This blog exists to inspire people to seek out all the great art that lives in and around the Minneapolis skyway.

Monday, October 25, 2010

James Victore: Coming to school us in Minneapolis

From Victore or, Who Died and Made You Boss?
By James Victore; Introduction by Michael Bierut
Published by Abrams

The landscape of design has its heartthrobs, clean freaks and iconoclasts and James Victore is clearly in the latter category. A School of Visual Arts dropout, he stormed the trade, making poster art and doing design on his own terms with help from some compelling mentors and a singular style. Now, the world is his oyster, as Victore is on the faculty at SVA, designing for the likes of Moët and Chandon, The Lower East Side Tenement Museum and Target (yes MSP'ers), and just published a book of his greatest hits called "Victore, or Who Died and Made You Boss?"  He's coming to W Minneapolis - The Foshay on Nov. 3 for the latest installment of AIGA Minnesota's Design Conversations series, produced by Rocket Design Resources to benefit The Brand Lab. With the national AIGA president, Debbie Millman on hand to stimulate the conversation, Victore will present his new tome. Known for his raucous style, the night should prove to be a blast -- a learning experience hidden within the best kick in the pants you've ever experienced.

Want to get a line on his sensibility before attending the festivities? Victore shared a few words of wisdom with Skyway of Love which should whet your appetites.

36.2 Milton, Plates, Self-authored 10" diameter © James Victore

Skyway of Love: What makes you want to wake up every day and be a designer? Are you happy with that moniker, as opposed to "artist" or some other term?

James Victore: The driving force of my day is the opportunity to try something that scares me, to put myself out on a limb and saw the end closest to the tree. Just to see what happens. Only sometimes do I fall. "Artist" is fine -- "Designer" is groovy, too.  Neither work really well. I tend to believe by naming things (or people) we kill them.

SOL: Where are you from originally? How do you think it informs your work?

JV: I am what is commonly called a "Military Brat" which means I do not come from one place. It also means I come from the military. This shapes my work completely. I find myself in love with my country, but at odds with the system the drives it. As a commercial artist, this makes things a bit confusing at times and forces me to think and question my actions.

SOL: Where would you say you got your training, assuming it was NOT at the School of Visual Arts?
JV: I learned to design the same way one learns to swear -- I had to pick it up in the street. Plus, I’ve had the good fortune to find quality mentors and examples of excellence to guide me. A short list would include the book cover designer Paul Bacon, the Polish poster artist, Henryk Tomaszewski and the French designer, Pierre Bernard.

SOL: Can you describe your studio? What would a visitor see happening there on any given day – not a lot of working on computers, I assume…

JV: We have three computers and all the necessary printers, scanners, bare wires and accoutrements that go along with them. But the centerpiece of our environment is a large wooden table where I sit and stare at a piece of blank paper, waiting for something to happen.

SOL: What exhibit or work has been most satisfying for you? Or is teaching most gratifying?

JV: Teaching is the most satisfying--and difficult part of my work. This new book of mine is essentially a "teaching book" and not a "picture book"-- or it is if you actually read it.

SOL: What made you interested in compiling “Victore or, Who Died and Made You Boss?” at this point in your career?  It’s essentially a greatest hits album of sorts and you seem to have a lot more art to create. Is it a mid-career milestone?

JV: This book is a tombstone for a body of work created in what essentially is the "early" part of my career. I am off and running creating new work and starting new projects and fires. The new exciting projects include more ceramics and possibly another book.

SOL: What advice would you give young people who are interested in becoming designers?

JV: To make sure that this is what they love. If so, they will be committed to it, have fun and make work an audience can appreciate.

SOL: Debbie Millman will be your partner in crime at this event. Will she be a good foil for you?  Or a compatriot?

JV: I think Debbie has been training hard for this. She hasn't lost a match yet. I can only say that I'm going to come out swinging, and hope it's a fair fight.

SOL: Have you been to Minnesota before? Any thoughts on the arts scene here, or the Twin Cities in general?

JV: I visited Minnesota years ago. I was invited by the Walker Arts Center to speak. I have fond memories including cold weather, great beer and beautiful women.
5: Racism, Social poster, Self-authored, Silkscreen, 26 x 40", 1993 © James Victore
Check out Victore's appearance in Minneapolis where he'll discuss his new book with Debbie Millman. It features his in-your-face designs and how they were made. He'll warm the belly of your creativity and give it a (much-needed?) shot in the arm. And, you can see if he'll accept a fine Minnesota craft beer from you as well.

W Minneapolis - The Foshay, 821 Marquette Ave., Mpls.
5 p.m. cocktails, 6-8 p.m. V+M, 8 p.m. book signing/chatting
Tickets: $25 for AIGA members, $35 for nonmembers, $20 for students

Moët & Chandon
Advertising Poster
Moët & Chandon
CD: Alain Weill, Offset
39.5 x 27.5", 2000
© James Victore

Monday, October 18, 2010

Cut paper art injection - Stephanie Beck at PHL

Returning from a victorious Bucks Fever Film Festival to the Twin Cities, I hit the Philadelphia airport in search of a cheesesteak hoagie. While I knew it would not be nearly as good as the one I had in Richlandtown that weekend, it would allow me to live without for another six months or so. Rushing to the bar near my gate, I ran smack into a great exhibit of Stephanie Beck's Cut Paper Sculpture.

Three clear plastic cases are lined up at the end of walkway, causing traffic to disperse into many separate gates. The centerpiece is called "Aviary" (2010) and suits its Terminal D location to a tee. All are made of paper, found objects, thread and glue, and sit largely ignored by Delta travelers. The odd person leans against the boxes to chat on their cell phone, but otherwise, not many folks give the display a second look.

A kind of partially constructed, yet empty city, only shadows of birds live in its intricate structures. The feel of Philadelphia is in this piece, reflecting its ongoing construction, cranes and varying types of buildings. The use of white is striking, because it is somehow lonely, but clean. I believe it is what gives these pieces a sense of being a snap shot in time, as if humans were once here but left in a hurry.

This one, called "Neighborhood Arrangement #1 Circle" (2009), is to the right of "Aviary" and is a more orderly arrangement of edifices. Perhaps it recalls more of a suburban landscape? Beck resides in Philadelphia but surely she has experienced at least some of the expanse of suburbs that stretches out in all directions from the City of Brotherly Love.

While the photos of these at Beck's website and flickr account have the benefit of no reflections, I do love the working airport as a backdrop. The stillness of these paper cuts as juxtaposed against the hustle and bustle of PHL gives the pieces an oddly appropriate temporary home (until January 2011).

"Neighborhood Arrangement #2 Maze" (2009) is to the left as you approach. I'm lifting Beck's words directly from her website, because they sum up the exhibit so well:

I enjoy seeing the bones of these structures, on top of which strong skin is hung, yet which is so easily torn down again. I see these buildings as surrogates for ourselves, revealing our attempts at order and stability despite, or because of, our very human frailties. But secretly, I am most driven by a sense of wonder and play.

I am a new fan of Beck's as these works are both accessible -- made of cut paper -- and skillfully executed, a simple set of communities in white that are rife with contrasts. See Stephanie Beck's flickr page for more shots, as well as the Skyway of Love Facebook page. And, I'm proud to say that I discovered her by keeping my eyes open at the airport. I had that cheesesteak hoagie too. Ahhh, Cheez Whiz and public art can surely sate this wayward traveler.