13 March, 2008
At RISD, BFA candidate Alvin Aronson has made the witty and beautiful "d/a clock," in which seven-segment LED numbers are made manifest in Corian and wood. There's something irresistable about digital artifacts come to life; watching this mesmerizing video of Aronson's functioning clock, I'm reminded of the Game Music Concerts in which the Tokyo Philharmonic performed the themes from Super Mario Brothers and The Legend of Zelda. Like these, Aronson's work is certainly mordant and entertaining, but it's undeniably Art. —JH
26 January, 2008
Elliott Puckette at Paul Kasmin Gallery
If you suspect that my typographic leanings affect my taste for other visual arts, it will come as no surprise to learn how much I love the work of Elliott Puckette. There's a show of her recent work at Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, which runs through February 23: do not miss it.
An interesting counterpoint to the works themselves is Judith Goldman's interview with the artist, published in the exhibition catalog. Puckette counts Oleg Grabar's study of Islamic calligraphy among her influences, along with the asemic writing of artists such as Henri Michaux. She mentions other influences that are further afield, and less directly evident in her work: the physiognomical portraits of Johann Caspar Laveter, the Celestial Alphabet, and the Walam Olum, among others. But most striking to me was this comment, in which Puckette describes how she began using a razor as a tool:
I warmed up to it slowly. I was looking at penmanship books and doing paintings of the letter O and A, and I thought about making the image negative by painting around it.... I thought, if I scratch it out, that would be easier, and I'd get there faster. Cutting and scratching was a way to slow the line down. In the end it wasn't about adding; it was about subtracting.
What's remarkable is that this is exactly how typefaces are designed: not by constructing letterforms in black, but by drawing counters in white. That Puckette chose an implement for stripping away, rather than building up, is also fascinating: files and gravers, the traditional tools of typemaking, are tools for creating whitespace. (Their profound affect on type design, which cannot be underestimated, is the central thesis of Fred Smeijers' excellent Counterpunch.) I can't help but wonder what a Puckette-designed typeface might look like; perhaps we'll someday find out? —JH
26 November, 2007
Ice Ice Typeface
I'll admit it: snow-covered typography is a guilty pleasure, and one I get to enjoy throughout the year. Summertime icicle fonts are never hard to find, once soft-serve ice cream trucks establish strategic flanking positions on either side of our office. And in the winter, their appearance on the sides of HVAC trucks heralds the return of seasonal boiler problems, a cherished part of the winter experience in New York.
Although all H&FJ fonts are guaranteed frost-free for easy maintenance, the wags at Deitch have come up with this seasonal adaptation, in keeping with their site's summer delight theme. Under these snowcaps is our very own Gotham Bold font, artful iciclized by illustrator/guitarist Rick Froberg. So great! —JH