Hugh Ferriss and The Metropolis of Tomorrow

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Philosophy from The Metropolis of Tomorrow (1929).

I’ve procrastinated for an entire year over the idea of writing something about Hugh Ferriss and now this marvellous Flickr set has forced my hand. Ferriss (1889–1962) was a highly-regarded architectural renderer in the Twenties and Thirties, chiefly employed creating large drawings to show the clients of architects how their buildings would look when completed. But he was also an architectural theorist and his 1929 book, The Metropolis of Tomorrow, which lays out his ideas for cities of the future, was a major influence on the work I produced for the Lord Horror comics during the 1990s. Ferriss’s book appeared two years after Fritz Lang’s Metropolis but bears little resemblance to Lang’s simplistic tale, despite superficial similarities. Rather than a science fiction warning, The Metropolis of Tomorrow was a serious proposal for the creation of Art Deco-styled megacities.

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Lord Horror: Hard Core Horror #5 (1990).

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The art of John Austen, 1886–1948

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A few drawings by British illustrator John Austen (1886–1948), like Patten Wilson another artist whose work is hard to come by today. Austen was one of the many young illustrators over whom Aubrey Beardsley’s etiolated shadow fell from 1900 onwards and it’s the first ten years of Austen’s work I find most interesting, mainly because of the Beardsley stylings. He’s not as original or as elegant as Harry Clarke but he’s a lot better than the frequently overrated (yet interesting for other reasons) Hans Henning Voigt, or Alastair as he preferred to be known.

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L’Amour Fou: Surrealism and Design

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Cadeau Audace by Man Ray (1921).

L’amour fou by Robert Hughes
Fur teacups, wheelbarrow chairs, lip-shaped sofas … the fashion, furniture and jewellery created by the Surrealists were useless, unique, decadent and, above all, very sexy.

The Guardian, Saturday March 24th, 2007

THE VICTORIA AND Albert’s big show for this year, Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design, is—well, maybe we don’t much like the word “definitive”. But it’s certainly the first of its kind.

Everyone knows something about surrealism, the most popular art movement of the 20th century. The word has spread so far that people now say “surreal” when all they mean is “odd”, “totally weird” or “unexpected”. No doubt this would give heartburn to André Breton, the pope of the movement nearly a century ago, who took the title from his friend, the poet Guillaume Apollinaire, who had called his play The Breasts of Tiresias, “a surrealist drama”. But too late now. The term is many years out of its box and, through imprecision, has achieved something akin to eternal life. Surrealist painting and film, that is. In fact, some surrealist images have imprinted themselves so deeply and brightly on our ideas of visual imagery that we can’t imagine modern art (or, in fact, the idea of modernity itself) without them.

Think Salvador Dalí and his soft watches in The Persistence of Memory. Think Dalí again, in cahoots with Luis Buñuel, and the cut-throat razor slicing through the girl’s eye, as a sliver of cloud crosses the moon (actually, the eye belongs to a dead cow, but you never think this when you see their now venerable but forever fresh movie An Andalusian Dog, 1929). Think of photographer Man Ray’s fabulous Cadeau Audace (‘Risky Present’, 1921), the flatiron to whose sole a row of tacks was soldered, guaranteeing the destruction of any dress it would be used on. Think of Rene Magritte’s The Rape, that hauntingly concise pubic face, with nipples for eyes and the hairy triangle where the mouth should be. Think of the shock, the horniness, the rebellion, the unwavering focus on creative freedom, the obsessive efforts to discover the new in the old by disclosure of the hidden…

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Previously on { feuilleton }
The Surrealist Revolution
Surrealist Women
Las Pozas and Edward James
Surrealist cartomancy

The World in 2030

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The incomparable Culture Archive presents an embarrassment of riches in scanned form; if only there were more sites as good as this. Easier for you to go and look for yourself than waste time reading a poor description of the place.

Random browsing turned up pages from the Earl of Birkenhead’s study of the state of the world a century from 1930. But it’s not the Earl’s prognostications that concern us here, rather the book’s airbrush illustrations by E McKnight Kauffer, an artist and designer better known for his Art Deco poster designs like Metropolis (1926) below.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Metropolis posters
Frank Lloyd Wright’s future city

Barney Bubbles: artist and designer

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Image-heavy post! Please be patient.

Four designs for three bands, all by the same designer, the versatile and brilliant Barney Bubbles. A recent reference over at Ace Jet 170 to the sleeve for In Search of Space by Hawkwind made me realise that Barney Bubbles receives little posthumous attention outside the histories of his former employers. Since he was a major influence on my career I thought it time to give him at least part of the appraisal he deserves. His work has grown in relevance to my own even though I stopped working for Hawkwind myself in 1985, not least because I’ve made a similar transition away from derivative space art towards pure design. Barney Bubbles was equally adept at design as he was at illustration, unlike contemporaries in the album cover field such as Roger Dean (mainly an illustrator although he did create lettering designs) and Hipgnosis (who were more designers and photographers who drafted in illustrators when required).

Colin Fulcher became Barney Bubbles sometime in the late sixties, probably when he was working either part-time or full-time with the underground magazines such as Oz and later Friends/Frendz. He enjoyed pseudonyms and was still using them in the 1980s; Barney Bubbles must have been one that stuck. The Friends documentary website mentions that he may have worked in San Francisco for a while with Stanley Mouse, something I can easily believe since his early artwork has the same direct, high-impact quality as the best of the American psychedelic posters. Barney brought that sensibility to album cover design. His first work for Hawkwind, In Search of Space, is a classic of inventive packaging.

Update: BB didn’t work with Mouse in SF, I’ve now been told.

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Hawkwind: In Search of Space (1971).

It’s fair to say that Hawkwind were very lucky to find Barney Bubbles, he immediately gave their music—which was often rambling and semi-improvised at the time—a compelling visual dimension that exaggerated their science fiction image while still presenting different aspects of the band’s persona. In Search of Space is an emblematic design that opens out to reveal a poster layout inside. One of the things that distinguishes Barney Bubbles’ designs from other illustrators of this period is a frequent use of hard graphical elements, something that’s here right at the outset of his work for Hawkwind.

This album also included a Bubbles-designed “Hawklog”, a booklet purporting to be the logbook of the crew of the Hawkwind spacecraft. I scanned my copy some time ago and converted it to a PDF; you can download it here.

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