Sunday, April 6, 2014

Reynold Ruffins: Ruffling Some Feathers

Reynold Ruffins', born in 1930, work is unmistakeable when compared to other artists of the time. His work flows together uniformly and seamlessly to allow for a viewer to pick his work out from the rest. Ruffins was one of the first African Americans to achieve early prominence in graphic design (Meggs).  Ruffins is quotes to have said "The assumption was if you were black, you were delivering something," which is one of the reasons why is success in the Graphic Design field is one to be dearly noted though out the history of this type of art.  (Hinkle).

Ruffins was part of the foundation of a New York graphic-design group in 1954 (Clayton). Along with Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser and Edward Sorel they founded the Push Pin Studio. The 1960's were crucial years for the formation of this group because during this time the founding artists came to realize that they desired to challenge the orthodoxy of the dominant International Typographic Style.

Reynold Ruffins

They wanted to offer a witty and eclectic alternative with a much more prominent and vast consumer appeal (Clayton). This influenced the Push Pin Studio's overall style, which was said to be characterized by brightly colored as well as narrative illustrations, that had exaggerated forms and juxtaposed humorous effects all while keeping a flattened image. The work that this group participated in was often specializing in book jackets, posters, magazine illustrations and record covers.

Reynold Ruffins

Reynold Ruffins.

The new designs and styles presented by the Push Pins studios definitely flared up some conversation during the time that it was prominent. It was unique in the respect that it kept the sincere appreciation for the vintage reference materials that each artist was using (Clayton). Due to the fact that Ruffins' had a large involvement in the foundation of this new studio as well as this new style, it is important to note how large Reynoold Ruffins' impact on this important section of history for several reasons:

1.) Ruffins was one of the first prominent African American artists during this time.

2.) The Push Pin Studio was partly founded by Ruffin therefore his presence in the movement regardless of his ethnicity is significant.

3.) Ruffins was able to break down many of the stereotypes that came with being African American, and even though he was not able to change everyone's views and/or opinions he was able to present a new way of looking at the artist and their participation in society.

Even though Ruffins ended up leaving the studio after a time to become a prominent decorative and children's book designer, he made a huge splash during this time and in the Push Pin Studio, as well as the push pin style by "ruffling a few feathers." Ruffins' is quoted as saying "I've had the good fortune of almost always enjoying my work, some less of course than others. I probably work harder at easel painting than I did as an illustrator because I had the constraints and the need to satisfy the client" (Hinkle). Even though he is best known for his illustrations his true passion was for painting, and painting for himself not a client, and that is how he is continuing to live out his life today. 

Works Cited:

Megg, Philip B. Megg's History of Graphic Design. 5th ed. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012. Print.
Hinkle, Annette. Reynold Ruffins: Turning to the Easel. 12 Dec 2013. Web. 6 April 2014.

Clayton, Michael. Push Pin Studios: An Introduction. 20 Nov 2009. Web. 6 April 2014.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Architecture Begins Where Engineering Ends

"Architecture begins where engineering ends," a quote by Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus school in Germany, that exemplifies his view on the difference between engineering and architecture, which I see to be exceptionally important when discussing his life.

Walter Gropius was born in Berlin in 1883 (Walter). He studied architecture in Munich and Berlin between the years of 1903 and 1907, and by 1910 Gropius had his own architecture practice in Berlin (Walter). Although Gropius was originally invited to head the school for the applied arts, founded by Henry van de Velde, in 1908 in Weimar, it later on closed in 1915 (Walter).  Due to this, Gropius had this vision of a school that would "operate as a consultancy for industry, commerce and crafts," which then was the foundation for the "State Bauhaus" (Walter). The school was later on dubbed "Bauhaus" and it's curriculum consisted of preliminary courses and practical training courses taken in a workshop format. (Walter).  The foundation of the Bauhaus by Gropius is important to keep in mind when interpreting the above stated quote due to the fact that in his statement, it would imply that he saw a problem with the way the relationship between engineering and architecture was interpreted, therefore the foundation of the school was to break down those misconceptions and allow for a new wave of thinking to engulf the minds of the students and teachers that resided inside the walls of the Bauhaus school.

The Original Bauhaus Logo 1919

Bauhaus School in Germany 1919

It was important for the artists of this new school to solve the problems of visual design created by industrialism (Megg).  They hoped to bring life back to the machine made goods that were invading the culture of the time, and that art could have a revival even if the goods were made by machines.  In my opinion this ties into the quote "Architecture begins where engineering ends." I think the quote can be applied to the hopes of the Bauhaus due to the fact that the quote talks about how architecture and engineering cannot exist in the same time, just like the artists believed that life could not exist in factory made goods.

By realizing that the two concepts, (architecture and engineering, and life and factory made goods) cannot exist at the same time, then one can begin to figure out how to still incorporate the two. For example, the definition of architecture is the art or science of designing and creating buildings (Architecture), and the definition of engineering is the work of designing and creating large structures  (Engineering). Sounds pretty similar right? But there is one major difference, the word "design."
They cannot exist within the same time due to that very word. The science of engineering is creating a large building so it does not fall down or cave in, the science of architecture is designing a building so that it is aesthetically pleasing.

Architecture, the act of making the building pretty, can only start when engineering, the act of making sure the building is going to be sturdy, ends.

Design and life, the idea of objects being aesthetically pleasing, can only start after they have been machine made, or it has been figured out how to mass produce said item.

It is important to know how to made a large amount of a product first, before they are complete works of art. It was important for the goods that were being mass produced in factories to be "ugly" or "unappealing" so that later the Bauhaus school could breathe life and design back into them, because it was a trial to figure out how to mass produce objects, even in their simplest form, so once that was figured out, design could take its hold. So my ending point is that well designed goods begin when figuring out how to mass produce them ends.

Works Cited:

"Walter Gropius." Web. 2 March 2014.

Megg, Philip B. Megg's History of Graphic Design. 5th ed. Hoboken New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2012. pg 326-328. Print.

"Architect." Merriam-Webster, 2011. Web. 2 March 2014.

"Engineer." Merriam-Webster, 2011. Web. 2 March 2014.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pablo Picasso Pissing on the Past

When Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga, Spain on October 25th in 1881, it would not have been guessed that he was going to later on become one of the greatest and one of the most influential artists of the 20th century (Pablo). Picasso, along with Georges Braque after they met in 1907, were the founders of the new movement called Cubism (Cubism).

This new movement arose out of the desire to represent and define the new modern reality that was surrounding the world during that time as well as a a reaction against the traditional ways of representing light and color (Cubism).  In the textbook Megg's History of Graphic Design, it is said in the description of figure 13-1 of Picasso's Nude c. 1906-7 that "the seeds of cubism are contained in the fragmentation of the figure and background spaces into abstracted geometrical planes.

Marten Jansen states in his column titled "Pablo Picasso Cubism" that it is important to fully realize how important cubism is and that it is significant to note that cubism is not just the "style" of Pablo Picasso but it is the mark of the real beginning of abstract art which was a new wave of thinking and a new way of looking at art.

I would like to reflect on the fact that cubism "began a new artistic tradition and way of seeing that challenged the four-hundred-year Renaissance tradition of pictorial art" (Megg). The way that I interpret that statement made on page 256 of my textbook for this class Picasso and Braque essentially just broke all of the rules that were set forth for them prior to the beginning of their movement, and that they decided to make new rules for themselves and every artist after them.

Another statement from the textbook that I would like to reflect upon this week is one of the statements made on page 257 of Megg's History of Graphic Design.  The statement is "Cubism has a strong relationship with the process of human vision. Our eyes shift and scan a subject: our minds combine these fragments into a whole." This can be connected to my interpretation of the definition of cubism changing and challenging the way art was viewed for hundreds of years due to the idea that now instead of the entirety of a subject being present in a work, now only fragments appear. The human mind is an incredible thing and it is capable of filling in the absent lines to complete the subject. This new way of thinking about art challenged the past due to the idea that now the viewer's mind has to work a bit more to really see what is being presented to them.

Examples of works where the viewer's mind has to be put to work:

Nude, c 1906-07 Pablo Picasso

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907, Pablo Picasso

The Dream, 1931, Pablo Picasso.

It was a way of, for lack of a better term, pissing on the past of what used to be accepted as art. Picasso forced the viewer's mind to find lines where there were not any, in his new movement of cubism. It is important to realize how incredible the human mind is, and Picasso's work during his cubist movement exemplifies this concept.

Works Cited:

Megg, Philip B. Megg's History of Graphic Design. 5th ed. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012. Print.

Cubism: A New Vision." Web. 2 Feb 2014.

"Pablo Picasso. Biography" Web. 23 Feb 2014.

Jansen, Marten. "Pablo Picasso Cubism." Web. 23 Feb 2014.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Arts and Crafts Movement: A Chain Reaction?

During the Victorian Era, the Arts and Crafts Movement came about that challenged the tastes of the time (Arts). This movement was said to have been inspired by philosophic thinkers such as Walter Crane and John Ruskin (Jirousek). It is also said that this movement was inspired by the ideals of the designer and reformer William Morris, who was said to be a pivotal figure in the history of design as a whole (Meggs). Although this information seems all fine and dandy, I would like to reflect upon the concept of where these art movements come from...

The Arts and Crafts Movement was said to be the “new appreciation of the decorative arts throughout Europe” as well as a rebellion against the Victorian sensibilities (Arts).

 It was said to be a reaction to the poor aesthetic quality of the new machine made wares. This movement is not the only art movement that is said to have come about due to an outside force. Art Nouveau was a direct byproduct of the Arts and Crafts Movement. Dadaism was a reaction to the horrors of World War I, so the “non-artists” chose to combat these troubles with lunacy (Esaak). Impressionism was a reaction and rebellion against the rules of academic painting (Samu). Cubism was a reaction against the traditional ways of representing light and color (Cubism)... I could go on all day.

The aspect of this topic that I would like to reflect on is that of how each new wave of art seems to be defined as a reaction to something, but is it possible to define an art movement as it’s own entity? Is it possible to not compare and contrast when searching for a definition and for a new art movement to come about solely from itself, and not as a reaction to something? Is everything in life simply a reaction to something else?

I think that with every choice and event that takes place throughout life, it is completely feasible that since birth, everything that one does is a reaction to what had just happened. This concept can be applied to art movements due to their lifelike quality. They have a birth, they have a hay day and they have an end... but once they end people do not stop talking about and practicing what they preached. But I do believe that everything in these art movements, as well as life are direct reactions to everything, and that an art movement cannot exist within itself,  but only exist through the contrast of what is going on around it. 

The Arts and Crafts Movement, that we learned about this week in class is a reaction to the lame aesthetic of the new factory made goods. I do not believe that it would be as powerful of a movement if it was not said to be a reaction to something, I think that if it stood alone, without contrast, it would not be as strong as a movement.

Now I am not going to pretend that I have the correct answers to these questions, or even that there are right answers to them, but I would like to open them up to discussion during the comment session of this assignment. Let me know what you think!

Works Cited:

Megg, Philip B. Megg's History of Graphic Design. 5th ed. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2012. Print.

Jirousek, Charlotte. "Art Design and Visual Thinking." 1995. Web. 2 Feb 2014.

"Arts and Crafts Movement."  Web. 2 Feb 2014.

Samu, Margaret. "Impressionism: Art and Modernity." October 2004. Web. 2 Feb 2014.

Esaak, Shelley. "What is Dada?" Web. 2 Feb 2014.

"Cubism: A New Vision." Web. 2 Feb 2014.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Hope, Progress and Change... The Way We Think?

Hope, Progress and Change… The Way We Think?

The “Obama Hope” poster, created by artist Shephard Fairey yet based off a photo by Mannie Garcia, ignited a controversy that even under further scrutiny I still do not quite understand. The aspects of this controversy that I do understand are as follows:

1.I understand that Shephard Fairey used a photograph taken by freelance, Associated Press photographer, Mannie Garcia.
2.I understand that the photograph was taken of President Barack Obama, then a senator, during a National Press Club conference on the crisis in Darfur
3. I understand that the Associated Press was planning on filing a law suit against Fairey for his use of their photographer, Mannie Garcia’s photo, but Fairey’s lawyers filed a preemptive strike lawsuit under the claim that Fairey’s use of the photograph was protected by the doctrine of “Fair Use,” specifically section 107, and that he was completely within his rights to use the photograph taken. The “Fair Use” doctrine states that certain and specific materials can be used without gaining the permission of the copyright holder.
4.I understand that Fairey was not truthful about his use of Garcia’s photograph in court. In addition, I understand that Fairey stated that he did not use the same photograph, and that he used a different reference by a different photographer, and then made up several fictitious documents to aid him in his lie.
5.I understand that  Fairey was not sentenced for his use of the photograph, but that he pleaded guilty for destroying documents and manufacturing others, and was sentenced to 2 years probation, 300 hours of community service and a $25,000 fine.

That is what I understand about the legal aspects of this controversy… but in my opinion it is all still a bunch of gobbeldy gook, even upon extensive research.

My understanding of this topic definitely needs to be taken at face value.
The list of the aspects of this controversy that I do not understand are as follows:

            1. How exactly Garcia was still able to claim that Fairey was in the wrong to use his Associated Press photograph when originally he did not even recognize the picture as his own.
            2. Why was the “Obama Hope” poster allowed to be published in the book Art for Obama: Designing Manifest Hope and the Campaign for Change, which came out in 2009,  without legal ramifications before the court case was settled in 2012?
            3. Why did it Fairey’s use of Garcia’s photograph only become a problem after it became popular? Shouldn’t one poster made without permission be as bad as thousands? Was it only bad when he started making money off of it?
            4. Why was the photograph that Garcia took during the National Press Club conference on the crisis in Darfur so easily accessible to someone that they clearly did not want to have it?

I obviously have no answers to these above questions, and I did attempt a fair amount of research to thoroughly answer them, yet I still remain confused. I hope that this reflection is not to be incredibly informative on the situation, due to the fact that I am using it to reach out for clarity and help in enhancing and broadening my understanding of this controversy.

The major aspect of this controversy that I desire to reflect upon, however, is the sheer oxymoron of the arguments created. The posters that were in question the entire time are to promote hope, progress and change… through a presidential candidate that was expected to bring about those three words in America, but that was not what was happening.  I personally think it to be rather disheartening that something as simple as using a photograph that is not yours to promote an idea that you whole heartedly believe in can spiral out of control into this huge law suit and controversy.

That is not to say that I believe Fairey to be innocent or completely within his rights to use Garcia’s photograph without asking permission or compensation, but I chose to find the irony in the fact that these men and many others spend countless dollars and hours to prove the other wrong. Fairey was trying to promote change, hope and progress through his posters, for a presidential candidate that he believed in and this is what happens? Is this teaching Americans, specifically artists, that we need to live in fear of becoming popular with our work?
Why is it that people in this day and age do not understand that due to the internet, materials such as photographs are so easy for anyone who has an internet connection, which in this day and age is essentially everyone.

In addition, I find it utterly confusing that as a college student, this is teaching me that if I would like to create a work showcasing someone famous, for example, President Obama, that I need to go out and attempt to take my own photographs in fear that if I use one I find online I will get sent to court, or that I will be having to pay away my life savings (which already is being spent on going to school) to create what I have in mind? I find it unsettling that I am being taught to be afraid of my work becoming popular, just as Fairey’s did. I am nervous that if I try to work on something for personal benefit and I use something that is not mine that I will be sent to court.

We live in a connected world, it is easy to obtain images of anyone and everyone whenever we desire them. The way I see it, if the image or photograph is on the internet, and said photograph or image does not have a watermark or logo sprawling across the image, or any other visible means of showcasing that it is indeed, copyrighted, it should be fair game for everyone any anyone to use…. But seriously, what do I know?

 The Original Photograph by Mannie Garcia
 Fairey with the "Obama Hope" poster
A comparison of the original photograph with the poster


"Spreading The Hope: Street Artist Shepard Fairey." 20 01 2009: n. page. Web. 26 Jan. 2014. <>.
"Shepard Fairey: Inspiration Or Infringement?" 26 02 2009. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.  <>

"Fair Use." 06 2012. Web. 26 Jan 2014. <>

Bearman, Joshuah. "Behind Obama's Iconic HOPE Poster." 11 11 2008. web. 26 Jan 2014.       <>