Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Milton Glaser/To Inform and Delight

I recently watched (twice) the documentary, To Inform and Delight, about the designer Milton Glaser. What an amazing man! He is funny, wise, and eloquent. His work is wide-ranging (the Dylan record cover, I (heart) NY, the Rubin Museum of Art in NY—one of my favorite museums, posters, books, magazines, The Underground Gourmet, New York magazine, Brooklyn Brewery), deep, and innovative. After seeing the film, I wanted to know and hear more. His website, miltonglaser.com, is a treasure trove of information and inspiration. He values teaching and the website is a course in itself. While most of the website is visual, make sure you visit the Milton page where there are essays and interviews, biographical information, and a short film. It is hard to choose any one passage to share, but I love his answer to the question "What is your view of the poster and its relation to ‘high art?’" in Commercial Art.

When does ‘high art’ meet ‘low art?’ At this encounter is everything above the line ‘art’ and everything below ‘non-art’? What shall we call the material below the line craft, applied art, commercial art, decoration? Who invented this question? Who is served by the distinction? Does it matter? The search for ‘high art’ is a theological issue, like the search for the true cross. The culture priests attempt to protect the world from false religion or faith, a never-ending task. I have a modest proposal; why don’t we discard the word ‘art’ and replace it with the word ‘work?’ Those objects made with care and extraordinary talent we can call ‘great work’, those deserving special attention, but not breathtaking, we call ‘good work’. Honest, appropriately made objects without special distinction we name ‘work’ alone. And what remains deserves the title ‘bad work’. One simple fact encourages me in this proposal; we value a good rug, a beautiful book, or a good poster over any bad painting.

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