Ten Great Art & Design YouTube Videos

Today I've selected ten art and design-related YouTube videos that I hope will inspire and entertain you. The subjects run the gamut from fine art and graphic design to graphic novelists, but they have one thing in common: serious ass-kickery. Enjoy.

Josef Albers: Homage to the Square

Here is a discussion of a painting (‘Aurora’) from Josef Albers’ ‘Homage to the Square’ series. I wish I could go back in time and take a class with the famed Bauhaus/Black Mountain master who believed that color was a “magic force.”

Paul Rand Interview

“Most good things have a timeless quality” according to designer Paul Rand, and this interview with him (on a hopelessly 80’s cable access program) is no exception. Rand is a hero of graphic design; his timeless work (logo designs for IBM, ABC, UPS) and no-nonsense, utilitarian approach to design can be seen here. Rand didn’t offer clients many choices for the solution to a logo design assignment “for the same reason that a doctor doesn’t give you a million choices – if you’ve got a headache, he’ll give you an aspirin. He doesn't give you a choice between that and Ex-Lax.” Visit YouTube to watch parts 2 and 3 of this interview with the coolest dude that ever did it.

Charles Burns in 'Fear(s) of the Dark'

This is artist Charles Burns’ entry in the animated French film ‘Peur(s) du Noir’ (‘Fears of the Dark’). Burns is responsible for Black Hole, the best graphic novel you’ll ever read. He uses his beautifully stark illustration style to tell Cronenberg-ian tales of love and lust that are dark, creepy, and usually populated with mutants. This film isn't available on DVD yet but this YouTube version will tide me over until it is. Visit YouTube for Part II.

Paula Scher: Great Design is Serious (Not Solemn)

Here is Pentagram partner Paula Scher’s speech ‘Great Design Is Serious (Not Solemn)’. Ms. Scher is refreshingly honest about the joys and disappointments of her career; she admits that some of her best work occurred in situations where she was “totally and completely unqualified for the job.”

Aesthetic Apparatus

The artists at the Milwaukee-based design studio Aesthetic Apparatus discuss their inspirations and processes. You know how every Criterion DVD release looks more beautiful than a cold beer on a hot day? These guys are one of the reasons why.

Jeff Koons Interview

Art is a “vehicle that creates anxiety.” Jeff Koons is interviewed here by the Tate Museum in his New York studio. If Warhol's studio was a factory, then Koons' place is an industrial complex. Out of all the museums whose YouTube channels I've browsed over the last week, the Tate's was the most watchable.

David Carson: Design, Discovery, and Humor

This is a quite funny and amusing speech given by David Carson, a graphic designer famous for breaking/ignoring a lot of rules in his work. “Don’t mistake legibility for communication,” he says here. “Just because something’s legible doesn’t mean it communicates; more importantly, it doesn’t mean it communicates the right thing.”

Matt Groening: 'My Wasted Life'

This is part one of a BBC program called ‘My Wasted Life’ about Simpsons creator Matt Groening. Groening recalls the sweet surreality of his own youth as well as the cultural roots of Bart and the gang. My favorite Groening comic: Bongo's Dream House.

Jenny Holzer: PROTECT PROTECT (Whitney Exhibit)

This video considers the politics of Jenny Holzer’s work on view in 'PROTECT PROTECT' at the Whitney Museum. Jenny Holzer has always been one of my favorites due to her skill at uniting image and word; the intersection of visual and literary arts has been a lifelong fascination for me. See the Whitney exhibit this week; its last day on view is Sunday, May 31st.


Here is your new muse. Watch this video once a day and behold the wellspring of creativity that is sure to erupt from within your spirit.

Attention: Artists

Do you need to get your portfolio online or upgrade your web presence? I'd like to build your site - and at a very low price. I've been building websites for the last year (mostly Wordpress-based blog/magazine sites like the one I built at www.fivechapters.com) but I'd like to begin building portfolio sites (view the one I built for my own work at www.magneticstate.com). My goal is to build simple, professional sites with intelligent navigation and a layout that makes your work shine. Take advantage of my cheap rates while they last and drop me a line at dan@magneticstate.com.


Miami Baldwin & Psycho Pasta

The two most entertaining movies I watched this week were Miami Blues and Beyond the Mat.

Full throttle Baldwin.

Take one look at the film still above and you'll understand why I had to watch Miami Blues. This is a bizarre movie that's a lot of fun to watch; the schizophrenic tone of the film wanders between dark comedy, cop thriller, and B-movie drek. This forgotten nineties flick stars the inimitable Alec Baldwin in a full-throttle performance as a con man prone to thievery and suspicious sidelong glances. In most scenes, Baldwin can be seen slugging on a beer while proudly displaying his beastly chest hair. The wafer-thin 'plot' of the movie is nonsensical and bizarre - Baldwin kills a Hari Krishna at the airport by breaking his finger (?), and spends the rest of the movie dodging the cops while posing as one. Overall fun to watch for the weird performance by young Baldwin in his prime and tacky nineties Miami Vice wardrobes.

Unlikely pasta spokesman: psychopath with talking sock sidekick.

Beyond the Mat is a documentary about pro wrestling. These real-life stories might pull a Star Trek on you by entertaining and fascinating you even if you don't normally give a shit about the subject matter. Judging by the tales in this film, Mickey Rourke's chewed-up has-been in The Wrestler probably feels almost biographical for many former pros (especially Jake 'The Snake' Roberts). The most arresting character is Mick Foley (aka Mankind), a kind and sensitive family man whose on-stage persona is a savage madman. Foley gets a dose of reality when he sees his kids' visceral, potentially traumatic reactions to the beatings that Dad takes at work. Beyond the Mat reveals that pro wrestling is "fake, but not as fake as you'd think." These guys are choreographed and trained, but they often bleed real blood and literally put their lives on the line.


The Appropriate Demeanor

"The appropriate demeanor for a human is to feel lucky that he is alive and to humble himself in the face of the immensity of things and have a beer." --Dr.Kary Mullis, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry


The Work of A.J. Fosik

A.J. Fosik has a show that goes up at White Walls (San Francisco) on June 13th. View more of his recent work here. A.J. and I had a few classes together at Parsons and his work has developed into something astounding. These pieces look like Carlos Castaneda acid visions of animal spirits from another realm. They also remind me of the evil puppets in Joe Dante's portion of Twilight Zone: The Movie. I am impressed with the complexity of the structure, the attention to detail (check out the veins protruding from the bottom of the head), and a sense of mythology that is just as sophisticated as the mouth-watering use of color. For those of you in the San Francisco area, I'd recommend going to see the White Walls show because I bet that up close, these things look like they are going to devour you, digest your spirit, and regurgitate it in the form of a thousand brightly colored pieces.


All Apologies

This amusing set of 9 mock open/closed signs comes from the clever people at Aesthetic Apparatus (go here to see the other side of the signs). Not only are these folks charmingly self-effacing and clearly having lots of fun, but everything that comes out of their studio looks like a million bucks.


The Citizen Kane of Blog Posts

To call a film the Citizen Kane of its genre has become the ultimate (and ultimately absurd) superlative. Orson Welles' 1941 masterpiece represents a watershed moment in filmmaking and is considered by many to be the best film ever made. Therefore, it sounds pretty preposterous/awesome (depending on how drunk you are) to say that Shakes The Clown is "the Citizen Kane of alcoholic clown movies." Anyways, I was curious about this phenomenon, so I did some research. It turns out that some writers are not afraid to call something (egg rolls, for example) the Citizen Kane of anything (food, let's say). Is it funny, or is poor Orson rolling in his grave? Here are some of the results of my research.

Citizen Kanes in Film

'Whore,' "The Citizen Kane Of Streetwalker Movies Starring Megan Fox And Rumer Willis" (Defamer)
This movie stars one young woman who is famous because she's hot and another who is famous because her dad is a big R&B star. Does it warrant a Citizen Kane comparison? Methinks not. I would have been willing to accept "the Touch of Evil of streetwalker movies," however.

'You Got Served' is “the Citizen Kane of break-dancing movies! And yet it still isn't any damned good.” (Mountain Xpress)
"Isn't any damned good"!?! I disagree and respectfully take umbrage. I consider the scene in Served where breakdancer J-Boog segues a coin drop into a boyoing to be equivalent to the famed Kane 'breakfast table' montage where Charles Foster Kane's marriage erodes from idyllic to grueling. And I'm sure we can all agree that The Lil' Saints are the 'Rosebud' of breakdancing crews.

'National Treasure II' is "The Citizen Kane Of American-History-Themed Bruckheimer Thrill Rides" (The Insider)
Nicolas Cage is the opposite of Orson Welles. Welles was a renaissance man who displayed brilliant talent as a director, writer, actor, and producer. Some say he was a genius. Cage, on the other hand, is an untalented actor who has managed to gain box office success using only one facial expression (concerned)*. Most say he is a grade-A dingleberry. Comparing the two is like comparing Twinkies and Filet Mignon. *Also guilty of 'acting' with only the 'concerned' facial expression: Elijah Wood.

'The Room' is "the Citizen Kane of bad movies" (The American Scene)
Now, there's a lot of tough competition for the category of really bad movies (ever see Pay It Forward?). However, The Room is surely one of the most regrettable movies ever committed to film. This drek is a cross between an episode of your least favorite soap opera (I'm looking at you, Days!), your creepiest sexual fantasy, and a horse fart. For those who are unfamiliar, The Room features a nauseating parade of repulsive sex scenes, a delusional (and sinewy) writer/director/star who took this farce very seriously, and a cast of supporting actors more wooden than cigar store Indians. Sheer shit. However, for many viewers, The Room also epitomizes the phrase 'so bad it's good.'

'Superbad' is “the Citizen Kane of dick-joke movies.” (Onion A.V. Club)
God, that movie is funny. Coincidentally, there's an Orson Welles reference in Superbad. Seth complains that when it comes to girls, he's peaked early, and his friend Evan replies, "You're like Orson Welles." (Kane was Welles' hit feature directorial debut, but he faced many obstacles during the rest of his career.) Somehow, I don't imagine that this joke scored big among the legions of chortling McLovins that packed theaters for this one. Still awesome, though.

The Citizen Kane of Kids in the Hall sketches

The Citizen Kane of Comic Book Movies

"Watchmen set to rival Citizen Kane" (UK Metro)

Nerds worldwide recently fogged up their nerd goggles while arguing over what is the Citizen Kane of comic books and the Citizen Kane of superhero movies. To quote the above article: “Okay, so we've established that Watchmen is the Citizen Kane of comic books. But could the upcoming film become the Citizen Kane of movies? Well, no, that title will probably stay with Citizen Kane.” Probably? My whole thing is - how can you be so sure? Now that the nerds agree, I'm certain that the distributors of Watchmen are considering manufacturing their DVD packages with the title Citizen Kane on the cover. Welles' film should thereafter be produced under the title The Film Formerly Known As Citizen Kane. Either that or we should just ditch it.

Citizen Kanes of Stuff

"Charles Saatchi, the Citizen Kane of the art world, is about to transform himself into the Andrew Lloyd Webber of art." (Jonathan Jones, The Guardian)
I consider this to be the Keanu Reeves of sentences.

"Will video games ever have their Citizen Kane?" (CBS News)
The debate over this question has caused an uproar among gamers. One writer has even called on the community to stop the madness about Kane comparisons. How can they take it all so seriously? I guess these are the things you get upset about when you've been awake for seventy-two hours, you're coated in a thick layer of Doritos crumbs and shame, and your avatar has just been slain by a level-five Demonmaster with a Romulan broadsword. My favorite part of this debate comes from a commenter on this article ("Let The Kane Thing Go") who wondered when we'll have a "big daddy kane of video games."

Drummer Mike Jeffers is “the Citizen Kane of Chicago jazz" (Chicago Tribune)
The only thing funny about this is that a reputable newspaper would print such nonsensical hyperbole.

'Stairway To Heaven' is the Citizen Kane of Rock (What I Hear You Saying Is)
Dear God, please make it stop.

In Conclusion

The Real Thing.

After scrutinizing a few dozen Citizen Kane comparisons, I am beginning to understand how Charles Foster Kane must've felt just before he dropped that snow globe and exhaled his final, dying breath. I feel exhausted, disoriented, and ultimately, annoyed. I had hoped to spend tonight studying the mise-en-scène of You Got Served (with feature-length DVD commentary by Lil' Fizz and Mr.Rad!), but instead, I read a bunch of overwrought writing. I know, I know, it's supposed to be snarky and funny, but most of it is just trite and lame. I'm no Hemingway, but I sure feel like one after spending a few hours reading DVD advertising copy and comment threads on video game blogs.

A few other interesting tidbits I came across during my exaustive research efforts (read: three Google searches) include Donald Trump on Citizen Kane (from the brilliant Errol Morris) and Citizen Kane 3D.


To Trek or not to Trek

Here are my top three favorite moments from the 1997 documentary Trekkies:

1. Married pair of Trekkie dentists insist that all of their employees work in Star Trek costumes; they also discuss their Trek-themed sex life

2. 'Hamlet' is available in a Klingon translation

3. Trek fan on his annual Star Trek party: "Every year it gets a little more fun... this year we had a girl attend!"


Smiths Weather

Gloomy skies in Brooklyn (Kent and North 11th, to be exact) on Tuesday.
I know for a fact that it pleases the Gods when you listen to The Smiths on days like this one.


Maskmaking at The Lighthouse

I teach art classes for visually impaired teens at the Lighthouse International (see previous post for our robot pinata project). We recently made papier mache masks in my class. After completion, the students used their masks for theater exercises in their Drama class (I sat in on one Drama class and was quite surprised by the abandon with which the students took on the characters of their masks). Some of our students are blind, but most of them have some degree of sight.

I am extremely impressed with the results of this project and very proud of these talented artists. Here are some highlights. Enjoy!

The Robot Pinata

In my art classes at the Lighthouse International, many of our art projects are sculptural and require hands-on building and the use of tactile senses. The students and I recently built a robot pinata out of papier mache and recycled materials (cereal boxes, paper towel rolls, etc). The robot was named XC3R60 - an anti-human droid sent from the future on a mission to destroy mankind. But mankind destroyed him first, and we added insult to injury by feasting on his delectable insides. Here are some photos of our pinata smashing in Central Park on a warm, beautiful Saturday in April.

Esdriel winds up. The video monitor on the robot's chest read's 'Must Kill Humans.'

Emmanuel scores one for the humans.

Here you can see the robot's papier mache belly shortly before Amanda struck the fatal blow.

They will demand that you listen to Insane Clown Posse.

Go for the Reese's!


Submit a Movie Dream.

Have you ever dreamt about movies? Maybe you dreamt you were in a film, watching a film, or that your teeth were falling out and transforming into tiny Val Kilmers. Email your one sentence movie dreams to dan@magneticstate.com. Include your name in the email or indicate if you'd prefer to have your movie dream(s) listed anonymously. Include your URL if you'd like me to link to your site. Make sure each dream you send is no longer than one sentence long.

The results will be posted on this blog and on Twitter later this week.

I'm curious about how movies and movie stars are embedded into our collective unconscious. Personally, I recently had a bona fide Freddy Kreuger nightmare (he had six Freddy gloves protruding from his hat, spinning like a blender) as well as a dream in which I was being directed by Martin Scorcese in his new feature (set at my grandmother's house, of course). Please resist the urge to fabricate or exaggerate, and keep your steamy Hugh Jackman fantasies to yourself (unless they're really funny and really truly dreamt).

P.S. This blog was featured on the New York Times City Room blog on Friday. Cool!