Art & Development

Two Brothers named Design and Art

To be considered a “serious” artist, there’s pressure to downplay one’s non-art practices — even visual ones like graphic design. Art professionals need to distinguish between dabblers and lifers, but that shouldn’t be hard. It’s perplexing that this dissociation persists.

Consider art since 1960, and the typographic sensitivity of many Conceptualists.

on kawara, lawrence weiner, yoko ono, barbara kruger

So you think you are a typophile? Faces named below.

Consider how aspiring artists and designers learn. My early creative interests were unbounded — drawing horses and floorplans as a kid, making zine collages as a teenager, studying printmaking (AKA graphic arts) in college.

Further, my making skills — whether tinkering, bookmaking, or print and web design — enhance my art capacity, especially now that I’m making text-based installations and producing multiples. It seems obvious that design is a useful skill set for artists; fellow artists and art institutions need graphic design, too.

Good design conveys risk-taking and visual sophistication. For example, Stripe‘s print and signage design for the Wattis and Cinthia Wen’s/Design at Noon’s identity design for YBCA* are innovative, flat-out gorgeous assets.

So I’m excited to have the chance to bring my design skills to a contemporary art context. After a terrific experience creating new work for Southern Exposure‘s Bellwether exhibition, I was invited to design the poster for SoEx’s next show. The alternative arts organization has a history of working with award-winning designers like McFadden & Thorpe and Post Tool, so I earnestly accepted. The poster will be arriving in mailboxes and shop windows in the coming weeks. You can’t miss it.

In the meantime, worlds (art and killer typography) collide: Emigré is having a show at Gallery 16.

EMIGRE at Gallery 16
December 18 – January 29, 2010
Opening reception on Friday December 18 from 6 – 9pm

Emigre, Inc. is a digital type foundry in Berkeley, whose magazines were an inspiration since year zero B.M. (Before Macintosh). You can bet that there will be gorgeous posters, publications and, quite possibly, some hand-thrown pots. Because designers can be artists too.

An outro in the rock ballad of this blog post:

I’m not so idealistic as to pretend that there aren’t differences between being a graphic designer and being an artist. Last week when M, a workaholic early-bird designer, started staying up late to obsessively photograph his design portfolio, I told him that he’s becoming an artist. His response:


(*Disclosure: Occasionally I work at the Wattis and YBCA doing design/vinyl/preparator work.)

Avant Garde Medium, DIN Cond Bold, American Typewriter, Futura Bold Oblique


art and text

art and text

There’s a new art historical survey book out called “Art and Text,” (Aimee Selby ed., London: Black Dog Publishing) and it looks fantastic. Along with the you-guessed-its (Kruger, Nauman, Baldessari), there’s welcome contemporary artists like Bob and Roberta Smith, Simon and Tom Bloor, Martin Creed, and Stefan Brüggemann.

View a gallery of images from the book on the Guardian website. Sweet.

Research, Travelogue

L.A. Looks

Between installing recent works at Tarryn Teresa Gallery and being stuck in traffic, I got to have some fun art-life in Los Angeles last weekend…

–Peeked behind the scenes of a down-low James Turrell light installation. Don’t ask where, because I won’t say!

–Experienced Richard Serra’s monumental Band and Sequence steel sculptures at LACMA for the first time, and in near solitude, to boot. I was really grateful to get them both to myself, as the experience was sensory and meditative. I was baffled, though, when I encountered an LED light piece in the corner. It was completely lacking wall text. I knew it was a work because its perimeter was demarcated with vinyl commanding, “Please do not touch,” and when I entered the throw of light, I set off a high-pitched alarm. Yet I’d never known Serra to do light-based work, and I’m sort of keen on these things. A new museum mystery remains unsolved.

–Upstairs at LACMA were a massive Barbara Kruger vinyl installation and a Koons, Warhol and Baldessari group show. The dude show was great, if not especially urgent (in fact, it was scheduled to close a year ago). Still, I hadn’t seen one of Koons’ balloon animals in the flesh in a while, and it was totally and surprisingly effective, accomplishing what I think the provocateur meant to do. That taut, shiny sculpture sort of turned me on. Awkward!

–In the other huge wing was a large survey of Beuys’ multiples. Shows of multiples, esp those tangential to Fluxus, can be wonderfully curio-esque or miserably archival and academic. I’ll admit, my art stamina was no match for the massive scope of this survey. I also had a hard time turning off my preparator brain, noticing the grey-vinyl-on-grey-paint instead of synthesizing the text, and being bothered by the lack of didactic texts in the vitrines. Still, it was cute to see Beuys’ famous sled sculpture, which Stephanie Syjuco is re-creating for 1969, a show at PS1 this fall.

–When you like a gallery, and their shows keep exceeding your expectations, you start to worry about becoming biased. This is what happens to me at Marc Foxx Gallery. I loved the Anne Collier show the last time I was in town, and I loved the group show with Jim Hodges and Frances Stark the preceding visit. This time round, I was slowly but surely impressed with a solo show by Matthew Ronay, who crafts fictionalized juju capes, hoods, staffs and other ritual objects. They’re completely engrossing.

Joel Kyack’s Knife Shop at Francios Ghebaly’s Kunsthalle LA in Chinatown was pretty great too. It’s a theatrical installation in the vein of low-brow, folky, male juvenile art, but it worked for me because it was hokey but believably dangerous. I mean, there’s a table of dozens of hand-made shanks. Anger at the world seems less pathetic (even if the work is in a ‘pathetic aesthetic’) when the artist has ground metal license plate holder and other bits of metal into long blades. These aren’t Nut N Fancy tactical knives; they’re fetishes of obsession and rage.

–The recession seems to hit Chinatown galleries especially hard, with many shops folding or moving, so it’s fantastic to see an example of rigor over sell-ability in this ‘hood. Rachel Khedoori’s installation at The Box is timely and political, and its visual interest is minimalist but nightmarish. It’s a museum-quality show at a small commercial gallery. Not sure how that happened, but it’s cool.