Thursday, March 29, 2012

Weekly Work: "Lagoon"

This week’s Weekly Work, titled “Lagoon,” comes to you from the Georgia Museum of Art’s new exhibition “Palette and Pattern in Print: Gentry Magazine and a New Generation of Trendsetters.” This image was on the cover of Gentry in the winter of 1956–1957, the second-to-last published of the magazine. The work comes from Jazz (1947), a book of about 100 prints based on paper cutouts by Henri Matisse.  

Matisse created the images for Jazz between 1944 and 1947. In his late 70s, the artist’s failing eyesight made drawing and painting with a brush or pencil difficult. He turned to cutting simple images from brightly colored paper painted with gouache and arranging them on another sheet of paper. The term “gouache” refers to a specific type of paint consisting of pigment, a binding agent (such as gum arabic) and an inert material designed to make the paint opaque. The resulting style is similar to watercolor but in a much more opaque medium.

Gentry cover issue no. 21 "Lagoon" blow up 36x48 inches

Jazz features images that focus on theatre or circus subjects. “Lagoon” is an obvious departure from this commonality, with its distinctly nautical theme. The deep, bright blue at the top of the work is clearly reminiscent of the sea, with underwater life below. The black, branching shape reminds the viewer of lengthy tendrils of algae, and the white and red shapes call to mind coral reefs. The murky green color is a departure from the color scheme of the rest of the work, as it lacks the brightness of the red, white and blue and the depth of the black. Anyone who has ever opened his or her eyes underwater will recognize the difficulties of seeing in that situation echoed in the green Matisse chose. The wavy, abstract qualities of the shapes in this piece also call to mind the idea of underwater sight. The viewer almost feels as if Matisse were trying to give him or her a snapshot of life in a lagoon.

Gentry Magazine was published for a relatively short six years. During that time, its publisher William Segal’s goal was to create a magazine for the “top 100,000 thinking men” in the United States. The magazine sold for $2 an issue at a time when the average magazine price was 25 cents. The difference in price was due to the luxury the producers of Gentry wanted its readers to feel when perusing the magazine. Fabric samples, booklets and, once, a sample of oats accompanying an article on horse care were incorporated into the magazine. Some issues were published in hardback and featured high-end paper. The goal of the magazine was to engage intelligent men on topics such as literature, art, classical music and other such gentlemanly things.

Fabric design students in the University of Georgia’s Lamar Dodd School of Art were given an assignment to create a pattern and a master color palette drawing inspiration from the men’s magazine. Each student created a storyboard combining images from Gentry and modern-day sources of inspiration. The results were digitized and printed on paper. They are currently on display as part of “Palette and Pattern in Print,” as is content from the pages of Gentry to contextualize the students’ inspiration and the trends popular during that time period.

No comments: