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How Does Music Work? David Byrne Explains in ‘Large, Slightly Squishy’ New Book

Sure, you can analyze a Peter Saville-designed album cover for days and doodle treble clefs with the best of them, but explaining music is something else entirely (reader, if you asked us to write an album review, we would end up sobbing into a pile of unsuitable adjectives). Not to fear! David Byrne is on the case. The design-minded, art-loving, bike-riding, musical genius, who earlier this week shared with the world his recipe for shrimp tacos, has spent the last few years writing How Music Works, out next month from McSweeney’s.

“It examines how music is affected by a multitude of contexts—financial, technical, social, and architectural,” wrote Byrne in an e-mail he sent this morning to friends and fans. “There are personal anecdotes and pictures and some pie charts, as well.” The book will be available as a physical book, an eBook, an enhanced eBook (embedded with audio snippets), and an audio book. Each format caters to different senses, according to Byrne, who seems partial to the print volume. “The physical book is truly a lovely object—the McSweeney’s folks are known for this—so if you like to touch things, this is your best option,” he said. “It’s large and slightly squishy. I gave my mom my advance author’s copy for her birthday.”

Shepard Fairey Updates John Pasche’s Rolling Stones Logo for Band’s 50th Anniversary

Sandwiched between Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics comes yet another reason to run amok in the streets of London: Mick and the gang are fifty. July 12 will mark five decades since a group of youngsters who called themselves The Rollin’ Stones played their first gig (at London’s Marquee), and the band tapped Shepard Fairey to create a logo to celebrate the big 5-0. The designer, a die-hard Stones fan who previously worked with Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart on SuperHeavy, says that he felt “overwhelmed” by the commission. “One of the first things I asked Mick was ‘don’t you think the tongue has to be included?.’ He responded ‘Yeah, I guess it ought to be.’ Case closed,” explains Fairey in a statement posted yesterday to his website. “I was very humbled and honored to be asked to work on the 50th anniversary logo, so my objective was to service and showcase the Stones’ legacy rather than try to make my contribution dominant.” Starting with John Pasche’s 1971 lips-and-tongue logo—”the most iconic, potent, and enduring logo in rock ‘n’ roll history,” according to Fairey—he played with ways to creatively and memorably integrate the number 50. Noted Fairey, “I think the solution speaks for itself in celebrating the Stones’ trademark icon and historical anniversary.”

Wake Up! Doug Aitken’s ‘Sleepwalkers’ Returns in the Ultimate Box Set

Call a somnambulance. The multimedia goodness of the Sleepwalkers box.

Doug Aitken is up to his old tricks: enveloping museums in high-definition video projections that illuminate their facades and mesmerize passersby, which in the case of his latest project may include President Obama. The Los Angeles-based artist has transformed the National Mall’s Gordon Bunshaft-designed concrete donut (also known as the Hirshhorn) into a 360-degree convex-screen cinema aglow nightly through May 13 with his “SONG 1.” Meanwhile, the Seattle Art Museum recently commissioned Aitken to wrap a corner—the northwest, bien sûr—of its downtown HQ in a jumbo LED display that will debut early next year. The months between these Washingtonian works provide ample time to savor the Sleepwalkers box, an ultra-covetable multimedia remix of the public artwork that took New York by nocturnal storm in 2007.

Part deluxe commemorative edition, part DIY-spirited artist’s book, the Sleepwalkers box is a bold collaboration between Aitken, the Princeton Architectural Press, and DFA Records. The perforated cardboard cover reveals and conceals a fold-out poster of scenes from the five urban narratives (starring the likes of Donald Sutherland, Tilda Swinton, and Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power) that were projected onto the exterior of the Museum of Modern Art. Set that aside to discover a turntable-ready vinyl “picture disc,” which the strong-willed will manage to avoid framing as an art object. A book of “fragments, markings, and images” from the making of Sleepwalkers includes breathtaking full-bleed images as well as an interview in which Aitken discusses the installation with Jacques Herzog. “Your work needs an ideal architectural conservation to unfold its quality,” advises the architect.
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Model Artist: Ed Ruscha at Work and Play

Ed Ruscha has a way with words and a sharp eye for typefaces (the sleek and squared-off sans-serif that appears frequently in his paintings is “Boy Scout Utility Modern,” his own creation). He delivers thoughtful insights in a distinguished voice that shimmers with the broken short vowels and gentle cadence of his Oklahoma upbringing. Turns out he also makes a great fashion model. That’s Ruscha in the spring-summer 2012 lookbook for Band of Outsiders, Scott Sternberg‘s beloved Los Angeles-based label. The photos, shot on vintage Polaroid film, show the artist hanging around his L.A. studio: he juggles paintbrushes in a chambray shirt, studies a copy of Acrylic Painting for Dummies, dons a cherry-red anorak to attack a Sudoku puzzle, samples the contents of a ramshackle refrigerator, and points westward, to the future, where there will be a dog and a motorcycle for everyone. It’s enough to make us want to string together Ruscha’s exotic textual feats into a song that tells the world how much we want to hang out with him. Oh, wait, someone already did that. Hit it, Richard Bell and David G.A. Stephenson:

Behind the Scenes of Hudson’s Dancing Pencils Video

Finally—a music video starring pencils! Motion graphics wizard Dropbear (also known as Jonathan Chong, whose pseudonym is that of a vicious yet imaginary marsupial) has outdone himself with a colorful feat of stop-motion animation for Hudson. This video for the Melbourne-based indie-folk band’s “Against the Grain” will delight viewers of all ages, falling somewhere between Surrealist film festival fare (we’d put it right after Hans Richter‘s Dreams That Money Can Buy) and Sesame Street interstitia:

Wondering how he did that? Here’s a quick behind-the-scenes look at the 920 pencils and 5,125 images required:

Christian Marclay, Kraftwerk Guest Edit Wallpaper*

This weekend, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston unveils its Linde Wing for Contemporary Art with a 24-hour party (“artful attire encouraged”) during which the institution will screen Christian Marclay‘s “The Clock.” The MFA acquired the work, which is made from more than 1,000 film clips, earlier this year in a joint deal with the National Gallery of Canada. Can’t make it to Boston? Get your Marclay fix at the newsstand with the October “Sound + Vision” issue of Wallpaper*, for which the Golden Lion-winning artist served as a guest editor. Marclay reimagined his epic “Manga Scroll” for the magazine, for which he created one of two October covers. The other comes from the pulsing, digital brain of Kraftwerk, who also served as guest editor. Reclusive frontman (not an oxymoron) Ralf Hutter provided the cover: a take on the band’s iconic imagery that is designed to be viewed through the 3D glasses included with the magazine. Inside, Kraftwerk devotees such as Andreas Gurksy, Thomas Demand, and Neville Brody reveal how the electronic music pioneers influenced them and their work.

Continuing Their Celebrity Artist Spree, Red Hot Chili Peppers Hire Mr. Brainwash for Street Art Promotion

(photo Gregory Bojorquez).jpg
(Photo: Gregory Bojorquez)

As we reported a few days back, the regrouped Red Hot Chili Peppers recently unveiled the cover of their forthcoming album, sharing that it had been designed by none other than Damien Hirst. Now they’re apparently continuing on their path of hiring celebrity artists to market their materials, as TMZ, found by way of ArtInfo, reports that they band has gotten Mr. Brainwash, aka Thierry Guetta, to promote the album by way of street art. According to the gossip site, Guetta “wouldn’t specify how much he’s getting paid for the gig, but tells us, his job is far from done…in fact, he and RHCP are teaming up on several more projects.” That extra income is sure to be good for the artist, made famous in the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, following the recently-lost copyright suit against him brought on by photographer Glen Friedman. So why did the band ultimately decide to go with Guetta, as his artistic brand is less than stellar following both that recent lawsuit and his not coming off so well in the very film that made him a household name? Our guess is that Banksy just decided long ago that he was a one band-that-was-at-its-most-famous-in-the-90s man and would only work with them. And after all of this hiring of celebrity artists, we think the Guardian hit the nail on the head when they write, “All they need now is a music video by Matthew Barney.”

Contest Conundrum As You ‘Design for Paul McCartney’

Because the design world has been so vocal online for the lo these many years in regard to spec work (chiefly, of course, being against it), our anti-spec senses will likely now be forever heightened. So we’re not entirely sure what to do with the “Design for Paul McCartney” contest, which has just launched and will be running until September. In one sense, as it simply calls for “graphic art inspired by his critically acclaimed solo albums,” it’s a seemingly innocuous way to interact with fans and give the winners some nice prizes (which includes records, posters, tickets to shows, $1000 for the grand champion, etc.). On the other hand, the contest is helping launch a new tech start-up called Talenthouse, the top 10 winners will be displayed at Saatchi & Saatchi‘s online gallery (and if they wind up selling prints, is that $1000 prize such a great deal?), and, most obviously, used to help sell McCartney’s concert tickets and albums. So are we thinking too much into this? Or is it just your usual branded contest, like a Super Bowl commercial-making competition where, if you win, you get $1,000 for making a stellar ketchup ad, but the company in turn makes loads of money that dwarf the piddly sum they paid you? We don’t have the answer. Whatever the case, if entering this sort of thing gets you going, well there’s the link above. If it’s the sort of thing that gets you fired up, well we apologize for ruining your morning.

Damien Hirst Designs Cover to New Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Album

Damien Hirst is clearly on an album-designing tear. Well, that is if you consider designing two albums over the past three years a tear, which we, for no good reason, most assuredly do. In direct contrast to his extremely colorful, splatter paint-esque 2009 cover for the band The Hours, this week the Red Hot Chili Peppers unveiled their minimalist, Hirst-designed cover for their upcoming album, I’m With You. It features little more than a fly sitting on a pill, which symbolizes…um, that both flies and pills are always with us? If anything, it proves that while the Young British Artists movement might now be dead, Damien Hirst is still as relevant as the occasionally-together Red Hot Chili Peppers. Here’s the cover:

Artist Behind Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ Album Cover Wants the Original Painting Back

If you wind up learning anything from us here at UnBeige, please let it be this warning: do not, under any circumstances, build a time machine and go back in time to either the late-60s or early-70s to design an album cover for a famous musician or band and then come back to the present, broke because you spent all your money on building a time machine and request that said musician or band to give you your image back. Such has famously happened to Peter Blake of course (minus the time machine bit) with his iconic “Sgt. Peppers” album cover for The Beatles, which he was originally paid somewhere around $200 for and has fought, unsuccessfully, to win the copyright from. Now the same is going on with Elton John‘s 1973 album, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” The Daily Mail reports that the artist behind its cover, Ian Beck, has requested the original piece back, believing that the musician held on to it after Beck was paid £430 for it. The law apparently won’t be on the artist’s side, as it was stipulated at the time that “in 1973 whoever commissioned it owned it.” Though that changed two years later, it appears that Beck is hoping to appeal to Elton John’s generosity. Though getting past his representatives will be something of a hurdle. Here’s what they told the Daily Mail:

A spokesman for the singer says: “I have no idea whether Elton has it, but presumably if he does, he paid for it so it is his; £430 was a hell of a lot of money back then. A bit weird, isn’t it, to ask for something back 38 years later?”