Barbara Stauffacher Solomon is best known for her interior Supergraphics of the 1960s Sea Ranch and her 1991 Ribbon of Light installation at the Embarcadero Promenade in San Francisco, her iconic style of mixing Swiss Modernism and West Coast Pop, pioneered the look of the California Cool – an important moment in graphic design history.
At first, she was hired only to create the Sea Ranch’s logo and brochure. In fact, as she reveals in the interview, the now-iconic supergraphics were one of the last elements she designed for the development. The architects had gone way over budget designing the Sea Ranch’s swim and tennis club and they needed a cost-effective signage system. Enter Solomon’s bold, Helvetica-heavy solution, achieved in just a handful of days with just a few coats of paint. The project was later published in Life magazine and gained its popularity.
A joint effort by Barbara Solomon, Vito Acconci, and Stanley Saitowitz, the Promenade Ribbon a 2.5-mile long linear sculpture that wraps along the Embarcadero sidewalk, was completed in 1996.
Punctuated by lighted glass blocks set in paving, it once provided gentle illumination for nighttime passersby. Today, twenty years later, it lights up no more.
A few factors contributed to the darkening. Sea level rise and king tides have resulted in water corroding of Ribbon’s power source. And the fiber optic lights, beautiful when they worked, suffered from water damage caused by the porous nature of concrete.
This week’s lecture covered the time period of 1925 – 1930. It was a great time for science and technology. Communication was greatly improved after the TV and portable cameras were invented.
Leica Cameras 1913 – 1930
Leica I – was first introduced to the market at the 1925 spring fair in Leipzig, based on the Ur-Leica prototype developed by Barnack in 1913 and the Prototype 1 developed in 1923. Interchangeable lenses for these were introduced in 1930.
The Leica was by no means the first 35mm camera, but it was the first to make 35mm truly viable, leading to the most popular film format ever. The camera was the brainchild of Oskar Barnack, who joined Leitz in 1911 as Director of Research. He soon began work on a movie camera, for use with 35mm film, the standard movie gauge of the time.
Because emulsion speeds of then current films were unreliable and accurate metering was all but impossible, Barnack built a small device intended to test small batches of movie film. It became apparent, however, that what he had actually created was a miniature still camera, known today as the Ur-Leica. Specification was sparse. Shutter speeds, from the cloth focal plane shutter, covered 1/25 – 1/500 second. The lens was pulled out on a short metal tube and was pushed back almost flat with the body when not in use. It could not be detached. The viewfinder was mounted separately on the top plate, rather than built in, and there was no rangefinder, other than a separate accessory. The camera was covered with vulcanite, often mistaken for leather.
Yves Tanguy was a French surrealist painter famous for eating spiders as a party trick and painting misshapen rocks and molten surfaces. He painted the hyper-real world with exacting precision which helped him communicate his ideas easily.
Like most of the surrealist painters, Tanguy relied largely on personal symbolism. For example, in this painting called Mama, Papa is Wounded! the title complicates rather than clarifies the meaning of the work. I personally think that this painting and its name represent World War I. The post-apocalyptic look of this artwork gives the viewer a deep feeling of anxiety and loss.
Storm is somewhat different from most of Tanguy’s works. It looks more like an underwater scene rather than desert-like landscape. The life forms that swim across look a lot like real animals like jellyfish, while most of his other work is a lot more surreal.
This week’s lecture covered the time period of 1915 – 1925 which immediately tells us that World War I happened during that time. It influenced everything and everybody in the world, including design. A lot of propaganda posters were created to get people to participate in the war and support one’s country. Although it had one of the deadliest outcomes, the world of art and design was changed forever.
Suprematism is an art movement, focused on basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines, and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colors. This was a completely new concept at the time – completely fascinated artists all over the world. It is also considered to be the beginning of conceptual art. The founder of this movement was a Russian artist Kazimir Malevich.
He is most famous for his painting Black Square. The name pretty much sums up what the painting looks like, however, there is a lot more meaning behind it. Suprematism focused on the absence of any physical objects, and the Black Square communicated that perfectly.
Like Malevich explained once,
“Under Suprematism, I understand the primacy of pure feeling in creative art. To the Suprematist, the visual phenomena of the objective world are, in themselves, meaningless; the significant thing is feeling, as such, quite apart from the environment in which it is called forth.”
Lissitzky was one of the very successful Malevich’s students. His work greatly influenced the Bauhaus and constructivist movements, and he experimented with production techniques and stylistic devices that would go on to dominate the 20th-century graphic design.
This is my artifact history spread. I was in the design group that week so I decided to do a spread on Jules Cheret’s posters because they had a huge impact on our culture and the world of design nowadays. I painted the poster by hand and hung it up on a (somewhat dirty) glass door. I had my camera set up on a tripod, and set it up to long shutter speed. I walked by the door to give the shot some blurry movement. The poster took up most of the right page of the spread, so on the lift side, I typed out a couple of sentences, to sum up Jules Cheret’s impact.
On the 22nd of January, 1905 Bloody Sunday Massacre took place in the Russian capital at the time, St Petersburg. Soldiers of the Imperial guard fired on protestors who were led by the Orthodox Priest Father Georgy Gapon as they marched towards the Winter Palace where they planned to present a petition to Tzar Nicholas II.
By 1905 there was growing dissatisfaction amongst the urban working class. Father Gapon had established the “Assembly of the Russian Factory and Mill Workers of the City of St. Petersburg” to promote workers’ rights in 1904. The workers wanted to have 8-hour long workdays but the owners of the factories rejected their request reason being that the factory would go bankrupt as all the other factories would still make their employees work 14 hours a day. But after four Assembly members from the Putilov ironworks were fired from their jobs in December 1904, workers across the city went on strike. Capitalizing on the situation Father Gapon drafted a petition to the Tsar calling for improved working conditions and other reforms that received 150,000 signatures.
Gapon had already notified the authorities of the petition and the march, and in response, approximately 10,000 troops from the Imperial Guard were placed around the palace. However, why they began firing on the peaceful march is unclear. Even the number killed or injured is uncertain with estimates ranging from the government’s official figure of 96 dead to revolutionary claims of more than 4,000.
The Tsar was not in the palace at the time, and did not give an order for the troops to fire, but was widely blamed for the massacre. In response strikes and protests spread around the country, and eventually developed into the 1905 Revolution.
After hundreds of strikes, October Manifesto was created. Officially “The Manifesto on the Improvement of the State Order”, is a document that served as a precursor to the Russian Empire’s first Russian Constitution of 1906. Duma was formed and was supposed to approve and disapprove any new laws. That was supposed to help develop a more democratic society, however, not much had changed, because all the members of the Duma were Tzar Nicholas’s puppets so he still got to make all decisions by himself.
This lecture covered the period from 1905 until 1915 and discussed the philosophy and effects of modernism on our society, as well as some political events that would eventually be reasons for the First World War. I found it extremely interesting that the style that was born over a hundred years ago is still considered modern. Current designers still rely on the saying “form follows function” as the basis of their creative process.
Gustave Moreau was a major figure in French Symbolist painting whose main emphasis was the illustration of biblical and mythological figures. His mother was a musician and his father an architect, so Moreau was exposed to art from a very young age. His parents ensured that he got a good education. At the age of 15, he visited Rome, Italy where he developed a keen interest in art. Later, at around the age of 18, he studied with François-Edouard Pico, the Neoclassical painter, and prepared for the entrance exam to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Gustave Moreau’s visionary paintings speak to an obsession with the otherworldly which makes him one of the most fascinating artists of 19th century. His unusual faith, called Neo-Platonism, inspired him to pay close attention to the imperfection of our physical world. He believed that by doing so he was “allowing divine vision to speak through his brush”.
Most of his art is focused on biblical scenes. However, he would interpret them according to his own ideas, imagination, and faith. There is also quite a lot of symbolism in his work. He took those symbols to represent humans’ desires and emotions in the abstract form. These are all reasons for why he is considered a forerunner of symbolism and realism.
Throughout 1895 – 1905 a lot of events happened that were the foundation for the society we live in nowadays. Women started fighting for their rights for the very first time in history, the first Nobel Prizes were awarded, and new technologies like, cinematographe, were developed.
The Lumière Brothers: Pioneers of cinema
A lot of people are under the impression that the development of modern film technology is all thanks to the famous inventor, Thomas Edison, and his employee, William Dickson. Together, they developed two very first film technologies: kinethograph (basically a camera), and kinetoscope (a single viewer exhibition device that you use to watch kinethograph films). However, while they were busy inventing the two in the United States, people all over the world were going after a similar goal. In Lyon, France, the Lumiere brothers invented a lightweight all-in-one motion picture device that made movies and exhibited them. They called it Cinematographe. It played back the developed roll of film shining a bright light through it to show images.
Voyage dans la Lune
Georges Melies, a French magician, director, and theatrical special effects specialist, got invited to one of the Lumier brothes’ movie screenings. And it of course blew his mind. He tried to purchase the cinematographe on the spot but the Lumier brothers weren’t ready to sell. But Melies did not give up. After searching all over the world, he ended up buying an animatograph. He now had the opportunity to direct the very first science fiction movie in 1902 called Le Voyage dans la Lune or A Trip to the Moon. Inspired by a wide variety of sources, including Jules Verne’s novels “From Earth to the Moon” and “Around the Moon”, the film follows a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a capsule, explore the Moon’s surface, escape from an underground group of aliens, and return in a splashdown to Earth. It features a cast of French theatrical performers, led by Méliès himself in the main role of Professor Barbenfouillis, and is filmed in the overtly theatrical style for which Méliès became famous.
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognized during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age.
Most of Blake’s works have very unusual stories behind them which is one of the reasons he got rejected by the society during his lifetime. For example, in this piece called “The House of Death”, he illustrates lines from Book XI of John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost. The Archangel Michael shows Adam the misery that will be inflicted on Man now he has eaten the Forbidden Fruit. In a vision of ‘Death’s ‘grim Cave’ Adam sees a ‘monstrous crew’ of men afflicted by ‘Diseases dire’.
I, personally, really like this kind of paintings because they make me see a different perspective on famous stories and the world around me. Here are a few more examples of William Blake’s eye-opening work.
Lecture Summary: Wealthy people had starter traveling so a lot of new cultures were discovered by the western society which influenced the people’s perception of the world. Exhibitions were arranged for the average people to be able to experience things from all over the world. Europeans were fascinated with the Japanese culture which led to Japonism. The “Bible of Ornaments” was created which included a lot of new patterns adopted from different cultures. However, alongside the obsession with the unexplored, a lot of artists started looking back on the old patterns from the Renaissance and Rococo. Mass production was becoming a problem for artists – now things could be made a lot faster and cheaper. But newer things were also of poor quality. So, the arts and crafts movement was started.
Poster Design in France
For today’s designer, the Victorian era might seem like a complete nightmare. In both, interior and poster design, it was typical to add as many patterns and information as possible, leaving almost no empty places.
A lot of people say that the 1890’s was the golden age for posters. Most of the look very visually appealing. However, it took a while for the designers to get to that successful point. A French poster designer, Jules Chéret, was trying out newly explored patterns and ways of drawing in his early works. Some of it looks extremely busy and overcrowded – there is no specific point for the eye to focus on.
It didn’t take Cheret a long tome to figure out what works and what doesn’t. His later work is what was the beginning of the posters we create nowdays. He made a lot of changes, and in opinion, they look like they were almost done by a completely different person. They were clean, lively, and easy to understand. Here’s an example of one of my favourite works by Jules Cheret.
Jules Cheret’s Influence
Before Jules Cheret’s work, posters weren’t influencing the audience nearly as well as they were after. The world of advertising was completely changed after Cheret. Now advertisements were more simple and straight-forward than ever.