A look at the art movements of the 20th century lists everything from Art Deco, Cubism and Dada to Surrealism, Op Art and Pop Art, but it often skips over the one movement that embodied the youth culture of the mid-century – the psychedelic images of the 1960s and 1970s. Perhaps no one influenced that period more than John Van Hamersveld, the southern California surfer-cum-designer whose “Endless Summer” movie poster became emblematic of the sun-drenched surfer culture. Van Hamersveld, who recalls being paid $150 for the poster, took a photograph of the film’s opening scene and converted it into sunset silhouettes by reducing each color to a single tone and giving each shape a single, hard edge. Van Hamersveld went on to design more than 300 record album covers for virtually every major rock star in the ‘60s. For aging baby boomers, Van Hamersveld illustrations are as much a symbol of the times as Beatles tunes, protest marches, acid-trips and love beads. Van Hamersveld’s iconic images are presented in his latest book, “John Van Hamersveld: 50 Years of Graphic Design,” released in June.
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Lately Brooklyn -based illustrator and author Andy Rash, who usually draws in a more traditional style, has come out with a series that is a throwback to the crude bitmapped video game art of the 1980s. Rash calls this style “Iotacons” – iota means an extremely small amount. Full body portraits of politicians and pop stars look like they were constructed out of Lego bricks or mosaic tiles. What fascinating is that even distilled down to a few dozen pixels, these figures are recognizable as individuals and as personalities. We can pick out specific members of the U.S. Senate (below), the Supreme Court justices (above), the Allied-Axis leaders of World War II, the Beatles, and all of the Star Wars characters. It’s all very retro and fun, and it reminds us how far digital technology has come since the days when we only had pixelated images to work with.
To mark the 50th anniversary of the meeting of Beatles’ John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the UK’s Royal Mail asked Johnson Banks to design a commemorative stamp. The London-based design firm conducted a sweeping audit of the masses of memorabilia surrounding the band and the cultural phenomenon that set off before concluding that “the answer was literally staring us in the face.” The Beatles album covers said it all.
In the end, Johnson Banks picked six covers to make into stamps. They explain on their website that their choices were made up of a “combination of the obvious ones like Sergeant Pepper and Abbey Road, plus ones we knew would look great small (With the Beatles and Help). Revolver was in because of its status as ‘the fans’ favourite album’ and Let It Be felt like a suitable ending.”
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