Carin Goldberg on Ulysses

“The controversial cover I designed for Ulysses was the one that Tibor [Kalman] targeted. The very specific brief that I received from the editor and Judy Loeser, the art director of Vintage Books in the 1980s, was to design the cover in the tradition of the previous Ulysses cover, designed by McKnight Kauffer in 1949. The trajectory of the Ulysses covers is well documented in the book By Its Cover by Ned Drew and Paul Sternberger. I was specifically asked to play with a big capital U and to maintain the typographic direction of the previously published Ulysses covers. There wasn’t much of a hook or a concept to work with. The content of the book was specifically irrelevant [to] the brief. Therefore, style was the only way to approach the thing. I designed several variations and, again, my references came from modernist typographic posters. I rationalized that Joyce was a modernist. That was my hook.

Was it a total rip off of an original poster? No. It was homage to the poster and to the period. In the same way that Vintage Books was paying homage to Joyce and republishing the classic Ulysses, I was paying homage to classic works of design. At the time there was hissing and booing from my detractors. Still is. I say, tough. Leave me alone already. In the meantime, that cover is considered a classic, for better or for worse. I moved on the day after I handed in the comp. Next!”

— Carin Goldberg (RIP)

Frank Pavich on Jodorowsky

“Alejandro told me about the Greek-Armenian philosopher and mystic George Gurdjieff. He taught that we are born without a soul and that our task in life is to help our soul to grow and develop: Souls aren’t born; they’re earned. Every single day, Alejandro creates. He writes, he draws, he paints. He works on his soul through art. Next month he’ll turn 94, and he’s preparing to direct a new film. He’s a man in perpetual creative motion.”

— Frank Pavich on Alejandro Jodorowsky (via)

Walter Gropius at DeCordova

Remarks by Walter Gropius at the ground-breaking ceremony for new classrooms | DeCordova Museum | September 19, 1965

“This unique institution, which we are lucky to have in Lincoln celebrates the ground breaking of a new classroom building, so it seems to be fitting to emphasize today the importance of its consistent activities, the more so as President Johnson seems to be determined to make a campaign against ugliness to make America beautiful. Ugliness can certainly not be overcome by ordinances, but people must be educated to see, to care for the beauty of their surroundings and to acquire a sense of visual unity. Beauty, I think, is a basic requirement of life. When a society has recognized this, and has educated itself to see, it will finally produce a cultural image. The DeCordova has actively helped for years to create and sustain a cultural climate in our region, and this is a pre-condition for restoring the visual unity of our habitat.

Our modern society is also on trial where cultural integration is concerned, and this certainly cannot be accomplished by handing out authoritative beauty formulas to an uncomprehending public, untrained to see, to perceive, to discriminate. A society such as ours, which has conferred equal privileges on everybody, will have to acknowledge its duty to activate the general responsiveness to spiritual and aesthetic values, to intensify the development of everybody’s imaginative faculties. We shall have to raise the expectations and demands that people make on their own way of living, to waken and sharpen their latent capacities for creation and for cooperation. And only this can create the basis from which eventually the creative act of the artist can rise. Not as an isolated phenomenon, ignored and rejected by the crowd, but firmly imbedded in a network of public response and understanding. The only active influence which our society can take toward such a goal is to see to it that our educational system for the next generation will develop in each child from the beginning a perceptive awareness which intensifies his sense of form. He is born with eyes, but can he see? No. He has to learn how to see. Seeing more, he then will comprehend more of what he sees and will learn to understand the positive and negative factors which influence the environment he finds himself in. Our present methods of education which put a premium on accumulation of knowledge have rarely reached out to include a training in creative habits of observing, seeing and shaping our surroundings. And the apathy we meet in many citizens who entertain only vague notions of wishing to get away from it all can certainly be traced to this early failure of arousing their active interest in the improvement of their living area. So children should be introduced right from the start to the potentialities of their environment, to the physical and psychological laws that govern the visual world, and to the supreme enjoyment that comes from participating in the creative process of giving form to one’s living space. And such experience, if continued in depth throughout the whole of the educational cycle, will never be forgotten and will prepare the adult to continue taking an informed interest in what happens around him.

Recent research at the University of Chicago shows that the high IQ children seek out the safety and security of the known, while the high creative children seem to enjoy the risk and uncertainty of the unknown. I believe we should strengthen this creative spirit which is essentially one of non-conformist, independent search, and we must instill respect for it and create response to it on the broadest level, otherwise the common man stays below his potential and the uncommon man burns up his fireworks in isolation. But the most difficult to learn is what we might call the “direct approach to design” that sounds so easy. This is to keep one’s mind unprejudiced, to discard all non-essential features, and thus to develop, so to speak, a state of new innocence.

May I remind you of a very nice old Chinese parable of an artist who wanted to carve a beautiful post for bell-chimes. By making it, he thought he could win love from his people, but the result was a flop. He tried again, expecting glory, honor and money as a result, but the second attempt also misfired. Finally he concentrated in a straight-forward manner only on the work at hand, without secondary thought, and lo and behold now he succeeded. To gain such insight in a long process of trial and error one cannot begin early enough. And the tragedy is that most people are placed before such experience so late in the educational process that it does not become a determining factor of their development. Their attitudes become stereotyped before they have a chance to learn to trust their own reactions, thereby to release their own talents. It is therefore of incalculable value for a town such as Lincoln to have an institution of experimental learning in the various forms of art as at DeCordova.

In a highly developed democracy, the intuitive qualities of the artist are as much needed as those of the scientist and the mathematician. All our children have innate ability, a desire to produce form. But this talent must be given a chance to assert itself instead of being relegated to the sidelines. Under the imaginative leadership of Mr. Walkey and his staff, the DeCordova Museum has gone far beyond the confines which museums usually set for themselves. It has become a vital center for young and old, not just to contemplate the masterpieces of renowned artists and artisans, but to try actively their own hands at the creative process, to participate. So, I wish that the new classroom building will become the happy container of many new creative contributions in Lincoln.”

Saul Bass on economics

“The film business has always been more or less driven by economics. It’s just that these days it is more rather than less. No surprise when the cost of a feature film today is $20,000,000. That’s on average! Films that cost $40-50 million aren’t that unusual anymore. When the stakes are that high, one bad decision can wipe out several careers. So people become nervous and tentative. And decisions to an increasing extent are made by committee. A few years ago the screenwriter Bill Goldman wrote a book about the film business which was full of marvelous insights. One of the best was ‘Nobody knows anything.’ When movies cost so much, it’s very hard to justify making them for narrow audiences. Everything has to be theoretically broad-based in order to survive. And at its worst that sort of pressure can suffocate experimentation and innovation. On the other hand, I’m not one of those people who take an elitist position. I think that the most difficult and ultimately most rewarding challenge is to create something of quality that lots of people will respond to.”

— Saul Bass, from a mid-90s Graphis interview

Ghosting by Andrea Cohen

Ghosting
Andrea Cohen

How cavalier
people are—

with language
and with silence.

Any ghost will
tell you—

the last thing
we mean

to do
is leave you.

Jiří Menzel on compromise

“Everything, especially in the arts and especially in filmmaking is the result of a compromise. If you’re an engineer, you have to make a compromise with the laws of physics. You have to adapt to them, you have to accept them. If you’re an architect, a joiner, anything, a shoemaker or waiter… The point is to do it the best you can under the given circumstances.”

— Jiří Menzel

Robert Louis Stevenson on living

“It may be argued again that dissatisfaction with our life’s endeavour springs in some degree from dulness. We require higher tasks, because we do not recognise the height of those we have. Trying to be kind and honest seems an affair too simple and too inconsequential for gentlemen of our heroic mould; we had rather set ourselves to something bold, arduous, and conclusive; we had rather found a schism or suppress a heresy, cut off a hand or mortify an appetite. But the task before us, which is to co–endure with our existence, is rather one of microscopic fineness, and the heroism required is that of patience. There is no cutting of the Gordian knots of life; each must be smilingly unravelled.

To be honest, to be kind—to earn a little and to spend a little less, to make upon the whole a family happier for his presence, to renounce when that shall be necessary and not be embittered, to keep a few friends but these without capitulation—above all, on the same grim condition, to keep friends with himself—here is a task for all that a man has of fortitude and delicacy. He has an ambitious soul who would ask more; he has a hopeful spirit who should look in such an enterprise to be successful. There is indeed one element in human destiny that not blindness itself can controvert: whatever else we are intended to do, we are not intended to succeed; failure is the fate allotted. It is so in every art and study; it is so above all in the continent art of living well. Here is a pleasant thought for the year’s end or for the end of life: Only self–deception will be satisfied, and there need be no despair for the despairer.”

— Robert Louis Stevenson

František Vláčil on creativity

“I think, in fact, that creative work…genuine creative activity is a special prerogative of humans causing them much… good. And giving them a good feeling. Whenever I was making a film and I stopped being creative and suddenly ceased having some kind of relation to the movie what remained was only work. It was terribly hard, and mostly it showed in the movie since creativity is man’s privilege. Work is violence while creativity is joy.”

— František Vláčil

Ursula K. Le Guin on sharing

“Nothing is yours. It is to use. It is to share. If you will not share it, you cannot use it.”

— Ursula K. Le Guin

Jiří Menzel on new waves

“Nothing survives a few years or even a season, and this applies also to art. At every moment there is something new which they write about for half a year then forget about…And the films are also being made in a hurried fashion. They appear in the cinema for two weeks and then the curtains close on them. Unfortunately it’s like that…and that applies also to books, to everything, to visual arts…There’s always a new wave, always something new…and everything is only short term…”

— Jiří Menzel from the end of CzechMate: In Search of Jiří Menzel