Steven Heller posted this piece on Elaine Lustig Cohen’s recent talk at MoMA’s Library and Museum Archives on the museum’s collection of works by her late husband, legendary graphic designer Alvin Lustig (previously lusted over on this website). Cohen is, of course, a superb graphic designer in her own right and probably too often overshadowed by Mr. Lustig’s high-profile body of work. My favorite piece of hers I discovered years after acquiring it. Huh? Picked up for a song in an NYC used book store, Jose Ortega y Gasset’s On Love: Aspects of a Single Theme sat on my bookshelf of design fetishes for years before I’d ever bothered to look up who’d designed the cover—even though her signature was plainly visible.
Got a yearnin’ or a hankerin’ to hear some scratchy 78rpm goodness? Then listen no further than Wester Swing on 78, a blog chock-full of freshly-ripped vinyl and acetate just waiting to turn your computer into a dusty ol’ Texas dance hall. Consisting of mostly ZIP archives of MP3 song collections, the blog entries contain historical information, publicity photos and playable sample songs of such iconic western swing artists like Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys as well as flour-pushers like the Hillbilly Boys and the Light Crust Doughboys. Click, download and two-step the afternoon away.
I like Radiohead. I’ve always liked them. From the earnest songwriting of their youth to the rejection and gradual acceptance of their own fame to their continued exploration of what “music” is. I also appreciate the attention they have always paid to the visual component of their works having hired numerous designers, animators, illustrators, filmmakers and artists to create their albums’ packaging, videos, posters, websites, t-shirts and more. And that is precisely why I was a bit perplexed to see the masthead on the website for their new album, The King Of Limbs.
Love it or hate it, the “grid” has been a fact of life in Manhattan for 200 years. I spent 21 years of my life alternately bragging then complaining about this marvel of city planning that was once probably quite useful to those traversing the long, narrow island. Of course with any grid comes “grid-lock” and anyone who’s ever tried to cross Manhattan on four wheels has certainly experienced the fatal flaw in this boro’s design: human beings. Phil Patton’s article here provides a good historical overview along with the cultural impact the grid has had over the centuries. Interested in viewing more old drawings and maps? Check out Vincent Virga’s Historic Maps and Views of New York, an over-sized collection of historical drawings, engravings and renderings of NYC.
By popular demand, my ever-growing collection of 45 RPM Record Label Designs is back online with a new and improved gallery widget. I’m currently updating the images so that they’re as large and beautiful as possible and I will eventually get around to populating them with all of that delicious meta data about the artists, labels, songs, etc.. Enjoy!
I wish I could fly to New York to see this exhibit more than is possible to describe here. I’ve been a fan of World War 3 Illustrated since I first landed in NYC in the summer of 1988. It wasn’t more than a week before I had seen a striking hand-drawn poster plastered to an abandoned building in Alphabet City showing proletariat fists rising in defiance of police-like figures holding back barking dogs. I remember thinking that I had to meet the person who made this poster. Well, I did. His name was Seth Tobocman and he was an illustrator/artists living in the East Village who was highly involved in social and political movements, something that came through clearly in his art. I was a big fan of Frans Masereel and immediately saw a resemblance in Seth’s work in both style and motivation. I tracked him down after having recognized his bold, graphic style in a local comic/art/zine called World War 3, which I soon found out was published by Seth and his friend and fellow illustrator, Peter Kuper.
As much a gallery as it is an one-stop-shop for lovers of Visual Junk, Collectors Weekly has an impressive interface which pulls relevant auctions from eBay of just the stuff you’re looking for. Take, for example, their Vintage Beer Bottle Labels page, which lists several external websites that exhibit vintage beer labels from around the world—including NoRelevance.com’s Bock Beer Labels exhibit—and also displays 60 current auctions for all sorts of delicious vintage breweriana as well as related events happening around the country. There goes the rest of my afternoon!
This is a cross-post between Crate Digger’s Gold and NoRelevance.com, the original repository for my collection of scanned 45 RPM Record Label Designs, for now at least, residing on Facebook. There’s still plenty of work I need to get done to make the complete collection live here on NoRelevance.com, so I thought I’d post these on FB since it was a fairly simple task. The labels were selected for their designs, not their music. Hope you enjoy them!
From the waaaaay-back machine comes this post from July of 2009 on The Selvedge Yard blog featuring some vintage looks at the various incarnations of one of the most recognizable logos in the history of brand I.D.: the Playboy “bunny.”
The images immediately brought back a vivid memory from my childhood: my mom and dad sitting up in bed one lazy Sunday morning each having a leisurely read–mom with a check-out aisle, crafting mag and dad with a Playboy. No, I did not grow up in a hippie commune or a swinger household devoid of morals. But, my parents–both naturalized citizens–were probably feeling out the recent relaxing of tightly wound, nuclear family values of the previous few decades and, well, Playboy magazine must have seemed like a rather innocuous part of the discovery process.
This was circa 1971-or-2 and a man was definitely still a MAN. But things were changing rapidly and, as women were becoming increasingly independent, self-reliant and gaining control over their reproductive destinies, the sexual ideal of a woman was apparently also in need of an upgrade.
I’m just getting around to this aptly named Austinite’s clever manipulation of trash into treasure. Newspaper Blackout is the creation of Austin Kleon, “a writer and artist living in Austin, Texas” who has presented his Sharpie-saturated works at such notable events as Pecha Kucha Night, TEDx and SXSW 2010, the latter I most likely missed due to being lost between the 3rd and 4th floors of that stupidly designed convention center. I can’t imagine what his studio/workspace must smell like as the marker coverage area on these pieces is considerable. Like torn scraps of notes or letters, the context of his poems evolve with each word one reads creating narratives far beyond what their original author intended. And like Andy Warhol’s re-purposed newspaper photos there’s no end to Kleon’s source material.
Does this really require any more clarification or editorialization? Seriously, any link on the Cover Browser home page could be its own entry here. Well, when you’re done drooling over the cover art wishing you’d saved every mint issue of your childhood, click the “Labs” link in the upper-right-hand corner of the page. This will be a real time-killer for sure. Like the “Color Search” was for me!
Those of you familiar with NoRelevance.com and perhaps my other blog, CrateDiggersGold.com, know of my love, er- lust for 45 RPM records and their label art. Well, I’ve had to practically be medicated to prevent myself from starting another collection: 45 RPM factory sleeves. I thank Ms Kavel Rafferty for taking on this task and doing such a swell job of it. Design is certainly part of the allure of collecting paper ephemera, but process is also part of my curiosity. As modern printing goes digital it’s nice to have on hand several references of one and two color printing that look great despite their age and the cheap papers and inks most of these sleeves consisted of. I still consider the large hole 45 RPM record label and sleeve to be among the more difficult design challenges. Good think vinyl’s making a come back!
Firstly, no, I am not affiliated in any way with The Label Man, but I do LOVE the original vintage labels featured (and for sale) on this website. The collections are broken down into several categories for your browsing pleasure and the website also features plenty of info on the history of crate labels as well as “Tips on Building your Collection of Vintage Fruit Crate Labels.” The hundreds of labels on the website provide a cornucopia of hand-drawn typography from around the ’30s through the recent past and should be a great source of inspiration for any creative persons’ pursuits.
So, I’ve been a rather quiet these past several months while I tried to figure out the best solution for hosting NoRelevance.com and I’ve finally arrived at our current home, which will hopefully serve my needs for several years to come. Along with the previous switch to WordPress as a blogging platform we’re now all set to start publishing on a regular basis. Lord knows I have tons of bookmarked sites that I want to share with you all as well as that 45 RPM Record Label Art exhibit that is long overdue for a re-launch. Thanks and apologies to all who’ve emailed asking about it and missing it–It won’t be long now and I’ve got loads of new labels to display!
BTW, this is bitmap image is not a NY Times crossword puzzle, it’s our QR Code–a bar code readable by Android, iPhone and other mobile devices that takes you directly to this website. It’s handy for sharing NoRelevance.com with folks who look over your shoulder at a coffee shop and go “Cool site, what’s the URL?” Just have them point their phone at our QR code (they’ll need to download a free code reader app) and they’ll be here before you can say “no relevance dot com.”
Has that beautifully beat-up old sign you’ve driven past for years suddenly disappeared with a cold, glass and steel tower rising in its place? Obviously, if you’re here at NoRelevance.com you’re not alone. But if you’re also in Austin, TX then you’ve got a last chance to see some of those lost treasures and can even help save future vanishings. Vanishing Austin is a website dedicated to, well, basically what the name says. More specifically website owner Jann Alexander’s photographs of “Austin in transition contrast the often-contradictory beauty of the old juxtaposed against the new.” As an archivist myself of beautiful things lost to “progress” I can only stand on my chair and applaud such efforts. Ms. Alexander has also recently unveiled a new poster featuring Austin’s “Endangered Species,” available on her website. Good stuff!
Thanks to @brandi_duncan for turning me on to FaceOut Books and their inspiring blog, which features among others these wonderful book covers designed by Alvin Lustig. Reminiscent of Alexander Steinweiss’ covers for Columbia records, Lustig exploited the silhouette as design element and hand-drawn scripts to wonderfully tasteful heights. If you’ve read any of the books whose covers he designed for authors as varied as Franz Kafka to Henry James you will probably find that they were equally illustrative from a context standpoint. One can see resemblances to fellow modernist Paul Rand in the geometric and free-form shapes he used as well as his love for color. Check them out and be inspired.
Chicago-based artist Tony Fitzpatrick has presented a mesmerizing collection of print/collage works in No. 9, An Artist’s Journal currently on view at Slugfest Gallery in Austin, TX. Comprised of several pieces all roughly 7.5 inches wide by 10.5 inches tall, the collection tells stories of places traveled and people known (and lost) as revealed in the subtle clues embedded using symbolic imagery and collaged objects. The ephemeral quality of the works are the result of both the actual bits of precisely cut graphic images adhered to the surface as well as the melancholic nature of the pieces as a whole. Mr. Fitzpatrick stacks cutout handwritten words in columns within each image that form poems that possibly hint at the meanings of each piece or perhaps of a moment experienced in the “story.” He frames each work with three or four matchbook covers, one in each corner of the piece. These matchbooks, which appear to date anywhere from the 1940’s through the 1960’s, often hail from bars and restaurants in New Orleans, a richly storied city where Mr. Fitzpatrick has spent some time. In fact, you may have seen his work on the cover of the Neville Brothers classic 1989 album Yellow Moon, to which he attributes the initial boost to his career as a visual artist.
The works in No. 9 strongly resemble–and are possibly a subset of a larger series of–works previously exhibited in New Orleans during the Prospect 1 Biennial earlier this year. Those works were also of similar scale and composition as the ones in No. 9 and were possibly even more compelling shown in New Orleans. However, beyond their obvious cultural references, the thread that runs throughout No. 9 and is even part of the Slugfest exhibition’s namesake is a reference to a dear, departed friend of Mr. Fitzpatrick, who bears the tattoo “No. 9” on his forearm as a memorial to his friend who would always say goodbye by reminding folks to be careful because “we’re already on our 9th life.”
Perhaps I was a bit harsh in that previous post regarding the $18 Polaroid prints. Perhaps not—you were still paying out the wazoo. But perhaps you’d not heard of Polapremium.com where you can (like I have) buy remainder stock of many different types of Polaroid film formats for what still seems like a reasonable price. And if perhaps, like me, you have that instant print itch that can only be scratched by the cha-ching of an SX-70 Land camera spitting out a $2 gamble then your prayers may have just been answered. The Impossible Project was founded “with the concrete aim to re-invent and re-start production of analog Integral Film for vintage Polaroid cameras.” And, in 2010, their limited edition films will launch and, get this, Polaroid will even introduce a new “classic analog camera” designed especially for their film stock. The Impossible Project managed to secure one of the Polaroid production facilities in Enschede, Netherlands and has begun production on pilot stocks of films. And, apparently, they were behind the limited edition Polaroid Camera/Film package I was slamming in my previous post. I guess it was both market research and a ballsy fund-raiser? Whatever it was it clearly inspired Polaroid to rethink having ditched Dr. Edwin Land’s amazing vision and return to the medium that made them an international icon. Hallelujah!
Well, if you were one of the lucky idiots who paid $180 bucks (plus shipping) for the “Special Edition Polaroid One 600 Classic Camera & 779 Premium Film” package that Urban Outfitters was recently peddling then I hope you made every “say cheese” count. With only 10 prints per pack, as has always been the case, the Special Edition package pumped you for at minimum $18 buck a snap–thus quite possibly eliminating the joy and spontaneity that made Polaroid the camera of choice for party-goers and crap-shoot photographers alike. Anyone who has swung by their local thrift store, even if only to drop off that bag of last year’s clothes, has to have noticed the piles of perfectly good Polaroid 600 series cameras growing in the electronics section. I once picked up an SX-70 Land camera (think Warhol) for $3 bucks at a thrift store. Perhaps unbeknownst to their previous owners, film for these cameras does still exist–though mostly remainder stocks on eBay and Amazon.com. You can even find new “crack and peel” type film being made for those vintage bellowed 540/720 series cameras if you search online. A three dollar camera sure puts me back in joy and spontaneity mode.