If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Retro Art: It's Cool, Daddy-O!

I have been diggin' the cool retro art of some contemporary painters lately. They have captured the look of the graphic art that was part of the cultural mileau during my growing up years in the 50s and 60s. They evoke old images of Tiki cocktail lounges, beatnik and hot rod cultures, commercial illustrations and 50s and 60s cartoons. That style of art is exemplified in the work of Jim Flora, an artist known for his commercial illustrations on the covers of RCA Victor and Columbia Records (above, also see http://www.jimflora.com/).

Although Flora was in many ways an original, his illustrations reflect a broader everyday style that anyone who lived in the 50s and 60s would recognize from magazines, album covers, postcards, cartoons, and commercials of the time. So, when younger appreciators of retro art comment that someone like Shag or Yaniger are highly influenced by Flora, they probably don't realize how pervasive this style of commercial illustration was in everyday life.

Josh Agle, better known as Shag, was in diapers when this style of art was prevelant, but has captured the essence of 60s commercial illustration in his slick, stylized, mod graphic style (seehttp://www.shag.com/). His work is known worldwide and has been exhibited in modern art galleries.

While at Powells bookstore in Portland recently(largest bookstore in the world!), I came across Wildville: The Art of Derek Yaniger. In Yaniger's art I see the same retro style that evokes images from my growing up years, when I used to carve my own tiki necklaces out of wood and watched all those stylized cartoons (seehttp://www.derekart.com/) . Aesthetically I appreciate Yaniger's ability to capture the look of the 50s and 60s commercial illustration, even more than Shag, though Yaniger has probably not recieved as much recognition as Shag.

There are plenty of other retro artists, but these artists particularly remind me, iconophile that I am, of a hipcat and groovy style. Can you dig it, Daddy-O?

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