Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Letterpress Lust

Welcome to a new feature in which we can periodically and collectively drool over the letterpress print work of our fellow creative types. This poster was designed by OrangeSeed, and printed by Studio On Fire—both from Minneapolis. Delicious, no?

Okay, wipe down your keyboards, and get back to work.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Salvador Dali, Figueres

A few days ago I was drinking Cava and eating tuna tartare (I think two of my favorite things on the planet), and these American guys sat down at the table next to me. They were butchering everything on the menu, didn't know a lick of Spanish, and seemed pretty clueless all together. Finally I couldn't take it anymore, their linguistic ignorance was ruining my euphoric mood. I looked up from my book and said (maybe in a slightly pissy voice) "an aubergine is an eggplant," which should be obvious to anyone even who doesn't speak Catalan. They seemed relieved to find another English speaker, and took my deflection as a sign to continue talking. It turns out they're also from New York, in creative industries, and we have mutual friends. Despite my previous sentiment, it did feel nice to have company - I hadn't had a real conversation since I left America. We decided to travel to the Salvador Dalí museum together the next day, which is a couple hours away by train in a small town called Figueres.

So, the Dalí Museum kinda like going to Disneyland on acid.

I mean Come on, dude is crazy:

The Dalí museum is the largest surrealistic object in the world and occupies the building of the former Municipal Theatre, a 19th century construction which was destroyed at the end of the Spanish Civil War. The museum opened in 1974, and houses the single largest and most diverse collection of works by Salvador Dalí, many works from his personal collection. In addition to Dalí paintings from all decades of his career, there are Dalí sculptures, 3-dimensional collages, mechanical devices, a living-room with custom furniture that looks like the face of Mae West when viewed from a ladder, and other curiosities from Dalí's imagination. Every square inch of the museum is Dalified. And if the museum didn't embody the life of Salvador Dalí enough, his remains are buried in a crypt in the basement, so it's extra creepy.

It's unnerving walking through the head of a completely crazy man. Every room was presented in startling proportion, reinforcing a homage to surrealism. While walking through one of the most impressive rooms, the Mae West perspective, one of the guys with me said casually, "did you see the bathroom on the ceiling?" and I replied, "check out the green fairy bedroom through that hole in the wall."

The May West Perspective went like this: there's a room with a bunch of crazy stuff in it, then you go up on a ladder and peer through this circular frame, and suddenly there she is.

The museum was an exhaustive retrospective of Dalí's exhaustive perspectives and how they changed with time. There were hints of impressionism, minimalism, realism, and finally surrealism.

And here are some extra pictures from the journey there and back.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

CCCB, Barcelona

Centra de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona

In 1859 an architect named Ildelfons Cerdà created a plan for Barcelona's Eixample district. The Eixample, translating to "extension" in Catalan, expanded the medieval city of Barcelona after the ancient city walls were torn down. It's an enormous field of rectangular blocks in a continuously repeating layout, containing around a quarter of Barcelona's population.

In an impressively curated presentation, the CCCB is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Cerdà's plans with extensive plans, models, and all around kick-ass information design. Info-graphic junkies, brace yourselves.

The CCCB explains:

This exhibition immerses itself in today's reality to discover and interpret given forms of urban organization. It sets out to reinterpret the Cerdà plan and its initial ideas, discover the underlying urbanistic and social values, and explain its more general importance as a constantly evolving part of the city.

The exhibit presented everything from underground sewage systems to acceptable quadrant designs for housing blocks. Cerdà was a genius, and maybe every urban planner is too, I just never thought about how complex urban design actually was. I guess it's sort of like graphic design: if it's successful, you don't even notice the effort. The main difference of course being that I design pieces of paper, and Cerdà designed a city.

Cerdà designed the entire district in equal-sized octagonal blocks, where the streets broaden at every intersection to allow greater visibility and better ventilation. He also aligned every block so it received the same amount of sunlight.

There were so many original hand-drawn maps from the 19th century I thought my brain was going to explode. Here are some of my favorites.

The last few rooms of the exhibit expanded from the Eixample to general urban planning.

There were five or six types of urban design "themes" which are applied to pre-existing cities. Two I found most interesting were La ciutat Acumulativa (Cumulative City) and La ciudat Superposada (Superimposed City). An example of a Cumulative City plan is San Francisco, where two grids - above and below Market Street - meet in relative cohesion. New York and Barcelona are examples of the Superimposed City, where a sensical grid skips over a non-sensical historical area - the West Village in Manhattan and the Old City in Barcelona.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Las Meninas, Gone Picasso

Between August and December 1957, Pablo Picasso painted a series of 58 interpretations of Las Meninas by Velázquez, all of which, lucky for me, fill the Las Meninas room of the Museu Picasso in Barcelona. Picasso didn't vary the characters within the series, rather he examined and expanded them, according to the museum, in an "exhaustive study of form, rhythm, colour and movement."

Picasso wrote, "Suppose one were to make a copy of Las Meninas. If it were I, the movement would come when I would say to myself, suppose I moved this figure a little to the right or left? Almost certainly I would be tempted to modify the light or arrange it differently... it would become my Las Meninas."

Every painting is different. You can see him honing his craft, carrying some devises from one painting to another, abandoning others. My favorite study was this one, when he actually imagines the Infanta Margarita in profile - moving his perspective in space.

The discipline Picasso exuded in this series is astounding. It's inconceviable to imagine that Picasso created nearly 60 original paintings in just four months... that's about the length of a college semester. If only I'd been that productive in school.

Friday, October 23, 2009

MACBA, Barcelona

Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona

I went to the MACBA, disappointing myself yet again at the ticket counter. I was close this time - if she'd only spoken slower and not so quickly switched to English upon seeing my stutter, I'd have had it.

My [worthless] travel guide discounted this museum, suggesting to only go if you're able to "make some socio-political meaning from, say, a room of beach balls." My expectations low, the art was modern and well-crafted.

I was inspired by this trio of paintings by Romanian Pic Adrian:

I'd never seen this narrative by Ed Ruscha before. He photographed every building along the Sunset Strip in LA and pieced them together proportionately in montage with address markers.

Other interesting type artifacts:

In a pitch-black room screening a nearly black film-reel, I met a Lebanese architect. We were both attempting in futile to use our digital cameras as flashlights and not run into anything. We finally found a bench and watched the silent short: macro views of metal appliances, or something. From there, we walked the museum together, he on pilgrimage to see Richard Meier's architecture, me to see weird art that usually doesn't make sense. He scolded me in the hallways on the Meier's brilliance in column technique; I'd roll my eyes and show him how it was possible to make an entire alphabet using a few simple forms. We compromised on Form and Space, then we went our separate ways.