Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bronson: "I Love Milton Glaser"

Dear honorable and dishonorable guests,

I would like at this moment in time to introduce to you MILTON GLASER.

On Milton Glaser's website http://www.miltonglaser.com/ his medium version of his biography it opens with "to many, milton Glaser is the embodiment of the American graphic design during the latter half of the 20th century". His creativity and articulate nature have seen him be recognised as modern renaissance man "a rare breed of intellectual designer-illustrators, who brings a depth of understanding and conceptual thinking, combined with a diverse richness of visual language, to his highly inventive and individualistic work."

Glaser (b.1929) is the most celebrated graphic designer in the United States. A founder, with Seymour Chwast, of the Push Pin Studio, he is best known for his poster designs. Glaser trained with the painter, Giorgio Morandi, and is an articulate spokesman for the value of ‘commercial art.’

Q: What is the commercial/artistic/social role of the poster?

A: If we mane by ‘role’ a pre-existing, intrinsic function, the poster’s role is to convey information from a source to an audience, in order to move that audience to an amplification or change of perception that produces an awareness or an action. When a poster has a commercial intention it obviously intends to convince an audience to buy goods and services.
The artistic role of any poster is more difficult to ascertain. Depending on your definition, posters do not have to be ‘artistic’ to be effective. (i.e. be successful in its ‘roles’). It is far more important for posters to be effective than artistic. The aesthetic part of poster making has more to do with the objectives of its maker than the requirements of form. Because of the poster’s historical relationship to the world of painting, and by virtue of its physical size, the poster seems to offer more opportunities for the designer to do artistic or imaginative work than many of the other areas of in which he may be working.
In addition to the significant function of informing and motivating a public, the question of the poster’s social role is a more subtle one. Does society benefit from experiencing works that have ‘artistic’ merit and which are well made? Without beginning to define those evasive terms I would have to say yes, although I would be hard pressed to prove a case. To add to the ambiguity, it should be noted that a well-made object does not have to be well made.

Q: What do you think of the old-fashioned term ‘commercial art’ (vis a vis ‘graphic design’)?

A: Design seems to occupy a place between fine art ad craft, between aesthetics and commerce, beauty and persuasion, novelty and familiarity and so on. Obviously, the emphasis between the polarities changes in response to the specific problem, and the intention and talent of the designer. The term ‘commercial art’ is a simplification and seems to eliminate the inherent conflict. For this reason I prefer the more ambiguous phrase ‘graphic design.’

Q: Is money a corrupting influence in poster design?

A: Perhaps in one sense: when financial risks are greatest, clients tend to be most conservative. The fear of losing a significant amount of money can have a chilling effect on one’s sense of adventure and imagination.

Q: What is your view of the poster and its relation to ‘high art?’

A: When does ‘high art’ meet ‘low art?’ At this encounter is everything above the line ‘art’ and everything below ‘non-art’? What shall we call the material below the line craft, applied art, commercial art, decoration? Who invented this question? Who is served by the distinction? Does it matter? The search for ‘high art’ is a theological issue, like the search for the true cross. The culture priests attempt to protect the world from false religion or faith, a never-ending task. I have a modest proposal; why don’t we discard the word ‘art’ and replace it with the word ‘work?’ Those objects made with care and extraordinary talent we can call ‘great work’, those deserving special attention, but not breathtaking, we call ‘good work’. Honest, appropriately made objects without special distinction we name ‘work’ alone. And what remains deserves the title ‘bad work’. One simple fact encourages me in this proposal; we value a good rug, a beautiful book, or a good poster over any bad painting.

Q: Does mass reproduction diminish the value of posters (i.e. does the value in matters of the visual depend on the uniqueness of masterpieces)?

A: I seem to be getting terribly Talmudic, but it depends on one’s definition of value; the most significant value of any work or design is in its effect on the world. Mass reproduction is one way for these words to be seen and experienced. Of course, this has nothing to do with the selling price of scarce objects. In the first case we are talking about the value of art in a cultural and historical sense, in the second we’re talking about the manipulations and illusions of the market place.

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