Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Croc Killa

Apparently it is extremely rare for a leopard or any other big cat to attack a crocodile, it's easy to get hurt in the process of killing it. There is more of the sequence here. I often check the Alligator and Crocodile news page, there have been a lot of human limbs lost lately...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Early Perceptual Problems

The above postcard arrived in my family's mailbox in early October 1978, I was a little over four and a half years old. I have a clear memory of my mother handing me the card and telling me it was a picture of an alligator. I couldn't see it, I could only see the alligator and the reflection as an arrow shape. I finally figured it out, but I never forgot the feeling of that initial visual misunderstanding.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A Stray Shopping Cart Story

Every now and then people send me emails about the Stray Shopping Cart Project, most are questions about identification or stories about finding strays (they usually send pictures too). Today I received my new favorite Stray Cart email from one Veronica Kavass:
Dear Julian,

You don't know me but here is a little story:

Yesterday, I stopped by the Park Slope Community Bookshop to pick up a copy of the Stray Shopping Carts book. I'd ordered it a while ago, right when the spider show had opened (which was my introduction to your work) but hadn't gotten around to picking it up until yesterday after some strenuous yoga. Later in the night, I was dragging my feet down 10th in Chelsea and a boisterous group rounded the corner and nearly ran into us with their shopping cart. A tipsy blond was pushing it and parked it into a phone booth. My friend was a bit entertained by this and I pulled the shopping cart book out of my bag to show it to her. She said "show it to them" and pointed at the drunks who deserted their cart. I said "hey, come here" and they hovered around me and looked at the book. The blond squealed with joy and posed for a picture I took of her. The others tried to stuff birthday cupcakes in our our faces. The blond woman asked: "Am I going to be in some sort of playboy shopping cart book now?" And all her friends thought I was the author of the book despite my attempts to correct them. A brief and joyous bonding session--and the cart was still left behind! Here are some bad pictures...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Moth Wings

I found this pair of wings in a web near my front door. The spider appears to have eaten the body of the moth and left the non-nutritious wings behind.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Typecon Post Mortem / Ephemera

I probably should have found the time to write about Typecon daily instead of trying to remember it all now, but here we are. Overall the conference was really interesting, and I met a lot of great people. As an artist and graphic designer my knowledge of type is quite superficial in comparison to type designers. Peering into their world is fascinating, you get to overhear people say things like: "Did you see the spacing on the lowercase, it's brutal," or "That angle on the right side of the loop on the lowercase g looks like a mistake." Anyway, six consecutive nights of drinking and talking about design has left me exhausted.

It should be said that Typecon would not have been in Buffalo if not for my friends Rich Kegler and Carima el Behairy, they are the driving force behind P22 Type Foundry and the non-profit Western New York Book Arts Collaborative. I really appreciate their efforts to make things happen in this town.

There was a lot of nicely designed, beautifully printed ephemera floating around the conference, here are a few of my favorites:

This is from Matter, a print and design studio run by Rick Griffith. Rick was one of my co-presenters at Pecha Kucha, he does amazing work and was a lot of fun to hang out with.

James Grieshaber, a great graphic and type designer and all around nice guy, designed this letterpress piece (on thick card stock) for the Sagmiester talk. The event was in an old church, the cards were placed in the hymnal racks on the back of every pew.

A spread from Rob Keller's Smallest Specimen Book Ever (it's 4" X 2 3/4")

Process Type Foundry

One of several 3-D cards promoting fonts from Mark Simonson Studio

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Visit to City Hall

As part of Typecon, attendees were encouraged to take a tour of Buffalo City Hall. Toby and I took the tour on Thursday, unfortunately, we were the only Type related people there. City Hall is one of the nation's great Art Deco buildings, it was finished in 1931 and was the tallest city hall in the country for a while. Wikipedia has a couple of images on it on the Art Deco page and many more on the page dedicated to the building HERE. The depressing thing about City Hall is that it was built at a time when Buffalo was twice the size it is now. It was built with the idea that Buffalo was one of the great industrial cities and would continue to be one (although some of the images of greatness are a bit creepy as it has elements that became symbols of 1930's fascism, muscle bound supermen, fasces in stone all around the Council Chamber, etc.). There is a free tour everyday at noon, it's well worth taking.

View of the Liberty building which is topped by two Statues of Liberty, not bad, eh?

View of downtown from the top of City Hall

City Hall is covered in spiders, there's also a Peregrine Falcon nest

The Council Chamber

Cousin Toby bangin' the gavel.

Squirrels in marble

Some previous Council President

The whole thing
Photo Credit: Mike Russell, frm the Wikipedia page

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Delicious Poster Design

You Work for Them put together a great show of type related posters for Typecon.

The Typecon Week So Far... Part 1

I have been busy attending Typecon events this week so I am a bit behind on blog posts. Cousin Toby and I were out until well after four a.m. (finishing at the Old Pink, for those who know B-lo.) trying to show the visiting typographers and graphic designers a good time, as a result we are skipping the conference talks for the morning.

We went to see Stefan Sagmeister on Wednesday Night at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum. He showed a few of his client projects and then moved into the work he began several years ago when he closed his studio for a year to work on personal projects. The acoustics of the huge hall made it hard work to hear what he was saying but overall he is an engaging speaker. I think Sagmeister is a great graphic designer, but I am not a huge fan of his big personal project,
Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far. He made a list of maxims that sum up things that he has learned in his life so far, he then elaborately constructs or somehow builds each word of the phrase and photographs them (see below). I like a lot of the project visually, and I admire his use of materials, but I really don't like the Jenny Holzer truism approach (apparently they collaborated at some point). All of these lines read like dull platitudes, and often the treatment he gives each individual word doesn't seem to relate in a convincing conceptual way to the maxim. That is my impression anyway, I should probably go through the whole book.

  • Complaining is silly. Either act or forget.
  • Thinking life will be better in the future is stupid. I have to live now.
  • Being not truthful works against me.
  • Helping other people helps me.
  • Organizing a charity group is surprisingly easy.
  • Everything I do always comes back to me.
  • Drugs feel great in the beginning and become a drag later on.
  • Over time I get used to everything and start taking it for granted.
  • Money does not make me happy.
  • Traveling alone is helpful for a new perspective on life.
  • Assuming is stifling.
  • Keeping a diary supports my personal development.
  • Trying to look good limits my life.
  • Worrying solves nothing.
  • Material luxuries are best enjoyed in small doses.
  • Having guts always works out for me.

On Thursday night we went out to UB to see NLXL, a fantastic dutch graphic design group they showed a lot of their work and talked about their process in a loose friendly kind of way. One of their weirdest projects involved using live flies to be film actors by gluing little poles to their backs. They made a tiny knit sweater for the fly and a bicycle, if that sounds crazy it is and it was, I'm still not sure exactly what it was all about. The three guys from NLXL had seen my Pecha Kucha presentation and seemed enthusiastic about the Shopping Carts and Spiders, we are going to do a poster exchange, very cool. Check out their site here.

Last night we went to a great talk by Erik Spiekermann, a famously passionate type designer. I will have to go into that in a later post, but in the meantime watch this:

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pecha Kucha Re-cap

Last night's Pecha Kucha got off to an embarrassing start for me. I had it in my head that the presentations started at 9:00 while in reality they were set to start a little bit after 8. We (Cousin Toby was with me) got there at 8:30, I told the woman at the admission table that I was one of the presenters, she said "Oh you must be the one everyone is waiting for..." I dashed downstairs and found the Hallwalls theater packed to the gills with people watching a presentation, thankfully after waiting a bit they had started without me. I went on second and my presentation basically went well, probably better than my last one and a bit smoother than my "rehearsals."

Overall the event was really great, it was an interesting group, with a broad range of practices. I'm looking forward to getting to know the non-local presenters over the course of Typecon. Tonight I am off to see Stefan Sagmiester, it should be good...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Montague Projects at Type Themed Pecha Kucha Tonight

This week Buffalo is hosting "Punkt: Typecon 08", a major typography conference with an all-star line-up, including Stefan Sagmiester, Eric Spiekermann and dozens of others. I'm going to be attending the full conference. The week's events start tonight with a Type-themed Pecha Kucha Night at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center. Pecha Kucha (if you haven't heard) is a presentation format where each presenter is allowed 20 slides that each will be shown for 20 seconds, the ridged structure keeps things moving.

I'll be presenting tonight along with
Rick Griffith, Mark and Jill Wisz (OtherWisz), Stephen Coles, Greg Meadows, Mark Brickey (Hero Design Studio), Shasti O'Leary Soudant, Mark Byk and Kristine Tortora (AmpersandAmpersand), Brian Maloney, and Emily Luce. I'm showing some of my graphic design work, and elements of The Stray Shopping Cart Project and To Know the Spiders. I've presented at a Pecha Kucha Night before and have gotten into trouble with the 20 second format. What happened to me (and I have seen it happen to many others), is that I either had too much to say about a slide and had to cut myself off or I would finish what I had to say in 10 seconds and then stand there in silence. Worse than the silence is when you make a stupid joke or comment to fill the void. Anyway, this time around I am actually going to take the time to prepare.

Tuesday Night, July 15
Type-themed "Pecha Kucha Night"
an Evening of Mini Presentations From Design Legends and Rising Stars
Hallwalls Cinema
8:00 pm

Monday, July 14, 2008

What's Up with this Penguin?

This Summer we have been buying North Star Patriot Pops, they are a cheap, moderately tasty, fairly low calorie, Popsicle. The issue I have with them is the artwork on the box, apparently that is a penguin waving an American flag and wearing an Uncle Sam top hat (and work boots?). I find this problematic as Penguins live almost exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere and are extremely unlikely to be American (or even Canadian). The idea that Penguins live in the Arctic is less irritating to me than the Monkey/Ape confusion I have previously posted about, but it is a problem.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Sad State of Rockucation

There is a moment in one of my favorite Simpson's episodes (the one where Homer goes on tour with a Lollapalooza like music festival), where Homer realizes that Bart and Lisa and their friends don't know who Grand Funk Railroad is.

Homer (speaking to the kids in the car):
Nobody knows the band Grand Funk?
The wild shirtless lyrics of Mark Farner?!

The bong rattling bass of Mel Schacher?!

The competent drum work of Don Brewer!?!

Oh Man! (in a tone of disgust)

I bring this up because I had a very similar moment a couple of days ago. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my 21 year-old cousin, Toby, is visiting from the UK. I am 35 so I don't usually spend a lot of time around people his age. We have a lot of similar interests and cultural overlap, contemporary art, graphic design, old school hip hop, etc., but fairly regularly I discover that he has never heard of bands or films that I sort of assume everybody has at least a basic working knowledge of. The last thing that blew me away was that Toby had never heard of Van Halen! I felt like Homer: You don't know Van Halen?!, Eddie, Alex, Jamie's Crying, Eruption, Jump, Panama, Tapping, the tour rider that specified only red M&Ms, David Lee Roth's insurance policy against paternity suits,
David Lee Roth vs. Sammy Hagar, that angel smoking on the cover of 1984...

It's not that I am a huge fan of Van Halen, I just find it amazing that a band can be dominant for a decade plus (they sold
80 million albums) and then basically be as obscure to a 21 year old as the Guy Lombardo Orchestra. It's a perfectly normal process, but now I'm getting old enough to appreciate the mechanics of it. The video of Eddie Van Halen (below) really does seem like something from a very different era, very far away from where we are now. In terms of the time line of rock, we are now as far away from Jump (which came out in 1983) as Jump was from Jerry Lee Lewis' Great Balls of Fire, which was on the charts in 1958.

Toby was a good sport about me telling everyone I saw on Friday night that he had never heard of Van Halen. Everybody (all in their mid 30s) had the same shocked reaction I did. We tried to fix the situation by playing a few songs on the jukebox at the Essex Street Pub, it was a start.

"To Know the Spiders" Closes, "Season Highlights" Group Show to Open

Yesterday was the last day of my show at Black & White Gallery in Chelsea. I really don't know how it went as far as who saw it, the blogosphere has been silent on the subject. Hint: it's not too late for some clever critic to write something about the show and somehow work in Louise Bourgeois' huge faceless spiders over at the Guggenheim...

The good news is that some of To Know the Spiders will remain in the gallery as part of Season Highlights the Summer Group show. I think the show is going to be great. Because I don't live in NYC I missed a lot of the season, the one that I did catch in the gallery was Tamara Kostianovsky's incredible show Actus Reus. The exhibit consisted mainly of large sculptures of beef carcasses made out of discarded clothing, photographs do not do them justice.


July 17 - August 15, 2008

Opening Reception:
Thursday, July 17, 6-8pm


Black & White Gallery
The Chelsea Terminal Warehouse
636 West 28th Street, Ground Floor
New York, NY 10001

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Times Beach

Colette, Toby (my cousin) and I took a walk at Times Beach, a nature area on a former lake front industrial site. At one point we came around a bend in the trail and startled a skunk, it took a fraction of a second for all of us to simultaneously assess the situation. We turned tail and ran as fast as we could.

View of downtown Buffalo from the Times Beach sea wall

Ants milking aphids

Monday, July 7, 2008

Installation/Opening at Cambridge Galleries

I went to Cambridge, Ontario to install (see Site Visits below) last Wednesday, I took my cousin with me to help. He is visiting from the UK for a few weeks, he's a graphic design student so hopefully he will learn something from me while he is here.

I returned with Colette to Cambridge Galleries on Friday for the opening. The turn out was quite good given the relatively small size of the town and the absence of students (during the school year there are a lot of students from the Waterloo University School of Architecture). I thought the shows (there were two locations) were very strong. It was great to meet and talk with some of the other artists. When the Gallery sends some proper installation shots I will post them.

A scene from the opening, there were way more people there than this picture indicates.

Downtown Cambridge as seen from outside the School of Architecture.

Cleveland and environs project map