The Journal of Decorative Art


My workload has increased of late to a degree where I’ve not been looking at many websites that aren’t intended to fulfil some research quest or other. To this end, the Getty Research Institute has become a regular port of call, especially when the GRI section of the Internet Archive is updated regularly with many fine books that you won’t easily find elsewhere. For my purposes, the GRI is especially good with books about architecture, design and ornamentation, like this three-volume collection of The Journal of Decorative Art, “An Illustrated Technical Journal for the House Painter, Decorator, and all Art Workmen” published from 1881 to 1883. The illustrated examples are typical late Victoriana of a type I don’t always have much use for but for anyone who does the illustrations are very good, especially the spreads which were obviously intended to be copied by decorators. Some of these include lettering samples for sign-writers that range from simple post-Pugin Gothic to the excessively detailed styles that were de rigueur in the 1880s.





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Weekend links 690


The Voice of St. Teresa (1928) by Oskar Sosnowski.

• The House is the Monster: Roger Corman’s Poe Cycle forms “a body of work not only deeply coherent but uniquely inspired,” says Geoffrey O’Brien.

• Steven Heller’s font of the month is Amberwood, while at The Daily Heller there’s a profile of Otto Bettmann, “an unsung visionary of commercial art”.

• At Public Domain review: The Works of Mars (1671), plans for military architecture by Allain Manesson Mallet.

The “underlying oneness of all things,” the conviction “that everything is connected” (Gravity’s Rainbow 703), is a thesis that appeals to many mystics and even to some scientists, but Fort complains that the latter too quickly dismiss unexplainable coincidences, or feebly explain them away. Scorning “scientific procedure” and inept police investigations, Fort turns for answers to denizens of the occult—poltergeists, invisible people, vampires, werewolves, miracle healers, fakirs, psychic criminals, dowsers—and to such notions as teleportation, human-animal metamorphoses, spontaneous combustion and pyrokinesis, “psychic bombardment,” telekinesis, animism, “secret rays,” telepathy, spirit-photography, clairvoyance, and modern instances of witchcraft.

Steven Moore in a perceptive essay about the overlooked connections between Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis and Charles Fort. Having discussed Fort’s preoccupation with coincidences, the author notes that he shares a name with the late Steve Moore, former editor of Fortean Times magazine

• Pynchonesque headline of the week: The Paradox of the Radioactive Boars.

James Balmont’s guide to the masterworks of New Taiwanese Cinema.

• New music: Solo for Tamburium by Catherine Christer Hennix.

Winners of Bird Photographer of the Year 2023.

Idris Ackamoor’s favourite music.

Radio-Active (1984) by Steps Ahead | Radioactivity (William Orbit Remix) (1991) by Kraftwerk | Radioactivity (1998) by Hikasu

The exposition moiré


Logos designed by QWER, Iris Utikal and Michael Gais.

Hannover’s Expo 2000 wasn’t very successful as expositions go but it had an attractive logo, a combination of bold sans-serif type with a moiré background pattern which ideally had to be seen in its animated form. World expositions tend to be concerned with technical innovations and novelties, and this animated design was certainly novel, if impossible to replicate in print. All the static versions of the logo are essentially screenshots of the moving version, with the moiré image frozen at a various places to generate many shape and colour variations. Not all of these are satisfactory. I think it was Matisse who said that anyone can put two colours together; the real challenge is putting three together in a harmonious manner.

expo_logo.gifThe pattern was a little more animated on the original exposition website, albeit reduced to this tiny gif. The site is mostly intact and browsable at the Internet Archive, a primitive thing by today’s standards but Expo 2000 was the first world exposition with a dedicated website, something which really did set it apart from its predecessors. Many of the exposition’s buildings and exhibits would have seemed bizarre or alarmingly ugly to the people who attended the Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900 but much that was on display in Hannover would at least have been comprehensible to a visitor from the past. Trying to explain what “a website” was to someone in 1900, even a futurologist like HG Wells, would have required considerable effort.


Video for Expo 2000 by Kraftwerk.

Ephemerality is a distinguishing characteristic of world expositions, all those splendid pavilions and eye-catching constructions don’t last very long even though the events themselves involve years of planning. A list of exposition features that have managed to survive would be a disparate collection, taking in well-known landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Seattle’s Space Needle and the Atomium in Brussels, architectural projects such as the Grand Palais in Paris and the Biosphere in Montreal, and one-off oddities like the Unisphere in Queens and the cement dinosaurs in Crystal Palace Park. If Expo 2000 is remembered for anything today it’s the one-off song that Kraftwerk wrote for the occasion, Expo 2000, which arrived with graphics and visuals based on the expo logo. Kraftwerk had been hired at great cost to create the jingles in different languages that accompany the animated logo. This is turn led to the song, the group’s first new studio composition in 14 years.


I thought these abstract images were a good match for Kraftwerk, I prefer them to the other designs for the single which show the four computer-generated figures that later appeared on the cover of Minimum-Maximum. The CD case at the top left was made with lenticular plastic which imitated the moiré effect of the animated logo. I didn’t buy this one when I had the chance, choosing instead the “enhanced” version which came with a minuscule copy of the video in a CD-ROM section. Like most CD-ROM singles, the audio tracks still play but the enhanced section no longer works. Welcome to the future.

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Weekend links 681


All Cats are Grey At Night (2009) by Kenny Hunter.

“They found ways to do the impossible”: Hipgnosis, the designers who changed the record sleeve for ever. Lee Campbell talks to Anton Corbijn about Squaring the Circle, Corbijn’s documentary about the Hipgnosis design team. Peter Christopherson is shown in the accompanying photo but Campbell doesn’t mention him at all, despite his having been an equal partner with Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell from the mid-70s on. Many of those famous covers were photographed by Christopherson’s camera.

• A new book by Stephen Prince at A Year In The Country: “Lost Transmissions weaves amongst brambled pathways to take in the haunted soundscapes of electronica, the rise of the occult in the 1970s, cinema and television’s dystopian dreamscapes and hauntological work which creates and gives a glimpse into parallel worlds…”

• New music: Ambient Bass Guitar by John von Seggern, and Sturgeon Moon/Beaver Moon by Missing Scenes.

• How Samuel R. Delany Reimagined Sci-Fi, Sex, and the City.

• Mix of the week: Tranquility by A Strangely Isolated Place.

Galerie Dennis Cooper presents…Snow Globalists.

• The Strange World of…African Head Charge.

• Steven Heller’s font of the month is Baudot.

Nights on Earth.

Transmission (1979) by Joy Division | Clandestine Transmission (1994) by Richard H. Kirk | Transmission (1996) by Low

Fender guitar catalogue, 1976


Another post prompted by 70s Sci-Fi Art, and a publication that’s very typical of its decade. The Fender guitar catalogue for 1976 showcases its product range with a series of illustrations that carefully pastiche the kind of art you’d find in books of fairy tales. Selling rock’n’roll equipment in this manner wasn’t a trend-setting step by 1976, not with the punk hordes on the march, but corporations are seldom ahead of the general culture. The cover art by Ruby K. Lee is a copy of one of Kay Nielsen’s drawings for East of the Sun and West of the Moon. Lee also provides one of the interior drawings, with the rest of the art being the work of Bruce Wolfe. (There may be another artist involved since one of the illustrations lacks a credit.) This looks like a huge amount of effort for a small product catalogue but the illustrations were also part of an ad campaign with accompanying storybook copy. It’s good to see Busorama being used for all the headings. I’ve been using this font myself for its associations with the 1970s.


Since I keep borrowing tips from 70s Sci-Fi Art I’ll note again that Adam Rowe’s Worlds Beyond Time: Sci-Fi Art of the 1970s will be published by Abrams next month.




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