Took a spring road trip up to Massachusetts last week and, along with some nice hiking and wandering through towns, visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. I'd never been before, though I realized I'd gotten to see many Rockwell paintings in person at the Guggenheim years ago. I was very impressed then, and I still am. Plus there were paintings that I hadn't seen in the NY show, and some fun sketches.
What I especially liked at the museum was an exhibition of the 1950s American illustrator Mac Conner, one of the 'original Mad Men'. From the curator: "He made his career at a time when New York dominated American publishing and advertising, and illustration defined the graphic look of the industry. From the pages of magazines like Collier's, Woman's Home Companion and Redbook, Conner and his fellow commercial artists popularized an image of postwar America-- newly prosperous, redolent with middle-class family values, and populated by glamorous, strikingly homogenous people."
That basically says it- not exactly a fully representative look at the era- yet you can't help but be swept away by these images and the stories they tell, either by what they include or what they omit, like the show "Mad Men" to which the curators refer. Seeing these hand-drawn illustrations in person is a treat for me, because they are really fine, not throwaway sketches. The limitations imposed by printers and layout pushed these illustrators to fresh ways of picture-making that I admire and have tried in my own painting- for example, using black, white and one other color to great effect. For their part, they were influenced by illustrators like Leyendecker who preceded them.
A collection of art by Joe de Mers, another prolific illustrator of that time, is part of this exhibition, and both are up through June 19. The Conner show was organized by the Museum of the City of New York and I see they did this retrospective there in 2014- how did that pass me by? Glad I happened to visit Stockbridge MA and got to see it. Visit the links or search Mac Conner to see lots of images, as I only took a few photos before closing time.
Today my attention was called to the drawings of Henry Dreyfuss, an American industrial designer (1904-1972) who designed many commercial and consumer products in the '30s through the '60s. I found lots of info about him online and became pleasantly lost in image after image of his drawings. I'm guessing they were not intended as stand-alone illustrations or fine art in any sense, but I can tell they are much admired today, and I naturally find them very familiar and appealing.
Some of my paintings are straightforward enough in their depiction of a single object or group of objects, as to have more in common with an illustration of a product than to convey a meaning or concept. If I could still find a job illustrating objects, with room for a bit of simplification or exaggeration, I might be okay yet. I wonder if it is becoming less important that I try to convey the 'why' (motivation, story, feelings) behind my choice of subject.
The installation of these three paintings in the group show that opened at Regal Bag April 16 in Newburgh.
As I've mentioned before, I like old road maps (40s, 50s, 60s) and often make work inspired by their images and earnestness. Today is the 92nd anniversary of Rand McNally's first road atlas, their Auto Chum. The freedom and mobility offered by the automobile! The 'oil-company cartography'! The 'petrol propaganda'! I know- the car-culture insanity- but, the pictures and graphics are incredible. I'm looking at their road atlas cover retrospective, and surprised again that elements like graphic design and typefaces alone can trigger such imagined or actual nostalgia. I remember the sun-faded covers of '80s and '90s Road Atlases on the floor of the backseat, beneath my swinging feet. All I knew was that it took forever to get there.
I have three paintings from my 'Fisher-Price Milk Bottles' series in this group show curated by the Chris Davison Gallery. Opens Sat April 16 at the spacious Regal Bag Factory on the Newburgh waterfront.
Reception 6-8 pm. Open Fri, Sat, Sun through June 18.
On Jan 1 I had decided that even if I didn't manage a drawing every day of 2016, I'd still maintain it often enough to have more than if I hadn't attempted the practice at all. Here are 12 of them. Some are sketches for paintings or based on past images, but most are in the context of what I see, am thinking about, or am inspired by.