Posts Tagged ‘Henryk Berlewi’

Never published before: Rejected Barney Bubbles artwork for Generation X

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
Gen X - reject 1007 copy

//Proof copy of unused front cover for single sleeve, Your Generation/Day By Day, Generation X, Chrysalis, 1977.//

Presented here for the first time in nearly 35 years, this is Barney Bubbles’ original artwork for the front cover of Your Generation, the 1977 debut single by Generation X.

The design was rejected because the photograph was considered too routine. What a shame. This is a typically high-impact Bubbles work  combining concise photographic presentation with audacious typography.

The quartet’s manager Jonh Ingham, the journalist who had been at the forefront of punk reportage, has dug it out from his archive exclusively for this blog.

“I cut, folded and glued it, so we could see what the sleeve would look like held in the hand,” says Ingham.

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Bang! When Barney Bubbles brought Berlewi to Generation X

Saturday, December 5th, 2009

One of the key works by Barney Bubbles is the 7″ 1977 sleeve  for Your Generation/Day By Day, the debut single by British punk band Generation X.

Left: 7" sleeve. Front cover, Your Generation/Day By Day, Generation X, 1977. Right: Composition In Red, Black And White, Henryk Berlewi, 1924. Lodz Museum of Art.

Designers such as Peter Saville and Malcolm Garrett discuss the design’s importance in near-epiphanic terms. 

“We saw the sleeve and received a very clear signal,” says Peter in his essay in Reasons To Be Cheerful. “Mr Barney Bubbles – whose work we already knew from Hawkwind and Stiff – was saying: “‘Constructivism has my blessing.’ Our response was: ‘Yes,  this is the way’.”

Front cover, 7" sleeve. Your Generation/Day By Day, Generation X, Chrysalis, 1977.

Here we discussed how the band’s co-manager Jonh Ingham’s chance encounter with Barney sparked the commission.  Barney was able to accomodate Jonh’s freshly acquired interest in constructivism and, at the same time, nod to the band’s self-designed t-shirts. 

Now the exact source of inspiration has been identified by Dutch writer and Barney fan Jan Vollaard and Doris Wintgens Hotte, curator at the Stedelijk Museum in Lakenhal, which is hosting the exhibition Theo van Doesburg And The International Avant-Garde.

It is a work entitled Composition In Red, Black And White, one of 12 by the Polish artist Henryk Berlewi to accompany his 1924 manifesto Mechano-Faktura, which proposed that painting be “designed” according to the principles of modern technology and mechanical reproduction.

Back cover, 7" sleeve. Your Generation/Day By Day, Generation X, Chrysalis, 1977.

Berlewi was associated with many of the important figures of the post World War 1 Continental art movements and was later recognised as having pioneered op-art, the abstract geometric work adopted by the fashion industry as decoration in the 60s. In photographs by Edward Hartwig he is surrounded by models in op-art dresses.

Jan showed Doris the Generation X sleeve as part of his preparation for tomorrow’s presentation on Barney’s integration of the work of van Doesburg and his peers such as Berlewi.

Composition In Red, Black And White. Henryk Berlewi, 1924.

“Doris was surprised and intrigued,” says Jan. “Right away she took me to see Berlewi’s painting and explained  his manifesto of mechanical constructivism and the way in which he captured movement and form in abstract, square-cornered compositions.”

Generation X guitarist Tony James surrounded by self-designed t-shirts, 1977. To the left is his own version of Barney's "45". Photo: Ray Stevenson.

The Your Generation sleeve is one of the clearest examples of Barney’s distillation of art history references. Using Berlewi’s painting as a springboard, Barney reassembled the elements into a multi-layered  piece which accurately expressed the visual minimalism and energy of the punk period, led by the “45” pun on the rpm of the 7in single contained within, and the geometric representation of a record being played from above. 

Henryk Berlewi surround by his paintings and models in "op-art" dresses, 1966. Photo: E. Hartwig.

Berlewi is important as an exemplar of Eastern European Jewish graphic art, which would also have chimed with Barney’s Jewish roots. Yiddish scholar Seth L. Wolitz  has discussed how, under the influence of El Lissitzky in the early 20s, Berlewi  moved from expressionism to constructivism, meeting along the way Van Doesburg, Moholy Nagy and the German Dadaists.

His work was recognized by the avant-garde art dealer Herwarth Walden, who published the manifesto Mechano-Faktura in his publication Der Sturm in 1924.

 

Forty three years later, Barney recast Berlewi in the frenetic context of punk-rock. In the process he inspired not just Saville and Garrett but also Neville Brody, Al McDowell and successive waves of rock music-mad art students to delve into the art movements of the early 20th century and forge a new design aesthetic.

A Henryk Berlewi archive has recently been launched; Wolitz is among the board members. You can find out more here.

Meanwhile full details of Jan Vollaard’s presentation are here.

Van Doesburg and the Dutch connection

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Next Sunday (December 6), as part of  the current exhibition Theo van Doesburg And The International Avant-Garde: Constructing A New World at Leiden’s Stedelijk Museum in Lakenhal,  music journalist Jan Vollaard will be investigating the influence of van Doesburg’s work on Barney Bubbles’ designs.

Cover. Exhibition catalogue edited by Gladys Fabre and Doris Wintgens Hotte.

Jan, who has also written this feature about Reasons To Be Cheerful in Dutch daily paper NRC Handelsblad, will be hosting the talk and q&a from 2pm at the Scheltema complex, which is a two-minute walk from the museum at Marktsteeg 1 and Oude Singel.

The exhibition has been mounted in co-operation with London’s Tate Modern, where it will be housed from February 4 to May 10 next year as the UK’s first major show devoted to the Dutch artist who was central to the foundation of the De Stijl movement and magazine. 

Dada At 45rpm by Jan Vollaard, NRC Handelsblad, November 27, 2009

The city of Leiden is appropriate; this is where De Stijl was founded and also where van Doesburg established his short-lived art review Mécano in 1924. Here, as editor, he assumed the name I.K.Bonset, which some have claimed is an anagrammatic pun for the Dutch phrase “Ik ben sot” – “I am drunk”  – or the phonetic joke “I’m crazy”. The pseudonymous Barney would surely have appreciated either. Van Doesburg was in fact born Christian Emil Marie Kupper.

It’s believed that van Doesburg used the Bonset name to distance his more rational work from the Dada-infused content of Mécano, which broke rules in favour of absurdity and spontaneity. The front cover of Mecano 3 was quoted for the sleeve for Nick Lowe’s 1978 single I Love the Sound Of Breaking Glass

Magazine cover, letterpress on paper, 6in x 5in. Mecano no 3 by Theo van Doesburg, 1923.

There are many other examples of Barney’s appreciation and reinterpretation of the work and practices of van Doesburg and his milieu.

Theo van Doesburg, 1883-1931.

As revealed in Reasons To Be Cheerful, a painting for Barney’s friend Diana Fawcett contains an axinometric projection similar to that created by the great modernist Gerrit Reitveld for the Schroder House in Utrecht.

Left: Axinometric projection for Schroder House, Gerrit Reitveld, 1924. Left: Diana Fawcett with Barney Bubbles 1981 painting, 2008.

Diana was instructed to hang the painting at a 45-degree tilt, reproducing the quadrant which recurs in van Doesburg’s work. Around this time it also appeared on sleeves for Blanket Of Secrecy and Elvis Costello & The Attractions.

7in sleeve, paper. Say You Will/Feather In My Hand, Blanket Of Secrecy, FBeat, 1982.

Among Reitveld’s furniture  at the Schroder House is a version of his Red Blue chair of 1917. This informed the “turbo” chair Barney designed  for Jake Riviera in 1981.

Left: Chair from Reitveld Schroder House, 1924. Right: Turbo chair designed by Barney Bubbles, Editions Riveira, 1981.

“Van Doesburg believed that the boundaries between painting, architecture, photography and other disciplines should be abolished and become part of a single, compressed, modernist worldview,” writes Jan. “Bubbles endorsed those principles and combined his work in magazines and record companies, furniture design, painting, advertising work and directing (primitive) video clips.”

7in sleeve. I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass/They Called It Rock, Nick Lowe, Radar, 1978.

With the focus on van Doesburg’s influence on the international avant-garde, there are more than 300 works by 80 artists, including paintings, sculpture, scale-models, furniture, posters, films, typography  and magazines to illustrate what Barney himself exemplified: versatility, tirelessness and the interweaving of various disciplines.

Artists whose works are on view include El Lissitzky, László Moholy-Nagy, Kurt Schwitters, Henryk Berlewi and Piet Mondrian

Full details of the exhibition can be found here; those interested in attending Jan’s presentation should visit this page.