Print’s 2013 New Visual Artists: Part 1
By: Print staff | March 3, 2013
Names: Simone Trum (left) and Loes van Esch (right)
Ages: 26, 29
Titles: Graphic Designers, Team Thursday
From: Rosmalen (Trum), and Tilburg (van Esch), the Netherlands
Live In: Rotterdam, the Netherlands
In the Netherlands, state funding has supported design for decades, offering a lifeline to students and giving young practitioners the financial independence to create groundbreaking work. But after a right-wing government took office in 2010 and started slashing those funds, a whole era of Dutch art and design came to an end.
Simone Trum and Loes van Esch founded Team Thursday three years ago, on the edge of that era. After meeting at college in Arnhem and later studying together at a Werkplaats Typografie summer school in Urbino, they worked freelance and in studios in Rotterdam, New York City, and Utrecht before they began collaborating one day a week. (On—you guessed it—Thursdays.) To buy their new studio some time, they applied for a yearly starter stipend and got it, twice. With the money, they opened an office in Rotterdam. And since they didn’t need to spend as much energy worrying about paying the rent, they could concentrate more on exploring new approaches and techniques.
One such project was the identity for the 2011 exhibition “To All Tomorrows Parties,” at Tent, a Rotterdam art gallery, which was a reaction to the financial crisis and the cultural-spending cuts. With pasted-up posters and signs that evoked a political rally, Team Thursday created both a sense of motion (the show was mostly performances) and a physical immediacy. Much of their other work—like a print-on-demand stand for the Facing Pages festival and a poster with a 3-D look for a lecture series on online video—shares the same low-cost aesthetics and a tactical, make-do, festive attitude.
Trum and van Esch—who introduce themselves to potential clients and editors alike with friendly FaceTime video messages—admit that “clients are becoming more cautious.” Still, the two are able to be both realistic and optimistic about what’s to come. In this new era, “not everyone will start their own company,” they say, but the “people who really want it will do it.”
Title: Art Director, Lucky Peach; Illustrator
From: San Francisco
Lives In: Brooklyn
“Walter is a master of the French exit,” says Chelsea Hogue, the associate editor of the McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern. “He will be present, and then he will vanish. No good-byes.”
Walter Green practically grew up at McSweeney’s, the sprawling indie-publishing empire founded by Dave Eggers. As a high school student, Green was a tutor at McSweeney’s 826 after-school writing program in San Francisco’s Mission District. In 2008, he chose an internship at the quarterly in lieu of going to college. Even though he didn’t do any design work at first, he was immersed in one of the most innovative design environments in American publishing. Eventually, he started to design some small projects for McSweeney’s and others: postcards, back covers of books.
And then the internship was over. Green moved to New York. He ended up interning with Paul Sahre. “That was kind of a crash course in graphic design,” Green says, “since I didn’t really know anything about anything—type, color, history, whatever.” Once, Green helped Sahre with a photo illustration for Newsweek that involved smashing an abacus. Sahre and some of the other designers who worked in the same building took turns kicking it or hitting it with things. “That was a fun and weird thing,” Green says. Looking down at the broken abacus, he said to himself: This can be a job?!
In 2010, Brian McMullen, the McSweeney’s art director, called Green back to San Francisco to work on books, magazines, and a variety of other projects. Green ultimately became the co–art director, with McMullen, of the McSweeney’s food magazine, Lucky Peach. By 2012, he was the sole art director of the title, but he slid away from regular duties in San Francisco and moved back to New York. He still art directs Lucky Peach, but he has taken on more freelance work for, among others, The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Vintage, and Farrar, Straus & Giroux. He’s only 23.
Hogue remembers Green’s final exit: “Walter’s desk was covered in potted plants. He created a small jungle of his space. Of course, he never watered them, so by the time he left, most were dead or dying. When he cleaned out his desk over the weekend, he placed a dead plant on everyone’s desk before he left. Most are still there.”
Title: Graphic Designer at University of Porto, Faculty of Fine Arts
From: Porto, Portugal
Lives In: Porto, Portugal
In 2010, for her graduation project, Márcia Novais organized the first degree show at the University of Porto’s Faculty of Fine Arts in five years. She calls such shows “the epilogue of a student’s cycle of life,” but in her case that wasn’t really so: a year later, on a whim, she applied for a position as the college’s resident graphic designer—and got the job.
With it came nine-to-five hours (sometimes), clients (former professors and colleagues), interns (including exchange students), budgets (ever tighter), and a salary (tiny). But the job also gave her a certain freedom as well as access to resources such as a photo studio and a silk-screen workshop, where her posters are printed in editions of ten. Put up in halls where generations of artists, architects, and designers have walked for over a century, they announce talks, exhibitions, and other events at one of Portugal’s most prestigious art schools. Enigmatic and open, they seem to be designed as if no one were looking, yet beg for closer inspection.
When the posters started spreading beyond the college’s walls to screens (and to pages, should you be reading this on paper) around the world, their audience changed dramatically, and so did hers. But Novais doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a poster designer. Instead, she’s interested in making work that deals with the experience of being on the threshold of school and “outside, in the real world.” Her identity for the 2012 degree show, “Futuro Não Futuro” (Future No Future), addresses this in a typically oblique style. Pink is the dominant color, but the roving punctuation suggests something darker. With Portugal crippled by austerity-led recession and her friends struggling to find work (most have already left the country), Novais’s designs hint at a less than rosy epilogue for the current generation of designers.
Title: Designer and Art Director
From: Hartford, CT
Lives In: Brooklyn
“I try to give form to otherwise formless or semiformless ideas; some of the ideas are mine, and some belong to others (commissioners, collaborators, precedents, et cetera). The ideas and their formal counterparts are then actualized in things like Publications, Typefaces, Prints, Objects, Furnitures, Small Structures, Writings, Websites, Instructions, Exhibitions, Marks, Identities, Syllabi, Photographs. Maybe we can even just call all this, like, Paraphernalia or Ephemera. Or Goods, even.”
This answer, an e-mailed reply to the question “What do you do?”, comes from a guy who seems to know where he’s going, regardless of which road he takes. For Benjamin Critton, the plain generation of form is not enough. Like Sergey Diaghilev and George Nelson (or even Bruno Munari and Björk), he goes about his work with an interdisciplinary and collaborative fervor, connecting people to things and ideas with unexpected results. And while Critton doesn’t quite accept the comparison, he sees a certain resemblance to how Diaghilev and Nelson worked. “They wanted to do Lots,” he writes. “Maybe even, like, Everything. And they likely could have, if they’d had the means, or at least extra units of time.”
Here’s how Critton spends his time: “So, let’s say there are ten units of time in a waking day. In my day, maybe three of those are spent making form”—books, typefaces, a fi lm series, a “value-appreciating” book bank. Three of the remaining seven units “are devoted to the brass tacks of studio operation,” while another is spent on “pedagogy and instruction and the planning thereof.” (He currently teaches at Rutgers University and the School of Visual Arts’ new Products of Design M.F.A. program.) His final three non–form-making time-units are “put toward general idea-fostering and the search for other notions and prospects and nodes of connection among disciplines.” This means no less than “looking and writing and reading and copying and talking and listening and playing and performing and courting and watching and showing and moving and eating and drinking.” So, like, Everything.