Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Tadanori Yokoo

Tadanori Yokoo (横尾忠則, Yokoo Tadanori) born 1936 in Hyogo, is a Japanese graphic designer, illustrator, printmaker and painter.

Yokoo (pronounced "yoko-o") is one of Japan's most successful and internationally recognized graphic designers and artists. He began his career as a stage designer for avant garde theatre in Tokyo. His early work shows the influence of the New York based Push Pin Studio (Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast in particular) but Yokoo himself cites filmmaker Akira Kurosawa and writer Yukio Mishima as two of his most formative influences.

In the late 1960s he became interested in mysticism and psychedelia, deepened by travels in India. Because his work was so attuned to 1960s pop culture, he has often been (unfairly) described as the "Japanese Andy Warhol" or likened to psychedelic poster artist Peter Max, but Yokoo's complex and multi-layered imagery is intensely autobiographical and entirely original.

By the late 60s he had already achieved international recognition for his work and was included in the 1968 "Word & Image" exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Four years later MoMA mounted a solo exhibition of his graphic work organized by Mildred Constantine. Yokoo collaborated extensively with Shuji Terayama and his theater Tenjo Sajiki. He has also starred as a protagonist in Nagisa Oshima's film Diary of a Shinjuku Thief.

In 1981 he unexpectedly "retired" from commercial work and took up painting. His career as a fine artist continues to this day with numerous exhibitions of his paintings every year, but alongside this he remains fully engaged and prolific as a graphic designer.


Monday, 28 June 2010

Gerrit Rietveld

In the fourth posting on the theme of architect/designer I am looking at Gerrit Rietveld (24 June 1888–26 June 1964) who was a Dutch furniture designer and architect. One of the principal members of the Dutch artistic movement called De Stijl, Rietveld is famous for his Red and Blue Chair and for the Rietveld Schröder House, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rietveld designed his famous Red and Blue Chair in 1917. In 1918, he started his own furniture factory, and changed the chair's colors after becoming influenced by the 'De Stijl' movement, of which he became a member in 1919, the same year in which he became an architect.

Red and Blue Chair (1917)

He designed his first building, the Rietveld Schröder House, in 1924, in close collaboration with the owner Truus Schröder-Schräder. Built in Utrecht on the Prins Hendriklaan 50, the house has a conventional ground floor, but is radical on the top floor, lacking fixed walls but instead relying on sliding walls to create and change living spaces. The design seems like a three-dimensional realization of a Mondrian painting.

The Rietveld Schröder House. 
Note how similar in style the above detail looks to his Berlin Chair (1923)

Rietveld broke with the 'De Stijl' in 1928 and became associated with a more functionalist style of architecture known as either Nieuwe Zakelijkheid or Nieuwe Bouwen. The same year he joined the Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne. He designed the "Zig-Zag" chair in 1934 and started the design of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, which was finished after his death. He built hundreds of homes, many of which are in the city of Utrecht.

Zig-Zag Chair (1934)

His work was neglected when rationalism came into vogue but he later benefited from a revival of the style of the 1920s thirty years later.

 Dining Chair (1919)

Steel Chair (1927)

Steltman Chair (1963)

Friday, 18 June 2010

Marcel Breuer

In the third posting on the theme of architect/designer I am looking at Marcel Breuer. Marcel Lajos Breuer (21 May 1902 Pécs, Hungary – 1 July 1981 New York City), architect and furniture designer, was an influential Hungarian-born modernist of Jewish descent. One of the masters of Modernism, Breuer displayed interest in modular construction and simple forms.

Known to his friends and associates as Lajkó, Breuer studied and taught at the Bauhaus in the 1920s. The Bauhaus curriculum stressed the simultaneous education of its students in elements of visual art, craft and the technology of industrial production. Breuer was eventually appointed to a teaching position as head of the school's carpentry workshop. He later practiced in Berlin, designing houses and commercial spaces. In the 1920s and 1930s, Breuer pioneered the design of tubular steel furniture. Later in his career he would also turn his attention to the creation of innovative and experimental wooden furniture.

Wassily Chair

Perhaps the most widely-recognized of Breuer's early designs was the first bent tubular steel chair, later known as the Wassily Chair, designed in 1925 and was inspired, in part, by the curved tubular steel handlebars on Breuer's Adler bicycle. Despite the widespread popular belief that the chair was designed for painter Wassily Kandinsky, Breuer's colleague on the Bauhaus faculty, it was not; Kandinsky admired Breuer's finished chair design, and only then did Breuer make an additional copy for Kandinsky's use in his home. When the chair was re-released in the 1960s, it was designated "Wassily" by its Italian manufacturer, who had learned that Kandinsky had been the recipient of one of the earliest post-prototype units.

Plywood chair

In the 1930s, due to the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, Breuer relocated to London. While in London, Breuer was employed by Jack Pritchard at the Isokon company; one of the earliest introducers of modern design to the United Kingdom. Breuer designed his Long Chair as well as experimenting with bent and formed plywood.

Cesca chair 1928

Breuer eventually ended up in the United States. He taught at Harvard's architecture school, working with students such as Philip Johnson, Paul Rudolph and I.M.Pei who later became well-known U.S. architects. (At one point Johnson called Breuer "a peasant mannerist".) At the same time, Breuer worked with old friend and Bauhaus colleague Walter Gropius, also at Harvard, on the design of several houses in the Boston area.

Wolfson Trailer House, Pleasant Valley, N.Y.

Breuer dissolved his partnership with Gropius in May 1941 and established his own firm in New York. The 1953 commission for UNESCO headquarters in Paris was a turning point for Breuer: a return to Europe, a return to larger projects after years of only residential commissions, and the beginning of Breuer's adoption of concrete as his primary medium. He became known as one of the leading practitioners of Brutalism, with an increasingly curvy, sculptural, personal idiom. Windows were often set in soft, pillowy depressions rather than sharp, angular recesses. Many architects remarked at his ability to make concrete appear "soft".

UNESCO headquarters

Between 1963 and 1964, Breuer began work on what is perhaps his best-known project, the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York City. He also established a Parisian office with the name "Marcel Breuer Architecte," from which he could better orchestrate his European projects.

Whitney Museum N.Y.

Armstrong Rubber Co. Headquarters, West Haven, Conn.

McMullen Beach House, Mantoloking, New Jersey.

1922 chair

1927 chair

c1970s Dining table

My rather saggy Cesca chair in my studio

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Per Lütken

Another famous Scandinavian glass maker was Per Lütken (1916-1998), a Danish glassmaker most famous for his works at Holmegaard Glass Factory ("Holmegaard Glasværk" in Danish).
Countess Henriette Danneskiold-Samsøe is the woman behind Holmegaard. The whole history of Holmegaard Glassworks started in 1823, when Count Christian Danneskiold-Samsøe petitioned the Danish king for permission to build a glassworks at Holmegaard Mose. But the count died that same year without receiving an answer. His widow decided to pursue the project when she received royal permission to build the glassworks after the death of her husband. The glassworks was sited in a bog because there was plenty of the fuel needed to achieve and maintain high temperatures in the glass furnaces.

In 1825 began the first production on Holmegaard. To begin with the glassworks only made green bottles, but Henriette also wanted to produce clear drinking glasses, which were the preserve of Bohemian glass makers.
The history of Holmegaard Glassworks is the story of a couple of small glass factories in a peat bog that, in the course of 175 years, became part of a large, modern group. During the 20th century artists entered the picture as designers for Holmegaard's glassware. This was the start of a long and proud tradition, with the result that some of Denmark's best artists are now associated with glass production at Holmegaard.


Lütken has, more than anyone else, set his signature on the history of Danish glassmaking, designing more than 3,000 pieces of glass for Holmegaard, for whom he worked from 1942 and until his death in 1998.


Amongst the best known series created by him are 'Ideelle', 'Skibsglas', 'No. 5', 'Selandia' and 'Charlotte Amalie', all of which are still selling at high prices throughout the World. They are all regarded as design icons, and are found in many Danish homes this day.

'Charlotte Amelie'

Lütken was famous for his range of  'biomorphic' bowls.
Ikea still sell a version today.

A vase

A glass ornament

A range of blue vases

1955 Holmegaard Blue Wave freeform bowl

1961 Holmegaard Greenland vases

1962 Fionia bowl

1967 Holmegaard Havanna vase

1968 Kastrup/Holmegaard Carnaby vases

Flamingo orchid vases

Holmegaard Bulge vase

Holmegaard Canada cordial glasses

Holmegaard Rondo blue vase

Two pieces of Per Lütken's 1960's glass from my own collection:
A blue biomorphic bowl and a vase.