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Archives: November 2012

Jim Olson, Tom Kundig Among New Members of Interior Design Hall of Fame

Interior Design magazine is gearing up to add five members to its Hall of Fame: hotel interiors whiz Alexandra Champalimaud, product designer Patrick Jouin, Seattle-based architects Jim Olson and Tom Kundig, and the multitalented Michael Vanderbyl, who currently serves as the Dean of Design at California College of the Arts (having taught graphic design there for more than 30 years). They’ll be honored at a gala on Wednesday evening at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where the inductees will join the storied ranks of ID Hall of Famers such as Thierry Despont, Frank Gehry, Albert Hadley, and Andree Putman.

Then, on Thursday, the magazine moves downtown, to the Pei Cobb Freed & Partners-designed Goldman Sachs HQ, for its Best of Year Awards. Among the products and projects up for the honor–which comes with a snappy Harry Allen-designed lightbulb trophy–are Gensler’s offices for Facebook, the LED-embdedded swoop that is the Taj lamp designed by Ferruccio Laviani for Kartell, a riveting metallic wallcovering by Phillip Jeffries, and Zaha Hadid‘s London Aquatics Centre, which is something of a ringer in the “hospitality: beauty/spa/fitness” category.

Gottfried Helnwein Goes to the Opera

A scene from the Hanoch Levin opera The Child Dreams, for which artist Gottfried Helnwein designed the sets and costumes. (Courtesy First Run Features)

Austrian-born Gottfried Helnwein is the rare artist who can give Gerhard Richter a run for his money when it comes to hazy-haunting figuration that evokes–beautifully, repulsively, beautifully again–unspeakable atrocities. But while Richter has tackled everything from Düsenjägers to deckchairs, Helnwein, now 64, continues to focus on children. It’s a central theme he discovered during his student days in Vienna when he began to paint small watercolors of bandaged and wounded children, based on World War II forensic photos. People were shocked by the work, and Helnwein was just as stunned by their reaction. “The strange thing for me was always that the horrible stuff that was going on, the violence against children that couldn’t defend themselves, was not a problem for people,” he says in Gottfried Helnwein and the Dreaming Child, a documentary that opens today at New York’s Quad Cinema. “War was not a problem for them. The Holocaust was not a problem. But an innocent image–a watercolor! a tiny watercolor!–would upset them.”

Filmmaker Lisa Kirk Colburn follows Helnwein, a charismatic cross between Alice Cooper and Christopher Walken (with an Austrian accent), as he takes on the role of production designer for the Israeli Opera’s world premiere of The Child Dreams, by the late Hanoch Levin. Peopled by nameless characters such as “The Bleeding Man,” the opera tells a universal story about the tragedy of a child. Helnwein arrives in Tel Aviv with a grand vision that he fights to preserve amidst logistical limitations, opera star egos, Israeli labor laws that soon put the kibosh on child actors, and a stubborn yet brilliant lighting designer named Bambi. It’s fascinating to watch Helnwein, unaccustomed to creative compromise, navigate the details and politics of a large-scale theatrical production, whether by rolling up his sleeves to daub cobalt onto a foam boulder so that it matches a craggy Caspar David Friedrich scene or micromanaging the stage makeup (“Give him something to make him more the face of evil,” he directs a makeup artist). In the end, Helnwein is pleased. “It brought all of the children I have painted before together,” he says of the opera’s fourth act (pictured above). “I treat the staging like a canvas, but it’s three-dimensional and everything moves.”

Take a Black Friday ‘Art Break’ with Andrew Kuo

Pause in your feverish purchasing of sale-priced MZ Wallace totes and discounted perfect gifts from The Future Perfect for a Black Friday breather: “Now and Later” by Andrew Kuo. The New York-based artist–best known for his intrapersonal infographics–created the 30-second video for MTV’s Art Breaks, a series of bite-sized video artworks commissioned by Creative Time and MoMA PS1 that revives the MTV “Art Break” segments from 1985. Having relaunched earlier this year with videos by the likes of Rashaad Newsome and Mads Lynnerup, Art Breaks returns this month (and through April 2013) with a new crop of artists, including Semâ Bekirovic and Cody Critcheloe. In creating “Now and Later,” Kuo looked to Chris Burden‘s 1973 “Through the Night Softly,” in which the artist was filmed wiggling through a galaxy of broken car glass–footage that would later be inserted amidst the commercials on a Los Angeles television station.

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Happy Thanksgiving from UnBeige

“Pies,” a 1961 painting by Wayne Thiebaud.

Before we return to our seasonal mission of preparing pies to resemble this delicious Wayne Thiebaud canvas, we offer up a giant slice of banana-cream thanks to you, dear readers, for joining us through another year of news, events, books, films, and curiosities in the world of design, art, and visual culture. May your Thanksgiving be restful, well-designed, and full of pie. And while you go about your own holiday preparations–redoing the placecards that your well-meaning aunt chose to print in Comic Sans, switching out the pilgrim-themed Ziggy napkins, discussing why the term “doorbuster” is not to be uttered in your presence–be sure to keep one eye on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which this year debuts a balloon designed by KAWS.

Macy’s tapped the New Jersey-born artist, also known as Brian Donnelly, to create the new addition to its “Blue Sky Gallery” series that has sent aloft the work of artists such as Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami, and Tom Otterness. Donnelly saw his “Companion” character, the first toy he ever made, as ripe for transformation into 40 feet of inflatable, urethane-coated nylon. “I like taking an image and reworking it and having it made in new ways and materials, and communicating in different ways,” he told us earlier this year. And Donnelly is already thinking about the bashful balloon’s future. “Macy’s archives all of the balloons. They have every one that they’ve made since the 1930s, at least those that haven’t totally deteriorated,” he said. “My hope is that in ten or fifteen years, they do something where they show all of the artists’ balloons together.”

(Photo: Taylor Hill/Getty Images North America)

Vogue’s Grace Coddington on Avant-Garde Fashion: ‘You Have to Have a Bit of Fun in Life’

When Vogue creative director Grace Coddington first watched the 2009 documentary The September Issue, she was in total shock. “There was way too much of me in the film,” explains Coddington in her memoir, Grace, out today from Random House. “Now I can look at the end result and laugh. After all, I was rather outspoken. Nevertheless, there really is way too much of me.” In doing press for the film, she not only became much more recognizable, to the point that fans gathered in front of her Chelsea apartment building (“I felt like the Beatles,” she writes. “Actually, better than the Beatles, because the crowds chasing them in the early days of their fame could get rough.”), but also found herself looking back over an extraordinary life and career. “It got me thinking…that maybe I had a bigger story to share.”

That story, told over some 400 pages and annotated with Coddington’s charming pen-and-ink illustrations, now pushes the reluctant celebrity back into the spotlight. Among the first stops on her press tour was NPR, where she chatted yesterday with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross about her early life in Wales, career as a model (interrupted by a car accident), and all things Vogue. Alas, the interview (click below to listen to the full segment) inevitably devolved to Gross asking a variant of the “But who really wears that stuff?” question. Coddington’s response:

You know, you have to have a bit of fun in life, and that’s why they [designers] do it, and they do it to get your attention. They do the extreme ones. When you go back to their showrooms, you’ll find the more commercial versions of that, but it’s to get across a point. You have to say it in a strong way to get across a point. So if you want to go short, they go very, very, very short on the runway. But you’ll find in the showroom, it’ll be a reasonable short, you know, that you can wear. So there’s always the commercial version. And equally, we photograph both. We photograph the more commercial things, and we photograph the extreme things because–for the same reason. In order to make the point, you have to say it strongly, so people can see the difference between this season and the last season, and, you have to feed them the information. If you’re too subtle about it, you’re not going to get it.

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VC Firm Kleiner Perkins Out to Attract, Develop Design Talent with New Program

Go West, young designers. Silicon Valley powerhouse Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is putting its money where it’s…money is, with new in-house initiatives to attract and develop design talent. Today the venture capital firm, which backs companies ranging from Agilyx to Zynga, launched the KPCB Design Fellows Program, a three-month work-based program intended to give top design students experience working on design challenges at KPCB-funded start-ups such as Flipboard, Klout, One Kings Lane, and Square. Applications are being accepted through January 31, 2013.

Fellows will be matched with members of KPCB’s newly formed Design Council, a group of design luminaries that will provide mentorship, lead discussions, and create a community for designers to network. “The importance of design as a critical part of product development and a vital strategy for companies to win in the marketplace is increasing, and KPCB sees design as a key factor in evaluating today’s consumer digital investment opportunities,” said the company in a statement issued this morning. “In addition, to build the next generation of successful companies, the firm is also committed to attracting and developing top emerging design talent.”

Quote of Note | Ricky Gervais

“I like owning a little bit of the media. Podcasting, blogging, Twitter, and now Just Sayin. The most important thing for me has always been artistic freedom. Some people say I’m a control freak. I can never argue with them. Art is no place for democracy. One of my favorite sayings is, “A camel is a horse designed by committee.” I told Karl [Pilkington] this and he said, ‘I’d ask the committee which one of them came up with the hump.’ Haha.”

-Comedian Ricky Gervais, in an interview with Cyndi Stivers that appears in the November/December issue of the Columbia Journalism Review

Design Jobs: Bath & Body Works, Orlando Magazine, New York University

This week, Bath & Body Works is hiring an art director, while Orlando magazine needs a photo editor. New York University is seeking a graphic designer, and Haute Living magazine is on the hunt for a senior graphic designer. Get the scoop on these openings and more below, and find additional just-posted gigs on Mediabistro.

Find more great design jobs on the UnBeige job board. Looking to hire? Tap into our network of talented UnBeige pros and post a risk-free job listing. For real-time openings and employment news, follow @MBJobPost.

What Do Oprah and Gabriel Orozco Have in Common?

Tequila. The television mogul and the Mexican artist share a love for Casa Dragones. The tequila “made especially for sipping” landed on Oprah’s latest list of Favorite Things. “I truly appreciate people who are excellent at what they do, and the folks who handcraft this incredibly smooth tequila are masters,” enthuses Oprah, between endorsements for handmade jam and organic chai masalas (and alongside, it should be noted, yet another tequila). “Forget the lime, skip the ice, and just savor it like fine wine.” Meanwhile, Gabriel Orozco has partnered with Casa Dragones for a special bottle (pictured) engraved with a motif based on “Black Kites,” his 1997 checkerboard “skull-pture.” The 400 limited-edition bottles, yours for $1,850 apiece, also include the artist’s signature.

Should Oprah and Orozco ever find themselves sipping tequila together, they could also bond over their mutual fondness for the iPad. The Apple tablet has all but replaced the artist’s trusty Leica. “I like to use my iPad to take photos because of the big screen,” said Orozco last week during an on-stage chat with art historian Benjamin Buchloh at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, where his “Asterisms” project is on view through January 13. “It feels like a Hasselblad, somehow.” Oprah has said that she never goes anywhere without her iPad, although she has recently become enamored with the new Microsoft Surface. She tweeted as much yesterday–from her iPad.

Trevor Paglen’s ‘The Last Pictures’ Launches into Outer Space Today; Watch It Live

Some 43 years ago this month, an art-loving (and still anonymous) Grumman engineer smuggled a ceramic wafer imprinted with sketches by artists such as Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and Robert Rauschenberg onto the Apollo 12 lunar landing mission. Today Trevor Paglen adds to that fledging extraterrestrial museum with “The Last Pictures,” a public project presented by Creative Time. The artist worked with materials scientists at MIT to develop his visual time capsule: a silicon disc encased in gold and micro-etched with 100 photographs selected to represent modern human history. The disc has been affixed to the exterior of the communications satellite EchoStar XVI, which launches into orbit today from Kazakhstan. Watch it live here at 1:15 p.m. EST.

Among the images that made it onto the disc is a shot of “Glimpses of the U.S.A.,” the installation designed by Charles and Ray Eames (at the request of George Nelson) for the 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow. Team Eames compiled some 2,200 still and moving images of American life that flickered across seven massive screens under one of Bucky Fuller‘s geodesic domes. Does your head hurt yet? Mission accomplished! Paglen set out to create “a meta-gesture about the failure of meta-gestures, a collection of images that spoke to the Janus-faced nature of modernity, a story that was not about who the people were who built the dead satellites in perpetual orbit so much as a story about what they did to themselves,” he told Creative Time curator Nato Thompson in an interview. While aliens may be stumped by photos of gear used to make atomic bombs or of refugee children frolicking in the sea, you can feel superior by purchasing The Last Pictures (University of California Press). Notes Paglen, “The book contains explanatory captions and texts about the images that tell the viewer what they’re looking at; the disc in orbit does not.”
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