (though I usually go once a year). I just get really into things and forget all my other interests.
Right now all I want to do is go hiking. No cacti, no movies, no TV, just hiking.
RV: Do you have any favorite paintings you've made, and if so why those in particular?
JS: I like them all for different reasons. I never put something up that I don't like. If it's a stinker, I paint over it or keep working on it till I'm happy.
I do like Gumivore Love, I think because I spent so much time on it and I felt "close" to it, like it was my baby.
RV: What sort of exhibitions and other projects do you have planned?
JS: I'm doing a show at the new BLK/MRKT Gallery in Culver City July 17th 2004. It's a solo show and I'm going crazy painting for it.
After that I have more shows here and there, but I'm looking forward to doing bigger shows less frequently. I need a break!
To check out some of Jeff Soto's paintings see:
A. M. CASSANDRE
Wagon Lits Cook. 1934.
"Un buen cartel es un telegrama visual". A. M. Cassandre.
Con vosotros uno de los pilares del cartelismo e impulsor decisivo del Art Decó a nivel popular. De las estilizadas obras de A.M. Cassandre me sigue maravillando su abrumadora capacidad de síntesis, su certera diagramación, su radicalidad a la hora de llevar lo más lejos posible un concepto de partida, y ese modelado cromático, denso y bidimensional al mismo tiempo, tantas veces imitado desde entonces. Os dejo con su obra.
Muchísima información sobre él, incluídos estos textos que a continuación incluyó, puede encontrarse en la página web: www.cassandre.fr.
Adolphe Jean-Marie Edouard Mouron, known as A.M. Cassandre, was born in Kharkov, Ukraine, on January 24, 1901. His parents were French. After a childhood spent shuttling back and forth between Russia and France, he settled in Paris with his family in 1915 and completed his schooling there. In 1918, after attending the Ecole des Beaux-Arts very briefly, he enrolled in Lucien Simons independent studio and later at the Académie Julian.
Soon obliged to earn his own living, Mouron designed several posters, possibly as early as 1921; they were done in a caricatural style which was probably derived from the German School. Almost all of these early works have been lost. In 1922 he moved to his first studio in Paris, on the Rue du Moulin-Vert in Montparnasse. He decided to sign his advertising designs with the pseudonym Cassandre, which was sometimes combined (up to 1928) with the name Mouron.
He produced his first poster Au Bucheron at 22. His inspiration for this piece and others that followed, came from the fine arts active in Paris at the time. There is evidence of influence from the works of Picasso and Braque. His poster works celebrate architectonic structure and the machine. His attraction and use of the steamboat and locomotive elements were close to embracing the poetic spirit of friend Le Corbusier. Close inspection of his works reveal a knowledge of the Purist principles and the use of grid structures.
Vin Tonique Quinquina.
In 1924 he created the great LIntransigeant truck poster. Cassandres work was seen as a bridge between the modern fine arts and the commercial arts. Despite his affinity to the fine arts he always believed there should be a separateness between disciplines. The success of his posters probably lies in his philosophy that his posters were meant to be seen by people who do not try to see them.
In 1924, Cassandre married his first wife, Madeleine Cauvet, who was the niece of Georges Richard, one of the pioneers of Frances automobile industry. He commissioned Auguste Perret to design a house for him in Versailles and settled there after its completion in 1925. That same year, Cassandre signed an exclusive contract with Hachard & Cie, the firm which was to publish his posters up to 1927. After meeting Maurice Moyrand (in 1926), who was at that time the head agent for the printers L. Danel in Lille and who soon became a close friend, he quit Hachard and began to design for the Lille firm. Simultaneously, he designed his advertising typeface, Bifur, which was cast in the spring of 1929 by Deberny & Peignot.
Toward the end of 1933, he made his debut as a painter for the theater, thanks to Louis Jouvet who was first to put his gifts in this field to use. That same year, Cassandre was given a teaching position at the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs; however, the graphic advertising studio he taught in soon had to close its doors for lack of funds. Between 1934 and 1935 he taught at a graphic arts school on the Rue Férou in Paris.
In 1935, Cassandre signed an exclusive contract with the firm of Draeger Fréres for the French editions of his posters. Between 1935 and 1936 he also produced work for Säuberlin & Pfeiffer S.A. in Vevey, Switzerland, and the Officina Grafica Coen in Milan, Italy. He also completed his first all-purpose typeface, Peignot, which was cast in time to be exhibited at the 1937 Worlds Fair in Paris.
In 1936 he traveled to America to work on several projects. While there he designed several surrealistic covers for Alexey Brodovitch at Harpers Bazaar. In addition, he created for NW Ayers, the classic eye of the Ford billboard and several pieces for the Container Corporation of America. His career as a poster designer ended in 1939 when he changed disciplines and became a stage, set and theatrical designer.
On his return from New York, Cassandre settled in Paris again. He divorced his first wife and, shortly afterward, joined the army when World War II was declared. He was demobilized in the fall of 1940, and resumed work on his painting. An exhibition of his easel paintings was held at the Galerie René Drouin in Paris in 1942. A year earlier, while working on several decorative panels in Lyon for the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture Parisienne, he had met Nadine Robinson, a dress designer for Lucien Lelong, whom he was to marry in 1947.
Nicolas, Verre et Bouteille. 1935.
Up to 1944, painting remained Cassandres main activity, though he devoted a good deal of time to designing sets and costumes for the theater, a creative field which allowed him to combine his interests in painting and architecture. His theater work included designs for the Paris Opera, the Comédie des Champs-Elysées in Paris and the Monte Carlo Opera. At the end of the war he resumed his activities as a graphic artist (advertisements, magazine covers, illustrations, playing cards, posters and layouts).
Dole Pineapple. 1938.
Cassandre spent six months in Italy in 1948; he designed several posters for his publisher in Milan, Augusto Coen (Calcografia & Cartevalori), and experimented with the technique of polychrome copperplate engraving used in printing bank notes. He continued his theatrical work, designed the maquettes for the sets for Monsieur de Pourceaugnac, which opened in Paris toward the end of the year. After returning to Paris in the fall of 1948, Cassandre was approached by the organizers of the International Music Festival at Aix-en-Provence, who asked him to design an Italian-style open-air stage in the courtyard of the Archbishops palace in that town, as well as the décors and costumes for Mozarts Don Giovanni, which was to inaugurate the theater. This production was internationally successful. Cassandre, at the height of his reputation as a theater designer, was awarded the French Legion of Honor in the same year.
Dole Pineapple. 1936.
In 1950, a major retrospective exhibition at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs revealed to the public Cassandres richly diverse work in the graphic and plastic arts over the previous twenty-five years.
Cassandre divorced his second wife in 1954. After designing sets for the Comédie-Française, the May Festival de luvre du Xxe Siècle in Paris, among others, he rounded off his theatrical uvre by designing the settings and costumes for Racines tragedies at the Comédie-Française in 1959. Time consuming as they were, however, these activities did not prevent him from carrying on his graphic, typographical and pictorial work; he designed several posters, logotypes, record jackets and typefaces for Olivetti typewriters.
In 1959-60, after declining André Malrauxs offer to appoint him director of the French arts academy at the Villa Medici in Rome, Cassandre gave up his apartment and studio on the Rue de Bellechasse, where he had lived for almost twenty years, and moved to a town house which had once belonged to Meissonier on the Place Malesherbes. He painted a series of decorative compositions there, and one of his last canvases, La Frontière. In 1962, he was promoted to officer of the Legion of Honor.
The following year, however, Cassandre decided to retire to the country, close to his friend Françoise Michel, near Belley in the Bugey region east of Lyon. He flirted with the idea of founding an internationational art institute, dreamed of building his own house (and actually designed plans for it) and tried to grow roots in the Bugey landscape. But the two years he spent there were filled with uncertainty for him and, discouraged, he returned to Paris in 1965. Back in the city, he designed his last poster, 24 Heures, for a newspaper which folded before it could even begin publishing, and prepared his work for a series of retrospective poster exhibitions at the Galerie Motte in Geneva (1966), the Galerie Janine Hao in Paris (1966) and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (1967). He began work on several canvases, but, except for a last Bugey landscape painted from memory, never completed them. Professionally, Cassandres final years were distinguished by the creation of his last typeface, Cassandre, specially designed for photo-composition, which was to remain unpublished until after his death and its epigraphic version, Metop. After a first suicide attempt in 1967, Cassandre took his life in his apartment on the Avenue René-Coty in Paris on June 17, 1968
A genius of poster and type design, Adolphe Mouron was born in Ukraine in 1901, but the political situation at the time moved his family to migrate to Paris. Ironically for one of the most celebrated designers of all times, Adolphe had decided to become a painter upon graduating from high school. He only turned to the art of poster, under the name Cassandre, in the hopes that it would make him self-supportive enough to soon drop it and dedicate himself to painting.
Instead, poster design started exerting an irresistible fascination on him: he saw it as an art that "gave the painter a golden opportunity to communicate with the large public". His words herald the role he would eventually assume, that of a translator of the fine arts into design. At25 he wrote with great lucidity that "the poster is not meant to be a unique specimen conceived to satisfy a single art lover, but a mass-produced object that must have a commercial function. Designing a poster means solving a technical and commercial problem... in a language that can be understood by the common man." Because of this need for clarity, and because he wanted very large posters but had to face the risk of them being distorted by the enlargement process, Cassandre turned to architecture and geometry as means to design them.
The poster done for the newspaper L'Intransigeant in 1925, is one of his best-known works exemplifying his geometrical tendencies. The flatness of the colours, very clear shapes, perspective lines, restrained palette and striking uppercase typography are all characteristic Cassandre elements. The composition is based on three circles -- the eye, ear and mouth. This poster's message is strengthened by conceptual wit. The telegraph lines connected straight to the ear of the figure are a straightforward way of conveying the newspaper's unbiased efficiency. The paper's slogan, "Le plus fort tirage de journaux du soir" (The best-selling evening paper") is cropped to "Le plus fort" ("the Strongest"), and even its name is cut off as if it was impossible for anyone not to instantly recognize it. Braque, Picasso and the collage medium cna all be said to have influenced this work.
New Statendam For Real Comfort. 1929.
This dramatic poster by Cassandre is the perfect expression of the Art Deco style. Power and speed are the message of the streamlined, geometric design of ventilation cowls and smoke stacks. Even the wavy smoke trail evokes the rhythmic, abstract designs of the Jazz Age.
Cassandre burst on the Paris scene in the mid-20s and was soon recognized as the father of a new, Machine Age poster style. Strongly influenced by modern art developments in Paris, his posters shocked the public with their dynamic spatial arrangements and abstract geometry. His travel posters for the Normandie, Étoile du Nord and Nord Express, all created in the late 20s and early 30s, are among the most recognized posters ever. In 1936 he was honored with a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art.
Here, a later poster where Cassandre's growing mastery of geometric composition is visible. The monumental ship is nothing but a large rectangle to which a few elements have been appended. The rectangle even continues into the water to become the ships' reflection. Along with strong, centered type, the result is an image of unsinkable strength.
Wagon Bar shows off Cassandre's mastery of compositional theory and his cubism/collage influences. The visual elements are flat and layered on different planes; the photography of the wagon wheel emphasizes their flatness. Four carefully placed circles tie the composition together; the result is a complex assemblage where the eye is lead to and fro.
l'Etoile du Nord. 1927.
Trains and ships were a large part of his posters' subject matter. For l'Etoile du Nord (1927), in a characteristic freedom of vision, he doesn't even show a train, only the railroad tracks composing a nearly abstract picture. The image's main element is a star, literally intrpreting the name of the train with means "the Northern Star". Notice the brilliant way in which the problematic size of the "O"s is solved in the type: by letting them overlap the other letters with a transparency effect he saves them from looking awkwardly large relative to the rest. Moreover, the two Os form a compositional triangle with the star that bring the eye back from the vanishing point. Secondary text creates a frame, almost as if this scene was seen through an abstracted train window.
L.M.S. Bestway. 1929.
The mood of the industial age can be felt in this very unusual approach to a poster. After creating a poster about trains without trains, Cassandre frames the very wheels of that train in a monumental close-up. L.M.S. Bestway (1929) again depends on the circle for its compositonal control; the wheels are drawn abstractly with a speed effect that was quite new at the time. The typography is no less unusual: it is created solely thanks to a fine outline flight. The picture is very minimal, and nearly overwhelming.
Nord Express is different in that the composition is for once triangular,t he circles reduced to ellipses because of the perspective. The abstracted shape of the train is presented in a fish-eye view as it speeds towards a vanishing point situated in a dramatic spot: the lower right corner of the picture. Notice the telegraphic lines that are exact reproductions of what we saw in L'Intransigeant. Cassandre puridied his motifs to the extent of reducing them to icons.
Poster design at the time usually left the lettering for last, placing it at random on the illustration or squeezing it in a convenient corner. Cassandre radically changed that approach: "the design should be based on the text and not inversely". In Cassandre's work it is the text that sets the creation process in motion. An example is the famed Pivolo poster: in French the product name, Pivolo, sounds like "Pie vole haut" ("magpie fly high"), and from this pun the image of the magpie was born. The type used is Bifur, designed by cassandre himself (more on that later). This was the first time he used letters for their visual impact, as a way of echoing the illustration, rather than for their semantic values or architectural qualities. By treating them as surfaces, gradating them from black to dark blue and filling them with shdes of grey, he transformed them into active plastic elements. Thus he turned the text into a rhythmical interplay of lines, surfaces and connecting spaces, as well as achieving an unexpected synthesis of upper and lowercase.
Cassandre would often resort to the kind of pun that created Pivolo's magpie, but the wittiest and most lauded of these examples is what he came up with for Dubonnet. The entire message of the campaign is conveyed by a simple play on the type, highlighting parts of the word in a progression leading to the brand name, while the image illustrates what the copy says. The first vignette reads DUBO, which read like "Du beau" ("something beautiful"). A man gazing at a glass of wine, highlighted only in the face and the arm carrying the glass, confirms that this is the way we are meant to read the text. In the second vignette, we read DUBON ("something good"), and our character is now tasting the drink, the colour reaching down to his stomach. Finally the full brand name, DUBONNET is revealed as the now-complete man helps himself to a second serving.
For his typography, Cassandre used almost nothing but sanserif capitals, which owing to their simplicity were particularly well-suited to the modular construction method he favoured (he clearly aspired to be an architect as well as a painter). Another advantage they presented was that they could be deformed and remain legible. Cassandre was unfailingly loyal to the uppercase because he considered the lowercase to be a manual distortion of the monumental letter. He wanted the primitive letter, a product of T-square and compass, the only letter to be truly monumental, because he hoped to restore the large-scale monumental painting of the finest periods of art history. Such was his state of mind about type when he started designing fonts himself in 1927.
A few years later, Cassandre took a new direction in the search for the calligraphic values of the written letter. This is particularly reflected in his study for Peignot, intended to be an all-purpose typeface with upper and lowercase (which are really small caps). Bifur had been a commercial failure, but Cassandre remained convinced that the only way to restore the dignity of the written word was to return to the Roman alphabet and remove the "decorations" that had accumulated on letterforms. Peignot was not born as a decorative variant on a theme: it was the creation of a new theme that would be the point of departure for decorative experiments. Cassandre thought of it as a new step in the natural evolution of the letter. He believed that lowercase letters came into existence because they were easier to write, but that now, in the printing era, there was no reason why typographers could not return to the noble classical shapes of the alphabet and discard the archaic lowercase. The problem raised by this choice would have been that of legibility: a text in capitals is less legible than a text in lowercase. This is caused by the fact an uppercase word tends to assume a monotonous rectangular appearance with no familiar distinguishing feature to assist the eye, so that the eye grasps only its outline and can't break it down into letters. To solve this, the Peignot small caps preserve ascenders and descenders, which are aids to rapid reading. The only letter to keep its lowercase form was the d. Cassandre conceded to this because he realized that we cannot change our reading habits. All the other letters are capitals, some of which are atrophied (B, L, F), turned into lances (H, K) or dropped from the baseline (P, Q, Y).
Container Corporation of America, 1937
In 1937, after an extended stay in the United states, he turned to his original vocation again: painting. This practice would influence all his late posters and types. In 1958 Olivetti commissioned him several typefaces for typewriters. He then developed a style of letter in which the hand, influenced by painting, is now freed from the geometrical constraints of his pre-war work, and seems to flow with a rhythm inspired by the Roman proportions. The bold vertical strokes are balanced by ample curves, and there is an elegant slope to the letters -- yet they have also an incisive quality that recalls stone cutting. This font, used for the well-known Yves Saint-Laurent logo, was Cassandre's last typographic style.
Container Corporation of America. 1940.
A text of that period expresses his renewed view of letterforms and a new understanding of lowercase letters: "I now view the letter as being born of an expression of gesture, and its natural state is to be drawn rapidly. But it became with printing a sign slowly engraved in steel like the romans engraved on stone, and the temptation to imitate the Roman's monumental inscription, giving the page the severe orderly appearance of architecture, is great. It is a dangerous pitfall for it threatens to deprive the line of its essential movement, This is why we prefer Old Style characters -- they have succeeded in preserving the movement and rhythm of Roman and medieval cursives."
Container Corporation of America. 1938.
Cassandre occupies an important position in the history of graphic design, as a pioneer of poster communication, typographic treatment and the translation of complex visual subjects into symbolic form. The visual themes he tackled became part of the program at the Bauhaus school, among other things. He used the organic techniques of the fine arts and without losing their dynamism, tamed them into the controlled precision of the machine age. By showing the way to a new visual vocabulary more adapted to mass communication, he had a hand in widening the rift between fine arts and graphic design.
posted by ANTONIO TRASHORRAS."
The Dummy's Lesson: Close-up of ventriloquist and dummy. 2000.
Para que esto no parezca un lugar reservado a pintores e ilustradores ya iba siendo hora de incluir un fotógrafo. Entre mis favoritos de los últimos años se encuentra Jean-Pierre Khazem, un tipo que encuentra aristas inquietantes en el naturalismo, a fuerza de estilizarlo, incluir de manera más o menos dosificada ingredientes grotescos en las escenas y, sobre todo, usar una de mis obsesiones particulares: las máscaras.
Woman in white dress in field.
The characters that populate Jean Pierre Khazem's photographs seem to inhabit a parallel world to ours. Where have they strayed in from? Toonland? Sesame Street? Helmut Newton's dream diary? Exploiting references ranging from 80s pop videos and fashion, to advertising and film, Khazem (Paris, 1968) cooks up an anarchic and nonsensical universe in which tension springs from the unlikely meeting between the cuddly and the psychotic.
The principal conceit of Khazem's work is the mask, or large home-made prosthetic head: an elephant, a lion, a beaked and bug-eyed bird; most often a girl, not pretty, not exactly idealized, a smooth-skinned dead-eyed creature who has something of Japanese manga cartoons about her. Both the animals and the girls are deadpan, and give little away; their almost mournful features transfer easily from scenario to scenario.
Man watching woman on tanning table.
Sometimes, when the image is simple and located in the familiar 'real' world of buildings and traffic, Khazem's photographs invite conjecture about the role of the artist. That man in the lion's head in the street - who is he? We can't speak to him; he's a lion. Maybe that's Khazem under the mask. Maybe, as an artist, Khazem can adopt any disguise he likes; maybe he's strong as a lion and fragile as a thin-limbed boy underneath. It looks like a good thing to be able to walk down the street as a lion - but we're not sure. It's disconcerting.
Two doll faces lying on beach.
In the many photographs using animal heads, Khazem asks us to enter another world more fully. One series shows what seems to be the underbelly of Toonland: we're hanging out with a crazed bunny, an elephant, some mice; they're doing drug deals outside the bar, chilling by the pool table ('Miller Genuine', reads the neon sign in the background, archly), and generally going about their nocturnal and somewhat seedy business. This is children's television land on an off night; out of work cuddly toys scoring crack to pass the time. Khazem, with some humor, collides his generic fun-fur people with inner-city blight and a dash of film noir, and milks the threat.
Man seen walking outside window.
Meanwhile, over in the park, Twin Peaks meets Big Bird on Elm St. In a series of night-time images Khazem poses his bird-headed models in vaguely suggestive set-pieces: a gray-beaked ostrich woman in a purple acrylic top leans back against the bowl of a tree. Her exquisitely manicured hand peeks out from beneath her dress. A female form with a lilac-colored beak seems to do yoga in the park. The night shooting and dramatic lighting lend a surreal air to the proceedings. Even the real grass looks unreal. Whatever's going on in this shadowy public park (are they cruising for a bit of rough, these Children's-TV-land-glamour women? Or just waiting?), we the viewers are vicarious, intrigued and willing participants.
The strong sexual undertones in Khazem's work become most overt in his portraits of women. Scantily-clad models lounge about in cheap hotel rooms; they look desultory on pink bedspreads, or lean, apparently available in some sense, against flimsy film-set walls. Their expressionless masks suggest sadness, deflating the eroticism of dress or pose. Yet the pictures don't seem to be much concerned with unraveling the conventions of fashion or men's mag photography. These aren't Cindy Sherman-style explorations of female stereotypes - they're too humorous for that, only: who's laughing at whom? It might be that Khazem is seeing how far he can go in implying a generic porn situation (the props in his hotel rooms suggest low-budget movies), but in these images what wins out is a sense of the absurd. A Khazem woman on a pebbly beach is more entertaining when seen as a warped pastiche of a Bill Brandt nude than as a comment on fashion imagery.
Sometimes these pictures refreshingly poke fun, as in one image of a model (wearing a big girl's head mask) resting on a window ledge, her stilleto'd foot drawn up in classic photo magazine pose. Khazem has his cake and eats it too: enjoying the unabashed sensuality of a beautiful model in lingerie, yet underwriting and sanctioning it through the more unpredictable concerns of Art. The images tread a fine line, but it's a dark humor that saves the day.
Redhead playing with hair in bathroom mirror.
eyestorm: You once compared the way you create a character in your photographs to a mother carrying a baby for nine months - do you want your characters to seem real?
Jean-Pierre Khazem: Yes, but I am aiming for more than just putting real-looking masks on the people I photograph. For example, when the models are wearing the masks, they can't see. This means that they have to move differently. They forget their egos; they have to make sacrifices. They become something closer to their soul, and what's inside of them shows in the picture.
Two dolls in a dentist waiting room.
* Some of the earlier works - the 'lion' images, for example - took a long time to prepare, because I was making all the masks myself, and that was like a nine-month gestation. Now I work with a sculptor for the human masks, which makes it much faster.
Another thing is that, when I photograph real people, I sometimes look at the contact sheets and find that the models look strange in all the shots: I have trouble choosing an image when I haven't changed something about the model. The masks solve this problem; you have to look for different qualities in the photographs, and this is what interests me most.
* It seems like you work by constructing performance pieces and then taking photographs on the set.
Yes, completely. For the 'Llama Series', I made a one-minute film, which is exactly like the photographs. I had decided to make the film first, and after each sequence, each set-up, I made a photograph. The girl in that work - for the mask we made, we changed the color of her eyes and her hair, but otherwise the face looked like hers. How did she feel about it? She didn't care; she was 14 years old and it was like a game for her, though because the shoot took three days she'd had enough by the end.
Untitled V14. 1999.
* Do you want your pictures to tell a story, or are they more about what the viewer brings to them?
The Llama pictures are about the contrast between humans, stuffed animals, and masked faces: which are the most expressive? Why did I choose to work with llamas? Well, earlier I had worked with camels, for compositional reasons: if everything in the picture is camel-colored, I should use a camel. The llamas, though, were a kind of tribute to the Dalai Lama [laughs]. For the Broadway image, I placed a figure wearing a lion's head in New York, because there's something a bit wild about that city. I don't like the expression 'urban jungle', but there's a strong energy there, suitable for an animal like a lion.
* How important is humor in your work?
Humor is a useful element to keep things from becoming too heavy, but other emotions are equally important. The oddness of an 'almost real' head - forcing the viewer to find expression in the body rather than the face - gives a quiet, enigmatic mystery to the photos. But please, feel free to laugh!
Man reclining back on bed in boxer shorts.
man sitting among weeds on beach.
Close-up of woman with doll's face.
Man sitting on trunk, carving into it with knife.
Man sitting back in chair.
Nude woman lying across dining room chairs, in front of table.
Nude woman sitting on the floor in front of chair.
Nude woman lying sideways on couch (bed?)
Nude woman sitting on chair reading.
Moose sitting on bench.
Moose sitting at picnic table.
Profile of ventriloquist and dummy.
A group of lions standing outside a movie theater.
Redhead girl standing in doorway of kitchen; mother preparing meat.
redhead sitting on steps. llama on other steps.
Redhead sitting on bed with another girl.
Family standing on front steps.
Couple in bed.
Woman sitting at table, man facing away.
The Glass Heads.
The Glass Heads2
Glass heads outside a massage parlor.
Two doll's face; one with back turned, one wearing sheer top
Doll face holding onto stick.
Doll standing on beach.
Bird lying on grass.
Close-up of doll's face, with leaf in hair.
posted by ANTONIO TRASHORRAS
De este ilustrador me interesa, sobre todo, su registro más grotesco, satírico-expresionista y, digamos, europeo. Me atraen menos sus detalladísimos dibujos de pescados y animales diversos, aunque no dejo de reconocer que son fabulosos. Más información sobre él en su página web: www.jackunruh.com
A native of Pretty Prairie, Kansas and the son of an Air Force pilot, Jack lived in a variety of places while growing up. After graduating from Washington University in St Louis he settled and stayed put in Dallas, Texas.
He has been recognized with gold and silver medals from the Society of Illustrators and has appeared in every Communication Arts illustration annual, American Illustration, Graphis, AIGA, Print and the New York Art Directors Club have also exhibited his illustrations. In 1998 the New York Society of Illustrators awarded Unruh the Hamilton King Award. Jack was featured in the 2002 Sept/Oct issue of Graphis 341, "Jack Unruh, Quick on the Draw."
Much of his work parallels an interest in the outdoors, while some of the more conceptual illustrations are a result of waiting for the hatch or watching the sun set over West Texas quail country.
The results have been published in Entertainment Weekly, Rolling Stone, Atlantic Monthly, Time, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, Sports Afield, Field and Stream, GQ, Road and Track Men's Journal, and Texas Monthly to name a few.
I draw fairly well and I design fairly well," said Mr. Jack Unruh as he modestly described his artistic talent in a nutshell. Unruh is an Illustrator whose work has been sought after by companies such as Citigroup, Exxon, Neiman Marcus, and most recently, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Unruh was hired by WCS to design graphic illustrations for the Bronx Zoo's newest exhibit, Congo Gorilla Forest.
Unruh designs "value forms in black and white, and adds color [sparingly] to enhance" his art. The graphic illustrations featured on the panels one sees throughout the 6.5 acre exhibit were done by Unruh. Pen, ink and brush were the materials he used to create the serene wildlife image shown below.
"Positive and negative shapes," says Unruh, are visible throughout his artwork. By finding a balance between the two forces, his work evokes harmony. According to Unruh, obtaining that balance is a "fairly intuitive type of thing." Oriental and far eastern art has greatly influenced Unruh, because of the strong design sense and motion featured in their drawings. Legendary artists who have inspired him are Audrey Beardsley, Peter Breughel, Henry Clay, Albert Durr, and Hans Holbein.
In 1958, Unruh earned a B.F.A. from Washington University in St. Louis. Unruh's work has been featured in The New York Society of Illustrators since 1967. The NY Society of Illustrators and the Dallas Society of Visual Communications have presented him with numerous medals, and awards in recognition of his work. In addition, in 1998 he was the recipient of the Hamilton King Award from the NY Society of Illustrators for lifetime achievement.
posted by ANTONIO TRASHORRAS.
VIRGIL PARTCH (VIP)
Virgil Franklin Partch, better known as VIP, has a unique slant to his cartoons and a style that's instantly recognizable. Born in Alaska in 1916, he studied at the University of Arizona in Tucson and the Chouinard Art Institute in California. He says, "I rather prided myself in my anatomical studies while in school. Such academicians as Rico LeBrun smiled on me and patted my hair for my ability at putting the old muscles and bones together." His spaghetti-limbed cartoon characters don't seem to have benefited from that part of his schooling.
Six months into his Chouinard studies he landed a job at the Walt Disney studios in the "extracurricular Art Department", whatever that was. He was there for four years.
He participated in the 1941 Disney studio strike and soon found himself living on unemployment insurance and submitting sample cartoons to the magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, and others. In 1942 he sold one to Collier's and never looked back. I love the first paragraph of Kyle Crichton's introduction to the first collection of his Collier's cartoons. In 1944's It's Hot in Here, he says:
"The trouble with being Virgil Partch is that somebody immediately starts yammering about Dore, Daumier and George Grosz. This doesn't help Partch at all and is probably of very little use to Dore. The chances are that neither would have had either in the house during their respective historical periods. With all his faults, Dore was not crazy."
Not to imply that VIP is crazy, but he has a warped and wicked sense of humor that sometimes requires a second look at his cartoon to spot the sardonic twist to the gag. One of his sillier signature traits is drawing lots of extra fingers on the hands (see right). He claimed, in 1944, that "I draw a stock hand when it is doing something, such as pointing, but when the hand is hanging by some guy's side, those old fingers go in by the dozens." He goes on to say that since he had to draw three fingered types for Disney, he was just making up for that anatomical crime.
World War II provided VIP with ammunition for scads of cartoons. Mankind's other foibles provided fodder for a series of theme books: Bottle Fatigue (1950, man and alcohol), Here We Go Again (1951, man and the aforementioned Army), The Wild, Wild Women (1951, man and you know who), Man the Beast (1953, man and his dreams - see image at left), The Dead Game Sportsman (1954, man and the hunt), and Hanging Way Over (1955, man and the doghouse) - this last being a compilation of his Collier's cartoons.
True magazine was a constant outlet for his brand of sexually charged absurdity. He was seldom actually crude, but he didn't back away from a gag because of an overt or implied amorous situation. "Guess Who" at right (from The Wild, Wild Women) is a good example. Yes, women do have breasts and yes it does make a good sight (no pun intended) gag.
In 1960 he developed a syndicated cartoon panel featuring and titled, Big George. George was the cartoon antecedent of Rodney Dangerfield's character who "gets no respect." The sample at left is from the 1962 compilation, also titled Big George. It's interesting to note that when he got a nationally syndicated gig, he dropped the extra fingers technique -though I did see him sneak a sixth digit in on George in one lonely panel.
I should mention that along with Bottle Fatigue, in 1950 Partch also illustrated a Bar Guide that was published by the editors of True. That cover is one of the few places where I've seen VIP's work in color (the interior images are small and b&w).
He is a very prolific artist and other compilations and creations include:
Water on the Brain (1945)
Crazy Cartoons (1956)
The Executive (1959)
VIP Tosses a Party (1959)
New Faces on the Barroom Floor (1961)
Cartoons Out of My Head (1964)
Relations in Strange Locations (1978)
Partch died in 1984 in an automobile accident.
Virgil Franklin Partch, better known as 'VIP', was born in Alaska in 1916, and studied at the University of Arizona and the Chouinard Art Institute in California, where he got a job at the Disney Studios. After taking part in the Disney Studio strike in 1941, Partch was fired and started submitting his cartoons to various newspapers. When he sold his first one to Collier's in 1942, it marked the beginning of an illustrious career as one of America's most accomplished cartoonists. Virgil Partch created several theme books, such as 'Bottle Fatigue' (1950), 'Here We Go Again' (1951), 'The Wild, Wild Women' (1951), 'Man the Beast' (1953), 'The Dead Game Sportsman' (1954) and 'Hanging Way Over' (1955). In 1960, Partch created a cartoon panel feature called 'Big George'.
Partch's humor was absurd, on the daring side but never crude, and his art is characterized by the fact that in many of his drawings people are depicted with more than five fingers on each hand - Partch said this was compensation for his years at Disney, where hands had usually just three or four fingers. Partch died in 1984, in a car accident.