Yesterday sitting in the Top Secret Lab and talking of print and promotion with Catch Wreck, discussing the downsides of homogenized Pen and Pixel style pop advertising, I felt compelled to show some of the pieces we looked at in the History of Graphic Design class I took last semester. Some of the artists, like Alphonse Mucha, I was already familiar with, and their iconic style of work - but there are countless examples of advertising from eras where form was as at least as important a consideration as function. And design was an artistic discipline, not a formulaic series of steps in Photoshop. When type was physical and set and images were illustrated, not live traced. These are some of the ones we gravitated towards:
Download the whole EP for free here:
1. Seyonia Washington - Imagine if the Beat Stopped
2. Pause - Where You Should Be
3. The Helmsplitter - Fight An Animal!
4. Zayde Buti - Hot n' Juicy
5. O.T.O. - Sail On Freestyle
6. Jasmine Mans - Nicki Minaj
7. Zeek - Hold To The Time
8. Anthony Febo - First Time
9. Catch Wreck - 1Tyme4UrMynd
10. Jack Kahn - Crisis
11. The Helmsplitter - Outro
12. Daniel Fairclough - Her Eyes (Bonus)
"A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom." ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Found an interesting post comapring some stats about military spending on the Guardian Data Blog. Pretty mind boggling - if not surprising.
Again I find myself bewildered by where to start now that I have some time to get back to my blog. Its been a crazy month. I am finally done with my semester, which ended well though with a frenzy of projects, studying and crits. I am still waiting to pick up some of my work and document what I did over the fall, but It was a busy semester. I took 5 classes, 4 being studio classes. But more on that later...
Outside of school, Scope, Pen and Sword / PS-Design and all of the other ventures associated with our recently formalized network, the Grassroots Grind Group are proceeding with a life of their own. We are all working on our respective projects and launches and its exciting to see everything happen so fast and new people coming in to the fold. I have nothing but hope for the upcoming year.
Tonight I launched the mostly complete version of a website I have been designing for my Information Design class to visualize the findings of the 20 Year Homicide Report by Darrin Howell, A resource made publicly available through Blackstonian.com. This report breaks down the 1,465 murders that took place in the city of Boston between 1988 and 2008 by district, victim age, month etc. Check it out here: blackstonian.com/20yearhomicidereport.
It is sobering to think that in the time I have been alive, more than 1,500 people have been murdered in my city. I've been looking at these stats for the past month, presenting them and representing them, trying to make myself remember they are people and not numbers.
I guess I was most shocked at how unsurprised I was by the data when I really saw it. Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan all have triple digit numbers for their district, while the other 9 districts in the city never exceed 40 in the same time frame. Across the board, most of the victims are between the ages of 14 and 25, killed by a "GSW" (gun shot wound). In the districts with the highest numbers of murders, there are the least number solved proportionally. Overall, less than 10% of murders result in a conviction, with the majority never even resulting in an arrest.
And yet we continue to spend more on an ever increasing and clearly ineffective police presence, spend less on addressing the issue of poverty, youth jobs, high-school dropout rates and the "achievement gap," community, youth and social programs designed to encourage alternatives to violence etc. We need to stop trying to address violence as the issue and address the root causes. Why is it that the path of least resistance for a youth from one of Boston's "hot spots" leads into the waiting arms of the prison system, be it for gun drug or gang charges? Why is it that for some, crack and 9mm are more readily available and attainable than a minimum wage job (let alone a living wage job) or a degree or diploma? Clearly we are not serving entire segments of our city, and as always it is no surprise who gets the short end of the stick and winds up paying the price.
Last week, when a gun and knife fight erupted in a pizza place up the street from my house, it received national news coverage. That's because this incident, in which 3 people lost their lives, happened on Centre St., in the affluent gentrified end of the Jamaica Plain. But walk less than a mile towards Egleston Square and the border with Roxbury, and events like this are almost expected - routine. I love my city, but we have some serious divisions we need to address. As this years homicide rate climbs into the 70's and the official response is more police presence, a few more street workers, massive cuts for all sorts of social programs and continued support for ineffective yet connected organizations, I'd say we still have long ways to go. Hopefully it won't take 1,465 more lives to see that.
We've been working on info graphics for class recently and my classmate sent me this example he found. Its by Frank Chimero and is a brief look at some of the horrifying stats about prisons in this country.
Recently, I have been enjoying listening to the new creations from my boy Catch Wreck - his newest stuff is a big break from what he's been doing, mostly as a response to some of the challenges of making music about real stuff without sounding preachy. We've been talking about it a lot lately and I think in many ways, we have parallel problems as artists - namely, how do you make your craft, something you love and enjoy, do or address something important without doing a disservice to either the medium or the idea you want to convey through it.
In my own work, I have been struggling with ways of making my prints and pieces be effective as things that can get people to think and act. I find myself making work that honors people from the past, movements that have already happened or illustrating some horrific thing one group of people has done or is doing to another - but I am still in some ways reliant on the viewer to have enough interest and understanding in who these people or situations are in order to convey the proper importance. Like I did a series of portraits - of figures who have been influential in my personal development politically - people who's actions or ideas have inspired me or changed the way I see the world. But the meaning of what they did, although sometimes caught for a fleeting moment in the representation of a persons body, can never fully be captured by building monuments.
I have started moving away from specific people and have found strength in images of anonymous figures, whose relationships between one another, either fighting or facing off, subduing or submitting carry a lot more power and meaning than any specific conflict or fighter I could reference. But I still have yet to find the balance between all of the elements. On the conceptual end, I have the problems of what am I trying to say, how can I best say it, what voice, so on and so forth - on the technical end, how do I make the work, through my formal choices be not only an effective messenger, but do justice to the importance of the subject matter I want to present.
As I begin to think about my senior thesis project and what I want to spend next semester doing, I guess these are good problems to have. I know what I want to say. I know what I want to get across and how badly I want it to be conveyed and to whom. Now it comes down to the most important and fun part - how.
On Friday in class we watched a really interesting video of Jonathan Harris speaking at an AIGA event about coding, technology and the impact it has on human life. To me it was a fascinating and astute observation of the state of our technical world from one someone on the inside. In his talk, he describes the Internet as a still developing and still growing awkward teen of a medium, yet to realize its full potential or proper balanced place within our world and social interaction.
You can find about more about Jonathan Harris and his work at number27.org.
The crew we started in high school, Voices of Liberation, operates under the motto "You don't make a difference by joining the struggle, you join the struggle by making a difference." If you take that and apply it to this situation: you don't become part of the design community by joining a group for a membership fee, you become part of the design community by building a community with other designers and artists. Now, that being said one of the benefits of groups is that the purpose of the grouping is explicitly stated, allowing you (in theory) to decide if it is a group of which you want to be a part. I joined the AIGA because 1) they had a sweet student discount, 2) because the group is supposed to do something I want to do, which is build a network and community of creative and design professionals and 3) because all the cool kids were doing it. But that doesn't mean my job is done or mission accomplished. I still think you have to meet some people the old fashioned way.
Thus far, the AIGA has been a great resource in terms of information and I hope I can meet some other folks through it and go see things I might not be exposed to and open some doors which might have been closed, but at the end of the day I know the best network is one you build piece by piece, on your own, over a lifetime.
I loved seeing the way she addressed text as I am working on a print piece now that is text-based. Seeing a word, raised off a sheet of paper in tangible black ink, or as relief in a field of plate tone gives it a physical presence and power I am interested in looking at.
Some weeks are just full of terrible news.
Last Wednesday, our dear family friend Amy Grabel passed away after battling cancer for years. I consider Amy part of the village that raised me, and her death is very sad for the friends and community who loved her. She was a warm, generous soul, dedicated activist and community member, teacher, artist and fabulous cook who often invited her friends over to share her home. I feel blessed to have known her and find it hard to believe such a good person is gone.
This weekend's violence struck close to home for many of my friends who grew up with one of the victims, Tito, and the cycle of violence and grief that plagues our city is wearing so thin. Its incredibly frustrating / heartbreaking to watch time and again senseless death go unchecked by ever-increasing police presence and countless pleads for peace, while the root problems continue to fester.
And then on Sunday night I got a call from a friend who had been watching the news about the death of Josh Stimpson, a kid I met working at BU who had just graduated last may. We had been doing freelance web design projects together and he was helping us when he could with coding and development and some of the business stuff for Scope Apparel. He had just started his job at a consulting firm and was excited to be starting his life. My heart goes out to his parents and family. It's not ever supposed to happen like that and the loss of such a bright young life so early is tragic.
At this point I don't know what to think except to be grateful for the friends, family and loved ones I have, and the time I have to spend with them, and to hang on to the memories I have of the people we've lost.
While I was there, I got to see my friend go through her NSS, a high pressure presentation / final project / culmination of independent research that science majors at her school (Warren Wilson) do in their senior year. It's awesome to see someone I have grown up with in their element, ready to go out into the world and kicking ass at whatever it is they are interested in. Whether its design or partridge berries or hip-hop, we're finding where we belong and what we are meant to do and its a really exciting time.
Ashville, tho I didn't spend much time there, seems like a great little town - although the airport is so tiny you sometimes get a scary old school plane. First time on a turbojet and all I can say is don't worry what it sounds like, just know you'll land and you will.
I've been loving the new videos from The Getback click recently and Rafael Casal's "Up Your Sleeve" is no exception. I think this is one of the best videos he's done, visually and conceptually and as always its some real, relatable music. Anyone who's been in it knows the gambling nature of love, the need the for a cards-on-the-table time...
There's been a million things going on so I'm finally getting around to putting up a few pics from Saturday's trip to the Rob Stull Signing at The Million Year Picnic, one of the oldest local comic shops. I try to go to most of the events I design stuff for but I really look forward to Rob's events. I've always loved comics and there's nothing quite like seeing the original book art. The signing coincided roughly with the release of Black Comix, an extraordinary artbook in which Rob is one of 50 featured artists. It's an awesome book so make sure you cop it.
Me, Jero, Rob Stull
I was glad my some of the team could come too, and the Scope shirts, especially Steal Art Make Money, were something we talked about a lot. The event seemed to be a hit and the tiny store was packed the whole time we were there. Of course I couldn't leave without getting SOMEthing - call it a comic shop tradition.
This time I went with The New Avengers Illuminati book which happens in the middle of the Skrull Invasion story. It's a short piece collecting several stories about the covert activities of the leaders of the super-hero world: Iron Man, Professor Xavier, Black Bolt, Dr. Strange, Mr. Fantastic and Namor.
"Advertising without posters is like fishing without worms" ~The Hatch Brothers
This nugget of marketing wisdom is one of the many quotations on the walls accompanying the Hatch Show Print traveling exhibit which is currently at BU. I dropped by the gallery to take advantage of this opportunity to see the work of the Hatch Show Print Shop up close and in person. I had been familiar with the style and work of Hatch, ever since I bought an incomplete box of postcards of Hatch posters at a yard sale. Seeing it in real life, at full size, however, was incomparable. Hatch is a working letterpress shop whose extraordinary posters defined the visual look of some of America's greatest moments in music and history. Their enduring style and techniques survive to this day, using movable letterpress type and hand cut wood blocks to create amazing posters.
While it was awesome to see the beautiful colorful posters full size, I think my favorite part was being able to look at some of the actual blocks they used and the hands on mode of making. In this digital era of pixels and vectors, it is refreshing to see people still working with physical materials and their own two hands.
I found this cool video about Hatch while writing this:
This feels like it has been the week of art shows. One of my favorite projects has been designing a flyer for Rob Stull's Signing at The Million Year Picnic on October 2, celebrating the release of the new Black Comix book in which he is a featured artist. Definitely go and check it out - should be a good time to talk comics and hang out with one of the legends of the industry.
Then, this weekend, my work will be shown in Critical Views 5 at Red Sun Press, part of JP Open Studios. This show highlights emerging artists illustrating contemporary struggles for social justice, the environment, and economic and political change. I will have two of my prints, an etching and a woodcut up in the show. It's always an awesome place to go see some political art by local artists and this years lineup includes the work of some amazing people locally to across the country. Featured artists include: Anonymous, Santiago Armengod, Tyrone Boucher, Ramiro Davaro-Comas, Design Action Collective, Shanthony Exum, Lisa Factora-Borchers, Eric Gulliver, Nancy Haver, Elliot Higger, Anh Ðào Kolbe, Jacob Leidolf, Angela Mark, Bernal Murillo, Erin Murray, Favianna Rodriguez, Skip Schiel and Michele Vavonese.
RSVP via Facbook
Finally, I began some of the visual and conceptual work for Conscious Styles, a multidisciplinary political art show series, featuring work by young artists working in all mediums which we hope to be starting in the next few months.
So I thought I was busy before, when I was just doing my day job and my design work and my tee shirt company and my organizing. Enter into the mix: School. So I've been just readjusting my priorities now that I have new projects and work. So far my classes have all been great - I've had one of each of Printmaking, Typography, Information Design, History of Graphic Design and Graphic Design studios. It looks like its going to be a fun and challenging semester.
Saturday was also the day Catch performed at the Boston common and we went deep to support and enjoy the gorgeous weather. Later that night a group of us went out to Dane's Video Party at Sammy's Patio in Revere. It was pretty chilly and windy on the water but it was a good night with a good mix of people.
I spent Sunday and Monday doing the homework I have been given already and cleaning my room, putting away clothes and otherwise getting my self ready for the semester. Tonight local filmmaker Rene Dongo's "Three Witnesses" by Sofia Snow is being shown at the MFA - be sure to see this and his other videos "The Audacity of Hope" and "Fight Back" on Friday and Saturday respectively.
Also, on Monday, had a chance to build face to face with Mike Norman of SoChange, a local initiative to mobilize economic power within communities for the benefit of the community. The pilot program is being rolled out in J.P. and will hopefully be a great way to find out how to spread this idea further. I am excited to be working with them on some visual design stuff but also to just to give some general feedback on such a dope program.
So yea, lots of exciting things on the way - I hope I have time to write about it all.
So I guess I've been pegged as the stop-motion-hip-hop-music-video-loving guy so here's the latest favorite: Fatgums and Bambu "Peddlin' Music."
One of the most comical, simple and well done videos of it's kind, this is for a track from Fatgums and Bambu’s A Peaceful Riot.
On August 28, 1963, civil rights leaders, most notably Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led a “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” This event, which drew hundreds of thousands of supporters to DC was where the now historic "I have a Dream Speech" was delivered. While this is undeniably one of the most significant moments of the period, I had never thought of materials required to mobilize such a gathering might look like - now I know.
I was shown some scans of an original program / portfolio which are an amazing resource for any activist, but particularly people interested in political art and the way art has been engaged in the service of movements and revolutions throughout history. I've seen lots of black and white photographs of posters, signs, banners and flags made for the march, but seeing this "collection of graphic collages... created specifically as a memento for those who participated in the historic March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs" is amazing. This booklet contained several collages which "depicts mans inhumanity, his cruelty to his fellow human being" and served as "a reminder of generations of generations of hope, of sacrifice and of faith."
It was made by the artist Louis Lo Monaco. I had not known about him before and while information is sparse, this is his best known work and can be found in the library of congress. The collages are gorgeous to me, using lavish amounts of black and limited splashes of red and blue in really elegant ways. At the same time, they combine powerful / striking and disturbing images in a way that forces you to confront the realities of the time - something I think all (good) artists do.