Creative Synesthia: Degenerate Art (M. Sharp)

When I look at the 1937 catalogue cover for Entarte Kunst (Degenerate Art), I immediately imagine the smell of smoke and decay. This is in part because of the dark palette of the image, as well as the rough, smoky texture of the 1912 Otto Freundlich sculpture Der Neue Mensch (The New Man) which is featured on the cover. The association, however, must also be in part due to the depressing implications behind this design.

The fact that has always stuck with me about the “Degenerate Art” exhibition was that it was actually far better attended and more well-regarded than the concurrent “Great German Art Exhibition,” which was full instead of Hitler-approved works. That it should have been entirely clear to the Nazi regime that the works displayed in “Degenerate Art” were of true cultural significance and value makes it all the more tragic that these works were destroyed, censored and suppressed for years to come. I think this chaos and backwardness is what brings to mind the sensation of needless destruction.

degenerate art
Anonymous, Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) catalogue cover, 1937. Features Otto Freundlich, Der Neue Mensch (The New Man), 1912.

Sources:

Eskilson, S. Graphic Design: A New History. Yale University Press, 2007.

Ginder, U. “Munich 1937: The Development of Two Pivotal Art Exhibitions.” 2004. Retrieved from <http://www.history.ucsb.edu/faculty/marcuse/classes/133c/133cproj/04proj/GinderNaziArt047.htm>

Design Inspiration: Rodchenko to Kidd (Miranda Sharp)

Alexander Rodchenko’s unique visual style not only served as an emblem and catalyst of the early Soviet design movement, but also would remain in the larger cultural consciousness in a way that far surpassed its initial, highly politicized purpose.

kino-eye
Kino-Eye poster by Alexander Rodchenko. Retrieved from <https://rosswolfe.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/dziga-vertov-cinema-eye-kino-glaz-poster.jpg>

This image uses Rodchenko’s characteristic use of photography/photorealism incorporated into abstract shapes, as well as a flat, bold yet highly limited colour palette.

chip-kidd-cover
Chip Kidd cover design for Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami. Retrieved from <http://chipkidd.com/home/portfolio-3/>

Contemporary graphic designer Chip Kidd can be seen to have drawn inspiration from the Kino-Eye poster as well as other Constructivist works in his book cover design for Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by the short story writer and novelist Haruki Murakami, whose works often include surreal themes and straddle the line between utopia and dystopia in a way that suits the Constructivist style well.

The use of a collaged low-resolution photograph (particularly of an eye), as well as the bold, cut-and-paste style coloured shapes give this cover a dated feeling, almost appearing as though it was created decades earlier than it actually was.

A bonus example of Rodchenko’s trademark style appearing in contemporary design is so close as to be a direct homage rather than a case of inspiration:

rodchenko-bookstore
Bookstore advertisement by Rodchenko, 1925. Retrieved from <http://leazeltserman.com/alexander-rodchenko-and-constructivism/>
franz-ferdinand
Album cover for Franz Ferdinand “You Could Have It So Much Better.” Retrieved from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_Could_Have_It_So_Much_Better>

In this case, the contemporary Scottish band Franz Ferdinand has copied the classic Rodchenko poster promoting literacy so directly as to imply either some extremely lazy design choices, or else an appreciation for an image so iconic that it can be referenced directly as a piece of design culture and of history in general. While the Franz Ferdinand album cover is a more immediately recognizable comparison to Rodchenko’s work, I prefer the relative subtlety and artistry of Chip Kidd’s book cover and feel that it actually does a far better job of representing a truly Constructivism-inspired design.

 

Sources:

Eskilson, Stephen. Graphic Design: A New History. 2012: Yale University Press.

Zeltserman, Lea. “What we really mean when we copy Soviet constructivism from Alexander Rodchenko.” Retrieved from <http://leazeltserman.com/alexander-rodchenko-and-constructivism/> on March 9, 2018.

 

 

Six-Word Summary (Miranda Sharp)

Dadaism!

I chose to go less with making direct immediate sense, more with the spirit of Dada. I was partly inspired by the title of the George Grosz painting “Daum Marries her Pedantic Automaton ‘George’ in May 1920. John Heartfield is Very Glad of It” (1920).

“Automatic Profundity Produces Delicious Results (Housecoat)”

Sources:

Eskilson, Stephen. Graphic Design: A New History. 2012: Yale University Press.

“George Grosz: German Draftsman and Painter.” The Art Story. Retrieved from <http://www.theartstory.org/artist-grosz-george-artworks.htm> on February 12 2018.