May 26, 2008

Exhibit 16: Graphic design



For years after the music industry's introduction of long-players, visual artists were troubled by the expense required to render cover art for albums. The revenue collected from the commission of the artist quite often did not cover the cost of paints, easels, photography, neutral grain spirits or French cigarettes. The musical artists, as well, were inconvenienced by having to sit for the rendering of portraits, especially when the pose was for a painting. (Jazz drummer Buddy Rich, a figure known for his frequent cantankerousness, once toppled the palette of a Belgian painter working on a portrait for Rich's unreleased album Swingin' Pre-Raphaelites. It was thought that Rich was incensed about having to pose for seven hours in a silk tunic while holding a bowl of apples, but accounts suggest Rich was more upset that the painter wore a beard.)

The job and Citannes budget of the visual artist was made much more manageable with the proliferation of graphic design. By combining prefabricated artistic elements for a single set piece, artists were not only freed of the toil of painstaking creation, they were also able to produce in a much higher quantity than before. Those artists who did not increase their output in light of this new convenience found their schedules opened up, which not only meant more smoking of French cigarettes, but also a higher potential that they would have more time to fly to Paris themselves to purchase the cigarettes personally, rather than rely on shady local associates with pencil-thin moustaches and a penchant for existentialism.

The aesthetics of graphic design also correlated with the sharp, brazen, scabrous style of rock and roll. Impressionism, with its indistinct lines and over-reliance on bonnets, could not keep pace with the instantaneous thrill of rock and roll. Graphic design was aligned with the immediacy of rock music: As the large majority of early hit singles ran less than three minutes, a graphic artist could conceivably finish the accompanying artwork in the same amount of time, given a readily available supply of construction paper.

Graphic design was best championed in the New Wave era of rock music. With a whole rash of newly aloof music heroes forging emotional detachment through mechanical instruments, the graphic artist helped to refine the dehumanization through art that could conceivably be produced with a garlic press. Several landmark examples of this renaissance era of graphic art are shown below:

For Split Enz's excellent album True Colours, the artist uses reflective triangles, alternately shaded squares and rectangles, and one single bold stroke to illustrate how the band's hometown of Auckland, New Zealand was built using a Fisher-Price Shape Sorter.



The cover of the Rolling Stones' New Wave-influenced album Some Girls was fashioned from a sample page of a wig catalogue and not, as was fervently rumored, a listing of the cheapest per-hour prostitutes in New York City.


Genesis' self-titled 1983 album cover featured all the Fisher-Price Shape Sorter blocks left over from the construction of Auckland (see above). Although the cover is a photograph, not technically graphic design, it was done nearly as quickly, as was the songwriting on the album itself.



The cover of this double-A single by punk band the Cortinas features the British Royal Family moments before a banquet in honor of Ronald Reagan. This is also not strictly graphic design, as only the Royal Family itself was assembled from construction paper and paste, as has been the monarchy's wont since the rule of James VI in the 17th century.

And finally, the 1988 issue of Elvis – Live With Love From Terre Haute, features this indisputable classic from the graphic design genre:

15 comments:

Jim said...

Great article, very interesting ideas I should say.
Graphic design

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I think sometimes cover art albums are unnecessary because what really matters is how the artists are singing, at least that's what I like to get.

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Well actually I'm a graphic designer but i just knew it to make this stuff because i never study or something, I remember that one day i find out the photoshop in it's 3rd version and i just download and start to imagine.

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