(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘typography

“All familiar things can open into strange worlds”*…

Jasper Johns, Three Flags, 1958; Whitney Museum of Art

A thoughtful consideration of a modern master…

In​  the summer of 1953, after a stint in the army, Jasper Johns, aged 23, moved back to New York City. There, a few months later, he met Robert Rauschenberg. Their artistic and romantic partnership would last until 1961; the company they kept included John Cage and Merce Cunningham. In this heady atmosphere, Johns chose, in autumn 1954, to destroy all his prior work, and to begin the paintings that made his name when they were shown four years later: flags, targets and numbers crafted in encaustic (pigment mixed in hot wax) with collage (often mere newspaper) on canvas…

Johns made an exceptional entrance in early 1958: his first show at the new Leo Castelli Gallery nearly sold out, with three paintings immediately purchased by MoMA, and one piece appearing on the cover of ARTnews. Then 27, he had sized up the New York art world precisely, dominated as it then was by the formalist model of ‘modernist painting’ used by Clement Greenberg to champion Abstract Expressionism, and deftly deflected its discourse towards what Leo Steinberg would term ‘other criteria’.

In a studied phrase Johns spoke of his position as one of ‘shunning statement’. This suggests an aversion to polemics, political as well as artistic, that goes beyond temperament, a fatigue with the heated ideologies of the period (the Korean conflict, the McCarthy hearings, the Cold War). And Johns did muffle his subjects along with his gestures; his large White Flag (1955) is literally whited out. Might this intimate a ‘painting degree zero’ in line with the ‘writing degree zero’ posed by Roland Barthes against Sartrean commitment at around this time? ‘I can’t imagine my work being used to accomplish anything socially,’ Johns said. This is less negation than neutrality à la Barthes, for whom ‘the neutral’ was a way to baffle conceptual binaries, to undo ideological oppositions, to mess with ‘the paradigm’…

On the occasion of the Whitney’s (@whitneymuseum) show (through February 13) “Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror,” Hal Foster‘s “Which red is the real red?,” from @LRB.

* Jasper Johns

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As we look closely, we might spare a thought for Francis Picabia (Francis-Marie Martinez de Picabia); he died on this date in 1953.  A French avant-garde painter, poet and typographist, Picabia experimented with Impressionism and Pointillism before becoming a Cubist. He then became one of the early major figures of the Dada movement in the United States and in France, and was later briefly associated with Surrealism.

See his work at the record of a major retrospective hung at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2017 on their web site.

Francis Picabia, 1919, inside Danse de Saint-Guy

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“The best-laid plans”*…

… can be turned to unexpected use:

In an eighteenth century book, Johann Steingruber designed a type set made of architectural drawings. Via our buddies at Boing Boing: “An alphabet made of architectural plans, from 1773.”

* paraphrased from Robert Burns’ poem “To a Mouse”: “the best laid plans of mice and men / Often go awry” (or on the Scots, “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft a-gley”)

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As we spell it out, we might recall that it was on this date in 1661 that Oliver Cromwell, who had been Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland after leading rebel troops against the Crown in the English Civil War, was exhumed from his crypt in Westminster Abbey, and ritually “executed”; it was the 12th anniversary of the execution of Charles I, whose death warrant Cromwell had signed. Cromwell had died (most likely of blood poisoning following a urinary infection) in 1658. Charles II had returned from exile to become King in a restored monarchy in 1860.

Cromwell’s death mask at Warwick Castle

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January 30, 2021 at 1:01 am

“Typography is the craft of endowing human language with a durable visual form”*…

Although the modern design world continues its well-documented love affair with the look and feel of letterpress, the once highly regarded trade of printing press operation has largely faded out as a career path, giving way to the relentless growth of digital printing methods.

Ireland’s National Print Museum in Dublin was founded in 1996 by retired printers who couldn’t bear to watch their trades disappear without trace or fanfare. “The Chapel”, a core group of volunteers (mostly retirees), are dedicated to keeping the museum’s collection of historical printing machines — and the skills required to operate them — from fading away as well…

In Great Britain, a collective of union printers is known as a “chapel.” While the exact origins are unknown, the term can be traced back to William Caxton, credited with bringing the first printing press to England in 1476…

A glorious photographic tour of “The Chapel: Inside Ireland’s National Print Museum.”

* Robert Bringhurst, The Elements of Typographic Style

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As we love the lead, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that fabled computer scientist Grace Hopper (see here and here), then a programmer at Harvard’s Harvard’s Mark II Aiken Relay computer, found and documented the first computer “bug”– an insect that had lodged in the works.  The incident is recorded in Hopper’s logbook alongside the offending moth, taped to the logbook page: “15:45 Relay #70 Panel F (moth) in relay. First actual case of bug being found.”

This anecdote has led to Hopper being pretty widely credited with coining the term “bug” (and ultimately “de-bug”) in its technological usage… but the term actually dates back at least to Thomas Edison…

bug
Grace Hoppers log entry (source)

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September 9, 2020 at 1:01 am

“You cannot bore people into buying your product”*…

 

messam

“… Unclear why Messam thinks it’s wise to feature a photo of himself running away from the voter.”

 

For those who think it trivializes our political process to judge candidates by their typography—what would you prefer we scrutinize? Qualifications? Ground into dust during the last election. Issues? Be my guest. Whether a candidate will ever fulfill a certain campaign promise about a certain issue is conjectural.

But typography—that’s a real decision candidates have to make today, with real money and real consequences. And if I can’t trust you to pick some reasonable fonts and colors, then why should I trust you with the nuclear codes?

Book publishers spend a lot on cover design. [The adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” dates from the time before books were sold with colorful jackets.] Candidates likewise spend a lot on their public presentation. Why? For the same reasons: voters (or readers) are going to make judgments based on design factors (whether consciously or not). So just as we should feel justified judging a book by its cover—because that’s what it’s for—we should likewise feel justified considering how typography reflects on each candidate.

Along those lines, my pet political theory is that even as they labor to reveal their characteristic strengths through typography, candidates tend to be more successful revealing their characteristic limitations. The evidence is left as a thought experiment for sufficiently motivated readers…

Writer, typographer, programmer, and lawyer Matthew Butterick‘s witty and wise observations on the design choices made by presidential candidates (so far): “Typography 2020: a listicle for America.”

* David Ogilvy

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As we face up to face-value, we might recall that this is the “birthday” of the earliest-known dated printed book: the sacred Buddhist text the Diamond Sutra.  A copy of the Tang-dynasty Chinese version of the Diamond Sūtra was found among the Dunhuang manuscripts in 1900, and has been dated back to May 11, 868.

Jingangjing

Frontispiece of the Chinese Diamond Sūtra

 

 

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May 11, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit … a mobility of illusory forms immobilised in space”…

 

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Three months ago, I was a normal person. Now all I think about 24-7 is the dinkus. Did you know that dinkuses is an anagram of unkissed? I did. For the uninitiated, the dinkus is a line of three asterisks (* * *) used as a section break in a text. It’s the flatlining of an asterism (⁂), which in literature is a pyramid of three asterisks and in astronomy is a cluster of stars.

The dinkus has none of the asterism’s linguistic association with the cosmos, but that’s why I love it. Due to its proximity to the word dingus, which means, to define one ridiculous word with another, “doodad,” dinkus likely evolved from the Dutch and German ding, meaning “thing.” To the less continental ear, dinkus sounds slightly dirty, and I can confirm that it’s brought serious academics to giggles.

For me, a writer and reader, its crumbiness is its appeal. I need some crumbs to lure me down the page…

Daisy Alioto‘s “Ode to the Dinkus.”

* James Joyce, Ulysses

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As we separate our sections, we might recall that it was on this date in 1248 that The University of Oxford received its Royal Charter from King Henry III.   While it has no known date of foundation, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world’s second-oldest university in continuous operation (after the University of Bologna).

The university operates the world’s oldest university museum, as well as the largest university press in the world, and the largest academic library system in Britain.  Oxford has educated many notable alumni, including 29 Nobel laureates, 27 prime ministers of the United Kingdom, and many heads of state and government around the world.  Sixty-nine Nobel Prize winners, 4 Fields Medalists, and 6 Turing Award winners have studied, worked, or held visiting fellowships at Oxford.

42749697282_7a6203784e_o source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

June 20, 2018 at 1:01 am

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