On the first-of-May public holidays I paid no regard to the city bike festival, dedicated to the beginning of the season, and preferred having a family trip to Stockholm. Nika, Alisa and I took a spin to the Swedish capital via Helsinki and walked there at our leisure. Being in Stockholm, one of must-dos for designers and architects is a subway ride with unhasting stops at different stations to have a look at underground tunnels, cut in the hard-rock. The stations’ color palette and graphic solution are quite remarkable. There is no marble-bronze-granit pathos of the underground palaces which Saint-Petersburg and Moscow subways are famous for. They also lack London-Budapest-Paris charm of the first subway stations in the world. However, best artists and designers worked on the appearance of them, and the subway of Stockholm without any pathos and bulged cheeks has managed to embody the artistic solutions which the city government of our latitudes will hardly attain. If you should come to Stockholm, go the extra mile and spend an hour or an hour and a half in the subway seeing around.
However, I was even happier about one more feature of Stockholm subway. All the eye-pleasing graffities, mouldings, museum-like showcases were left behind after I’d spotted an occasional piece of art, created by an unknown guy who tears posters off. Apparently, the prepaid period of an ad timed out, and no new posters had come, so the out-of-date pics had to be clered off. As a result, the tunnel walls got decorated with amazingly beautiful massive abstract graphic works, which consisted of several layers of posters clipping through each other. I ty to capture such things. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to spot real anonimos pieces of «occasional» art on announcement posts and newspaper stands. And yet another peeped episode in the subway of Stockholm put an idea into my head that sometimes most interesting things happen absoluely spontaneously — both in profession and life. Stars are aligned so that make an accidental speech at a conference and get acquaintances which later mushroom into most interesting projects. Lately, most of my job life has consisted of such spontaneous joys. I arrive at a conclusion that urgency and consistency of aim are subject to different occasional events so often that you’d better relax and enjoy yourself looking at treasures you stumble upon by chance (and the ones you miss, which is also an essential part of a working process). These days, my own life consistently confirms Woland’s pharse from Master and Margarita we’ve been familiar with since our childhood: «You should never ask anyone for anything. Never — and especially from those who are more powerful than yourself. They’ll make the offer themselves, and give everything themselves!» Please don’t take me literally — I don’t mean I rest on oars and wait for something to gear them. At all. Just when everything’s planned down to the last detail and you know what’s going to happen tomorrow and in a week, and in a year, you might get bored. Someone may not accept this approach, but I like to observe bunches of happenstances and coincidences at meeting people which life gifts me with, and unplanned projects and initiatives which then rank events tied together. That’s why I’m on for letting more of spontaneity into my life and not worrying about plans which don’t come true — when they don’t, I believe it’s necessary for something more important to happen. There’s no point in reflecting about the might-have-been. The future will certainly show you a very interesting movie!
Projector № 1(28) 2015
A new Projector has been issued. Organizing thematic issues is usually against our principles, but this time it just so happened, that most publications are dedicated to the School of Visual Arts in New York and the exhibition Underground Images, which I had the honor to supervise on the part of Russia, at the New Museum. However, first things first!
When the colleagues from New York emailed me with the list of designers ready for an interview, I was astonished — Milton Glaser, Mirko Ilic, George Tcherny, Ivan Chermayeff, Stefan Sagmeister, Clay Patrick McBride! The same, as if I got a chance to chat with Leonardo daVinci. Of course, I had a word with them all. But, as I had already done a large interview with Sagmeister only three years before in Projector № 21, I decided not to tautologize.
The issue opens with a long interview with Milton Glaser. We talked over his job for almost an hour. Milton is a wise and sympathetic person: «There is nothing more pleasant for me than sitting at the desk and drawing, designing the object or thinking, — it’s my life. Makig things IS my life. The traditional understanding of spending a «perfect holiday» lying in a sunbed on a beach horrifies me. I’m good-for-anything including imprisonment to avoid this. My job is something prevailing and extremely pleasant. I’m in love with the idea of being able to embody the images which occur in my mind. This equals to being a God (although the God probably won’t like it). There’s nothing more exciting than creating something and watching it coming alive, seeing incarnate what you could partly dream of. When my wife needs a break, we go to the country, but even there I can’t put my job off».
The second interview was given by the designer and illustrator Mirko Ilic, who used to be the art-director of Time and the New-York Times. By the way, Mirko visited the exhibition opening and gave two rousing lectures at the New Museum. «I would accept a boring project for a large amount of money, because this is the only way to do an interesting job for someone who has no money. You act like Robin Hood — take from the rich and give to the poor. I guess everybody does it in this or that way. My company does approximately a third of a job on a voluntary basis. When I say «voluntary», I mean we don’t expect any fee at all. Apparently, the other two thirds provide money for this to any extent, which is, surely, our «curse», because sometimes the commissios that are boring at first turn out to have a better result than ones which seemed more attractive from the creative point of view. There’s something nice about this unpredictability».
The forefather of graphic design, a hero, whose name decorates all graphic design halls of fame, George Tcherny, is in his nineties, but he’s still working hard in his New-York studio. That’s what he told me: «A good design is a balance between the content and performance, but not necessarily in equal proportions. The proportion depends on what you need to emphasize. In a perfect world, I replay the idea if I have enough time for it, and I don’t start design process until I feel I have the right decision. The idea sometimes turns out to be working in another way than I wanted to, and I come back to contemplation. I don’t sketch much. As a result, when the project is completed, I hardly ever remember where the idea came from».
One more designer of the older generation I had a chance to talk to is Ivan Chermayeff. I wrote my term thesis Early abstract identity of the 1960s on his works almost twenty years ago when I was studying at Berlin University of Fine Arts, and now Ivan Chermayeff tells about his philosophy and professional principles for this issue of Projector: «For me, design is rather a deliberate and mental activity than emotional one. This is a combination of business and art. And also design means a marvellous life!
Among the designers who influenced me I could name Paul Rand, Alvin Eisenmann, Ikko Tanaka, Pierre Mendelle, among the artists — Picasso and Miro. As for my contemporaries, I consider Massimo Vignelli and Toni Paladdino the ones who have influenced the development of graphic design».
Now I take a small pause telling about the best graphic design from the USA and come back home to Saint-Petersburg. The project «Lettering» couldn’t have stayed indifferent about the latest wonderful work by Yuri Gordon. Having brought the house down with his map of literature Moscow, he created the same about Saint-Petersburg. Read the author’s story of how it all happened: «I realized that we should refuse the idea of a posh literature map. Let the wind carry quote fragments! Everybody who reads in Russian understands which context the Admiralty’s needle bright comes from and who stood on a deserted, wave-swept shore. Let the city itself speak the words written about it. The map turned into a straight text which consists of interlinked sentence-scraps that reecho each other. Away with quotes, the authors into legends! Here’s majestically floating in azure Saint Isaac’s, enchanted with the freeze, and nearby, accompanied with vinous screams, the Astoria hotel is being built. And here in summer, with broad-brimmed bolivar, Eugene attends the boulevard — and there’s winter on the opposite side of the street, the heavy burden of a northern snob, Onegin’s inveterate sorrow… There’s Aurora Salvo with the motto «All power to the Soviets!» by the quay, and the neighbor quay reechoes her blank shot: «oh you, the fate of the ship…»
Following up upon the story of the US design, our regular contributor Pavel Ulyanov, the XX century design expert, tells about the furniture manufacturer Gardner & Co: «In between the two World Wars furniture made of molded plywood became a dramatic breakthrough in European design. The Finnish, Swedish and British samples settled down at the MoMA forever. And it was Gardner & Co that invented a chair with the seat and the back made of one solid plywood sheet».
One more exciting discovery for me has been California wine Sine Qua Non, which I can positively call the most designer wine in the world. I discovered it in London at Evgeny Chichvarkin’s Hedonism Wines shop. «Not only comes every vintage of Sine Qua Non out with a new lable, but also under a new name. For me, who has only once tried Sine Qua Non (100 points by Wine Advocate), this wine mostly refers to the world of design and visual arts. I have to console myself at least this way as, unfortunately, I can’t afford a bottle at a four- or five-digit price in dollars. Some early vintage labels of Sine Qua Non have become collectible themselves. The wines The Marauder, The Harlot, The 17th Nail in My Cranium are pieces of both wine-making and graphic art». Many thanks to Evgeny Chichvarkin for his hospitality and one of the most remarkable wine experiences I’ve ever had in my life. As for the smart wine labels, read about them in Projector!
The continuous collaboration and friendship with the lighting equipment manufacturer Artlight is going on with the interview given by Konstantin Tsepelev, speaking about design specialities at Milano Salon. Kostya told Projector which lighting wonders are due next season.
Projector tries not to miss the famous designers and architects visiting Saint-Petersburg. One of such guests is the Duch architect Eric van Egeraat, who I talked to after his speech at Saint-Petersburg Architecture Biennale. «My generation wanted to change everything. I started at the age of 24, and the older generation, my teachers, were boiling over: «What the hell is this stupid guy doing? That’s us who’s supposed to do his job!» This «lost generaton», wihout any particular ideas, couldn’t adapt, nobody commissioned anything from them. Five years later I completed my first project, Rem Koolhaas started his first job and became someone like an apologist of a new way and headed the whole generation of Dutch architects of my age. We just tried to act in another way».
One more project by us has been developed in collaboration with Vadim Kondrashev’s architectural bureau Archi-Do. I hope this year we’ll publish the series of six books which are contemporary re-thinking of Vitruvius’s work, and for the time-being we announce the future issue.
Meanwhile, in the second part of the magazine I come back to the works by the masters of New York School of Visual Arts. I talked to the famous New York photgrapher Clay Patrick McBride, who has taken pictures of dozens of world’s A-list celebrities. Well, Patrick himself also reminds of a rock star a lot. «From my point of view, success is when you contribute something to people’s hearts, that’s why I teach. I taught at the photofaculty of the SVA. I have come full circle and returned as a teacher to the same workshop where I used to be a student. I came back to the same place where such blokes as David LaChapelle and Frank Ockenfels had studied. That room was more of an arena for me rather than a lecture hall. I worked with a lot of celebs and piles of magazines, but it’s not that important. Most of it becomes yesterday’s news and gets as yellow as an old newspaper. More important things stay with us».
Ihe issue ends with the full catalogue of a wonderful poster exhibition Underground Images, which we opened on May, 22, at the New Museum in terms of the Fifth Saint-Petersburg Design Week. Here are the names of the authors whose works are represented at the exhibition: Gale Anderson, Marshall Arisman, Gene Cates, Ivan Chermayeff, Paul Davis, Sal DeVito, Louise Fili, Audrey Flack, Nathan Fox, Bob Gill, Robert Giusti, Milton Glaser, Phil Hays, Steven Heller, Mirko Ilic, Viktor Koen, Stephen Kroninger, Marvin Mattelson, Clay Patrick McBride, James McMullan, Jerry Moriarty, Tony Palladino, Stefan Sagmeister, David Sandlin, Paula Scher, Eve Sonneman, George Tcherny, James Victore and Robert Weaver.
The new isue of Projector is an absolutely vintage story. Part of the run has already gone to New York, another one was sold out during Saint-Petersburg Design Week, so we don’t have many left. You can get the latest Projector and a subscription for it at our nwe partners’ place — the shop lebigmag.ru