Posts in DESIGN STUDY
DESIGN STUDY: TOMÁS MALDONADO'S ANALOGICAL COMPUTER DESIGN & PRE-DIGITAL ART
 

Desde un Sector, 1953

 

In my recent studies I stumbled upon Tomás Maldonado, an artist whose work I was not familiar with before. But it's like I found a design ancestor, because I totally use similar shapes as him and I have even applied his theories unknowingly.

Maldonado was born in Buenos Aires in 1922, but he studied and produced much of his influential work in Europe during the 1950s and 60s. Before moving to Europe, he attended the Academia Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, where he studied design.

After his education, he began working with other Argentine artists such as Jorge Brito, Alfredo Hlito, and Claudio Girola in the 1940s. With this group, a manifesto was published, rejecting the status quo of the then-institutional views of El Salón Nacional in Argentina, quoting Italian artist Carlo Carrà's statement, "the suppression of imbeciles in art is essential" in their treatise. (Oh how I love a good artist manifesto). In doing so, the group effectively founded a movement known as Arte Concreto-Invención (Concrete-Invention Art), which was dedicated to 'pure geometric abstraction.'

Trayectoria de una Anécdota (Path of a Story), 1949

And like most art movements of the era, their work was fed by politics, only where the United States and European movements were a reaction to society and government (with the exception of Russia and Eastern parts of Europe), Arte Concreto-Invención, was at once a reaction to social values in regards to art, but also confined by the ideals of Argentina's Marxist leader, Edelmiro Julián Farrell, a predecessor to Juan Perón. As a result, Arte Concreto-Invención was less experimental than other similar movements of the era, but like artists in Russia, working within the confines of their country's political climate, Arte Concreto-Invención was still able to push the boundaries of art. Such feats are far and few between, as most artists and writers who play by the political rules aren't usually able to contribute anything beyond romance and fantasy.

Desarollo del Triángulo (Destruction of the Triangle), 1951

In 1954, Maldonado moved to Germany to teach at the newly founded school, Hochschule für Gestaltung of Ulm (Ulm School of Design), which was started in part by former Bauhaus student and instructor, Max Bill (one of my favs). Ulm School of Design for sure deserves its own post one day, but for now just know that the school was extra cool. (I mean, the internet says it's only second to Bauhaus, which is like really saying it's first because Bauhaus is just so amazing that it's like in outer space, so). 

Ulm School of Design was founded in 1953 and operated until 1968, during a time where the West was transitioning from an industrial to a post-industrial society. And though the school operated very briefly during the Post War period, the Ulm school restructured social sciences to be based on a strong belief in reason, rather than opinion. Living in an era of Nazi resistance, founder Max Bill promoted the idea that in a democratic society, “good design” should be accessible to all. 

At the Ulm School of Design, Maldonado taught industrial design and visual communication (also known as semiotics, the study of signs and symbols and how they are used). Teaching with an emphasis on philosophy of science and technology for ten years, Maldonado was eventually appointed as the director of the school in 1957. Once director, Maldonado cultivated a pre-digital approach to design that translated well to the technology era of design that followed.  

 
 

It is argued that during his tenure at the Ulm School of Design, Maldonado pioneered design theory, and in particular, was among the first to apply computation to architecture and design. Though during the time of his work at the Ulm School, Maldonado did not work with computers, he is credited for theorizing "analogical computer design," which you can actually see very clearly in the first and third images in this article. (They kind of remind me of Wire's 154 album art that was released in 1979, only the analog version).

Like the Bauhaus school, Ulm's curriculum took a multidisciplinary approach, though Ulm was far more focused on science than craft. Bauhaus’s perspectives seemed to have become obsolete in the post-industrial age because they were viewed as simply artistic, rather than scientific. Though Max Bill attempted to recreate the Bauhuas curriculum, Maldonado kept pushing for more concrete theories and approaches to design. Wishing to create a closer relationship between science and technology, Ulm slowly oriented themselves towards the theoretical aspects of the Bauhaus school but expanded their approach, applying technological approaches to design. In this second phase, different subjects such as economics, sociology, mathematics, operational research, statistics, set theory, linear programming techniques, cybernetics and other subjects that deal with the history of science and the theory of machines were added to Ulm's curriculum. With the addition of these subjects, and the help of guest teachers, Maldonado made it possible for the students of Ulm to engage and participate in the scientific and theoretical philosophy of the time. 

 
 

Like the designers of Bauhaus, Maldonado proved to be very prolific, and towards the end of the Ulm school's existence, he really began applying his interests in semiotics to create a symbol system that is largely still used, and built upon for other methods of symoblic communication today. Above is a code system Maldonado built for the programmers of the Olivetti typewriter company, which was a project carried out in collaboration with the German designer Gui Bonsieppe. This symbolic language helped build the early stages of computer science. (So cool)!

Perhaps because the Ulm School was very ambitious and very ahead of its time, the school closed permanently in 1968. A year before its closure, Maldonado resigned and relocated to Milan, where he continues to live currently. After the disollution of the Ulm school, Maldonado continued working in design, where he followed Max Bill's lead, creating logos for companies. The first of such projects was with german again in collaboration with designer Gui Bonsiepe, where the two designed the corporate identity for the Italian department store La Rinascente. A corporate identity that is still in use today. 

 
 

From here, Maldonado continued to design, from furniture to medical equipment, as well as continue to paint. (The two images below are his contemporary work made between 2000 - 2010).

 
 

What's even cooler though, is that Maldonado is still alive and teaching theories in Italy as Professor at the Faculty of philosophy and arts of Bologna. Having worked with and studied under the Bauhaus school, while creating very modern theories in regards to computer science and technology, I feel like students who get to work with Maldonado are very lucky, because there are very few thinkers from this era left today. I'm so into the idea of having access to my predecessors, maybe I should email him in Spanish and see if he'd let me meet him!

Maldonado in his office in 2008

 

 



Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo 2016



DESIGN STUDY: MAX BILL & CONCRETE ART
 
 

So so sorry for the radio silence. I was in over my head with market and moving from LA to NY. I think I let a month go by since I've done any sort of design research. Woops! And though I'm still super busy and not in the mood to do anything after hustling so hard, I have been looking at the work of Max Bill lately, so I figured it was time to get back to it.

Max Bill was born in Switzerland in 1908. In his home town of Winterhur, he apprenticed as a metalsmith before studying at the Bauhaus school in Dausau, Germany in 1924. Like most Bauhaus artists, Bill worked with a number of mediums and designed across genres. 

Some of his most notable work in my opinion is in his graphic work, which included typography.(Yes!) But then again I also love the architectural pieces, sculptures and industrial designs he did too, so maybe I actually just love Max Bill.

What's really cool about Bill is that he studied under Bauhuas, but he also hung out with French painters like Hans Arp and Piet Mondrian, whose work represented a movement then called, Abstraction-Création, which influenced him to form his own group known as the Allianz Group in Switzerland in 1937.

The Allianz Group focused on Concrete Art theories pioneered by Max Bill, which was similar to Constructivism, in that both were interested in abstraction, but Bill's theories made a heavier emphasis on color. (A good student of Bauahaus, I'd say)... 

A major tenant of the larger Concrete Art movement of the time, which was the probably the most distinguishing departure from Constructivism, was that Concrete Art strived to make no references to objects found in visible reality or in nature. So out went all the boring notions of cubism and in came really cool shapes.

Once Constructivism spawned in Russia around 1919, its influence on artwork made in Europe lasted through the 1930s. And while Bauhaus ended up a movement in its own right, some of the Bauhaus instructors such as Josef Albers, worked to create the Concrete Art movement. (See my previous posts on Josef Albers for more info). After studying with Bauhaus, hanging out with super cool French painters, and starting his own art group, Max Bill went on to teach at The School of Arts in Zurich in 1944, before forming his own school called the Ulm School of Design in 1953, with artist Inge Aicher-Scholl and Otl Aicher in Ulm, Germany. 

Originally basing their teachings of the Bauhaus school, Ulm School of Design developed a new education approach that integrated art and science. This unorthodox design education even included semiotics in its curriculum, which caused a bit of stir amongst the art and design snobs of the day. And maybe Bill and his friends were actually too ambitious with their education theories, because the school only lasted for 13 years before it closed.

After this foray, Bill started working heavily in architectural and industrial design. He also kept painting and doing graphic design, but his more commercial work in the 1950s might be what he is best known for today.

Max Bill's Ulmer Stool, (pictured above) was made in the 1950s, and is meant to be used either as an modular object that sits on the ground or as shelves mounted on the wall. So pretty! He also worked with Junghans, a Swiss timekeeping company, where he designed watches, clocks and scales, which are still available on the market. v v v (I die).

Being that Max Bill was so prolific much like his predecessors of the Bauhaus school, he worked and exhibited up until his death in 1988.

Towards the end of his life, architects and public planners in Germany and Switzerland began commissioning Bill to make large sculptures to be displayed in public spaces. Nearly all are still on view and are protected by a conservation trust started post-mortem by Max Bill's son.

I could go on forever about this guy but I need to go to bed. If you haven't familiarized yourself with his work, check it out. There's so much... the guy lived for 80 years and worked for almost 60 of them. Soooo coool.


Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo 2016



DESIGN STUDY: WASILLY KANDINSKY & MINIMIZING SUBJECT MATTER

This season, to consider abstraction of form in my designs, I took a look at Wassily Kandinsky.

Wassily Kandinsky was a Russian-born artist who lived in Germany during the 1920s where he taught with the Bauhaus school. Kandinsky is primarily famous for being one of the first 'purely' abstract painters, departing from impressionism to pioneer abstract expressionism in the early 1900s; though I think his most notable work was made during his tenure with Bauhaus. 

At Bauhaus, Kandinsky developed theories on color, lines, points and shapes. Analyzing various art forms, he reduced each to their simplest form in effort reveal their structures. In 1926, mid-way through the lifespan of Bauhaus, Kandinsky published two works concerning his theories on form: Dance Curves and Point and Line to Plane.

Dance Curves is an essay accompanied by abstract drawings referencing four images of German performer, Gret Palucca, who was an early pioneer of modern dance. All four images referenced were by photographed by Charlotte Rudolph, a prominent German dance photographer during that time.

Being an inter-disciplinary school, Bauhaus often collaborated with, and studied modern dancers. In Dance Curves, Kandinsky wrote that his drawings illustrate the "simplicity of the whole form" in Palucca's movements as well as the "construction of the large form” where the structure of Palucca's movements are based on the simplistic forms in his reductive drawings.

Concerned with minimizing subject matter, Bauhaus emphasized compositions of pure lines, blocks of color, and geometric shapes. Kandinsky's personal application of this approach explored shape, form, and structure. From this school of thought, Kandinsky also developed his own color theory, which tied in to his elemental theories of design.

In Point and Line to Plane, Kandinsky analyzed the geometrical elements that make up all art forms, which he argues are points, lines and planes. In a comprehensive examination, Kandinsky reduces music, architecture, movement, and painting to demonstrate his theories. 

In perfect Bauhaus fashion, Kandinsky's work is nearly exhaustive, covering an impressive range of subjects across the above mentioned art forms.

Check the Index in the back of the embedded copy of 'Point and Line to Plane" below to see just how much he covered. I also highly recommend a good look at the diagrams and the appendix now, and then clicking on the link to read through this book in full-screen later. It's so good!

Aside from breaking down drawing and painting to their more intuitive geometric elements, and creating the simplistic forms from the body structure of dance movement, Kandinsky applied his graphic symbolism to music in a way that I've become obsessed with. In Point and Line to Plane, Kandinsky wrote that, "the graphic musical representation in common use today–musical notation–is nothing other than various combinations of point and line." 

I don't fully understand how to apply his theories to my own drawings yet, but I do know that in order to create his renderings of music, he used color to correspond with angles and shapes, as well as points whose sizes varied according to the pitch and volume of a given sound in terms of intensity or duration. 

The result is stunning:

A student's graphic analysis of music according to Kandinsky’s theories on graphic representation of music made during coursework at the Bauhaus. Bauhaus Archive, Berlin, 1930

As a result of WWII, Bauhaus disassembled in 1933. Kandinsky eventually relocated to Paris, where he lived the rest of his life. Applying his theories on form and color, Kandinsky created his own color pallets that appear as dissonant as unusual time signatures sound in music; but because they are governed by a theoretical foundation in both color and form, somehow they work.


Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo 2016



DESIGN STUDY: CONCEPTUAL ARCHITECTURE, 'SUPERSTUDIO' & UTOPIA

Superstudio - "Happy Island," 1971

I've been studying architects quite a bit lately. I'm especially interested in their relationship with Utopia. It's as if each rendering is an insight into the architect's notion of perfection. People are depicted using a design... sitting on a bench having a sandwich, walking up stairs, etc. These drawings portray ideals of society as much as they portray the utility and applications design.

While I mostly design things of absolutely no utility, like an architect, I am nevertheless considering the function of everything I make as well. If one did not have to wear the things I make, my rings would be outrageous, I'm sure. And I would have produced a few of the necklaces I designed early on that require directions in order to be worn correctly. 

But what if I didn't have to consider reality or application in my designs?  

In the mid 1960s through the 1970s architects began exploring the notion of conceptual architecture by asking a similar question. By the 1960s almost everything in architecture was 'modernist' cement and steel blocks, and as a reaction to this homogeneity, some architects began rejecting the wholesale acceptance of futurity and modernism in general. 

Perhaps the first to do so, (and my favorite) is a group from Florence, Italy who called themselves Superstudio.

Superstudio formed in 1966 and began their work by creating fairly useless things made of wood, glass, steel, brick or plastic. But this work quickly was followed by a few useful objects such as tables and chairs. Despite their utility however, these objects were not intended for use as much as they were intended to be used as a means to critique consumerism and society's, "continuous drive for novelty." Blandly designed, these objects served as a rather politically charged message from Superstudio that western decadence must be put to an end.

In 1968, architecture & design magazine Domus published some of Superstudio's work (above) where people were depicted 'using' architecture in unorthodox, and perhaps even impossible ways. Considering conceptual architecture had not been formally introduced to society at the time of publication, Superstudio was asked to publish a theoretical article in Domus as a follow up that same year. The combination of the two publications is one of the finest examples of early postmodernist thought, in my opinion, and perhaps the first example of conceptual architecture.

In Superstudio's follow up article, a sort of manifesto was created where their theories were explained. Citing prior movements in architecture in three main stages known as: architecture of the monument, architecture of the image, and technomorphic architecture, Superstudio's manifesto titled, "Superstudio: Projects and Thoughts," simultaneously rejected futurism and historical revival, arguing for an all-together new approach to architecture they called, architecture of reason.

Just read this amazingly postmodern excerpt:

The increase in the speed of reading (transport as a factor in spatial velocity, consumerism as a factor in temporal velocity), and the increase in social mobility, call for architecture that can take stock of the situation moment by moment... To bear witness becomes working in history, with history and for history.

Today we are all "intellectuals" or cultivated. Everything seems charged with reference and recall. The primitives of modern architecture – the Bauhaus, the 1920s – are the first models for the operation, initiators of the key cultural position that we are interested in continuing. Not "revival" but "survival" – permanence, that is, of vital reason.

We begin anew from the art of building, from the economy of materials, from the reasons for construction and from the meanings of a building. Reason has reaffirmed its place, accounting for itself.

I'm such a nerd, I get super excited reading that. Perhaps because what they are saying is still valid today. Everyone is not only cultured now, but they're also photographers, filmmakers, critics and everything else outside of science and medicine that was once preserved for specialists. And consumerism is likely worse now than it was in the 1970s. With webstores at anyone's fingertips, people can both create and patron a sales platform without much capital. Plus we've all accepted personal advertising through social media, and originality in idea or design is pretty hard to come by. So yes, Superstudio, yes! Let's PLEASE design from reason rather than novelty. (I'm looking at you 14k emoji face earring studs)...

But I digress... Having established a cannon of ideas, Superstudio began exploring what they called, "negative utopias," eventually publishing a series of works in 1969 known as Il Monumento Continuo (or Continuous Monument). 

This series, (above) was a direct attack on the dull nature of modern architecture in the 1960s. As steel and concrete boxes began to overrun cities, erasing historic culture, Superstudio saw a need to make fun of the possible outcomes of an unchecked modernist society. And while these warnings were clearly humorous, they were equally effective in making their point. 

Continuing in this vein, Superstudio moved on to form an "anti-design" campaign in 1970, beginning with their series, Quaderna (above). Designed using severe, geometric forms made of plastic laminate normally found in provincial Italian towns, Quaderna was a comment on the excesses of pop design of the time. Applying similar aesthetics as Continuous Monument, both works served as a critique of global modern design, suggesting that the outcome of sparse, functional spaces results in sterile environments, "free of local color and individual expression." In both works, Superstudio is essentially suggesting that, "everything could be replaced by the continuous, global grid."

But of course this is simply satire, because though much of their work appears utopic and rather surreal; and while most of the objects present in their collages are actually modern and beautiful, there is a bleak undertone of sterility that suggests modern, man-made objects have the ability to take over nature and humanity in adverse ways. 

Excerpts from "12 Ideal Cities," 1971

Disillusioned with modern society, global culture and consumerism, Superstudio continued their work in the 1970s mostly with collage. Partly due to the economic decline and scarcity of resources in post-war Italy, but more importantly as a result of their critique of society, Superstudio created a corpus of work without creating objects. 

In 1972, a series of collages were made with a grid motif. In the collages there is a theme between nature and humanity, which are juxtaposed with man-made elements such as modern architecture and consumer goods. The grid motif, used again by Superstudio, this time is meant to represent not only man's need to organize and categorize, but it is also used as symbol of 'democracy,' as all points of the grid are considered equal. In this series, the grid is known as the 'superstructure,' furthering the discussion started with Continuous Monument.

Much of these collages were put into a film, Supersurface - An alternative model for life on the Earth, in 1972. In the film, Superstudio's theories are reiterated, but the film furthers their discussion by proposing life "without three dimensional structures as a basis." Again, this is satirical, but the message serves as a warning against hyper-modernity and homogeneity.

This film was the first of five films in a series, Fundamental Acts. In Fundamental Acts, each piece was dedicated to what they called "primary acts in human life," namely: Life, Education, Ceremony, Love, and Death. Supersurface was made to correspond with the first act: life.

The five stories in Fundamental Acts were used as, "philosophical and anthropological reconstruction of architecture" and first appeared as text, images and storyboard in Casabella magazine between 1972 and 1973. The purpose of creating these films for Superstudio was to "explore a propaganda of ideas, beyond the typical channels of the discipline of architecture."

Currently, only two pieces of the five films are available to the public, both of which I find poignant and hilarious. (The second is my favorite of the two).

Click on thumbnail below to open a new tab for 'Supersurface.' PLEASE watch it in its entirety... Also the article below the video is worth reading. (After you're done reading this, of course).

Click on thumbnail below to open a new tab for 'Cerimonia.' Trust me, it's really good.

 

 

After their films, it is unclear what exactly Superstudio was up to, because there's not much else about their work post-1973. I do know that the group dismembered in 1978, though each member continued their work as architects (or architecture theorists, at least) afterwards.

Since Superstudio's work was politically charged, and like most maturing adults, the radical politics of our youth tend to appear extreme, unnecessary and maybe even completely incorrect later in life, it is understandable that the group could not continue working together under such circumstances forever. (Abandoning their political views is cited as a major reason for their dismembering, btw). Regardless, Superstudio's contribution to conceptual architecture and conceptual art in general was massive. I likewise think that their critique on society was needed then, and could stand to be heard again today.


Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo 2016



DESIGN STUDY: WALTER ALBINI

I'm working on shooting the lookbook for my new collection and I keep coming back to the work of Walter Albini. Walter Albini was an obscure Italian designer until about 2010, when a book called, Walter Albini and His Times: All Power to the Imagination by Maria Luisa Frisa was published. I was given this book as a Christmas gift in 2010 and continue to reference the it for my own work today.

Being credited for pioneering Italian Prêt-à-Porter, Albini was among the first to create ready-made clothing in Europe. Prior to Coco Chanel, most women's clothing was made to measure through the early 20th century. But Albini, was said to be "the designer who came out de l'atelier to enter the factory." (For anyone who knows me personally, perhaps this is why I connect with him so much, given that I'm always in the trenches at the factories).

In his teens, Albini was the only male student to enroll at the Institute of Art, Design and Fashion in Turin, Italy, and by the mid 1960s, he was working as an illustrator in Paris. From here, Albini met Coco Chanelle, and worked alongside a number of designers including Mariuccia Mandelli, the designer of Krizia, and Karl Lagerfeld, who also worked with Krizia at the time. During this period, Albini studied the industrial methods of knitting and textile milling, and he worked to standardize sizing, cutting and sewing for ready to wear garments made in a factory setting.

After a successful and ambitious runway show that featured over 100 models (and 100 looks) in Italy in 1969, and working simultaneously with five major fashion houses in the early 1970s where he debuted the first-ever loose fitting men's shirt and bare breasts on the runway, Albini began his own line, Walter Albini (produced by then Italian 'it-brand' Misterfox) where he reimagined women in blazers, wearing trousers and shirt-dresses. Much like Coco Chanel's adaptation of menswear in women's fashion, Albini pushed the limits of modern women's dress, working to create a 'total look' with his designs, from head to toe, designing everything from buttons and fabrics, to clothing, hats, accessories, belts and shoes to complete the package.

During this time, Albini also designed several interiors to serve as spaces for showrooms and runway presentation venues where he showcased his work with other lines and his own to press and the fashion milieu, often setting tables just to be shot for Casa Vogue where he created tableware, flatware and other home goods using prints he designed for fabrics as details.

But without much commercial support, Albini struggled for a few years during the mid-1970s, eventually leaving his collaboration with Misterfox, opting to take a break from design to travel for a few years. Upon his return, Albini made an uncharacteristic comeback, creating two Haute Couture collections where he presented the idea of atelier-produced garments to be sold as ‘teletta,’ (his take on undergarments) or textiles to be worn in various ways. However, following these two collections, Albini returned to ready-to-wear, designing some of my favorite collections with Italian brand Trell as well as with his own line, up through the 1980s.

Sadly, Albini's life was cut short, at the age of 42 (I can't find the cause of his death anywhere), but despite his short career, he was not only was prolific in his fashion design, but his concepts of advertising, runway shows as performance and his overall approach to high fashion heavily influences the fashion world today. Loud music on the catwalk is played with thanks to Albini, high designed interiors for showrooms and retails stores were first made by him, and unisex clothing was taken a step further than Chanel had done it to encompass menswear for women and women's wear for men. His attention to detail, ability to see new ideas through and willingness to learn processes made him an inventor. Much of what I do is rooted in what Albini did before me, and I'm sure many other designers, whether they're conscious of it or not, are greatly influenced by the work of Walter Albini.

Walter Albini in his own design, 1976


Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo 2015



DESIGN STUDY: KAZIMIR MALVEVICH'S SUPERMATISM

Where there is flux, I search for continuity. Perhaps that's why I've decided to focus on Kazimir Malevich and Supermatism right now. As everything around me seems to be changing, I'm really feeling the common thread throughout Malevich's work.

Malevich was a Polish artist living in the former Soviet Union. Born in modern day Ukraine in 1879, he worked at a pivotal time in modern art history. Striving to further the abstraction of reality achieved by Cubism, Malevich created his own art movement he called Supermatism, publishing a manifesto, From Cubism to Supermatism in 1915. The term 'supermatism' was used because his aim was to achieve a sort of purity in the pictorial arts that would be superior to other art forms both in feeling and perception. Drawing upon the theories of the Formalists, literary and poetic critics in Russia who worked contemporarily with Malevich, the artist adapted notions of defying reason, pairing down to the essential elements of an artist's work. This took Cubism a step further, to very basic geometric shapes.

Through simple shape, Malevich was able to make an image, because the shapes were painted against a background. The relationship between the background and the geometric forms atop then created a sort of tension, which Malevich hoped would elicit pure feeling, devoid of logic and reason. The idea was to create illusions: with two dimensional space, three dimensional perspective, and infinity as an abstract concept of time and space. Through this, Malevich felt he was able to create things that had never existed before.

Citing Eastern Philosophy in his writings and mentioning god-like feelings during his work, Malevich had an undertone of mysticism behind his theories, which were contrary to both his Catholic upbringing and the atheistic views of Communist Russia. 

Working between WWI and WWII, Malevich's work was met with tension by the Soviet Communist Party. Beginning his career under Stalin and Trotsky, Malevich started his work during a time that has been called a "period of open idealism." Partly because of this timing, his work was recognized by the West, with his first solo exhibition in Berlin in 1927. But once Stalin took over Russia, all art was to be educational, so Malevich's work was confiscated for being "bourgeois," and he was prohibited from creating or exhibiting any longer. Malevich responded by saying, "Art can advance and develop for art’s sake alone. Art does not need us, and it never did.” For this, Malevich was taken to prison in 1930.

When he was released six months later he was given the options to either leave the country, never show anyone his work again, or he could become a realist painter. Though he was radical in his views, Malevich did try to appease his government by attempting a few realist paintings, and while the outcome was good, working in this style was short-lived. Having been forbidden to work as a Supermatist, Malevich left painting to design tableware and clothing until his death in 1935.

Despite the controversy around Malevich's work, mourners were permitted to wave his Black Square on a banner at his funeral. His ashes were buried beneath an oak tree, and a sculpture of his Black Square was placed as headstone. 

Malevich, in his mystical fashion, had requested that a telescope be mounted to one of his sculptures to be placed at the base of an oak tree (a specific tree he had said he felt connected to) so that visitors could view Jupiter, but this wish was unfulfilled. And perhaps for the better, because the entire memorial was sadly ruined during WWII. Apparently his family was compensated with a pension after the war, and then in 1988, a building on the original burial memorial was erected in his honor.


Courtney Cady © Bagtazo 2015



DESIGN STUDY: ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG'S COSTUMES & SET DESIGN

ROBERT RAUCHENBERG FOR MERCE CUNNINGHAM DANCE COMPANY

I've been focused on dance history a lot lately. While studying dance, I've been reading about (and trying) Cunningham Technique. Cunningham Technique is a dance style based on the theory that dance and music should be able to exist independently of each other while sharing the same time and space. This technique was developed in the 1950s by choreographer Merce Cunningham and his partner, composer John Cage. The two worked together to create music and corresponding choreography that played a major role in the shaping of the American avant-garde from the 1950s through the millennium.

In the 1950s, Robert Rauschenberg, a former student of Bauhaus' Josef Albers at Black Mountain College (see my blog post on that dude from a few weeks ago, he rules), Rauschenberg began designing costumes for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Though Rauschenberg is mostly known for his work in Assemblage or Combine Art, his work with costume design, set design and lighting with Merce Cunningham and later, Cunningham's students Paul Taylor and Trisha Brown are the strongest elements of his work in my opinion.

Throughout his career, Rauschenberg not only designed sets, costumes, and lighting, but he also performed and choreographed his own works. Being an artist working in various genres, Rauschenberg blurred the lines between his performance work and his work with other media, often creating pieces in his studio that would later become props, such as Minutiae (1954), which was later used for a Cunningham performance, or First Time Painting (1961), that was made while Rauchenberg was on stage at the American Embassy in Paris as part of the performance Homage to David Tudor (1961). Rauschenberg also created scenery by using found objects and sounds, developing his concept of “live décor,” or scenery generated by human activity.

Rauchenberg performing in his own performance called "Pelican" (1963) after working with the Judson Dance Theater.

Rauchenberg's involvement with Cage and Cunningham positioned him at the cutting edge of postmodern dance, giving him access to performance on a greater scale. After nearly a decade with Cunningham, Rauchenberg worked with the Judson Dance Theater in New York during the 1960s (see my previous post on Meredith Monk for more on the Judson Dance Theater). The Judson Dance Theater is also one of my favorite parts of dance history because as an experimental collective, they included dancers, visual artists and performance artists, which resulted in performances free of narrative, emphasizing instead the purity of movement: sometimes conventionally dance-like, but also with mundane movements.

Through the 1980s to 2000, Rauchenberg continued designing costumes and working with performance, making a large body of work that is now considered art in its own right. Many of his pieces from sets and costumes are displayed in museums and galleries since his death in 2008.


Courtney Cady ©Bagtazo 2015



DESIGN STUDY: JOSEF ALBERS & COLOR RELATIVITY

I'm always thinking about shapes. In jewelry design, most shapes I work with are flat, but even with clothing, how something looks basically comes down to how it is shaped. The next part is what material the shape is made of, and then comes color.

As I begin to finalize my Fall 16 collection, I thought I'd look at the work of Josef Albers, a prolific artist who worked with a variety of mediums at the school of Bauhaus. What I love about Bauhaus in general is that their work was so well-rounded. The students studied color, crafts, textiles, performance, design... the list goes on. And since I work with so many types of materials, I study Bauhaus artists and their theories regularly. 

Bauhaus School Curriculum

Bauhaus artist Josef Albers was born in Germany in 1888. His career began as a stained glass artist, though his work is very distinct in comparison to standard stained glass works. Most stained glass is either traditional (think churches), or crafty (think the 60s). But Albers' work encompasses shape, material and color: the most essential elements of design, in my book.

After studying at the Bauhuas School under Johannes Itten, the color theory master of Bauhaus, Albers became a teacher in color theory at the Bauhaus school himself. With Bauhaus, color theory was a main course in their curriculum, and all of their work in color theory is still used today.

Through the exploration of color, Albers developed a theory that color is seen relative to its surroundings. In various studies that he called Exercises of Color, Albers took solid colored papers, cut them into shapes, and placed them next to, and on top of other colors to demonstrate. What resulted from the same color strip being placed next to, or on top of two other colors, was that the 'same color' appeared as two different shades. This phenomenon is what Albers referred to as Color Relativity.

The small rectangles on the left are the 'same color' but appear as two different shades given their interaction with the neighboring colors. The concentric lines on the right are also the 'same color' but appear to be different shades because of their interaction with the surrounding colors.

These exercises, according to Albers, demonstrate that color is absolute, but that it interacts with other colors, and is thus experienced differently, depending on which colors are interacting with one another.

With this as a foundation, Albers furthered his inquiry by playing with transparency of colors. In this work, Albers showed that with color, what appears to be a form of transparency, is actually a new color all together.  What appears to be the transparent part(s) are in fact another color with various levels of the neighboring colors combined.

 

Much of what Albers did with his Exercises of Color shaped color theory, which continues to govern the worlds of design and art today. Though Albers developed his theories on color in the late 1920s through the 1930s, it wasn't until 1963 that he published his book, Interaction of Color, through Yale University Press, finally canonizing his ideas for the art world at large.

Applying the simplicity of his findings to his own work, beginning in the mid 1920s, Albers began a series of untitled works that continued throughout his life, resulting in geometric, mostly line based art, using very few colors.

Because Bauhaus focused on interdisciplinary arts, they encouraged the exploration of various mediums. So during his tenure as instructor at Bauhaus, Albers also was the head of the carpentry department. Applying Bauhaus' principle that form follows function, and combining that with his understanding of shape and color, Albers designed furniture that continues to be sought after today. 

Albers also taught a course at Bauhaus on drawing and lettering where he developed a set of fonts.

But sadly, during WWII, Bauhaus dispersed. In 1933 Albers came to the US with his wife, Anni Albers, a Bauhaus trained textile designer and former student of Albers. 

In the US, Albers spent his first two decades teaching at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, before taking the head of design position at Yale in 1950.

While at Yale, Albers began a series of work called Structural Constellations, where he combined his understanding of color and line, while placing very strict parameters on himself to produce "the maximum affect through minimum means."  During this time, and up through the 1960s, Albers created a series called, An Homage to Squares, applying similar principles as the Structural Constellations, but adding the element of color.

After retiring from Yale in 1958, Albers was given a grant to do exhibitions and lectures on his work. Through the Museum of Modern Art in New York, a global tour of his work was shown between the years of 1965 - 1967. Finally, in 1976, four years before his death at the age of 88, Albers was the first living artist to have a solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Having lived such a prolific life as an artist, Albers continues to influence design from furniture to type faces, and from color, to line and form today. Though many people seem to be referencing his work in their own contemporarily (especially in fashion), I'm not sure that they are directly aware of its origins. But what makes Albers such an effective artist beyond his impressive ability to work with such a wide array of media, is that his work is so distinctly minimal, that it has become part of the fabric of our collective subconscious. 

Today his legacy lives on in the form of an app put out by Yale called, Interaction of Color by Josef Albers. Yes, that's right, a dude born in 1888 has an app... With this app, one can learn Albers' theories on color while creating study 'sketches' (if you can call a digital thing a sketch). By putting shapes together and applying color, a basic geometric design is made. Each color used in the artwork is broken out for reference at the bottom of the image, so they can then be translated to CMYK, RGB, HEX, Pantone, etc.  I actually recommend using the app for anyone interested in color theory, or for anyone who'd like a tool for creating cohesive color stories for their designs. 

Pretty cool, especially since these ideas were first developed over 100 years ago.


Courtney Cady © Bagtazo, 2015


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DESIGN STUDY: BERNARD TSCHUMI'S ADVERTISING FOR ARCHITECTURE

Since I am leaving San Francisco after accidentally living here for a year and a half, I've been thinking about architecture, and the contrasts between buildings in the Bay Area, versus buildings in Los Angeles. 

After enduring the city's thick summer fog, knowing that nearly everyone else in the northern hemisphere was enjoying summer, I felt that matter how beautiful the buildings are in my neighborhood, I couldn't shake my desire to do something drastic in response to my need for sun and warmth. This sentiment reminded me of one of Bernard Tschumi's Advertisement for Architecture:

Since the late 1960s, Tschumi has contributed greatly to architecture theory through his essays as well as his work. Basing his work on a main theory that there is no fixed relationship between architectural form and the events that take place within, Tschumi created a series, Advertisements for Architecture made between 1976-1977. These advertisements were printed on post card size pages intended for reproduction, as opposed to the single architectural piece. In creating these, Tschumi wanted to trigger a desire in the viewer for something beyond the actual post card, and to explore what commodification of architecture as 'products' would do in the interest in promoting the production of architecture.

Tschumi's advertisements were also used to critique mainstream aesthetics, urban living and contemporary architectural works in general. Applying his theory that, "There is no way to perform architecture in a book. Words and drawings can only produce paper space, not the experience of real space. By definition, paper space is imaginary: it is an image" Tschumi's aim was to supply visual images juxtaposed with theory in order to discuss the disconnect between "the immediacy of spatial experience and the analytical definition of theoretical concepts." 

I've always thought of architects as sort of Utopic designers, imagining worlds where certain spaces are designated for specific activities. Looking at most architectural renderings, this Utopian vision is displayed in their portrayals of people using the space. Here someone is sitting, enjoying a snack, while someone else is walking by holding a child's hand. Another person behind them seems happy, and is pointing at something... But Tschumi's work is quite contrary given his theory that architecture's role isn't to express an existing social structure, but to function as a tool for questioning that structure and revising it.

Tschumi's overt combination of theory with architectural space has left some accusing him of sacrificing people's needs for the sake of intellectual theory, but I'd argue that the traditional role assignments to buildings is what ultimately isolates people. A hospital has it's place in society, but should shopping be shoved into that same format? Consider the hundreds of abandoned malls all over the country... Perhaps the conventions of assigning use to specific space may be in need of Tschumi's deconstructivism.


Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo 2015


DESIGN STUDY: PETER MENDELSUND'S KAFKA COVERS

Considering I'm about to marry an author, books have become part of my everyday world. Especially those of literature. Recently, while discussing the literary magazine , The Modern Review, I started researching book cover designs and stumbled upon these great Kafka covers by Peter Mendelsund for Schocken Books, released in 2011.

As a kid, I often discovered music or authors simply because I thought the cover was cool. If I had no idea who Kafka was, I'd read these books based on their cover design alone. Mendelsund's work with this series reminds me of a cross between Calder, a bit of May Ray and Bauhaus... Only a few of my favorite things!

After an internet wormhole with Mendelsund, I also discovered that he designed a series of covers for my current hero, Simone de Beauvior.

Though I've barely scratched the surface with de Beauvior, I'm pretty into the fact that Mendelsund did covers for her books too. (The BF is currently writing an essay on her work, The Second Sex, so I've gotten to know her philosophy by proxy and am sort of obsessing over her ideas about being female. Ahem, why wasn't I taught her in college)???

Anyway, Mendelsund, my kind of guy.


Courtney Cady, © Bagtazo, 2015


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