Table of Contents: Design


High striker hierarchy

High_Striker

Saw this high striker (that’s the amusement industry term, thanks internet) in the game room of the Old Sled Works antique mall in Duncannon, PA.

So — can we take a minute to appreciate the unhinged hierarchy asserted here?

Ok, I get SISSY. Requiste aggro potshot at the weakling. Jock table stakes if you will… after that, though, we go completely bat shit. What the hell is up with GIRL CRAZY? Is that weakness? Distraction? Is it that you are so girl-besotted you can’t focus properly on wielding a giant wooden mallet?

SPACE PILOT, which arguably should be at the top, is below the NEWSBOY & BULLY cluster? They can’t mean SPACE PILOT in it’s Flash Gordon, Buck Rodgers, Han Solo sense. Or astronauts, surely. Perhaps it’s the geeky, sci-fi dreamer, the spaceship doodler? Maybe. But it says SPACE PILOT, which I remind you is below NEWSBOY & BULLY. Which is nonsense.

Look, I’m happy that NEWSBOY beats BULLY. But certainly we’re overrating the NEWSBOY. Maybe the NEWSBOY loomed larger in the macho imagination back then? But wasn’t he always more scrappy than strong? And honestlyI have a hard time believing that, all things being equal, the neighborhood BULLY couldn’t take out the local NEWSBOY.

On top of which, if you’re just a bit stronger that SPACE PILOT, you achieve the rank of BULLY? What the fuck? Is that motivating?

Then we arrive at the topsy turvy top. Let’s establish this, at the very least — by definition HERCULES and SUPERMAN top TARZAN.

In order to referee between those two I guess you could turn to DC comics, which is the only realm where HERCULES and SUPERMAN co-exist. There I suspect you’d find it nearly a dead heat strength-wise. HERCULES has the edge of godhead, and I guess is more universally powerful, lacking both the need for our Sun’s light and a vulnerability to Kryptonite. I guess this order stands, then.

But you’ve got to have a seriously warped sense of awesome to rank TARZAN above both. I’m certain the authors of this ranking did not mean to privilege his Royal roots as a Lord of Graystoke, his facility with languages, or his chivalry.

It’s the bear chested gorilla wrestling we’re talking about here. The Me-Tarzan-You-Jane over the shoulder while choking a python shit. No Krypton sci-fi nerdiness, or effeminate toga and garland with this guy…

Sigh. To scan this list is to hear Civilization crumble while a stunted macho-ness runs amok. Let’s at least, then, establish the correct order, top to bottom:

SPACE PILOT
SUPERMAN
HURCULES
SISSY
NEWSBOY
GIRL CRAZY
TARZAN
BULLY

Is this thing on?

can_you_hear_me_now

Transmissions sputter back to life… onto a fifth year of broadcasting. The signal has faded over the past year, gales of advertising mostly, then our radio tower plain and blew up (by which of course I mean a virulent SQL database corruption keelhauled my rickety, jury rigged WordPress build.) So, then, is this thing on? Are we going?

ViewOfDelft

Comrades!

I painted this figure study over a few days this summer. I walked by it one night, a month or so ago, and as I lingered for a minute and thought — that’s right — View of Delft.

Yes, as in Vermeer’s view of Delft, entitled View of Delft.

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A blasphemous chuckle, right, but gumdaggit if this sketch and title aren’t now bonded like noggin epoxy — the phrase passing over my little ditty of a painting like a sky-blotting arial banner, featherweight but indelible.

So, as I said the blogs been down for a while, swept under crosscurrents and swells of obligations, dissolutions and advertising and I’m casting about for an inaugural post and all I can think of is View of Delft.

Here’s why. Cause this blog is, if it is anything, even in this particularly unhinged association, about searching for our own little private views of Delft — little lagoons, obsessively surveyed, rendered, cleared out out by hand.

Lagoons. Because in the clotted coastline of the blogosphere, it’s what this is, really. A tiny lagoon, home to beatniks, old salts, venerable preps, society matrons, homespun cuties, movie stars and scientists… Gilligan’s wake. It’s a beachhead from which we can re-embark on our quest to find and stake out other unlikely harbors. A stretch of landscape we can fix in our minds and take a draught or a puff and contemplate, then set off satisfied.

And when others arrive, like you dear reader, perhaps you’ll survey it appreciatively, like a scoutmaster, and think “I would’ve given you a commendable. That was one of the best pitched camp sites I’ve ever seen, honestly.”

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Or something. Are we going? Is this thing on? Is this really broadcasting if there is no one there to receive? We’ll see. More soon.

Some credits: All the weird snippets about broken and sputtering radio transmissions are taken from Shellac’s epic angular shanty “The End of Radio,” which will serve as this latest sally’s theme song. The Herculean rebuild of this leaky beached blog was coded by the gifted and rad Marcello De Feo. Check his kung-fu. It is ace. The charming illustration of Moonrise Kingdom is by Adrian Tomine.

Claude Chabrol: 1930-2010

A selection of some fab posters for films by pioneering French director Claude Charbol, who died this week. (Some decent obits here, and here.) A giant of French cinema, Charbol was a founding member of the French New Wave, close pals with (and somewhat of a patron to) Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut and Éric Rohmer. Along with Rohmer he published a seminal critical work on Alfred Hitchcock, a significant influence.

Charbol was often described in shorthand as the French Hitchcock, which is pretty dead on, adjusting a bit for time periods and sensibilities. While not strictly a formulaic filmmaker, diabolical plots, melodrama, all manner of decadence, wry humor and a general wickedness abound.

For your consideration, a passel of recommendations from his extensive oeuvre: A Double Tour, 1961 – a convoluted noir, Who’s Got the Black Box?, 1967 – shaggy, but entertaining espionage yarn,  The Unfaithful Wife, 1969 and Innocents with Dirty Hands, 1975 two chilly, melodramatic physiological thrillers, Cop Au Vin, 1985, the first of two top drawer police procedurals featuring inspector Jean Lavardin, Masques, 1987 an intriguing character-driven mystery, The Swindle 1997, a neat little caper, Merci Pour Le Chocolat, 2000 about a wealthy family’s nest of secrets, and Comedy of Power, a corporate boardroom drama. Available here, or at your fine local video store.

Mermaids & Space Cuties

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So one day I ask my pal, the enormously gifted tattoo artist Steve Fawley, if I could paint me some flash of a mermaid who looks like Jane Russell. Because such a thing may not have exist in the world, it seemed like a fine thing to bring into it. And he says, sure — paint me a space cutie in exchange. So here they are — certainly I’m on the rich side of this deal. What a stunner. Perfectly fetching & a prime example of Steve’s masterly of the traditional form. My cutie was the buildup of a forgotten sketch in tribute to Wally Wood & based on Robert Bonfils cover painting for pulp paperback Nautipuss. Check out Steve’s kung fu here.

Dreaming a Beautiful

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Master illustrator Frank Frazetta’s stationary design for addlepatted sun children Bo and John Derek’s movie production company, Svengali. I was going to leave the commentary at that, but I was riding my bike this afternoon, and the Walkman offered up Sheena, by Trader Horne, a long forgotten British psych-folk outfit. Hardly a stanza had passed when I realized the song was a tone poem to the idea of Bo Derek. I share it here, below, for your pleasure:

Sheena, Trader Horn:

 

Hold it right there, Emma Peel!

The opening credits of the Avengers in color are deservedly beloved. What struck me recently was how sharp the compositions of the main frames are, though. They make a wonderful sequence – the dirty floods of color, the stark contrast, the precision staging of it all. Amazing thing is, even when frozen, they retain a jaunty swagger, the lightly hammy sophistication, and flair.

Public Image Limited

In retrospect, the album cover designs of the early releases by Public Image Limited constitute one hell of a brilliant run. By his own admission John Lydon’s music has been basically a big conceptual media prank, playing with, subverting, and looting the whole notion of the public image. Therefore it’s no surprise that packaging and design figured so heavily in his work from the very beginning.

Arguably British tabloids were the closest things in the cultural landscape, both aesthetically and attitudinally, to punk rock, so it was fitting that Never Mind The Bollocks was designed like a cross between a tabloid and a ransom note (which, incidentally is an apt description of the record itself.)

With Public Image Limited, those influences and themes became more sophisticated and overt. The mock slick magazine design of the debut was an ironic riposte to the expected image of Lydon as a young savage. This was followed by the unprecedented, and justly buy vicodin here celebrated, configuration of 1980’s Metal Box – 3 12inch singles in a, um, metal box. After that came the aggressively sexy glamorous cover for 1981’s Flowers of Romance. Among other things, it strikingly prefigures the the snapshot aesthetic of current fashion and nightlife photographers like Nikola Tamindzic and, ugh, that skeezy doofus Terry Richardson. The sleeper of the bunch is the cover of 1983’s cynically bland cash-in Live in Tokyo – shot and composed perfectly. Dig the way the commercial riot of neon signage converges and perfectly frames the iconic PiL logo, interrupted only briefly by Lydon’s fab shiny suit.

What ties it all together is the same tension that animates the music – a constant flickering between art and commerce, sincerity and fakery, and, ultimately, what is false and worthless and what is true and enduring.

Public Image Limited: Public Image: [download]

[audio:http://shepelavy.com/audio/PIL_PublicImage.mp3]


Public Image Limited:
Careering (astonishing BBC version): [download]

[audio:http://shepelavy.com/audio/PIL_CareeringBBCSession.mp3]

Wonder Woman Costume Sketch

This, I covet. It’s the original costume sketch for the Wonder Woman TV series. It was designed and drawn by Donfeld, – Hollywood bon vivant, four time Academy Award nominee for costume design – who’s heyday spanned the 60’s to the 80’s. Besides the costume for Wonder Woman, his other lasting contribution to Western culture was designing Jill St. John’s costumes in Diamonds Are Forever. All this while dedicating himself tirelessly to keeping Jacqueline Bisset looking foxy – a great, great man. Anyway, in 2005 this treasure sold for $2,390 at auction (It was originally inscribed and given by Donfeld to his good friend, actor Richard Chamberlain.) I vow to you, if I ever make my pile, someday this will hang proudly on my wall.

To Die For

Can we take a moment to be gobsmacked by the art direction and costume design of Gus Van Sant’s To Die For? (written by the brilliant Buck Henry, in bowtie, above) Lurid, mean, lusty, sarcastic, and genuinely and absurdly fashionable in equal measure, just like the movie itself. Well worth digging up and re-watching, both for it’s delectable eye candy as well as the tart sweet taste of it’s sadly unexpired satiric cocktail —
~ 1 jigger of Hallmark
~ a generous splash of Maury Povich
~ 1 dash of vintage Vogue
~ fresh squeezed orange juice
~ two fingers carbolic acid.
Mix well and enjoy.

 

The Zonk of Michael English

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From the 60’s to the early 80’s Michael English seemed to be directly wired into each decades most adolescent, swinging, aesthetic sensibility. He began as a founding partner of Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, a design collective that specialized in gig posters and scene graphics that helped define 60’s English psychedelia (I vastly prefer this work to it’s American counterpart – it’s zonk is far sexier and literally more cosmic)

On the cusp of the 70’s an airbrush and rainbow sensibility begins to frost the work. Redolent of pinball backglass art, van conversion detailing, and late era Vargas pinups, it veers from garishly exuberant to exuberantly garish. The veneration of chrome and reflectivity carry through into the 80’s as he settled into a glossy pop-realist mode similair to the work of James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann. The biggest shortcoming of this period is the relentlessly juvenile subject matter – Candy bars, soda cans, glass sundae dishes predominate. The renderings however, are an exquisite case study in the late 70’s/early 80’s obsession with glossy enameled sheens and reflections.

Regardless of the era, from psych sirens and candy colored UFO’s, to chrome balls and lipgloss swirls English’s career is a overlooked layercake of guilty pleasures. (The retrospective 3D Eye, is out of print but easily found online)

Hmm… That’s quite a drop.

The first page of the legendary comic Watchmen sold last weekend at auction for $33,460. Aptly described as the “Call me Ishmael” of comics, it’s one of the icons of the genre. All of the formal inventiveness that author Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons established in their 12 issue 1986 masterpiece is prefigured here. (Fascinating to see it stark black and white – the page also came with an ace bonus, an annotated color guide. Gander here, and here at larger images) Notice especially the convergences between Rorschach’s psycho-noir-messiah narration and the visuals in each panel. This tight choreography between seemingly unrelated visual and verbal elements is one the the primary sources of the book’s tremendous impact. It adds a crucial layer to the storytelling, one uniquely rooted in the format of comic books – the ability to directly interweave elements from one part of the story into another and thereby elicit new interpretations, resonances, and meanings. Watchmen established Moore as a virtuoso of this technique. So, so good…

Great story behind the provenance of the comic page itself. It was bought in 1987, in a comic bookshop in Covent Garden one morning by a bleary-eyed, hungover Stephen “Krusher” Joule for $180. Krusher was an artist and designer who worked with Motorhead, Uriah Heep, Blondie, Sex Pistols, Hawkwind, and Japan. He designed the covers for Iron Maiden’s Live After Death and Ozzy’s Diary of a Madman. In 1982 he became the art director for the legendary British heavy metal magazine Kerrang! In short, he’s exactly the kind of wonderful freak who deserves to score the first page of the Watchmen one hungover morning for a hundred and eighty bucks.

Basics

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from How Things Work, An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Technology,
Simon and Schuster, 1967 | German edition, Wie Funktioniert Das?, Institut AG, 1963

Robert Longo’s Place

Shots taken by Todd Selby of Robert Longo in his studio. For me it’s the smudgy texture of everything surrounding his deep, velvety drawings. Especially evocative are the shots of his supplies – more like mechanics gear, overlaid with an archipelago of black smears. Everything here suggests a great physicality behind the smooth rich sheen and stark contrast of his finished work. Longo has compared his drawing style to sculpture, saying “when I draw with graphite I smudge it with my fingers, move it around physically, it’s like clay. Painting is painting on the surface, covering up, where drawing is putting the picture into the paper like a photograph.”

It’s a blogament to their power that they retain a so much of this can you buy vicodin legally in canada muscularity, materiality, and weight when hung in the hermetic space of a gallery. However, they seem especially at home in the studio. It’s like seeing a big ship being assembled in dry-dock from far overhead, and seeing the complex mechanics behind something that will later glide with such heavy grace on the water.

(Below for your pleasure, are a few selections from his iconic 80’s series Men in the Cities. They have, I think, aged particularly well, and seem, now, emblematic of their era rather than beholden to it. Longo also maintains an excellent, comprehensive website with generous galleries spanning his entire career. Also, Selby’s ongoing, long running series of arty glitterati in their homes is amazing and worth checking out frequently)

Swing Era

A boxed record set spotted in a motley pile at the Cackleberry Farm Antique Mall in Paradise, PA… Funny, Swing has always struck me as hopelessly wacka wacka, a square pantomime of exuberance and abandon – but this New Wave Cinema poster style composition and the freeze frame cutouts invest them with a crackling energy and style… a sock hop away from the iconic poster for Antonioni’s Blow Up and a frug and a boogie-woogie away from Robert Longo’s skinny tie 80′s series Men in the Cities, about which I’m reposting, below. 

Serielle Buchgestaltung

Serial cover designs by the German imprint Suhrkamp. Exquisite, masterful lessons in restraint and spare, deliberate composition. Suhrkamp is a 50 or so year old publisher of literature, philosophy and essays. A more, um, impressionistic description courtesy of a certain Siegfried Unseld and the inimitable Google Translate: On the question of how in the shortest form of the Suhrkamp publishing house was to characterize, I answer generally: Here are no books publish authors.