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Heart on his Sleeve: Vaughan Oliver

I recently paid a visit to the graphic designer Vaughan Oliver, best known for his work over the years for the record label 4AD. As the producer of the Pixies, the Cocteau Twins, Red House Painters, and Modern English, 4AD helped to define the sound of British post-punk music; but Oliver defined the look. Founder Ivo Watts-Russell gave him free rein on developing the graphic identity of the label, and he responded with a body of work that is remarkable for its visual density and consistency, featuring quintessentially postmodern tactics like erratic typography, cut-and-paste visuals, and appropriated imagery. Oliver now …

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Tower of Power

As I've mentioned in some previous posts, I am currently working on an exhibition for the V&A entitled Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 to 1990. We've been making many acquisitions for the museum in the process of preparing the show, and none is more exciting than this one: It looks OK online, but you really have to see it in person. At about 7 feet tall, rendered by hand in felt-tip marker and pencil, it's grand in every sense. It is the original presentation drawing for the iconic postmodern skyscraper that Philip Johnson and his colleagues designed for AT&T in …

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A Look at 2012

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the construction site for the new Olympic Stadium, in the company of our students on the V&A/RCA Course in Design History. Project architect Philip Johnson (no relation to the great American modernist) and his colleagues from the firm Populous, who designed the structure, gave us a wonderful and revealing tour. Here's a few of the things we learned about planning for a building that will arrest the attention of the world two years from now. Stage Set Architecture. If you've noticed anything about the preparatory renderings for the stadium …

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Lumps of Geometry

As I may have mentioned before, I've been working recently on a big exhibition about Postmodernism here at the V&A. One of the most exciting aspects of the project has been making acquisitions: finding objects for the collection that will stay long after the show has ended.

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Trail of Tears

I'm just back from a trip to Madrid, a first for me on many fronts: first time in the city, first time I've seen a country celebrating a World Cup victory (the game happened while I was there), first time to the Prado to see what is probably my favorite painting, Velazsquez's Las Meninas. It was also my first time to visit the Reina Sofia, Madrid's impressive museum for modern art, and hence to see their prize possession – Picasso's Guernica. This is a big month for Picasso in the UK, with a major show at Gagosian here in London …

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A String Theory

How do you create a drawing in space? What you need is a linear element that can be held in tension, left to droop, crossed and tangled – just like a pencil line (which can be ruled, freely drawn, and overlapped). String is the thing.

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Adventures Inside the Atom

This guest post has been contributed by Rosie Wanek, of the V&A Exhibitions Department. I have a memory of a poster that hung on my bedroom wall when I was young. I must have been around 5 or 6. It was lovingly drawn in marker pen by my mother and showed a tree being chopped down into ever smaller pieces across a series of nine drawings. By around picture five, the recognisable illustrations of plant life had transformed magically into a diagram of a cell, an image that bore no resemblance to anything my five-year-old eyes had ever seen. This …

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Circular Logic

In my 2007 book Thinking Through Craft, I related the story of ‘Giotto’s O,’ told by Vasari in his Lives of the Artists, as a way of talking about skill. It’s a good enough anecdote to repeat here. Pope Benedict IX, having heard of Giotto’s fame, sent a courtier to seek him out. When the […]

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Inside the Lines: Richard Kindersley

They say great minds think alike. If the reverse is also true, then the London gallery Contemporary Applied Arts and I should both be flattered. Their current show, guest curated by Scottish craft specialist Amanda Game, is a striking parallel to this blog. It's all about the relationship between drawings and objects. Below are examples of works in the show by Gordon Baldwin (left) and Susan Cross (right), showing how draftsmanship can be translated into the languages of ceramics and thread. Though the whole show is worth a look, the artist whose drawings most caught my attention was Richard Kindersley. …

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Living the Dream: El Lissitzky

In design circles, the Dutch town of Eindhoven is best known for its excellent Design Academy – which has produced some of the biggest names in the field over the past decade.

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