Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘culture’

04 MAY, 2012

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lesser-Known Contributions to Graphic Design

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Shedding new light on the iconic architect’s legacy through the kaleidoscope of his diverse design work.

Frank Lloyd Wright is considered by many the most influential architect in modern history, but despite his enormous cultural recognition, the full extent of his contribution to design — posters, brochures, typography, murals, book and magazine covers — remains relatively obscure. In Frank Lloyd Wright: Graphic Artist (public library), Penny Fowler examines Wright’s ingenious and bold graphic work — his covers for Liberty (some of which were so radical the magazine rejected them), his mural designs for Midway Gardens, his photographic experiments, his hand-drawn typographical studies, the jacket designs for his own publications, including The House Beautiful and An Autobiography, and a wealth more.

Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West, 1955. ©FLW Foundation

From his childhood encounter with Friedrich Froebel’s educational building blocks at the 1876 Centennial Exposition to his experiments with geometric designs long before the Mondrian age to his obsession with the woodblock art of Old Japan, Fowler traces Wright’s inspirations, influences, and singular style as his work dances across aesthetic movements like Bauhaus, Japanisme, Arts and Crafts, and De Stijl.

Magazine cover, Town and Country, July 1937.

One of the designs that Wright originally proposed for Liberty, it is the only one ever published as a magazine cover. ©FLW Foundation

Frank Lloyd Wright, 'Descriptive Geometry' class drawing, 1885.

Shade and Shadow of a Surface of Revolution. Pencil and ink on paper. ©FLW Foundation

LEFT: This colorful 1973 adaptation of Wright’s design is a backlit art glass mural made for the Arizona Biltmore by Taliesin Architects. ©FLW

RIGHT: Frank Lloyd Wright, Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers. Cover design for Liberty, c. 1927–1928. Presentation drawing (detail). Pencil and color pencil on tracing paper. ©FLW Foundation

As Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation director Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer writes in the introduction, what Wright wrote in 1908 of architecture could well apply to his graphic design work as well:

As for the future — the work shall grow more truly simple, more expressive with fewer lines, fewer forms; more articulate with less labor; more plastic; more fluent, although more coherent; more organic. It shall grow not only to fit more perfectly the methods and processes that are called upon to produce it, but shall further find whatever is lovely or of good repute in method or process, and idealize it with the cleanest, most virile stroke I can imagine.

Frank Lloyd Wright, presentation drawing, City by the Sea mural (south wall), Midway Gardens.

Pencil, color pencil, gold ink, watercolor, and crayon on tracing paper. ©FLW Foundation

Frank Lloyd Wright, 'Kinder Symphony,' for the Avery Coonley playhouse, Riverside, Illinois, 1912.

Title page designed by Wright for the Auvergne Press. ©FLW Foundation

Midway Gardens. Tavern Room, looking north to entranceway.

©FLW Foundation

'The Eve of St. Agnes'

Title page designed by Wright for the Auvergne Press. ©FLW Foundation

Fowler writes of Wright’s formative years:

Reading, sketching, and music each played a role in shaping Wright’s character. So did hard work. Beginning when he was eleven, he worked through the late spring and summer on his uncle’s farm. Wright described the long hours and hard work as ‘adding tired to tired.’ Nevertheless, this farm labor as an ‘amateur hired hand’ fostered an everlasting appreciation of nature.

TOP: Frank Lloyd Wright, conceptual sketch for promotional brochure, Midway Gardens. Pencil and color pencil on paper. ©FLW Foundation

BOTTOM: Cover, Midway Gardens (Chicago: The Midway Gardens Co., n.d.) This rare promotional pamphlet describes the facilities and their attractions and features photographs of patrons enjoying the cosmopolitan atmosphere. Collection of Brian A. Spencer, AIA/IAA

Frank Lloyd Wright, perspective of model J902. 'American System-Built Houses for the Richards Company,' 1915–1917.

Lithoprint ©FLW Foundation

Hendrikus Theodorus Wijdeveld, wrapper design for the Wendingen Wrightnummers (fourth paper, January 1926).

Published by C. A. Mees, Santpoort, Netherlands. Black and red ink on white paper. This wrapper design was used (with minor variations) for all of the Wrightnummers (October 1925–April 1926). ©FLW Foundation

Frank Lloyd Wright, 'Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers.' Rug design, 1955.

Adapted from a cover for Liberty magazine, 1927–1928. Presentation drawing. Pencil and color pencil on tracing paper. ©FLW Foundation

BOTTOM: Frank Lloyd Wright, Scherzo. Rug design, 1955.

Adapted from Liberty cover design. Presentation drawing: pencil and color pencil on tracing paper. ©FLW Foundation

Hendrikus Theodorus Wijdeveld, 'Architectuur/Frank Lloyd Wright,' 1930.

Printed by Jon Enschede en Zonen, Harlem, Netherlands. Color lithograph ©The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, MIA

Frank Lloyd Wright, cover and dust jacket, The Disappearing City (William Farquar Payson, 1932).

Wright’s abstraction of the “futile pattern” foretold the American dilemma of centralization without planning. ©FLW Foundation

Shedding new light on the beloved creator’s legacy through his kaleidoscope of creative contributions, Frank Lloyd Wright: Graphic Artist is an essential bible of design and cultural history.

Images courtesy of Pomegranate / © FLW Foundation

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03 MAY, 2012

Litographs: Classic Books as Typographic Prints Supporting Global Literacy

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Literature and art converge to combat book famine and bibliowaste.

A modern paradox: While the developing world is experiencing the worst “book famine” in decades, an estimated 40% of books printed in the “developed world” go to waste, eventually destroyed by the publishers themselves. Having a tremendous soft spot for art and design projects inspired by literary classics, I love everything about Danny Fein’s Litographs project, which addresses this paradox through beautiful prints by a team of artists, made of upcycled classic texts, many in the public domain. The books remain fully legible in the final print. Thanks to a partnership with the International Book Bank, every print sold sends a book to a community in need.

The Moby-Dick litograph is the loveliest take on the Melville classic since Matt Kish’s page-by-page illustrations.

'Think not, is my eleventh commandment; and sleep when you can, is my twelfth.'

This 24 x 36 inch print (full view at top, close-up zoom at bottom) includes approximately the first third of Moby Dick. The 18 x 24 inch print includes approximately the first sixth of the book.

For a fine complement to the wonderful Beholding Holden artwork, a knock-out litograph of The Catcher in the Rye:

'What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.'

This 24 x 36 inch print (full view at top, close-up zoom at bottom) includes the full text of The Catcher in the Rye. The 18 x 24 inch print includes approximately the first half of the book.

As a lover of all things Alice in Wonderland, the Alice litograph makes my heart sing.

'If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.'

This 24 x 36 inch print (full view at top, close-up zoom at bottom) includes the full text of both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. The 18 x 24 inch print includes the full text of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Though it’s hard to outshine Stefanie Posavec’s Writing Without Words project based on the Jack Kerouac classic, this On The Road litograph is quite lovely:

'I was surprised, as always, be how easy the act of leaving was, and how good it felt. The world was suddenly rich with possibility.'

This 24 x 36 inch print (full view at top, close-up zoom at bottom) includes the full text of On the Road. The 18 x 24 inch print includes approximately the first half of the book.

'...for the shield may be as important for victory, as the sword or spear.'

This 24 x 36 inch print (full view at top, close-up zoom at bottom) includes approximately the first third of On the Origin of Species. The 18 x 24 inch print includes approximately the first sixth of the book.

All the litographs are available in color as well as black-and-white, and you can see the full full collection on the project site.

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03 MAY, 2012

Harry Benson’s Luminous Black-and-White Photographs of The Beatles, 1964-1966

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From pillow fights to world domination, or what Beatlemania has to do with Jesus Christ.

The past year has been a boon for seeing The Beatles with new eyes — from their tour manager’s never-before-published tour photos to Linda McCartney’s tender portraits to rediscovered vintage children’s books — but count on Taschen to up the ante on any cultural trope. The newly released The Beatles: On the Road 1964-1966 is a lavish collection of hundreds of Harry Benson’s luminous black-and-white photographs of the Fab Four at close quarters — from ecstatic encounters with fans to quiet moments in the recording studio to playful boyish frolicking.

Benson’s own Beatle story is an unlikely one — in 1964, while boarding a plane for a foreign assignment in Africa, he got a call from the editor of London’s The Daily Express and was dispatched to Paris instead, with The Beatles, to document French Beatlemania. Personable and warm, Benson was quickly welcomed into the Fab Four’s inner circle. At the cusp of their exorbitant global celebrity, he managed to capture some of their most intimate and genuine moments on film. (That famous photograph of The Beatles having a pillow fight at the George V Hotel was his.) From their first visit to the U.S., complete with New York hysteria, to their adventures on the set of A Hard Day’s Night to their famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Benson was there to capture it all, even the impact of Lennon’s controversial comment that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus Christ.”

An introductory essay by Benson himself, complete with newspaper clippings from the era, adds first-hand context to the remarkable photos. He writes:

These photos convey a really happy period for them and for me. It all comes down to music, they were without a doubt the greatest band of the 20th century, and that’s why these photographs are so important.

Images courtesy of Taschen / © Harry Benson

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