Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

02 JUNE, 2011

The Modernist: Graphic Design’s Mid-Century Muse

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Celebrating the hot-and-heavy love affair between classical modern and contemporary graphics.

Designers and illustrators have been mining the motherlode of mid-20th-century graphics for years, and now there’s a beautiful record of their inspired explorations. The Modernist, the latest exquisite anthology by Gestalten, draws the genealogical lines of graphic design from the bold images of the 1960s and ’70s to their post-millennial progeny — what we see on album and book covers, posters, and websites today.

It’s easy to see why work by masters such as Gerd Arntz and Otto Neurath provide inspiration to contemporary artists, designers, and illustrators. Especially as web design has matured, younger generations turned to the striking work of classical modernism, transforming its deliberately minimalist colors and geometry with new vector graphics tools. (And, lest we forget, the basic language of this now iconic composition itself drew on previous artistic movements like Russian Constructivism and the Bauhaus school.)

The Modernist puts all of these pictorial relationships in perspective, with gorgeous spreads of top-notch design from both eras.

Fifty years in the making, The Modernist‘s gorgeous artwork will delight your senses, and its smart connect-the-dots visual storytelling will satisfy even your most voracious inner design geek.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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30 MAY, 2011

Geometry of Circles: Philip Glass + Sesame Street (1979)

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What the greatest composer alive has to do with The Muppets and the foundations of visual thinking.

I absolutely adore the music of Philip Glass, who is often considered the greatest composer alive, and I love all things Sesame Street — who doesn’t? In 1979, the makers of Sesame Street commissioned Philip Glass to compose music for a series of four unnumbered animation pieces titled Geometry of Circles, designed as a primer for visual thinking — something at the core of both Sesame Street itself and Jim Henson’s original vision that predated his creation of The Muppets. The combination, beautiful and eloquent in a multisensory way, feeds into my obsession with synesthesia and various visualizations of music.

Here is the final piece of the series, from episode 2415, the only high-quality version known to exist online:

Geometry of Circles is available on the excellent 2009 DVD, Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days — a collection of nearly five hours of the best Sesame Street segments from all 40 seasons, including over 50 minutes of rare, never-before-seen backstage footage, interviews and vintage episodes not available online. There are really no words to describe what a treat and treasure this is.

via Image Oscillite

UPDATE: The film was apparently designed, animated, and produced by Cathy Aison, at the time an independent filmmaker who proposed a detailed storyboard to CTW producer Edith Zarnow in 1978. Once the script was approved, Sesame Street contracted her to make the film and she reached out to Philip Glass to record the music based on the storyboarded images. Glass licensed her the music for 20 years, a license that expired in 1999. Says Aison, “Although Sesame Street paid for and owned the rights to the film they were only indirectly the true author.” Aison is currently an art director at Random House’s Vintage Books division.

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23 MAY, 2011

Egypt in the Early 1900s: Rare Vintage Lantern Slides

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What sunset on the Nile has to do with landmark innovation in photographic imaging.

The lantern slide — a transparent image on glass that was magnified and projected onto a surface using a sciopticon “magic lantern” — came of age shortly after it was first introduced by Philadelphia daguerreotypists William and Frederick Langenheim in 1849. The lantern slide greatly broadened the audience for photography, then still a young art, introducing it into academia and the cultural institutions of the day by allowing teachers and museum curators to illustrate their lectures and presentations with projected images.

We’ve seen an heard a lot about Egypt this year, in light of the recent political turmoil. We’ve even had some remix fun with it. (In a no-laughing-matter kind of way, of course.) But beneath what has turned into a highly politicized media talking point lies a remarkable, dignified country full of beauty and tradition. Much like last week’s rare and fascinating look at vintage Japan aimed to rekindle the respect for and fascination with a culture consumed by the recent tragedy and subsequent media coverage, today’s look at these breathtaking vintage lantern slides from Egypt is very much an invitation to take a look beyond the veil of immediacy and revel in the inherent beauty of this land, courtesy of Brooklyn Museum’s fantastic archival lantern slide collection.

Egypt: Partly submerged palms above Nile dam, Upper Egypt

Copyright, 1908, by Stereo-Travel Co. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Arab water-carrier girls

Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Policeman, Cairo

Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection

Egypt: Camels, desert.

Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Donkey and Cart, Kasr-en-Nil

T. H. McAllister, Manufacturing Optician. 49 Nassau Street, New York. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Arab porters, Alexandria

Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Donkey Boy, Cairo

This slide colored by Joseph Hawkes. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Buffalo Market, Gizeh

T. H. McAllister, Manufacturing Optician. 49 Nassau Street, New York. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Arabian Horse and Sais, Cairo

This slide colored by Joseph Hawkes. Hooper. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Pyramids of Dashur from Sakkara

T. H. McAllister, Manufacturing Optician. 49 Nassau Street. Hooper. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Arabic Window and Native Bazaar, Cair

T. H. McAllister, Manufacturing Optician. 49 Nassau Street. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Pompey's Pillar, Alexandria

T. H. McAllister, Manufacturing Optician. 49 Nassau Street. Brooklyn Museum Archives

Egypt: Sunset on the Nile

Brooklyn Museum Archives

For another perspective-shift on this fascinating culture, don’t forget last week’s Cultural Connectives — an inspired effort to better understand Arab culture through typography.

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