Saturday, September 6, 2008

Your turn #1

Hi. Below, I've covered up to the Middle Ages. On Thursday, I'll have a new sequence of posts ready, addressing the Renaissance and forward. About your comments remember: 1- A minimum of 120 words describing one (or more of my posts), 2- Even if it's your point of view, make an informed comment (try to approach your ideas by using empathy, by putting yourself -as much as you can- in that moment in history). For example, now that you have a different feel of what these letter forms and illustrations mean, what do you like -or dislike- about them? What's your take on the interdependence between religion and design in hte Middle Ages? Where are the vernacular elements? What do you think of the role and impact of technology in Ancient times? Would it matter the same if you knew that Egyptians composed implied quadrants on the stones they wrote and drew on? (page 19). What's the spoken equivalent of a hyphen or a sans serif face? (page 15). After reading page 57 of the textbook, can you put yourself in the place of a medieval scribe after endless hours of writing? 3- Sign your comments with your name, not an alias. Last, but not least, we need to create an environment of exchange in class. I expect more verbal participation next Thursday.

19 comments:

elizabeth said...

Of all the posts this sequence, Ars Moriendi (The Art of Dying) is the most striking to me. The depiction of Mary is typical of Byzantine iconography of this time; with her elongated fingers and bowed head in 3/4 profile. The depiction of the demons tempting the man with crowns symbolizing pride is wonderful imagery. The graphic book served to educate a non literate class in the 15th century. Perhaps educate isn't the best choice of words; perhaps to minister to that community. I was first drawn to Woodblock printing when reading Carroll's Alice in Wonderland in high-school. Tenniel's illustrations enliven and compliment the 19th century text. So it is cool to see in this (Ars Moriendi) instance that the elaborate woodcut images stand alone to tell the story, perhaps tell the story even more successfully than the accompanying text.

Jess said...

Codices were a Roman invention, and the Mayans adopted this format, replacing the papyrus paper with either fig bark or plant fibers, which proved to be more durable. The Codex Dresdensis pictured here is just one of many codices of the region. With the Spanish Conquest of the Yucat√°n, many were destroyed by the Conquistadors and priests, stealing away a lot of information that we may never come across in any other source. Even with the tougher pages, most of the codices discovered have been reduced to an assortment of unreadable material. It is a shame to have lost such a valuable perspective on this ancient civilization.

On another note, although many present-day scholars debate its validity, there is a Mayan prediction that a great cataclysm will occur around December 21, 2012. Their calendar has proven to be trustworthy thus far…I think there is also some reference to 2012 being the year for “a great change in the world” in Christian texts also…

Jenna Levine said...

Cave art, specifically in the Altamira cave, caught my attention the most. The Altamira cave consists of paintings of wildlife. What caught my attention the most was that although the paintings were done by unskilled artists, they were more sophisticated than I would have ever imagined in execution. The cave painter could have been one possessed with spiritual power, or it could have been someone who just enjoyed doodling. Whoever the artists may have been, the cave paintings express beliefs and values of its time.

I find it fascinating that this cave was revisited over periods of time, and there are images replacing older images (for instance, ibexes were placed over reindeer that were painted on earlier layers). I think it is important to note that what could arguably mark the beginning of graphic communication, was not designed in a simplistic manner and was produced by those who kept organized and sophisticated conceptions going. The cave painters were consistent with the use of using symbolic expression and did not stray from similarity. Although from different times, it is as though all of the cave painters shared the same view of visual design and did not want to stray from the "norm."

Lila said...

In reading the short visual history of books and a little on woodblock printing, I became curious in the history of playing cards. The invention of woodblock printing happened in China around 200 A.D. but the first known appearance of wood-cut playing cards in Europe wasn’t until around 1376 in Italy. Some sources say that cards were attempts to reproduce Chinese domino-style game tiles, although they probably appeared in the Arab world before coming to Europe. The new thriving mercantile middle class plus the availability of cheap paper helped it spread quickly to Germany, Switzerland, France and Spain. I found it hilarious that by 1377, card playing was already banned on workdays in France. The early decks were sometimes handpainted after being printed, and I find the early imagery really interesting. Wildlife, weaponry, religious symbols and the elements were common themes. Even today, the simplified suits in the deck we use (hearts, spades, clubs, diamonds) represent each of the earthly elements and also carry an occult tarot meaning. These suits are some of the most widely recognized graphic symbols in the world however their origins are something we rarely think about.
-Lila Dominguez

Ashley Nicole Garcia said...

I found the comparisons between Ars Moriendi and The Book of the Dead very striking. The two pieces are separated by over 2,000 years, but they both deal with the same subject; the importance of religion and the afterlife. Literacy did not become widespread until the nineteenth century; for most of human history, the vast majority of people were illiterate. If something needed to be communicated, then, it would be through artistic designs. I think it’s interesting that a preoccupation with death has consistently permeated prints and scrolls. Religion was quite obviously the most important thing for people to understand. In both pieces, the vernacular aspects are given secondary importance, and the focus is on the figures. The designs are relatively simple and straightforward; a figure in bed surrounded by various creatures of the afterlife in the former, and a hearing to in order to ascertain whether a soul is good or evil in the latter. The artists were not worried about symbolism or allegory; they wanted to make sure that everyone could understand what they were saying and religion and death.

Anonymous said...

I first became familiar with woodcut printing in an art history class and found them mesmerizing. The Ars Moriendi stood out the most to me. I find it fascinating the detail and care that goes into pieces such as these, not an easy task. I love the line work, your eyes to tend to follow the lines as they wander and curve all over. There is so much to look at, it's almost a treat for your eyes, everytime you look at it you discover something different. I have always been fascinated by woodcut carvings, especially pieces such as these with such elaborate imagery. I think pieces such as these are excellent examples of graphic work.Religious themes were very prominent in these times,in every aspect of art, not just woodblock printing. I agree with elizabeth's comment about the piece being created perhaps not to so much to educate, as to minister to the people of that time on "the art of dying."
Giovanna Garcia

Tanya said...

Among all the posts, “a brief history of books” leaves me the greatest impression. The history of the development of books in China has been a long time, from primitive scroll, to bamboo scroll, to paper books. The paper books were emerging along with the engraving printing (one of the four great inventions in China) from 701 to 751. One of its characteristics is the change from one long scroll made of bamboo to continue papers.

The invention of paper books has great impact on Chinese society. AD 700, after over 300 year’s separation, China was experiencing the reunion in Sui dynasty. The government spares no effort to advocate imperial examinations to foster more cultivated people. The books, due to its convenience, have great contribution to the wide spread of Confucianism, which in turn stimulates the invention of engraving printing. Gradually, paper books become an important replacement of scroll.

I believe this great change had accelerated the development of the society, culture, especially the spread of gerentocratic ideas. On the other hand, it also facilitate the ordinary people to learn and get to the upper level of the society.

Liam Sweeney said...

At first glance, the cave paintings in Altamira might appear primitive or elementary. The works, however, demonstrate artistic concepts that are seen throughout art history. The artists’ uses of line, specifically varying the weights, demonstrates an understanding of how to convey dimension on a flat surface. The use of shading and chiaroscuro, as well as the natural contours of the wall, give form to these round figures. Each was shown in profile view, demonstrating a certain amount of anatomical understanding, a convention that was later used in Egyptian art. Strategic placement of these images was important; light entering the cave enhances the images.

In 16,000 B.C.E. hunting was a predominant activity, so it is not a surprise that this was a subject in their art. More significantly though, I believe these paintings were meant to be a type of index to keep track of the different animals in the area. Male and female animals are depicted; they are seen sleeping, giving birth, and dying, which makes this an early depiction of a central theme in art, which is the life cycle.
- Liam Sweeney

Victor said...

The caves in Lascaux and Altamira both called my attention as perfect examples of a type of simplistic universal visual interpretation mechanism. In some of the drawings in both caves, there are similarities in the way in which they are drawn (for example the thin curved lines used in drawing the limbs and the bulbous lower body of the four-legged animals.) The similarities in the images show a common interpretation of visual stimulus, which in turn allow for such stimulus to relay information in multiple levels. Pictures and symbols mean nothing without some derived meaning attached to them. These images present in the caves are basic enough that anyone can infer some type of meaning. To answer the question posted in the Altamira post, I do not think that there was a design convention in the drawings, because that places pedantic structure to something presented during such a simple time. Over time these general images have evolved into symbols that carry intrinsic knowledge between cultures and eras.
-- Victor Hernandez

zak zaintz said...

The cave art at Lascaux, specifically the copy of the petroglyph posted, stood out from all the others. The simplicity of the figures and the surrealism of the piece as a whole are what caught my eye. The art gives a very dreamlike impression with the animals flying out of what seems to be a body of water. The hunters are shooting arrows at the creatures but it is hard to tell how successful they are. Although there are arrows in the creatures, the hunters look like they could be pummeled any second.

As for the design, it is apparent that a piece of art does not need to have a huge amount of detail to portray an idea. The animals could be a symbol for a number of things that could haunt these hunters and the hunters are trying to overcome certain troubles by "shooting arrows" at them. This sea of endless problems could be overbearing for the hunters as they keep firing away but more problems keep arising. This is just one interpretation of the artwork but the great thing about art is that it is open to interpretation. This specific piece is very intriguing because although it is ancient cave art, it shows more thought and creativity than any old sketch of an animal. It adds feeling and interest so that the viewer can look at it and come away with something more meaningful than if the viewer were to look at a simple depiction of an object, animal, or person in a real life setting.

Amanda said...

I have revisited the caves of Altimira and Lascaux several times through different Art History courses (no, not in person). Each time they are approached to me in a different way. Through basic art history courses they are presented as prehistoric art, much like the Venus of Willendorf -- a staple for introductions. Most of the time they are shown as being "a way of recording before writing"
or "ritualistic". The perspective taken here, however, is quite different from any other I have encountered. That is why this post caught my eye. Instead of looking at the cave paintings from an art historian point of view, viewing the paintings for what they are, the new approach takes a design point of view answering how and why they were done in such a way. Although often 'cavemen' are represented as unsophistocated and unintellegent it is interesting to see that they used shading and change of pigments to more accurately represent the figures which to me seems quite complex (like mentioned in regards to Altimira). Also what I found quite interesting and had not previously learned is that the early 'artists' used the cave's wall to give depth.
I do think that there is a design convention within the art displayed on the cave walls. Althouh, as mentioned, the work was created over long periods of time the methods and portrayls were relatively stable. Because this was technically prior to written language I would say that this is language through pictures and in a way why would one society all of a sudden switch from speaking french to english? (Okay, admittingly that is a broad leap but thats just an example).

Stephanie said...

At first glance, it is easy to overlook the significance of Hammurabi’s Code and no more importance to it than the usual credit it receives for being the first set of laws. However, after further reflection, it seems peculiar that the method to communicate these regulations would be through bas relief- especially with the arduous labor it would require to replicate the code by carving stone. Wouldn’t it have been easier for distribution purposes to write the code on papyrus or scrolls? This would take away from the overall conveyance of the message. These laws were literally engraved in stone – permanent – made to endure through time. The message is more powerful this way where it can’t easily be erased, modified, or destroyed. Hammurabi’s codes were placed in locations that were highly frequented such as temples for maximum exposure to the populace. One copy of the Hammurabi code depicts the god of Justice, Shamash, bestowing the duty of bringing law to Babylon to Hammurabi. This was a vivid reminder to the people of where the ruler obtained his legitimacy from and can be interpreted as a fear tactic to control the population.

Bridget Gamber said...

While reviewing these posts, I found myself intrigued by the Beatus miniatures. The most striking aspect of these illustrations is the intricate patterning throughout each image, rich with variety of shape, line, and scale. I admire the use of these patterns to give each object a unique texture. The repetition of swirls, circles, and lines effectively draws the eye of the observer around the image and to its center. The Facundus Beatus employs a strong color scheme comprised predominantly of red and gold to add to its unity and balance. The use of radial and vertical symmetry also plays a key role in achieving this.

I was very surprised to learn that the Beatus miniatures came much later than the start of the beautiful Indian miniatures, which are said to have begun in the sixth and seventh centuries.

Lauren L said...

I pose the question, Was “art” first created/discovered for communication or enjoyment purposes? I look at the Venus of Willendorf, and wonder what was this statues purpose; Was this statue communicating that a women was pregnant to the community or was it made as a gift by a husband for his wife? Just like the paintings in Altamira, I wonder if these paintings were trying to communicate the local animal life to other hunters or was it done by a teen taking a break from hunting. Art is defined as “the products of human creativity”. I find coming to a conclusion is difficult for me because I believe everything is art. It is just up to the artist to define whether their art is made for the purpose of communication, enjoyment or both. Art is created as an expression by its artist. Over the course of time early art is in a very simplistic symbolic form which can interpreted as having an ambivalent purpose but as time progresses “communication art” evolves to be more sophisticated and structured. But then “enjoyment art” is more visually appreciated. I cant come to a conclusion, just like I cant come to the conclusion to the question, What comes 1st the egg or the chicken?

Jon Turner said...

Discussing the beginning of this course starts at times when design and picture introduced a language through its hybrid connection, and at the same time literacy was a huge gap in classes. It is more amazing that the beginning of our first languages used pictures that can still be deciphered today and can be recognized. The woodblock printing was a very genius way to involve print from slates, and even more difficult to have to mirror print text backwards. When it comes to technology, I feel like woodblock printing was probably the first of its kind and a step above what was being used. In contrast it may have been a more time consuming task, but I think it would stand the test of time. Hammurabi Code is another instance in printing in a more concrete median, It’s very interesting that it is a whole relief instead of print.
The beginning of book print was such a more conventional way to reading and writing then the old way of using an everlasting scroll. Introducing the table of contents, separation of words, capital letters, and punctuation was such a huge step in size and efficiency in reading. Could you imagine reading the bible in scroll format? You would take two hours trying to find the book of John, furthermore take 2 more hours to read through it. Paleolithic Marks could be seen as an early beginning to tag and graffiti’s, the Paleolithic Marks are very unique and differentiate in design from each other, tag’s do the same and show the individuality of the writer. No two tag names should ever be the same and that stands strong with comparison to these cave marks. With the Altimira, it is the most physically amazing image to look at, and I think that its difficulty becomes a characteristic to why it is so visually appealing. To stand in a dimly lit cave, bending over backwards to string together images of years to cumulate a story, and even more using the contour of the cave to give a 3diminsional feel is beyond astounding.

ileana palomares said...

I think it is very interesting the way in which writing started and how the design of a stable visual code was necessary in order transmit ideas. First the mark making was necessary, being the most basic form of graphic expression. The idea of “difference” that marks had between each other started suggesting the basis of human knowledge, anticipating what later would become a formal graphic code. It is also very significant and important to highlight the great value writing and sign making had in relation to administrative tasks and the social structures that civil societies needed in order to achieve developments during those times. A good example is the Hammurabi Code, which codified laws that were written in cuneiform script. This code began to establish stability in the representation and operation of language by transcending human authorship, and becoming and important component of literacy in a society growing each time more and more, as a society willing to find better communication between individuals.
- ileana

Anonymous said...

I think the question of what constitutes graphic design should be addressed, considering the course is the history of graphic design. While some may not agree that early works of art (like ones seen in the post) or even early forms of communication (as seen in the post) do not constitute graphic design, many arguments can be made to bolster the support for these works. Graphic design, though its definition widely varies, has a distinct place in the world of communication. It can be said that the works of graphic design are not just for their visual pleasantries. While still visually pleasing, they have a higher intrinsic value. Consider the Book of Darrow. Some may just see religious writings. Yet a closer look is need. The carpet pages, the intricately designed first letter, and many other aspects of the book lend itself to an artistic nature. However the artistic nature does much more than please the eye. These designs hold symbols and messages that spoke to the people of that era and added to the communicative value of that work. Same can be said for early forms of artwork. Though nice to look at, many of these works carry themes, ideas, beliefs, cultural concerns, and religious issues that were relevant during the time the work was published. Many of these works break the barrier of time itself, and communicate things to the modern world. Take cave drawings for example. These drawings were not only a form of communication between their own people, but they have communicated so much to our world about the ways of these early earth inhabitants. Therefore, it can be said, that though it may not be readily apparent, these early pieces definitely hold their place in the world of graphic design.

Jaclyn Levi

Anonymous said...

I am thrilled to learn the term "horror vacui" in reference to the illuminated manuscripts, such as the Book of Durrow and the Book of Kells. The planning and organization of a book so complicated and decorative took a very patient and skillful hand to produce such a perfect specimen. Horror vacui can be seen repeated throughout many cultures through history from the Islamic patterns and textures to French Rococo that represented a time of wealth and excess. In all of these examples, form is not function, which is evident in postmodern graphic design. Postmodern graphic design was popular in the 1970s and 80s into the 1990s, reacting against the European modernist aesthetic of clarity. One could compare the postmodernists eliminating the white space and even introducting illegibility to the illuminated manuscripts, arguing that these large volumes of illustrated text, packed with detailed illustrations, forms and decorative type are similarly illegible. One can also compare the extent of the illustrations, sometimes painted with gold-leaf relate to the furniture and decorative objects of the Rococo. Because many people were illiterate in the Medieval era, only the clergy or the wealthy had the ability to enjoy and actually read these books, while the commoner did not, making them objects of wealth and excess. I find them to be incredible documents of history, religion and art, but also another lavish, unnecessary object for the church.

Bianca Lynn

Anonymous said...

The most interesting one for me is Ars Moriendi. When I look at the image the first thing that came to my mind was ''contrast''. The contrast between good and evil which is maybe the main contrast in human life. Demons and saints are surrounding the man waiting for his last decision before he dies. For me this symbolizes the general decision that a human being has to give in everyday life. The demons are offering valuables to the man to get his attention whereas the saints and the virgin watches him making the right decision.
The figures of virgin and the saints are illustrated with a byzantinian two dimensional style whereas the demons are seen in different perspectives. This again shows the contrast and combination of the two styles.. I cant quite say what this man is fond of, but it doesn"t really matter. What matters is the choices that humankind makes in life: saints or demons, heaven or hell, good or evil. They either corrupt or guide us.

Yasemin Vargi