Herakut: The Giant Storybook Project comes to San Francisco

In a weekend wedged between San Francisco’s early October latesummer and late October earlywinter, right before the city erupted into self-congratulations at its Giants going to the world series, the drab wall in Flax Art & Humble Rise Design’s backlot was transformed into something very very awesome. Graffiti-mural duo Herakut are in town, and they’ve brought their giants with them. 

The two of them collaborate in an awesome way; Hera paints loose and lyrically, broad washes, quick grids and swooping lines. Akut does something tight, alchemical and mysterious, which amounts to photorealistic tone and texture from spraypaint. Together their work has to be seen to be believed. This mural, which they completed in two days (actually, they may add text after the rain relents) is part of their Giant Storybook Project. This project has them putting up walls in a variety of cities with characters in common, an emerging narrative. Eventually a book will be made, stitched from the giant murals adorning a score of cities. I love that in its scope and execution the project may well may become a world-famous graffitti campaign, but it’s neither hardcore posturing nor Banksy agitprop: it’s an artistically unique children’s book about imagination.

This mural depicts the Silly Monkeys from mural 1 in Lexington Kentucky, being pursued across rooftops by some snake/arms that might belong to Jay’s creative spirit from mural 5 in Toronto, or the mantle of the standing figure in Rochester’s mural 6 – or maybe that figure is Jay, corrupted with power? At any rate, it’s exciting to see this scene of action across our city’s walls. I don’t think it’s just city pride or that I watched it go up that makes me feel this is the best one yet.

A few scenes from the work in progress:

The dissolving, filmic city that provides the base for the mural is as great as the figures themselves: I watched Hera make these cranes, towers and scaffolding in no time flat. As longtime readers know, I am a sucker for an inky cityscape.

Even if they don’t put type on it later, there’s still this “good job!” hiding behind the buildings in the far corner by the garage door which leads off the cityscape.

Word is they will be painting another later in the week in the Tenderloin? I certainly hope so!

Fluid beauty

My friend Jen recently convinced me to join Twitter and introduced me to the hot topic of the curator’s code. I am returning to blogging after being remiss for months with a tour de force of curation, replete with absolute full disclosure of all sources. I’ll even use the new unicode symbols, though whether I am being ironic in their use or not is up to the reader.

Act 1: Alberto Seveso

I find these ink and water pieces astonishing because they read like ropy solids that dissolve into smoke without ever being liquid. They are beautiful, if a bit frightening in their squid/dementor-like sense of agency.

Jen, Lots more ᔥthisiscollosal

Act 2: Shinichi Maruyama

Seveso’s work reminds me of this Japanese artist, whose inks aren’t blooming in water but bursting and suspended in air. The moments he is able to capture of suspended inks, waters and paints are sublime. While I’d seen his sumi ink pieces before tonight was the first time I’d seen this lush, mysterious “Gardens” series. Its vignetted, moody lighting and levitating-fluids casting shadows give them all the tension of a David Lynch still.

Remembered as being ᔥthemorningnews galleries from 2010. But my 2009 post proves that was a recovered memory. Drama! ᔥgraphic-exchange.

Act 3: Ferrofluids

Suspend ferrous particles in water or oil and introduce magnets and you have something magical if somewhat disturbing.


↬My old friend Shani on her incredibly well-curated Typologica. A whole lot more can be found ᔥ the charmingly titled fuckyeahfluiddynamics tumblr.

Chapter 4: R.I.P Moebius

I can’t help but think I’ve been in a water-art kick recently because I keep going back and looking over galleries of work by Moebius, who died last week. Jean Giraud was a one-of-a-kind talent (and a major visual inspiration for Star Wars, Dune, Tron, and Alien, great articlecoudalcasualoptimist). His sense of fluidity and float were uncanny.

Plenty more Moebius all over the web especially these days but as usual I like the curation ↬butdoesitfloat

The four-act structure and source-checking probably does have to do with Mike Daisey lying to Ira Glass. Did you read David Carr NYT on that? Ok ok, I’ll stop.

Typografriday: Anderson+Hische

Wes Anderson is probably my favorite director, and certainly my favorite film stylist. We all love him here at the ‘Agree; Jessica’s handprinted Max Fischer extracurricular activities pencils are probably proof enough. We’re very very very excited about his new movie Moonrise Kingdom.

Typographically, he’s been very consistently an all-caps-Futura man. While he outlined it for The Life Aquatic, Bollywood half-opened something not-quite-Futura for The Darjeeling Limited and emboldened and threw it on a curve for Fantastic Mr. Fox, he’s established an iconic typographic style that is very recognizable. That said, I’m not at all sad that he hired the fabulous Jessica Hische to make a custom script for this one! It fits in with his aesthetic perfectly, and grants the coming of age story a wistfulness that the cold caps of Futura wouldn’t.

*Note that all-caps Futura does make an appearance at least thrice in the trailer, notably on the awesome mimeographed-handwriting-practice-paper letterhead.

Typografriday: Round Sans Roundup

Stupid type joke: T-Mobile uses VAG in pink, AT&T uses Omnes in orange (which they took on after consuming Cingular). If the former absorbs the latter their rebrand is going to look like Dunkin’ Donuts. Ha. Anyway. Ahem.

We’re in the age of the rounded sans. Why, ten years ago, Helvetica rounded and VAG were about all there was. Now not only do we have a plethora of new loveliness like Omnes, Sauna, Bryant, Estilo, Brevia and ooh look at Mija wouldya — we’re also seeing new releases of rounded versions of classics and recent favorites like FF Unit, Gotham, Museo, Din, AG Book, and Proxima Nova.

Here are a few of our favorites:










Respublica animations

What happened that animated gifs disappeared for years and now are coming back so dang cool? Check these animations for Russian bookstore (slash bikestore?) Respublica. Great modernist layouts with awesome motion graphics: some favorites below, and see all of em (and a reel with transitions between) on Pavel Paratov’s Behance page!

 

 

Typografriday: Handwriting, Helvetica and Humans.

Last weekend we saw the new Mike Mills film Beginners. Afterward I said it was my favorite movie of the new decade, and I have yet to take that back. Its got incredible heart, innovative pacing, a fantastic script, and an admirable sense of authenticity. But enough about the film. Do we look like a movie review blog? Just go see it: let’s talk type.

Beginners with its beautifully awkward brushy cursive (shades of Interview masthead and Quiksilver logo but far more humble/charming than both) belongs squarely to the last grouping I mentioned in my analysis of handwriting-on-movie-poster trending — that is, it is typecast with the painfully earnest Freaks and Geeks, Beautiful Losers (which he’s featured in along with handletterer Geoff McFettridge) and Where the Wild Things Are (by fellow Beastie Boys collaborator Spike Jonze and fellow enthusiast for the authentic Dave Eggers). His previous feature film Thumbsucker also falls into this category, as does Me You and Everyone We Know (the first feature film of his wife, artist Miranda July). Indeed, though not movies, so does her book of stories or his great series of products, “Humans.” These are all linked by a raw earnestness signalled by their use of handlettering.

So, wait. I know handwriting and that… some of that is not handwriting, it’s Helvetica. The more I look at Mike Mills’ work (of art rather than design for clients) the more it seems he has two modes: handwriting and Helvetica. And I’m generally not a fan of the font without qualities, but with his content in it, I’m a bit in love. Words from the heart makes sense in scrawled lettering, but it’s a bit obvious. Text about the human experience, or sadness, in the typeface of generics and megacorps is sort of beautiful.

For much more Mike Mills, visit his site. I recommend watching his short film Deformer — though the preview on his site is only a minute of its 17-min run time. If you live by me, I’ll lend you the issue of the Believer it’s in.

Four fantastic music videos

I know, music videos seem both lowbrow and yesterday. But these four are great.

1. Fluid dynamics @ 7000fps with postrock. You might find you are unexpectedly crying.

Team Ghost – High Hopes from 16ar on Vimeo.

2. For moviegoers and designers, this is a great “speculative video” made of mock film titles over my favorite Canadian rapper, Buck 65.

BUCK 65 “Superstars Don’t Love” from Travis Hopkins on Vimeo.

3. Speaking of Canada, Spanish video production outfit CANADA produces fantastic videos with an aesthetic which is retro, kitschy, erotic and unsettling. Perhaps better examples of their peculiar style are found in their Scissor Sisters, Battles, or Vaccines videos — all of which are great — but here’s one that’s safe-for-work, which channels both 60s live-music acts and Michelle Gondry.

Two Door Cinema Club – What You Know from CANADA on Vimeo.

4. And, Best Coast has a video that merges creepy and cutesy beautifully, with slow-motion that brings us back to the first.


I love this video all the more because it reminds me of near-forgotten video I saw just once in the early 90s, a black and white, seemingly one-take video of firing squad executions in the desert — panning between the condemned stage right, the shooters stage left and the deadpan lovesong singer center foreground… Google and Bing have failed me. Anyone?

A few projects made with Processing.

Recently I’ve been really interested in Generative Art — in how amazing and aesthetic things can be made out of data and algorithms. I posted about my first deeper look into it (Tim Huchinson, plus my own attempts to use Kandid) over a year ago.

Recently this interest has me looking at Processing. I know very little about programming so how it works is pretty opaque to me, but I’ll tell you this much: it works using data, it works over javascript and thus works on the internet, and some of the works made using it are blowing my mind. Here’s several of em.

An array of garbage bags + fans and Processing, and it’s art that feels more than a bit like life:

One Hundred and Eight – Animated Patterns from Nils Völker on Vimeo.

 

Crazily complex “Subdivided Columns” by Michael Hansmeyer, built out of computations from topographical data from a standard Doric column. These are not just conceptual: they actually were output, prototyped as objects, which makes me feel excited about how wildly structured objects and architecture of the near future might be.

 

And yeah three great music videos made with Processing:

Moullinex – Catalina from Moullinex on Vimeo.

Made using Kinect data: total writeup here.

Solar, with lyrics. from flight404 on Vimeo.

(Aha! The first piece that uses color in the whole dang post! I promise I love color really!) Writeup of the beat notation process here.

The ‘Mandela’ Variation from Glenn Marshall on Vimeo.

Writeup of his Processing-writ ZenO growth system here.

 

Etusi Sumetusi: Japan

Finding it hard to write anything snappy about how awesome Japanese aesthetics are right now. We love you Japan.

Blue puppy earrings from LianaKabel Celadon matcha bowl from shyrabbit Crocheted Totoro hat from amiamigos Katakana stamp set from VioletGiftShop Astronaut bag from tacdesigns Awesome paper tape from PrettyTape Cute HiFi Stereos Rings from YuraPockylover Kinkaku-Ji Wall Hanging from japanesqueaccents Drama! buttons from thepinksamurai

Corrine Vionnet: Photo Opportunities

Corrine Vionnet’s series Photo Opportunities is a collection of pieces on iconic landmarks, each one composed of hundreds of self-similar tourist photographs layered together into a new composition.

While the three essays she reproduces on her site focus on the sightseers/tourists and their consistent, shared, unimaginative “shared memory” view of the monuments, I am more interested in the layers of meaning that can be extracted from the finished pieces.

The effect of the dissolution and blur on these icons sometimes works to invoke  associations: Big Ben for instance is lost in the fog, while the Twin Towers are lost in grief.

The way that the photos are layered also creates some interesting readings, especially in the ones with very clear focal points where the pictures are registered. The cooperative tourist shots combined do what a single one cannot: make into a beacon the portrait of Mao in the Forbidden City, make a grinding gyre around the black rock at Mecca, or complete the Colliseum. Interestingly, there most photographers choose an angle that shows its damage — the aesthetic normative — and the small group that shoot from another angle fill in ghostily what the eye can only imagine.

And my favorite layer of meaning: some seem to consciously refer to or homage art history. Clearly the whole project is a variant of cubism, assembling different views, but the dynamism referenced in the Golden Gate Bridge composition is apparent: compare to Balla’s Dynamism of Dog on a Leash. Likewise, you can’t assemble hundreds of pictures of Mt. Fuji without referring to Hokusai. Her composition, like his series of prints, seems to show Fujiyama as being a constant, unchanging icon while the days, nights, seasons and crowds change around it. The blurry Eiffel Tower in a series of chromatic greys looks all the world like a piece of lost Impressionism – Caillebotte‘s pallete and Monet’s brush? And the texture at the bottom/foreground of the Matterhorn piece feels remarkably like the scraped brushwork of a late modern painter like Kiefer.

One of the primary instigators of early modern painting was photography’s effortless encroachment into the realist space painting had long occupied. With these recombined works, Vionnet collages cliché photography into something that recapitulates the project of modern painting: expressing different aspects of time, light and viewpoint, abstracting and dissolving its subjects into impressions, thumbing its nose at photography which can only represent realistically a single moment.

15 more plus essays at Vionnet’s site.