May 17th, 2013 by Zachary Sachs
A year before his 1970 illustration for an Elliott Gould cover story in Time magazine, Milton Glaser was called upon to contrast two major screen actors for Life: Dustin Hoffman and John Wayne. Compared to the ambivalence and wide-angled social scope of the Gould article, though, the story in Life volleys commonplaces back and forth between the liberal-introvert Hoffman and the macho-conservative Wayne and the fact that their roles tend to follow the same example. The latter is “strong, decisive, moral, and nearly always a winner,” whereas Hoffman is “conspicuously short on these qualities.”
In contrast to the many sketches with multiple angles and styles for the Elliott Gould art, Glaser seems to have struck on fairly early to the approach in this assignment, with the double-decker illustration imitating a widescreen aspect ratio, and conflating the actors’ personalities and their presentation in their films. On the bottom half, Glaser’s adapts his full-color psychedelic style to a Sergio Leone-ish close up on the Duke, while at top a lonely, small, disconsolate Hoffman is rendered in black and white. (See also?)
Though the article lacks much in the way of penetrating insight (the photographs, by John Dominis, are better), both actors give good quotes. Dustin Hoffman has this advice which perhaps some would like to pass along to Tom Cruise: “I don’t think that at 50 you should be doing what you did when you were 30.” Admittedly, this alludes to his intention to become primarily a director—an ambition that was never really realized (forty years later, he has only one credit, 2012’s Quartet). At the end there’s a joke that Hoffman’s next role is a Western (of sorts) Little Big Man, and although “it would be fun to report that Duke Wayne has signed to play a bisexual Russian art critic who foments a campus revolt,” he, too, would be wearing a cowboy hat in his next part, in Chisum.
April 18th, 2013 by Beth Kleber
Throughout his career, Milton Glaser has made a project of creating not-quite-faithful reproductions of the work of the masters he reveres: works after Giorgione, Degas, Monet, and Piero della Francesca are all part of his collection in the Glaser Archives. “Milton Glaser after Seurat” is unique among the group in that he adapts the subject but not the technique. Glaser replaces the original’s dots with Push Pin-style thin black lines and broad swaths of bright, flat color (achieved with cello-tak in this, and many other, mechanicals from the time); yet, Seurat’s and Glaser’s slightly distorted figures are perfectly compatible, and Glaser does hit upon the conspicuously missing element – a comfy lawn chair. Overall, the effect is far sunnier, and though this piece is not dated, I’d be surprised if it weren’t created around the same time Glaser and Push Pin were advancing their influential brand of pop-psychedelia.
February 11th, 2013 by Beth Kleber
Nabokov’s Transparent Things was first published in the December 1971 issue of Esquire, accompanied by watercolor illustrations by James McMullan (the novella, sans illustrations, was published in book form the following year). McMullan sometimes works in a kind of adapted hyperrealistic style, but the result often carries elements of surrealism; other pieces are fully committed to incongruous juxtapositions. McMullan’s dreamy paintings for Transparent Things were printed in black and white (or, rather, black and green), but we’re lucky to have one original piece.
In a 1972 interview, Nabokov addressed critical misperceptions about the book:
Reviewers of my little book made the lighthearted mistake of assuming that seeing through things is the professional function of a novelist. Actually, that kind of generalization is not only a dismal commonplace but is specifically untrue. Unlike the mysterious observer or observers in Transparent Things, a novelist is, like all mortals, more fully at home on the surface of the present than in the ooze of the past.
November 21st, 2012 by Zachary Sachs
Looks like a regular ocellated fellow, with one significant difference. Cross-reference for flowers sprouting from heads: Utopia Records, and this poster for Push Pin Graphic. (Typeface is Glaser Stencil, which appeared on other Poppy productions as well.)
November 13th, 2012 by Beth Kleber
Forever potent and still open to interpretation despite its ubiquity, the skeleton has surfaced many times in the early work of Milton Glaser. Glaser has exploited its (sometimes comic) menace with both expressive rendering and exploration of the shape of the skull. His art for Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden”, which would make an excellent album cover for several other musical genres, incorporates powerful swirls of flat color similar to his Dylan poster, but to a vastly different effect.
Below, a sketch and the printed final work for a magazine article on the economics of the international drug trade.
And hey, a couple of poppies are growing out of that skull.
For the great iceberg lettuce boycott of the early 1970s (entering the 1972 Democratic National Convention, Ted Kennedy welcomed the crowd with “Greetings, fellow lettuce boycotters!”), Glaser sketched one threatening head of lettuce. I’m not sure this art ever made it into production, but he used a similar idea for the grape boycott a few years earlier.
Finally, a sketch and printed final piece from an unidentified publication.
Glaser traded in the gestural fairy of his sketch for a more traditional version.
See also: Henry Wolf’s x-rays.
September 14th, 2012 by Beth Kleber
In 1988, Bic launched a fragrance line, hoping, somehow, to bring the convenience of their pens, lighters, and razors to the world of perfume. The French company touted their product as “the world’s first fine French perfume that combine[s] high quality with affordable pricing and a stylish, portable design.” Four fragrances were produced: “Jour” and “Nuit” for women, plus “Bic for Men” and “Bic Sport for Men.” The pocket-size bottles were designed to resemble Bic lighters and sold for $5 in the same drugstores and supermarkets where other Bic products were made available.
It was a classic case of overreach (despite the “Paris in your pocket” pitch of their advertising) and Bic Parfum tanked, because it turns out people don’t want to buy French perfume from the same people who make their disposable lighters and plastic pens. Production and distribution in most markets ceased in 1991, though apparently it is still produced and sold in Iran.
However, let us not find fault with the charming packaging for the US designed by Seymour Chwast. His typically bright and playful illustrations adorn several versions he developed for the brand.
Chwast experimented with several different approaches; the examples below are more type-centric.
This one gets closest to the glamor and exoticism generally favored by fragrance companies in the 80s.
August 14th, 2012 by Zachary Sachs
James McMullan did the art for Dutton’s 1961 paperback box set of Lawrence Durrell’s tetralogy, The Alexandria Quartet. Durrell’s most famous work, it was that rare success, both critical and commercial. The first one, Justine, was my favorite novel at one time, though now—perhaps because I was too young when I read it, or otherwise because of subsequent damage to my long-term memory—I can’t remember much about it, plot-wise. Stylistically the prose is very lush. Justine opens:
The sea is high again today, with a thrilling flush of wind. In the midst of winter you can feel the inventions of Spring. A sky of hot nude pearl until midday, crickets in sheltered places, and now the wind unpacking the great planes, ransacking the great planes …
McMullan’s covers are done in a mixture of earthy soulful browns for the box; and emphatic oranges, emerald, and purple on the individual covers. The figures here are sketchier than much of McMullan’s more familiar work, and maybe that helps to convey the frenzied emotional states of the characters in the books (the title characters, as I recall, are involved in romances with many vertices, Durrell courts the comparison of his treatment of “modern love” with Einstein and Freud and also Sade). McMullan’s images for Taractan also seem pertinent.
Though the series is occasionally counted among “the greatest novels of the twentieth century,” its star seems to have dimmed more than many of its peers on those sorts of lists. It’s possible the books are—not to their detriment necessarily—too much a product of their time. The author, in the preface to his Paris Review interview, is colorfully painted in:
Lawrence Durrell is a short man, but in no sense a small one. Dressed in jeans, a tartan shirt, a navy-blue pea jacket, he looks like a minor trade-union official who has successfully absconded with the funds. He is a voluble, volatile personality, who talks fast and with enormous energy. He is a gift for an interviewer, turning quite stupid questions into apparently intelligent ones by assuming that the interviewer meant something else. Though he was rather distrustful of the tape recorder, he acquiesced in its use. He smokes heavily, Gauloises bleues. When at rest he looks like Laurence Olivier; at other times his face has all the ferocity of a professional wrestler’s.
August 1st, 2012 by Beth Kleber
Gian Carlo Menotti’s sci-fi opera for children Help, Help, The Globolinks! tells the story of instrument-wielding children who ultimately fight off an alien invasion. The Globolinks land on Earth in front of a school bus to a score of sinister electronic sounds, seeking to destroy all they touch. Humans who come into contact with the Globolinks are rendered speechless and are ultimately transformed into one of them. Only music can save the day, as the children from St. Paul’s School discover they can defeat the Globolinks with their voices and instruments. Menotti’s opera premiered in Hamburg on December 21, 1968 (here’s a clip from a 1969 production); it was performed in English at the New York City Opera in December 1969. The libretto was adapted for a children’s book in 1970, complete with illustrations (based the original production) by Milton Glaser.
Sound familiar? Though somewhat more earnest in tone (but not without an element of camp), Help, Help, The Globolinks! set up much the same conflict as 1968′s Yellow Submarine; it’s not much of a leap to imagine the children of St. Paul’s School taking on the Blue Meanies. Looking at the broad swaths of flat, eye-popping color, the bulbous shapes, even the human figure proportions, it’s easy to see the stylistic similarities shared at the time by Milton Glaser and Yellow Submarine‘s art director Heinz Edelmann (though Edelmann made a sharp turn away from psychedelic art after the success of that film).
July 25th, 2012 by Beth Kleber
These drawings from the James McMullan Collection caught my eye as we were preparing for McMullan’s Masters Series exhibition coming up this fall. McMullan’s art will often incorporate fine pen lines with gentle watercolor but this is one of the few examples I know of where he (like Chwast and Glaser) utilized actual layering for the mechanical; in this case, the pen drawing was printed on a transparent overlay on top of an original watercolor. I love this piece because it’s so carefully constructed; the reader of the magazine article has no idea how each layer stands so beautifully on its own. The colorful base layer is a slightly more abstracted version of McMullan’s trademark watercolor illustrations. The top layer is more unusual (for him): a highly detailed, cross-hatched comic strip style line drawing.
July 9th, 2012 by Zachary Sachs
I’m surprised I haven’t brought this up before (or only in passing), considering that on any given tour that includes the Seymour Chwast collection, it’s what I invariably find myself babbling about. One of the key aspects of the originals by Seymour and Milton Glaser is the effect of layering devices in analog composition process. Chwast’s characteristic style is often — with amazing precision — composed of paper cut to shape upon which a clear sheet overlays the black outline. It’s incredibly meticulous. It’s a little tricky to demonstrate this in photographs and needless to say this is only one example among many.
A treasure trove of art and graphics from The Milton Glaser Design Archives. Rare, unseen printed work, original art, and drafts for design and illustration by Glaser, Heinz Edelmann, Seymour Chwast, George Tscherny, James McMullan, and others. For even more design ephemera and art from the School of Visual Arts, see also http://containerlist.glaserarchives.org.
Dan Nadel, Ben Jones
The Ganzfeld's Swan Song $30.00