Date Archives February 2011

‘Me and My Friends’ by Little Aaron

I rarely have a need to shop for children. However, I did stumble upon a really great find this past weekend that I would have loved to have been able to gift this to a 4 year old kid: Little Aaron’s Me and My Friends, from Pictoplasma. It’s quirky cover caught me, as I was staring at some photography books: a sassy looking 1970s child in front of a car with a…large, animated 1950s greaser monster? I was taken aback, trying to figure out if this was some silly fake kids book for adults or a silly real kids book for kids. Regardless, I grabbed it and was captured by the work of “Little Aaron” (designer and animator Aaron Stewart).

A picture driven kids book, manufactured to be both “spit and spill” proof, the book features photos of Aaron Stewart as a child around town in 1970s Wichita, Kansas (where he grew up). The photos are fairly common, featuring images of a child by a lake, a child playing on a rocking horse, or a child reading to himself on the ground. From here, Stewart infuses fantastic friends, animated from his imagination now, into the photos. The result is the creation of childhood friends “you have always dreamed of.”

The book would be an awesome gift for a kid. But, because Stewart’s work is so fantastic and full of imagination, it’d probably make a pretty cool gift for an adult, too.


‘Graphic USA: An Alternative Guide to 25 U.S. Cities’

Graphic USA: An Alternative Guide to 25 U.S. Cities

Graphic USA: An Alternative Guide to 25 U.S. Cities

Graphic USA: An Alternative Guide to 25 U.S. Cities

When people suggest city guides for a place you’ve never visited I’m usually pretty skeptical. People are so different from each other so it’s impossible to please everyone, but I think Graphic USA: An Alternative Guide to 25 U.S. Cities does a pretty good job. Put together by editor Ziggy Hanaor, Graphic USA asks residents of 25 of the biggest cities in America to give their picks for the best places to eat, hang out, shop and see museums, amongst other things.

I can’t really speak for other cities, but I can hands down approve the section on Los Angeles. When Ziggy wrote me and asked if I’d be interested in checking out the book I had my doubts. Could a city guide really know all the cool, little spots that a person who lives in a place long enough find? Funny enough, I think this guide actually nails it. I can’t speak for other cities, but I think Tal Rosner, author of the Los Angeles section, totally nailed it. He eats where I eat, he drinks where I drink, and shops where I shop. I was honestly shocked that he was so spot on, and though not everything is perfect, I was completely surprised.

I should also mention that the design and art in the book is amazing. Each section uses a different artist to represet the city, either with design or illustration or photography. Los Angeles is a blur of Lomo photos, Milwaukee features some amazing design by Andy Brawner and lovely illustrations for Portland by Briar Levit. I would definitely recommend snagging this book if you’re looking to travel around the United States.

Editor’s Note: I just spoke to my friend Danielle Lehman, a Kansas native, who says that Kansas City is also represented well. Her favorite restaurant Oklahoma Joes, which is listed under Anthony Bourdain’s list of places you have to eat before you die, makes Graphic USA’s list of places to eat.


Kitsch design fun with the.

the 1

the 2

the 3

Although it was initially their Anti-Theft Lunch Bags that drew me in, I soon discovered that design duo the. are not merely a one trick pony. Irrespective of whether they are designing speakers, bow ties or lamps, the. follow a design principle that melds functionality and a delightful sense of fun. Joining the talents of Hong Kong-born Sherwood Forlee and Japanese-born Mihoko Ouchi, the innovative products created by the. are released in limited editions and often involve donating proceeds to charity.

Using their admittedly short attention spans, Forlee and Ouchi have created wares the like of which one could only dream. Thankfully, they’ve made them a reality. I am particularly grateful as I need to keep those damn thieves away from my lunch – my sandwiches are delicious!


Frank Stella, Architect

Week before last, we looked at the watercolors of Steven Holl: an architect pushing architecture into art. But what about an artist pushing from art into architecture? Here are three architecture models built by Frank Stella, who gained notoriety as a minimalist painter in the late ’50s and early ’60s with several series of striped paintings including “Benjamin Moore Paintings” made with, what else, house paint. Through decades of his prolific career, Stella’s canvases became increasingly complex, colorful and dimensional. Maybe it was inevitable that his trajectory would lead him to architecture, but when the Met held an exhibition of his work called “From Painting to Architecture” in 2007 not everyone loved the results.

I’ve always liked Stella’s paintings, but I’ve always had a hard time placing his architecture. Maybe because the models he makes look more like complex sculptures or fragments of architecture. I’m not saying his work is bad, just that it doesn’t have enough plumbing (yet) to leave the realm of sculpture. I’ve worked on plenty of architecture projects that initially developed through sketch models not terribly dissimilar from these, and I know it takes a lot of work to transform such models into architecture that can be realized at scale. So it’s strange to see one of the more famous American post-war artists working toward architecture. To get there, he’ll have to give up some of the freedoms that creating sculptures allows; he’ll have to give up some of the freedoms of being an artist.


‘They Will Grow’ by Glass Vaults

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Last week I came across a really nice E.P from a band called Glass Vaults which I think you might enjoy. Entitled Glass E.P, it’s the creation of two Wellington based musicians who create incredibly tender tracks which are underpinned by a sense of darkness and washed in haunting textures and rhythmic drums. The five tracks on here cover a range of different sounds but listeners are bound to find touches of the The xx, M83 and Yeasayer on here.

The standout for me is the wonderfully reserved opener called They Will Grow. It’s a sort of shoegazey chant with all the tenderness of some of the more gentle Yo La Tengo. Backed by some ambient harmonies and dreamy synths, it’s bound to enthuse fans of contemporary ambient music. Listeners looking for a more energetic fix should head straight to their song New Space which demonstrates the duos keen pop sensibilities, taking their sound and wrapping it around some wonderful Animal Collective style drumming. Best of all, the E.P is yours to download for free from their Bandcamp site. I hope you enjoy.


Darcel Does Fashion Week

Darcel Does New York Fashion Week

Darcel Does New York Fashion Week

Darcel Does New York Fashion Week

I love Craig Redmond and pretty much anything he does. It’s crazy, since I posted about Darcel back in June of 2008 he’s absolutely blown up, having shows at Colette, making awesome products and even being so kind as to make a desktop wallpaper for the site. Lately though I’ve been loving his portraits of people from New York’s Fashion Week. He’s got al the biggest stars, from Anna Wintour to Kanye and Terry Richardson. Be sure to visit his site to see the rest of the fashionistas.


Bruce Nauman’s Classic ‘One Hundred Live and Die’

'100 Live and Die' by Bruce Nauman

'100 Live and Die' by Bruce Nauman

Bruce Nauman is one of a handful of contemporary artists who have shaped the current state of art. Like John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, and even Yoko Ono, the contemporary artist has gone from performance to performance to performance, from video to painting to sculpture, crossing every line of artistry to make way for new artists (many of which have had work featured on this very site). They all have their hallmarks, conceptual posts to hang their career on, where–when you see it–you know it is a Baldessari or a Ruscha or an Ono.

For Bruce Nauman, it is his works in neon light that define him. Similar to his light installation peers Dan Flavin, James Turrell, and Craig Kauffman, Bruce Nauman took his artistic concepts and filtered them through neon light to form figures and words, echoing his work in video, photography, and drawing. Many of his neon pieces use words and figures, unlike other neon/light artists who were using the medium to create and project an unwavering emotion onto a space. Nauman made his neon pieces minimalist/maximalist emotions: they painted a space pink one minute, flickered on purple another, flickered black one minute, and then combined all the colors at once. Like neon signs you see on any store front that flicker red and blue, Nauman took this idea and embedded a text, story, and emotion to it, an incomparable achievement.

One Hundred Live and Die is what many consider to be Nauman’s masterpiece. Sad and hopeful, One Hundred flickers through each possible flippant, mundane, and tragic way to live or die in a blaze of neon exuberance. Each phrase (“LAUNCH AND LIVE,” “FALL AND DIE,” “SPIT AND LIVE,” etc.) light the room with its orange, blue, white, or whatever color it may be. It paints the room and provides a surprisingly profound commentary on life, telling a story with each phrase, reiterating just how fucked up life can be (which may elicit tears, laughter, or blank stares). In the end, One Hundred resonates with all one hundred phrases lit, blindingly beautiful and a little overwhelming.

One Hundred Live and Die, like all Nauman work, play with neon and text, a physical space, and human emotion. They are absolutely beautiful and undoubtedly modern. Nauman is definitely an artist whose work you should do your damnedest to see: they are somber, they are fun, and they are inconic.

Space Suit of the Week

Yesterday, Discovery launched without further delay for the 38th and final time into space. I’ve mentioned before that Discovery propelled the first American woman into space, launched the Hubble telescope, and has now carried  Robonaut 2 to the International Space Station. Its launch is significant not just because of Discovery’s history (here is a timeline of Discovery milestones) but also because it brings us closer to the end of all shuttle missions.

Today, we’re featuring the photographs of Matthias Schaller from a recent exhibition at Ben Brown Fine Arts. Even though the suits are empty, they have a presence about them that is unsettling. A statement from the artist reads, in part:

…I believe we are all astronauts. We are all alone, we are isolated from each other. And we are all trying by verbal and non-verbal communication to get in contact with each other. To not feel alone. Each individual is a space with its own rules, materials, history and relations to the space outside of itself.

It’s not exactly uplifting. Part of the curatorial text mentions Schaller’s interest in what we’ve left behind. As NASA undergoes major structural changes, the fear is that we’re abandoning things in the future.

Found through We Make Money Not Art