Wednesday, October 27, 2010

another essay response: on collaboration

Visual Art is the vast, umbrella term that could be used to describe what I and countless others do. It includes the old standbys- painting and sculpture to name a couple, as well as new(er) forms like installation and video. Basically if it's visual and someone thinks to call it art, then it's visual art. The nice thing about it is that there are very few limitations. Artists can choose to approach their projects however they think best. For some that may mean being the conceptual driving force behind a team of craftspeople working together to bring a vision to life. For anti-social misanthropes such as myself, luckily the process need go no further than my "studio" floor and my only collaborator is the barista at starbucks who poured my tall bold.

For this essay response (number 33 in Bierut's 79 Essays) I chose an essay entitled I Hear You've Got Script Trouble: The Designer as Auteur. Admittedly, I know very little about design and even less about the ways in which people involved in design projects interact. I found this essay interesting because it discusses auteurship in relation to several art forms including film and design.

Near the beginning of the essay, Bierut poses the question "It's always easier to evaluate a creation in terms of its relationship to its creator. So what happens when many hands are involved in bringing something to life?" He discusses William Goldman, who wrote the screenplay for All the President's Men. If the movie Adaptation has taught me one thing it's that screenwriting seems like a monumental challenge. As mentioned in this essay, when the day is done it's the director who gets all the credit; that the director is the film's "sole author". As someone who has, by association, had a small glimpse into the team of people needed to put a film together I can appreciate Goldman's point of view - apparently on being introduced to auteur theory he asked "What's the punchline?"
Bierut's main focus is not film theory and although it fascinates me, nor is mine. In the essay he goes on to discuss anonymity in design. I never thought about it, but how many times have I passed a subway map or street sign an not given a second thought to the designer? And if I had thought to seek him or her out, would I even be able to? He points out that we don't often consider "those gruesome details about who actually did the final digital artwork, who did the illustration, who contributed to the underlying strategy, who influenced whom, who argued with whom, who stole what from whom, not to mention the client..."

Thinking about most, if not all other forms of art - theatre, film, and dance for instance - very rarely does one person get to have their unadulterated vision brought to the public. Writers are dependent on performers, directors, set and light designers, and myriad other people to help express an idea. I know that this can easily be the case in Visual Art as well, it may even come down to things like curators and gallery restrictions and a solo show of solo-created work can become a team effort.
I simply wanted to write this because thinking about dependency and anonymity, and indeed, auteur theory as applied to 2-d/print media are things I haven't really considered or even had to consider. Now that I'm embarking on a book project, I'm beginning to realize that my sphere may grow beyond me and my coffee supplier - to printers, fellow artists, and who knows who else? It's exciting to see my world expand a little.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Some Thoughts on Ed Ruscha

I've come across Ed Ruscha a few times in art school, interestingly enough, in different contexts - as a painter and as a photographer. Number 37 in Michael Bierut's 79 Short Essays on Design happens to be titled Ed Ruscha: When Art Rises to the Level of Graphic Design. (I'll let it slide, I suppose, that Bierut seems to assume art is lesser than graphic design?). I was interested to see what Bierut had to say about this relationship. He begins by explaining that artists borrowing from design is not a new or uncommon thing - he mentions Georges Braque, Jasper Johns, and Jenny Holzer among others. The distinction he makes with Ruscha, however, is about his understanding and sympathetic treatment of typography: "perfectly drawn, used with intelligence and passion".
He also discusses how Ruscha began publishing, early and often.

When he produced Twenty Six Gasoline Stations Ruscha sold 400 copies - at a loss - for $3 each. Ruscha wanted "to be the Henry Ford of book making" and confessed "it is almost worth the money to have the thrill of seeing four hundred identical books stacked next to you" - a sentiment which I hope soon to be able to experience firsthand.

In his essay, Bierut doesn't seem to come to any conclusions about the relationship between art and design, a difficult feat it would have been in only about 500 words, but he does explain his admiration for Ruscha, and has rekindled mine.

Seventy-Nine Short Essays on Design, Princeton Architectural Press, (May 31) 2007

Friday, October 8, 2010

Off to a good start - books!

In my efforts to learn more about type, text, books, artist's books, and graphic design I've picked up a few books from the library. So far, I've read my way thorough about eight or ten of the seventy nine essays in Michael Bierut's 79 Short Essays on Design. They're written by different designers They are all compellingly written by Bierut, and it contains many different insights - everything from dealing with clients to negotiating the worlds of art and design (of particular interest to me). After I've read some more, I'll be sure to post my thoughts on a few of them in a more detailed way.
Bringhurst's The Elements of Typographic Style was recommended to me by a designer friend. I've skimmed my way through it, but it seems really, really interesting. It's written to provide a comprehensive manual on typography, but it's written in a way that makes me want to read it cover to cover. I'm looking forward to learning a lot. Sol Lewitt Artist's Books will, I expect, give me a little more insight into the fine arts side of things. I've looked at Sol Lewitt before, but I don't want to make a misstep before I've read the book. I'll discuss more once I've read it.
And finally, to be honest, A Manual of Style I totally just borrowed from the library because the cover is so cool.

So I'm off to a good start as far as far as reading and studying goes, the nest part is to begin making some actual work. I'm looking forward to taking advantage of the long weekend for that purpose.