Fellow type-obsessed collector, Molly Woodward, has embarked far beyond the shores of this occasional blogger’s endeavors with her website, blog and Kickstarter-funded film project, all appropriately titled “Vernacular Typography.” Visitors of my Hand-painted & Hand-made Signs exhibit may see some overlap, possibly in one or two sign photos, but definitely in a related passion for the often overlooked typographic relics scattered throughout cities as exotic as Havana, Florence and Newark. Her film has been successfully funded and I can’t wait to see what comes of it. While future generations may not have the real artifacts to admire and study, there will surely be sufficient digital archives thanks to the tireless efforts of folks like Molly. Cheers!
Click on over to Letterheady, a one-page scroller featuring letterhead designs for such notable figures as Nikola Tesla and Adolph Hitler to obscure companies like the Liverpool-based Robot Salesmen Ltd. They appear to be legit, with sources linking to other sites from which the examples were culled. Some seem to have been Photoshopped to give them an empty, unused state. Who cares. They’re fun to browse and fit right in here with my love of Visual Junk.
The tagline for the These Americans website is “American Art, History and Culture Through Pictures” and, while this image of “Bobo the Clown and Boy (1951)” portrays the selflessness and compassion that embodies the American spirit, the website does tend to highlight some of the more colorful aspects of the Home of the Brave. Take, for example, their gruesome collection entitled “American Lynching” that contains photos featuring crowds of smiling white folks (including children) squeezing into frame around bare-chested black men tied, hung by their necks and often burned.
I stumbled upon this blog post containing some remarkable photographs of cold war era monuments that seem right out of a post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie. My favorite is this one located on a hilltop in Podgarić, Croatia and also immortalized on this Yugoslavian postage stamp. From what I can dig up it appears to be a WWII memorial made of concrete and aluminum and was possibly erected in 1967. I remember seeing some similarly powerful Soviet-era monuments while travelling in Vietnam, but none as striking as these. What’s probably most eerie about them to me are the photographs themselves. The monuments certainly don’t seem contemporary, but instead rather futuristic and they appear more like relics of a lost civilization situated in uninhabited landscapes much like Inca and Mayan monuments must have looked to early bushwhackers. Days of Future Passed!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.”
I’m looking forward to seeing Typeface, a film by Justine Nagan, which recently premiered at TypeCon2009 in Atlanta. The film’s tag line say that it’s “charting the intersection of rural America and contemporary graphic design.” Well, that’s right up our alley here at NoRelevance.com! The preview images and synopsis look and sound great and all of its early press seems to indicate that it’s a wonderful film. Hopefully more interesting than that other film about type that came out not too long ago. Speaking of the synopsis: “Typeface focuses on a rural Midwestern museum and print shop where international artists meet retired craftsmen and together navigate the convergence of modern design and traditional technique.” You had me at “typeface.”
War Posters (flickr set)
I’ve got a victory garden going, don’t you?
Dubbed “Space Art in Children’s Books,” this very simply presented website is a treasure trove of pre-space era through post-Apollo mission illustrations which appeared in astronomy and science books beginning as far back as 1883 with Agnes Giberne’s romantic visions in Sun, Moon and Stars : A Book for Beginners. As a child of the Apollo era, just barely old enough to remember the famous lunar touchdown, I’m thrilled to see such a collection of wondrous images available online. To the moon…and beyond!
Talk about “visual junk.” If your notion of Dada is no more than a Duchamp urinal then please click on over to UbuWeb (with your French-English dictionary) and peruse their Dada Magazine archive. Founded by Tristan Tzara in an attempt to broaden the reach of Dada’s core ideas throughout Europe, Dada (the magazine) published works of art, prose and poetry and survives as a wonderful example of early DIY subculture publishing both in content and form. Of the three issues available online, Dada 3, published in December of 1918, is the most striking of the titles sporting some innovative page layouts and a terrific cover design (inset). Notable contributors over the years included Giorgio de Chirico, Robert Delaunay, and Wassily Kandinsky just to name a few.
Surely by now you’ve come across Metroscript–a relatively new OpenType script typeface that’s being hailed as “one of the most complex digital script systems on the market” and rightfully so. Designed by Michael Doret of the Alphabet Soup type foundry, Metroscript takes full advantage of the OpenType format, which makes possible and incredible number ligature combinations and, thus, lends a more hand-made look to headlines and copy. My particular interests in it are from the standpoint of the computer-generated, cut-vinyl signage industry and its new tool for getting that hand-made look. Will it displace some old-fashioned hand-painters? It’s possible. Metroscript essentially presents the designer with a Rubik’s Cube of ligature options–most of which look good enough to print. So, I imagine many designers might end up wanting to use their comps as the finished product.
Ever been read the Riot Act? Now you can make that dream a reality with the help of LibriVox, a massive online archive of public domain literary works made available as free downloadable audio books. The site, which claims to be “open source” and completely volunteer-run, contains a plethora of audible classics such as the likes of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Jack London’s White Fang, and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus. If you can deal with the occasional changing of reader voices (sometimes male, sometimes female) and varying audio quality (all pretty much good enough), there are numerous audio formats to choose from, feeds for podcasts, links to text versions of most books, and material available in nine different languages. Time to catch up on those classics!
Do you? I’m not sure you do, unless of course you start browsing the many family photos in this online memory project. DoYouKnowWhatItMeans.org hopes to avoid the type of catastrophic loss of visual history as which happened with the floodwaters of Katrina. Many photos seem to have survived a hurricane or flood or two, which would not be beyond the realm of possibilities for residents of New Orleans who seem to suffer a major “natural” disaster every generation or so. The snapshots instantly bring me back to my childhood. I have fond memories of “hurricane parties,” where several families on a street would convene to one house with the kids all running around the back yard and the dads setting up a giant cauldron atop a propane stove to boil crawfish, crabs and shrimp. Once the rains and heavy winds began the party would move indoors where the moms played Bourré under hurricane lamps, the men tweaked their transistor radios and the kids pulled out their Nash Roberts hurricane tracking maps waiting for the inevitable eye to come…