Friday, August 17, 2012

E. McKnight Kauffer

I'm not much of a modernist or minimalist, as a lover of nature I veer away from clean lines. Give me swoops and mess and an array of detail to capture the eye. But recently I've been drawn to the poster design of the Art Nouveau/Art Deco/Modernist era, or a movement that's somewhere in the midst of all of those, that has big bold graphics but also swooping organic lines and wacky hand-drawn typography. Cleanliness plus mess, it's a good thing to aspire to.

Paul pointed me towards E. McKnight Kauffer, designer of posters and much more, inhaler of Japanese prints, Vorticism (I have no idea what that is), Modernism, Constructivism and Surrealism, master of hand-stencilling and airbrush. He was trained in painting and lettering, and was so influenced by his professors that he adopted the name "McKnight" after one as a gesture of gratitude. I never loved my professors this much... did I have average ones or was I not open enough to their influence? And Vorticists—did they all draw tornadoes?

What a masterful use of angles offset by loose organic lines, with unusual contrasting colors and textures thrown in. Or not thrown, he was no thrower. Everything is considered but it seems like such an intuitional consideration. Did he ponder and rework each multiple times? Or was he the kind of draftsman who could pull out a pencil and in one swift motion mark out a perfect arc?

He is an inspiration, of cleanliness plus mess.

All images by E. McKnight Kauffer, courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art

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