Date Archives March 2011

Miniature Objects by The Oak Leaves

the oak leaves 1

the oak leaves 2

When Bobby appointed the brief that we post on something “small” I must admit that I did a mini cheer (please pardon the pun). Call me a stereotypical girl, but I appreciate the art of the miniature. In most circles, small or tiny is shorthand for cute and there are few things cuter than the clay work of Christina who makes delightful ornamental objects for her studio, The Oak Leaves.

Inspired by a love of nature, the tiny landscapes by The Oak Leaves effectively bring nature indoors. However, her objects are so much more and gesture towards craftsmanship and imagination. As Susan Stewart writes in her exploration of small things:

Miniature objects are most often exaggerations of the attention to detail, precision, and balance that is characteristic of artisanal culture – a culture which…is considered to have been lost at the dawn of industrial production. Such objects…are seen as traces of the way of life that once surrounded them

In a design culture that so often privileges bigger as better, these structures draw attention to the beauty of small details and the nostalgia of handcrafted finesse.

Danica

‘Coffee & TV’ by Blur

Coffee & TV by Blur

Coffee & TV by Blur

Coffee & TV by Blur

To start off our day of little things, I wanted to put up a music video, something peppy and fun to really get things going. I’ve been listening to some Blur lately so I thought this adorable video for Coffee & TV would totally hit the spot. If you’ve never seen this video before, I feel really sad for you, because it’s just about the cutest thing ever.

The video features a tiny milk cartoon looking for a lost boy, who just happens to Graham Coxon, the guitar player and co-vocalist for Blur. So off goes the milk carton looking for Graham, trekking off into the city, encountering all kinds of crazy characters until he eventually… well, watch the video. It’s honestly one of the best music videos from the late 90’s, and Hammer & Tongs did a great job directing it. You might know Hammer & Tongs from the 8 million amazing videos they’ve directed.

Bobby

Nike Basketball’s Paper Battlefield

Paper Battle, Nike Basketball - Hong Kong

Paper Battle, Nike Basketball - Hong Kong

Nike Basketball's Paper Battlefield

Click images to enlarge

I’m a bit behind on this, about two years or so, but these posters by Nike Basketball in Hong Kong are astounding. The project was called Paper Battlefield and was created by McCann Hong Kong for the Nike Basketball League Competition in Hong Kong. Instead of doing the typical bit of advertising they made silk screens of the top 10 players in the league and allowed the players to create posters of their own. In this way these posters became their battlefields, with the images they printed showing their battles.

I think this is a pretty rad idea, overall. I love that these kids got to take part in the making of these posters and give them a chance to be creative. As some of the kids in the video below say, they’re quite proud of what they’ve created and the feel as if their voice is being heard in this huge competition. The campaign was also successful for McCann Hong Kong as well, they won the Grand Prix for Design at Cannes.

Kate Lacey’s Show Dogs: A Photographic Breed Guide

Kate Lacey, Show Dogs: A Photographic Breed Guide, Shih Tzu

Kate Lacey, Show Dogs: A Photographic Breed Guide, Vizsla and Pointer

Kate Lacey, Show Dogs: A Photographic Breed Guide, Norwegian Elkhound

Kate Lacey, Show Dogs: A Photographic Breed Guide, Dogue de Bordeaux, Mastiff, Saint Bernard, Neapolitan Mastiff, and Bullmastiff

Some things haunt you in a good way. Kate Lacey‘s book Show Dogs: A Photographic Breed Guide is one of those haunting things for me. I’ve seen it in store after store, I’ve given it as a gift to people, I’ve been given it as a gift (twice!)–and I would not want things any differently! I find this book all around me and I love it. It’s such a happy, fun, glorious piece of pictorial literature.

Exactly what the title describes, Lacey’s Show Dogs is simply a guide book to dog breeds done in a very playful manner. The book is the spawn of Lacey’s being assigned to photograph the Westminster Dog Show in 2005, which turned into a pursuit to capture every American Kennel Club dog breed. Similar to the very funny, very smart Point It by Dieter Graf, the book showcases dogs as they are, straightforward, without any commentary besides their name and breed.

Lacey does an excellent job at letting these dogs’ breed personality shine, best exemplified by the ever ebulliently fashionable Shih Tzu (top) and the always alert sportsman Vizsla (second, left). Unlike, but not too dissimilar to, Jo Longhurst, Lacey’s gaze does not project too much on to the dog and lets them speak for themselves. If they are a playful, jolly dog, they look playfully jolly. If they are an aspiring old lady lap dog, they aspire for a lap to lie upon. If they yearn to lounge around panting in the sun, they lounge around and pant, purple tongues out.

The book is absolutely divine and a perfect gift for anyone who loves dogs, loves photography, or with a heart. If you are a dog owner, you will definitely flip through immediately to find your dog’s breed, as if you were ready to root for them at the AKC.

Lastly, for those of you who did not have his iPad stolen out of his car one night, you can download Lacey’s new iPad application: Show Dogs by SimplyFormed.com! Please buy this and flip through all the dogs as if you were me!

Photos courtesy of Evil Twin Publications.

KYLE

Amelia Bauer

Amelia Bauer

Amelia Bauer

Amelia Bauer

I’m totally digging these images taken from Amelia Bauer’s Smoke Signals series, they’re totally eery but kinda’ beautiful at the same time. Amelia was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico but now calls New York her home. She’s a multi-talented artist, doing everything from sculpting to illustration and more, but I can’t get over these photos. They’re similar in tone to what Ryan McGinley has done but instead of portraits she’s concentrated on the environments themselves. Really nice work, be sure to check out the rest of her portfolio as well.

Bobby

Re-Covered Books: ‘Odyssey’

Re-Covered Books: 'Odyssey'

It’s been a little while since the last Re-Covered Books contest, so hopefully you’ve had some time to rest up and are ready to get your hands dirty. This month’s book is the Odyssey by Homer, the Greek epic poem which tells the tell of Odysseus and his long journey home after the fall of Greece. I remember reading the Odyssey when I was freshman in high school and I loved all the crazy characters and amazing imagery that the book contained. You’ve got Gods, you’ve got Cyclopes, the Lotus-Eaters, Sirens, the witch-goddess Circes, the six-headed monster Scylla, the Trojan Horse and so much more. Since there’s so much great, visual content I figured this should be plenty of food for though (or creativity) and everyone could find something to inspire you.

It’s also worth mentioning that there really aren’t any good covers for the book, as is evidenced by this Google search. So doing something really cool will definitely make your work stand out. My suggestion is to stay away from the obvious clichés of making it look like a Grecian urn or something similar. Be creative and think outside the box. Make a design that is both timeless and appealing to a broad audience.

As usual the winner will receive a $100 Amazon gift card. But, you must follow the extremely simple rules below the be eligible:

• Please save your images as JPGs no larger than 800px wide at 72 DPI, there no height restrictions (within reason). Feel free to play with the dimensions and have fun with what you make. Making a front and back cover with certainly help your chances but is not required.

• Send all entries to contest@thefoxisblack.com with the subject “Re-Covered Books: Odyssey“. Just cut and paste what I wrote there, it’s super easy and it helps me keep track of entries.

• All entries are due April 15, 2011 by Midnight, PST.

If there are any other questions feel free to leave them in the comments. Looking forward to seeing what you come up with and be sure to tell the creative people in your life to participate. Good luck!

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Speaking of Towers

You guys seemed to enjoy yesterday’s post about watchtowers and a few of you sent me photos of some great towers projects. So today, as a postscript (or should that be postpost?) I’m happily offering up two more towers for your consideration; this time with a bit more information about the towers.

Up top, we have the Samitaur Tower by Eric Owen Moss. In the firm’s own words:

“The tower consists of five circular steel rings, approximately 30 feet in diameter. The rings are stacked vertically at 12 foot floor-to-floor intervals, and, as the height increases, the rings are staggered in plan, back and forth – to the north, east, south, and west – in order to establish proximity and viewing angles for various levels at various heights.  […]Its primary objective is to distribute art and other relevant content to the local and the in-transit audiences passing by.”

For some reason, the Samitaur Tower reminds me of another project not too far down the street: the Claes Oldenburg Binoculars in front of the Chiat/Day Building. Don’t see it? Maybe the model is more convincing. Still no?  Just imagine half the binocular sculpture… inverted. See it?

Next, is the Kupla Tower on Korkeasarri Island in Finland. The name of the tower comes from the word for bubble and this particular bubble is constructed out of crossing wooden battens bolted together. A lookout tower in the Helsinki Zoo, Kupla Tower was designed by a then-graduate student Ville Hara. The shape isn’t amorphous, but anthropomorphic if you ask me: it looks like a head, or maybe even a stomach; like a Martin Puryear sculpture with stairs inviting you to climb inside. There’s an interview with Ville where he talks about the “bubble” tower, starting his office and why it takes Finns 8-10 years to finish Architecture school. It’s worth the read.

Yesterday, the towers we looked at were more secluded than these two, but I think the forms of each tower looks great in its respective setting. And why not? A sculpture in the middle of the city is just as lovely as one in the woods.

Alex

Toska by Lizzy Stewart

Toska by Lizzy Stewart

Toska by Lizzy Stewart

toska 3

Click images to enlarge

The work of Scottish illustrator Lizzy Stewart has graced the virtual pages of the The Fox Is Black before, but she has certainly outdone herself this time with a new series of illustrations collated in her self-published book, Toska. On their own Stewart’s pieces evoke melancholy and loss; however, the collective meaning is given a heightened scope by the inclusion of a wonderfully poignant quote from Vladimir Nabokov:

No single word in English renders all the shades of ‘Toska‘. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for something, of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest levels it grades into ennui, boredom.

Using this quote to frame her work, Stewart has once again displayed her considered skill for joining illustration, intertextuality and narrative complexity in order to create new tales that explore human experience and existence. The results are unsurprisingly beautiful.

You can grab your own copy of Toska via Stewart’s online store.

Danica

Whippets and Jo Longhurst

Jo Longhurst, Twelve Dogs, Twelve Bitches

Jo Longhurst, The Refusal

Jo Longhurst, Twelve Dogs, Twelve Bitches

Jo Longhurst, The Queen's Stud

Like fellow contributors, I am going to take this week to dedicate it to something that I myself have dedicated my life to. It isn’t mixed media light art or German minimalist techno or even the “less is more” approach to cooking: it’s dogs! A few may scoff (because they have no souls) and find that these canine friends may not be exactly what the design doctor ordered. But, I humbly must disagree and hope that–within this week–I can change your mind on the subject.

First, we are going to take a peek at the work of British artist Jo Longhurst who has dedicated her body of work to dogs (specifically the Whippet). Her work revolves around the Whippet not only as pet but as athletic and sexualized object. Like playing cards of your favorite athletes or even a centerfold in your favorite adult magazine, Longhurst’s gaze at the animal is very “adult” and is a reflection of them as well as us (the human). You could passively say, “What wonderful photos of dogs!” regarding her work, but to do so is to majorly misunderstand what she is doing.

In her own words, Longhurst describes her art as such:

My work with the British show Whippet – a dog bred to an ideal standard – focuses particularly on the evolution of the visual image of the Whippet, and the construction of human identity through the shaping of the figure of the dog.

With that, we have such works as Twelve Dogs, Twelve Bitches and The Refusal which aim to showcase how this dog has become defined (muscle, perfection, beauty) and that–even though that is their innate “look”–we have had a hand in crafting them into such through selective breeding and training. Breed echoes the same idea even when the dog isn’t “on” and The Queen’s Stud, meaningfully salacious, represents an animal’s unyielding beastliness that is used in both procreation as well as asserting authority.

Longhust’s works with Whippets transcends a simple analysis of animal but rather analysis of self. It wanders through thoughts of why we have this desire to create the perfect animal (family friendly, yet athletically able). However, it does not answer if this is right or wrong, bad or good. Thus, is the nature of her work and why it is so compelling.

KYLE

Grafik Magazine 189 Preview

Grafik Magazine 189 Preview

Grafik Magazine 189 Preview

Grafik Magazine 189 Preview

Grafik Magazine 189 Preview

Click images to enlarge

Nearly 4 years ago I was desperately searching around the web for a theme to use for my then upcoming blog. There are plenty of WordPress themes out there, 99% of them are insane or crap, it’s a seriously difficult process. Then one day I came across the blog of a guy named Michael Bojkowski, who at the time was writing a blog called Boicozine. I have no idea how I came across it, but I immediately wrote him and asked him what he was using. He was totally nice and sent me a link to his theme, and I’ve been using the very same theme ever since then.

Cut to 4 years later and now Michael is the art director behind the revitalization of Grafik magazine. If you not familiar with the magazine there’s a tidy Wikipedia entry outlining it’s history. Basically it’s been around since the 80’s, was rethought by Caroline Roberts in 2003 and was recently shut down. But last month the magazine came back as a bi-monthly publication and it’s looking amazing.

Michael sent me a little preview of the newest issue which is available to order online and in UK stores on Thursday. It also has a special cover which was designed in collaboration with Ah! Studio. It’s so nice seeing quality magazines still being published, I can’t wait to get myself a copy.

Bobby