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MISCmedia MAIl for 3/3/16
Mar 2nd, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

For your perusal, we have we have bigger things made of wood than have been made before; an attempt to bring back nuclear power; Portland’s “toxic moss;” Foo Fighters’ non-breakup; and a tragic update to one of the Sonics’ movers.

MISCmedia MAIL for 3/2/16
Mar 1st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Sooper Toosday settled nothing, and neither did the City Council committee vote on saving bike sharing. But we do know that Boeing’s planning a 100th birthday bash; a heroin treatment center’s re-opening; squatters are speaking out in favor of squatting; and one of the guys who “plundered” the Sonics is in big trouble (can you feel the schadenfreude rising?).

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/29/16
Feb 28th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Make the great leap (day) forward with tidbits about yet another music-scene vet needing our help; a big plan to at least bandage the symptoms of homelessness; another bookstore trying to crowdfund its way to survival; and a look forward to the “collapsing new buildings” of tomorrow.

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/26/16
Feb 26th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

For our pre-Oscar Night installment, we (almost completely) ignore the Oscars, and instead examine a “Jungle” eviction plan; more Paul Allen largesse; a rusting new ferry; an engineered, tested, and trademarked apple; and a few hundred weekend activities.

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/23/16
Feb 23rd, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Sounders FC’s back, and so is MISCmedia MAIL, with nude-dude public art; another police killing and its discontents; arsenic in the air in Portland; and “I Can Haz Sellout.”

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/10/16
Feb 9th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

It’s Lent, but don’t give up your daily MISCmedia MAIL. Why, today alone we’ve got a plan to stop the Legislature’s pathetic-ness; differing views on the state “affordable” housing tax credit scheme; SPU students challenge white privilege; Amazon’s (alleged) big-big-big cargo plans; and an artwork honoring a Northwest legend.

MISCmedia MAIL for 2/5/16
Feb 4th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

We head into a Seahawk-less Super Bowl weekend with footage of the TP’ing of Pam Roach’s office; a known creator of toxic chemical debris wanting to build a big biofuel refinery; a plea for understanding by the mom of a heroin victim; an attempt at increased state aid to the homeless; and the usual gazillion weekend activities.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/29/16
Jan 28th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

The year’s first month ends with the Oregon siege still grinding on; Republican legislators still acting creepily; the homeless crisis still lingering; rivers again threatening to flood; and Paul Allen allegedly shutting down his just-opened gallery. Plus the usual scads of weekend activities.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/25/16
Jan 24th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

On the day after an NFL playoff day that our boys had no part of, we discuss the much-delayed dawn of the First Hill Streetcar; Bill Gates sells out (again); a lucid voice against the Oregon militia doodz; and a new Seattle arts org gives a big grant to an established NY artist (with great radical credentials).

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/22/16
Jan 21st, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Tim Eyman’s convoluted screw-the-state initiative is just as unconstitutional (and sleazy) as we all knew it was. Also in your weekend digest: A planned office tower’s big middle finger to the streetscape; another scheme to tilt the Electoral College rightward; plans for the world’s biggest ethanol refinery; the 747’s slow demise; the usual scads of weekend stuff-to-do.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/8/16
Jan 7th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

Our first Friday e-missive in three weeks, due to holiday schedules, includes: the resumption of Bertha tunnel digging; a comprehensive Seattle transit map (no, there really wasn’t one before); “concerned neighborhood” groups show their bigotries; tampons for charity; and the usual scads of weekend activity options.

MISCmedia MAIL for 1/6/16
Jan 5th, 2016 by Clark Humphrey

North Korea may have an H-bomb, America now has fancy new vinyl-record turntables and ultra-hi-def TVs, and MISCmedia MAIL’s got big speculation about Jim McDermott’s Congressional seat; an almost sure thing about Ken Griffey Jr.; yet another brave new office midrise where KING is now; and Hugo House shacking up with the Frye.

MISCmedia MAIL for 11/13/15
Nov 12th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

One less “public” news source; UW basketball’s season starts in Shanghai; many weekend activity listings; TPP vs. the “open Internet;” and a Mt. Rainier pint glass. All this and more in your Friday the 13th MISCmedia MAIL.
 
ROLON BERT GARNER, 1940-2015
Aug 18th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

rolon bert garner

photo by arthur s. aubry (who himself passed on earlier this year), via earl brooks

We all knew he was going.

He’d had chronic COPD for many years. At his last Seattle public appearance, in early 2013, he’d looked frail, and had trouble talking for long periods of time.

But it was still a total bitch to learn that he’d died this last Monday morning.

Like many people commonly grouped as “’60s generation kids,”Rolon Bert Garner was already past his teens before the Beatles came to our shores. He’d grown up in Eugene to parents from Oklahoma. In Portland he’d cofounded Artech (a long-running regional art-supply and framing chain) before he came here to work for the Seattle Art Museum, circa 1969.

He was one of the original instigators of Bumbershoot in 1971, and one of the creators of its visual-art component (then a much bigger part of the festival than it is now).

He was involved with the multi-disciplinary arts center and/or (1974-84).

He curated and designed exhibits, installations, and temporary “pop-up spaces.”

He installed exhibits (choosing which pieces went where) at the Frye Museum and many local galleries.

He helped produce private events, including fashion shows for Nordstrom.

With Virginia Inn owner Patrice Demombynes, Garner pioneered the idea of art exhibits in local bars. (He and Demombynes had their own gallery space on Dexter Avenue for a couple of years.)

He continued to curate art on barroom walls as a co-owner of the Two Bells Tavern (with wife Patricia Ryan, who passed in 2001). He’d been a bartender there before Ryan bought the place circa 1982, then married her in 1984. Under Ryan and Garner, the the rundown little bar on a low-foot-traffic stretch of Fourth Avenue became the virtual living room for the then-burgeoning Denny Regrade arts community. When Ryan’s cancer got too bad for her to continue running it, they sold it and retired to the country.

Garner was also an artist in his own right.

His last show of paintings, a career retrospective at the Virginia Inn two and a half years ago, was full of bright colors, underground-comix-esque lines and curves, and an old hippie’s lifelong interest in semi-abstracted nudes.

And he was a conceptual artist. With Ken Leback, he created the public-art piece Equality (a grid of Monopoly-style houses) on north Beacon Hill.

I’d been going to the VI since 1981, and to the Bells since at least 1985.

I knew Garner as a smart, soft spoken, often funny presence.

After I started MISC as a column in the old ArtsFocus paper, he supported and encouraged my work. (It took me years, though, to convince him I wasn’t just making up the things I wrote about in it.)

 He did so many things, in so many places, that it was hard to imagine a local arts scene without him.

And it still is.

OF DESPERATE TIMES AND VISUAL VOCABULARIES
Jul 24th, 2015 by Clark Humphrey

desperate times cover

I know I’ve been taking however many of you are reading this back to memory lane a lot lately. But indulge me a few more times, please, including this time.

This time, it’s back to a weekend day in June 1981.

I went straight from my UW commencement ceremony, still possessing my cap and gown, and went to a planning meeting in a Wallingford rental house.

Also there were Daina Darzin, Maire Masco, and Dennis White.

We were starting a punk rock zine, to overcome what we all thought was The Rocket’s excessive commercialism. (Yeah, I know.)

The result was called Desperate Times.

It lasted for six tabloid issues, before Darzin effectively ended it by returning to New York, where she’d previously lived.

(And yes, like so many New Yorkers, she absolutely KNEW how everyone ought to think and behave. And if they thought or behaved in a non-New Yorkish way, then that thought or behavior automatically sucked.)

I had at least one piece in each of the six issues. The most affecting, albeit in a very indirect way, was in the first issue. I asked readers to write in mentioning the band they hated the most. (A cheap “comment bait” trick, it would now be called.)

It got a response all right.

That response came from one Mark McLaughlin, then a student at Bellevue Christian High School. He wrote that he loved the simple repetitive music of Philip Glass, and hated Mr. Epp and the Calculations. (“Pure grunge. Pure shit.”)

This, I continue to insist, was the first documented use of that six-letter word to describe a Seattle punk band.

And it was the first print mention of Mr. Epp, McLaughlin’s own band (of course).

One night shortly after that, Masco found McLaughlin on the streets downtown, pasting up flyers for a fictional gig by Mr. Epp, which at the time was mostly a fictional band (named after a favorite math teacher). Masco persuaded McLaughlin to stage real gigs.

For the next three nearly three years, Darren “Mor-X” Morray, Jeff “Jo Smitty” Smith, and Mark “Arm” McLaughlin gigged and recorded under the Mr. Epp name.

Arm, of course, went on to Green River and then to Mudhoney, famously performing on top of the Space Needle for Sub Pop’s 25th anniversary in 2013.

Darzin became a scribe for Billboard and other high falutin’ rags.

White and Masco started the short-lived Pravda Records label (not the Chicago firm of the same name).

White now runs another indie music label, “dadastic! sounds.”

Masco took a long hiatus from “creative” endeavors.

But now she’s back with a book collecting every issue of Desperate Times, from full-size high-quality digital scans.

Some thoughts on looking at these pages nearly 3.5 decades later:

The music discussed, well a large part of it anyway, still stands up.

The writing and the graphic design are of their time and of the milieu. That is to say, they’re brash, un-slick, and occasionally immature. But that was part of the whole aesthetic of the period. This was before “desktop publishing.” The text was created on typewriters. The headlines were created with press-type lettering. It was DIY Or Die, and it expresses the emotional states of its content better than anything in Adobe InDesign ever could.

Masco is selling the book online and at a few select local shops.

 

 

chantry speaks cover

Masco’s been living in Tacoma in recent years, with a guy who knows a thing or two about graphic design, and who’s not shy about sharing what he knows.

I’ve written several times in the past about Art Chantry. How he played a critical role in creating my book Loser (itself coming back later this year). How he did most of the grunt work in bringing “punk rock graphics” and poster art beyond the deliberately “amateur” style seen in Desperate Times and toward something that was “professional” but NOT corporate. He took his obsessive research into design schticks high and lowbrow, industrial and “artistic,” and created a whole new visual vocabulary.

In recent years, Chantry’s been spreading his vast knowledge and sharp opinions about the design profession (actually, he thinks of it as more of a “trade”) on his Facebook feed.

Now he’s collected some 50 of these essays in the book Art Chantry Speaks: A Heretic’s History of 20th Century Graphic Design.

The format of self-contained short essays, on different but related topics, works well with the disparate roots of Chantry’s visual aesthetic and career philosophy.

He finds inspiration in everything from monster-movie magazines to industrial-supply catalogs, from trade magazines to Broadway show posters, from hot-rod customizers to girlie magazines.

Unlike the late Andy Warhol (to whom he dedicates a praise-filled chapter), Chantry appreciates commercial design without feeling the need to dress it up in “fine art” trappings.

Indeed, Chantry openly and repeatedly scoffs at such trappings.

He upends the “official” history of graphic design, which treats it as a top-down profession dominated by Manhattan designers and ad agencies.

Instead, he sees it as a bottom-up, working-stiffs’ trade, originating with sign painters, printers, and other craftspeople. It’s a living tradition, re-created and adapted everywhere. It’s something that’s both populist and commercial at once. It expresses social and individual values, even as it overtly tries to sell stuff (products, politicians, religions, etc).

And, just as American pop/rock music absorbed and mutated everything that came before it, Chantry’s personal aesthetic absorbed and mutated everything he’d learned to love in the various arts of visual/verbal persuasion.

You won’t find any images of Chantry’s own works in Art Chantry Speaks. For that, look up Some People Can’t Surf: The Graphic Design of Art Chantry, written in 2001 by Julie Lasky. There, you’ll see his famous posters for bands, film screenings, and condom-awareness campaigns; his cover art for The Rocket; and his many record covers and band/label logos.

But, just as there are now drinking-age people who weren’t alive when Nirvana last performed, many of the various production techniques Chantry’s essays discuss have become lost to time, from the lead-cast “hot type” of letterpress to the photo-strip “cold type” of manual pasteup pages.

And much printed ephemera itself (magazines, newspapers, cheap paperbacks, recorded music on physical media, etc.) has declined or disappeared in the digital age.

But Chantry’s observations are still important in our current era, when even web page design is considered an obsolete line of work.

Typography, illustration, color theory, and layout are all part of the visual vocabulary of our world. There are reasons why all these arts developed the way they did.

And, just as many young adults have discovered the great music of the 1980s and ’90s Chantry’s idiosyncratic views about these can teach timeless principles about how things look (or ought to look).

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© Copyright 2015 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia (dotcom)).