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Art in advertising and graphic design in galleries.
Blurring the lines between good art and good design.
Having attended art school as an illustration major, the first thing I realized was that the battle lines between students based on their major were clearly drawn; the fine art students were on one side of the aisle, while the designers were on the other. The fine art students looked on the designers as streetwalkers, selling their souls to the corporate overlords for a buck. The designers looked on the fine art students as ideological hippies destined to a life of poverty. Being an illustration student, I was in the rare position to straddle the line between the two. Which often begged the question, what’s all the fuss about, we’re all creatives, right?
Graphic designers in advertising may be creating art for their corporate clients, but fine artists must please their corporate patrons and agents in order to secure financing for their gallery shows. The best definition I have ever heard discussing the difference between fine artists and designers is that fine artists solve their own problems while designer solve other people’s problems.
To illustrate this, I’d like to reference the recent Alex Katz show I saw at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Katz’ works straddles that line between design and fine art. He captures the emotion of his subject stylistically, using somber mood or brilliant hues. Yet his use of sharp lines, bold areas of negative space and flat colors lend it beautifully to printed media. In fact, many of Katz’ pieces are lithographs, etchings, silkscreens, woodcuts and linoleum cuts.
Is this much different from the pop art Warhol was creating in the 1960s or even Lautrec’s posters for the Moulin Rouge in the late 19th century? One can even look all the way back to cave paintings done in Lascaux, France 17,300 years ago. Were those bold expressions of warrior poets illustrating the struggle with the beast or recruitment posters to persuade young men to “JOIN THE HUNT”?
Fine art and advertising have always walked hand-in-hand through the centuries, albeit it maybe a stormy relationship. Perhaps that is the underlying passion that will produce the next Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” or Apple Computer’s “1984” TV spot.
Photo credit: lindsayloveshermac