Posts Tagged ‘art

Who The Hell Is Milton Glaser?

- July 20th, 2012

 

Milton-Glaser-self-portrait

Self-portrait of Milton Glaser.

 

I’m glad you asked because the same thought was running through my head just the other day.

 

Turns out Milton Glaser is probably the world’s greatest living graphic designer.

 

That’s not my opinion — that’s the opinion of most of the world’s other great graphic designers, all of whom have been influenced by and owe a huge inspirational debt to this little old artistic genius.

 

You know Milton Glaser, too. You just didn’t know his name before reading this.

 

Watch. I’ll prove it.

iHeartNy

 

Yep, Milton Glaser designed that most iconic of graphic love notes, which has been turned and twisted in a thousand different permutations but always keeps its simple, gracefully cuddly power. (The typeface is American Typewriter if you’re creating your own variation, although Glaser modified AT for the real  ”I ♥ NY”.) Only Harvey Ball’s Smiley Face is as omnipresent in modern graphic culture as “I ♥ (whatever).”

 

Milton Glaser has done so much more than that but before we get to other aspects of his work, I’m going to tell you a little bit about “I ♥ NY” and how it came to be.

 

First of all, even though everyone associates “I ♥ NY” with New York City, it was actually commissioned as part of an advertising campaign for New York State in 1977. The overall marketing campaign was handled by NYC ad agency Wells Rich Greene, but Milton Glaser — then at the absolute pinnacle of his game and an ardent New Yorker — was asked to design a logo that embodied the ad campaign’s “I Love New York” theme.

milton-glaser-1970s

Milton Glaser in the 1970s.

One thing you have to understand is that New York in the mid-1970s was a far different place than the New York City we know today.

 

The city then was a disaster zone plagued by soaring crime, drug use, prostitution, homelessness, hopelessness, a collapsing infrastructure and subway system, abandoned buildings, a corrupt police force, a middle class fleeing to the suburbs and a city government teetering on the brink of financial collapse.

 

Then-mayor Abraham Beame was within hours of declaring New York City bankrupt in 1975 when the teachers union finally, reluctantly agreed to pump $150 million of its pension fund into New York City security bonds, thus keeping the civic administration solvent.

 

Then the city was jackhammered by the power blackout of July 13-14, 1977 (caused by lightning strikes and faulty equipment) which led to widespread looting, rioting and panic.

 

Later that year, tough-talking and fiscally conservative Ed Koch was elected mayor. Along with help from the federal and state governments, Koch got the city on the road to recovery, but it was a long, hard decade. In 1977 any ode to New York City was based more on romantic nostalgia or cockeyed optimism than on any pragmatic assessment of the city as it existed at that time.

 

As I said before, the ad campaign was a state-wide venture but, of course, NYC — the Big Apple — has to figure prominently in any panoramic view of the state of New York. And Milton Glaser was an ardent and committed New York City-ite. (He had founded New York magazine in 1968 with partner Clay Felker from the ashes of the Sunday magazine supplement of the defunct New York Herald Tribune.)

New-York-cover-Dec-1968

So even though the promotional campaign was a state affair, Glaser, in his own heart, was saying “I ♥ NY (City).” So it’s really not a distortion to associate “I ♥ NY” as much with the city — or moreso — as with the state.

I-heart-NY-square

There is a Canadian twist to all this, by the way. Glaser has said he got the idea for “I ♥ NY” from an ad campaign run by Montreal radio station CJAD (now a talk/news format but back then an all-purpose pop AM format) around the time of the 1976 Olympics: “Montreal, the city with a ♥.”

 

CJAD never got any money for its contribution, but then neither did Glaser.

 

Why?

 

Because Glaser did it for free — mostly out a sense of public service and pure-hearted love for the city of his birth and nurturing. And also because he really thought at the time the ad campaign would run for a few months and then be forgotten.

It didn’t and it wasn’t. Thirty-five years later, New York (both city and state) are still recycling “I ♥ NY.” (And New York State now pulls in millions every year from licensing deals, even though it didn’t get around to copyrighting the logo until the late ’80s.)

I-love-NY-all

 

And Glaser’s original sketch and presentation boards are now part of the permanent collection of New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.

 

After the catastrophic events of Sept. 11, 2001, Milton Glaser created a new version of his iconic logo.

 

Milton Glaser opy

 

The black spot on the heart is approximately where the World Trade Center was located on Manhattan Island.

 

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ (that’s one heart for each of Milton Glaser’s decades so far)

 

Now on to a random tour of some other aspects of Milton Glaser’s life and art.

 

Milton Glaser was a significant presence on the the New York design scene from the mid-1950s on, creating everything from magazine and newspaper illustrations and layouts to book jackets to restaurant menus to company logos to advertising campaigns.

 

Here are a few of his print creations.

Paperback-cover-50-cents

An early book cover, above, and a couple of later ones below.

hesse-book-cover

The-Cook

 

Sports-Illustrated-1961

A 1961 illustration for Sports Illustrated, above, and a Time magazine cover in 2010, below.

Time-cover-2010

March-1971-NY-cover

A 1971 New York magazine cover, above, and a poster for the 1970s Broadway production of The Wiz, below.

The-Wiz-poster

 

And here are a few — just a few — of the many record album covers he created (primarily during the 1960s and 1970s).

the-london-chuck-berry-sessions

Rhymin-Simon-cover

Van-Zandt-album-cover

Doc-Watson-cover-1972

nina-simone-cover

 

Lightnin-Hopkins-album-cover

 

And some logos for record companies.

asylum

Phantom-Records-label

And even the occasional movie poster.

zabriskie_point_antonioni_glaser_ar

 

And, of course, he’s done corporate logos — but only for companies he likes, such as DC Comics and Brooklyn Brewery.

DCcomics

 

brooklyn

Milton Glaser - Brooklyn-Brewery

 

The 1960s was the period in which I became acquainted with Glaser — although I didn’t know his name then.

 

The most striking Glazer creation of the time was a poster he designed for inclusion in 1967′s Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. It’s often known as the “psychedelic poster” and seems almost cliched now — but that’s only after 45 years of overexposure. At the time I opened up that cardboard album sleeve and found the four-fold poster, I was blown away.

 

miltonglaser_dylan

 

And, like I said, I had no idea who created it. I didn’t really even think about it. My recollection is that I assumed it was done by Peter Max — who was very big in the psychedelic pop art world at the time — or was just a knockoff commissioned by Columbia Records.

max_peter_love

PeterMax

Some Peter Max artwork from around the same time. The one below was actually done after the Dylan poster and probably owes a small debt of inspiration to Milton Glaser.

 Peter-Max- Poster-1969

But the Dylan poster was a great piece of art — an iconic piece — and I wish I still had it. (Of course, I wish even more that I still had the small signed sketch A.Y. Jackson did for me a year or two later in Kleinburg — but a life lived without terrible regrets is a paltry, flippant thing.)

Marcel-Duchamp-1957-Self-Portrait_in_Profile

Glaser has always given credit where credit is due, and he says the Dylan poster was inspired by a 1957 self-portrait by French graphic artist Marcel Duchamp (above). That’s nice of Glaser, but I think the poster also reflects Rowland Scherman’s 1965 profile photo of Dylan on the cover of the Greatest Hits album.

greatest-hits-1967

And Glaser may be either consciously or subconsciously referencing himself in this 1976 New York magazine cover, below.

New-York-May-1976-cover

Moving on to a seemingly more mundane area, Glaser created plenty of restaurant menus — but they were for the best, the chicest, the funkiest, the most foodie-beloved restaurants of their day. And he often created the entire look of the restaurant, as well, from interior design to specialty china.

Russian-Tea-Room-menu

Menus for New York City’s Russian Tea Room, above, and, below, Rudi’s Country Kitchen, a vegetarian restaurant in Woodstock, New York, run by adherents of the Rudrananda Ashram.

Rudis-menu

 

Since we’re on restaurants, here’s another connection between Milton Glaser and the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Center.

 

Glaser designed — not once, but twice — the WTC’s signature series of restaurants and bars called Windows on the World on the 106th and 107th floors of the North Tower. (Initial design work was done by Warren Platner, but restaurateur Joe Baum later put responsibility for the coordinated look of the whole project in the hands of his friend Milton Glaser.)

WOTW-WTC-menu

The first Windows on the World menu cover, above, and, below, views of the main restaurant in 1976 and 1996.

1976WOTW

1996WOTWdinningroom

1996-WOTW-china

One of the china plates designed by Milton Glaser for the 1996 incarnation of WOTW.

The first go-round was in 1976 for the grand opening. The second was in 1996, with every seat in the restaurant getting a view of the New York skyline. The complex had the main Windows on the World restaurant, a second resto called Wild Blue, the appropriately named Greatest Bar on Earth (with a view to match) and a series of smaller rooms with revolving names for private functions. For a time, around the turn of the millennium, it was the highest-grossing restaurant complex in the United States. The restaurant was in full operation for breakfast the morning American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower. No one in the restaurant at the time survived.

 

(This is completely off-topic, but Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was supposed to be on that AA Flight 11 from Boston to L.A. However, MacFarlane’s travel agent gave him the wrong departure time and MacFarlane got to Logan Airport a few minutes after boarding was closed off. MacFarlane missed his flight — and lived.)

 

iHeartNy

 

Sorry, I didn’t mean to get on a downer tangent, but Milton Glaser is synonymous with New York City and New York will forever be intertwined with the tragedy of 9/11.

 

At 83, Milton Glaser is still active and vibrant and an inspiration to others. He has some sharp opinions (for example, “Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking.”) But he is mostly a man of great humanity, humility, graciousness and generosity.

Milton_glaser2

And he still works non-stop. As Glaser says, “The real issue is not talent as an independent element, but talent in relationship to will, desire, and persistence. Talent without these things vanishes and even modest talent with those characteristics grows.”

 

He’s done everything from a 200-metre mural on a federal government building in Indianapolis and an underground mural in NYC’s Astor Place subway station to recent magazine covers to high-profile ads to pro-bono work for non-profit organizations.

 

He’s redesigned newspapers (like The Washington Post) and consulted on others (like Canada’s National Post — although I don’t really see Glaser’s fingerprints there) and for 15 years he oversaw every design aspect — from architecture to packaging — of The Grand Union Company supermarket chain in the U.S. And of course he does his own straight-up art.

 

Here’s a sampling of some of Milton Glaser’s recent work. Go to the Internet to find more examples of his incredible creations. The more you look, the more you’ll be dazzled.

I ♥ MG.

 

Venezia-carnevale-2009

 

milton-glaser-big-yellow-nudes

September-2010

AIDSposter

Darfur

 

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Will The Real Scream Please Stand Up

- May 2nd, 2012

UPDATE (New York Times): It took 12 nail-biting minutes and five eager bidders for Edvard Munch’s famed 1895 pastel of “The Scream” to sell for $119.9 million, becoming the world’s most expensive work of art ever to sell at auction.

scream_auction

Art experts are confidently predicting Edvard Munch’s The Scream will fetch anywhere between $80 million and $150 million  when the icon of existential angst goes on the block this evening (May 2, 2012)  at Sotheby’s auction house in New York City.

 

Which raises the question: Just how much more would it be worth if there was only one Scream — not the four that actually exist?

 

(Or four dozen if you include the black-and-white Scream lithographs Munch produced in 1895.)

 

Many artists have executed variations on a theme, but few have tried to reproduce exactly the same image repeatedly — and none except Van Gogh’s Sunflowers series with Munch’s success.

Edvard-Munch

Until the May 2 auction was announced, all of The Scream originals — two paintings and two pastels — resided in Munch’s homeland, Norway.

 

Munch’s first painting of The Scream — done in oil, tempera and pastel crayon on cardboard — was made in 1893. That version is owned by the National Gallery of Norway in Oslo.

 

Munch also did a pastel version in 1893, possibly as preliminary study before executing the painting. The 1893 pastel is held by the Munch Museum in Oslo, which also owns the final painting of The Scream, a tempura-and-oil-on-cardboard version done in 1910.

 

The third Scream is another pastel, done in 1895, and currently owned by Norwegian Petter Olsen, who inherited it from his father, a shipping magnate who was an early patron of Munch.

 

That’s the only one in private hands and the one that will be sold at Sotheby’s tonight (May 2). It’s also considered the most appealing version by many, with vibrant colours and the two dark figures in the background posed differently than in the other versions.

 

Which brings up the question: How do you tell the four Munch “originals” apart?

 

It’s easy if you know what you’re looking for; confusing if you don’t. And it can become really confusing if you don’t know there are four different “authentic” Screams.

 

As it happens, two of the originals have been stolen and recovered — the 1893 oil-tempera-pastel painting stolen from the National Gallery in 1994 (on the opening day of the Lillehammer Winter Olympics), and the 1910 tempera-oil painting taken at gunpoint from the Munch Museum in 2004 (recovered in 2006).

 

The paintings have substantial differences but many newspapers around the world illustrated their reports of the thefts with photos of the wrong version. You’ve seen one Scream, you’ve seen ‘em all, I guess.

 

But if you’re looking at a photo or reproduction of The Scream, here’s how to tell which version you’re looking at:

 

ONE-Scream-1893-painting

1. The 1893 painting: Vibrant red-orange sky; the two figures in the background are walking away; the foreground figure has eyes. This is the most commonly reproduced version.

 

TWO-Scream-1893-pastel

2. The 1893 pastel: Not quite as vibrant; the foreground figure has eyes; one of the background figures is looking out at the fiord. (Note: This is not a great reproduction but it’s the best of a bad lot  — there are very few images of the 1893 pastel  in the public domain.)

 

THREE-Scream-1895-pastel

3. The 1895 pastel: Vibrant red-orange-yellow sky; the foreground figure has eyes; one of the background figures is leaning on the railing. This is the one currently up for grabs.

 

FOUR-Scream-1910-painting

4. The 1910 painting: The sky is predominantly red and yellow; the two background figures are walking away; and the foreground has NO eyes. This is probably the second most frequently reproduced version.

 

The 1893 pastel has rarely been photographed and the 1895 pastel was completely out of public view until it was put on display in Sotheby’s  London showroom leading up to the May 2 New York auction.

 

And then, of course, there are the black-and-white lithographs Munch made in Berlin in the autumn of 1895, some of which he hand-tinted. Art historian Ulrich Bischoff, a Munch authority, believes the artist executed about 45 lithographs.

FIVE-Scream-1895_lithograph

Why so few? Munch had to go home to Norway on a family matter during the winter of 1895-96. When he returned to Berlin, he learned his printer had ground down the surface of  the lithograph stone bearing The Scream to make a clean slate (in a manner of speaking) for another artist’s carving. Waste not, want not. It’s enough to make you scream.

Here’s what Munch had to say, in an 1892 diary entry, about the inspiration for The Scream:

“I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”