Table of Contents: Design


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

Fawley_Mermad Navigator_Finished_Shepelavy

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

derek_stationary

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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english21

english3

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.

 

ED RUSCHA’S TOP TEN TOWNS

I. SAN FRANCISCO. Absolutely the most beautiful city in the entire world. With history, class, and cuisine, it’s a place of astounding mystery. l ask myself why I never lived
there. No answer.

2. WINSLOW, ARIZONA. An excellent stopover on P40 going east or west. Stay at la Posada, an ancient hotel with gardens, a library, art by Tina Mion, a wonderful restaurant called the Turquoise Room, and train tracks outside the back door.

3. RHYOLITE, NEVADA. A beautifully isolated mining ghost town in the dramatic setting of Death Valley. Nearby is Beatty, Nevada, with a homemade mini museum.

4. PAHRUMP, NEVADA. It’s a town that has yet to be built-not many houses, but lots of concrete curbs and partially paved streets. Somewhat of a bedroom town for Las Vegas.

5. NEW YORK CITY. It hits between the eyes. The culture is deafening, and noise is an essential ingredient. It’s the air shaft capital of the world. Everything American starts here.

6. AUSTIN, TEXAS. A beautiful town where bats live under the bridges. Home of lance Armstrong’s bicycle shop, remarkable barbecue, and lora buy vicodin shirt Reynolds’s art gallery. It’s not the musical capital of America, it’s close.

7. AMBOY, CALIFORNIA. Population: two, three, four? It’s, as they say, in the middle of nowhere. The buildings, among them Roy’s Café, are empty but very well cared
for. The post office is next to a tree lull of shoes. Desert winds, quietude…there’s something hospital clean about this tiny stop.

8. HARTSHORNE, OKLAHOMA. A lil’ country town that I always associate with my favorite baseball pitcher, Warren Spahn. It’s in the middle of America, but no way middle American.

9. SELIGMAN, ARIZONA. The Copper Cart café is all I remember. Once the fan belt capital of the world, now the interstate runs through its outhouse. A town where its past
and present are both gone-it’s worth investigating.

10. LOS ANGELES. After Oklahoma it is my adaptive home, but l only care about the central areas like Echo Park, Silver lake, Hollywood, Culver City, and Venice. On
occasion I go up to Mulholland Drive just to smell the ozone and listen to the city throb.

From W Magazine, May 2011