Sustainability and Fast Fashion

One of the many problems facing today’s world is our dwindling environmental resources. Though humankind has finally begun focusing on energy consumption, food usage, population, etc., the fashion industry’s part in resource consumption has been largely ignored. 15% of the fabrics used at all clothing manufacturing companies are wasted.[1] This is a major problem for the industry, because many vital water, energy, agricultural, and human resources go into the creation of these fabrics and garments.

The industry also suffers from a lack of fabric diversity, with polyester and cotton composing 85% of the fabrics produced around the globe.[2] This diversity problem puts pressure on the local industries and specific resources required to produce these fabrics. This makes the fashion industry as a whole “less resilient to changing global conditions in both business and the environment, and…[reduces] consumer choice.”[3] By time the foolish uses of fabric resources comes to the world’s attention, it will already be too late for the fashion industry to change its ways. In essence, it has put too many eggs in one basket.

The disposability of “fast fashion” brands – trendy articles of clothing that begin to wear after only 10 washes – is also a frequently ignored problem.[4] A great deal of time and resources is put into manufacturing clothing that will be thrown away within 6 months to a year, adding more waste to brimming landfills. At the moment, sustainable fashion is only a niche market. No sustainable company has created universally appealing apparel that enchants mainstream markets and brings sustainable fashion to the forefront. This means that the sustainable, mainstream fashion market is currently available for any company willing to innovate for the sake of the planet.     

Fashion’s environmental problems will not be solved until large, mainstream fashion labels begin to change their agendas and means of production to support sustainability. This is particularly true for “fast fashion” brands – such as Abercrombie & Fitch – who are one of the largest contributors of fabric waste and pollution in the fashion industry.[5] Abercrombie & Fitch’s – a currently damaged and controversial brand – would benefit from rebranding themselves as a leader in the sustainable fashion field and tackle global environmental problems facing the world today.
       Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (A&F) is a casual clothing retailer for both men and women. Their primary customer base is young women and men, ranging from pre-teen to college age (though they also offer a small line of children’s clothing). A&F sells a variety of sportswear, including casual t-shirts, jeans, shorts, outerwear, accessories, and some other assorted beauty products. They manage stores in the U.S. and internationally, as well as manage direct-to-consumer options.[6] In the fashion world, A&F is defined as a “fast fashion” brand, because their clothing is crafted around trends and is made cheaply so it may be tossed out and replaced by another item the following season. However, their high-end, popularity-based image allows them to sell their clothing at a slightly higher price point than other “fast fashion” companies like Forever 21 and H&M.[7] A&F markets their products as “All-American” and describes themselves as “the essence of privilege and casual luxury.”[8]

 

Another quality that makes A&F stand out from other “fast fashion” brands is its controversial approach to their products and target market. Recently, the brand has come under fire for several reasons. Its continual sexualization of young people has made it an unpopular brand among parents, feminists, and body positivists.[9] Sales associates at the stores are required to be young and attractive, so that they will appeal to the store’s target market. Much of the store’s marketing campaigns also revolve around sex, including catalogues that feature scantily clad men and women in “precarious positions,” as well as live, half naked models at some store locations.[10] Some of their clothing has been criticized for baring sexist slogans, such as “Who needs brains when you have these?”[11] Some of A&F’s t-shirts have also caused controversy for making racist remarks about Asians.[12]

In addition to these complaints, the exclusionary nature of the brand has ruffled some feathers with concerned parents and body positivism activists. A interview that Mike Jeffries – A&F’s CEO – gave with Salon in 2006 reemerged in 2013 and caused waves with the public. Jefferies stated that he didn’t make clothing above a size 10 because “good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”[13] This damning quote has haunted the brand ever since, joining the ranks of the brand’s many other PR blunders.

Rebranding would shake away the images of superficiality and sexism that have become practically synonymous with the brand. If A&F based their new brand around fashionable sustainability, they could completely revamp their public image, while putting themselves at the forefront of a new movement towards an environmentally friendly fashion industry.

The first step A&F would take towards re-inventing their image is changing the goal of their company. Rather than using the traditional “fast fashion” approach – selling more disposable clothing to rake in profits by numbers each season – A&F could redefine their industry by shifting towards sustainability. Though the ultimate goal of any business is to maintain itself and profit, focusing the brand on sustainability would actually achieve these goals more efficiently.[14] Producing sustainable products would place them at the forefront of a new industry and allow them to gain traction in the market easily. Their name is already well-known and they have an established reputation of selling fashionable clothing. Aside from changing their production methods, clothing materials, and other factors that will be discussed later, A&F could announce their new goals to the public by creating a new mission statement or logo. This would be only the first level of changes that the brand would undergo. After this goal-shift, A&F can begin to change the inner workings of their company to fall in line with these new goals.[15]

Immediately following a formal shift in goals, A&F can begin implementing their new mission by changing the rules of their company. Revising the rules of any system is incredibly important. It is one of the most effect leverage points, as it controls the processes and people within the system.[16] In the case of A&F, this would mean creating rules about the type of fabrics used and how they are transported. They could make rules that only allow clothing to be made from organic, pesticide-free fabrics and materials that have not harmed any animals during their creation. There could also be new rules that require the exclusive use of domestically produced fabrics and materials. This would reduce the amount of resources used during the shipping process. Such rules would completely change the way A&F is currently operated and would bring the company closer to the new sustainability goal.

Though adjusting the parameters of any system is one of the least effective ways of increasing efficiency, sustainability can still be promoted by changing clothing fabrics and structures.[17] Such changes would be reinforced by the new rules A&F has distributed to all of their manufacturing centers. Rather than focusing on disposable clothing made of polyester and cotton, A&F could diversify the fabrics used in its products. This would put less pressure on the regions that are usually needed to produce cotton and polyester, while also creating jobs in new areas of the country.[18] They could also select fabrics that require less laundry care, which would reduce the amount of water used in the wearer’s home on a day-to-day basis.[19] However, their green mission wouldn’t just end at fabric type. A&F would create new patterns and markers for their clothing with wider seam allowances and extra reinforcements. This practice would use fabric that is usually wasted during contemporary clothing production, while also increasing the wearable life of their clothing.[20] The durability and lifespan of these products contributes more to the sustainable lifestyle of the wearer than fabric composition. It reduces the amount of fabric waste in landfills and gets the most mileage out of the resources used to create the product. Rather than buying a piece of clothing and replacing it in a few months, wearers would be able to keep clothing for a longer length of time. Wide seams also render clothing easily alterable, allowing the wearer to adjust the piece to a new body size or current fashion trend.[21] This increases the clothing’s value for the wearer.

By becoming one of the first mainstream brands to focus on sustainability beyond fabric usage, A&F will be generating a positive feedback loop that will work in their favor. If they create sustainable clothing that is fashionable, durable, and easily alterable to fit with new trends, then they would likely build a fan base quickly. There is no denying that the fashion industry is – at its core – based around aesthetics and how these aesthetics project a particular image. At this point in time, most sustainable brands do not create clothing that appeals to trendy aesthetics or indicate status, two factors that are incredibly important in the fashion world. A&F has consistently associated their brand with status, and if they could combine this feature of their current brand with their new sustainability goals, then the company could make a significant profit.[22] The more sustainability becomes associated with status and beauty, then the more people would purchase sustainable articles of clothing to achieve this image. This results not only in a more sustainable world, but also more profits for A&F.  

Ultimately, these physical and conceptual changes to the brand will be incredibly beneficial. A brand’s ability to adapt to the current market, consider the global climate, and anticipate consumer needs determines its likelihood for survival. Currently, most fashion brands are unwilling to adapt to a changing market that is increasingly requesting fashionable clothing that wastes less resources during production, are made of sustainable materials, requires less laundering, and are structured to be durable and easily adapted to fit contemporary trends. Superficially, it may appear that making such changes would be detrimental to company profits, but this is not the case. In fact, A&F would be one of the first major brands to adapt to this growing market, making them a leader in the industry and ensuring not only their survival, but also their profitability. After all, adaptability to an ever-changing world is essential, as “any system…that becomes so encrusted that it cannot self-evolve, that…scorns experimentation and wipes out…innovation, is doomed over the long term on this highly variable planet.”[23]

 

Bibliography

 

Abercrombie & Fitch. “Our Brand.” Abercrombie & Fitch Co. Accessed May 3, 2014. http://www.anfcareers.com/page/Our-Brands.

       Claudio, Luz. “Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry.” Environmental Health Perspectives 9 (Sep 2009). Accessed May 3, 2014. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1964887/.

 

Fletcher, Kate. Sustainable Fashion and Textiles. New York: Routeledge, 2014.

 

Guillermo, Emil. “Humoring Ethnic America: Abercrombie & Fitch Still Doesn’t Get It.” SF Gate. April 3 2002. Accessed May 3 2014. http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Humoring-Ethnic-America-Abercrombie-Fitch-2847869.php.

 

Lepore, Merdith. “Abercrombie: How A Hunting and Fishing Store Became a Sex-Infused Teenybop Legend.” Business Insider. April 6 2011. Accessed May 3 2014. http://www.businessinsider.com/abercrombie-fitch-history-2011-4?op=1.

 

Meadows, Donella. “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System.” The Sustainability Institute, 1999. 

 

Perman/Reynoldsberg, Stacy. “Abercrombie’s Beefcake Brigade.” Times. Feburary 14, 2000. Accessed May 3,, 2014. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,996083,00.html.

 

Rissanen, Timo. Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes. Edited by Gwilt & Rissanen. London: Earthscan, 2011).

      

 

{C}[1]{C} Timo Rissanen, Shaping Sustainable Fashion: Changing the Way We Make and Use Clothes, edit Gwilt & Rissanen (London: Earthscan, 2011), 129.

{C}[2]{C} Kate Fletcher, Sustainable Fashion and Textiles (New York: Routeledge, 2014), 8.

{C}[3]{C} Fletcher, Sustainable Fashion and Textiles, 8.

{C}[4]{C} Rissanen, Shaping Sustainable Fashion, 128.

{C}[5]{C} Luz Claudio, “Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry,” Environmental Health Perspectives 9 (Sep 2009): accessed May 3, 2014, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1964887/.

{C}[6]{C} Meredith Lepore, “Abercrombie: How A Hunting and Fishing Store Became a Sex-Infused Teenybop Legend,” Business Insider, April 6 2011, accessed May 3 2014, http://www.businessinsider.com/abercrombie-fitch-history-2011-4?op=1.

{C}[7]{C} Stacy Perman/Reynoldsberg, “Abercrombie’s Beefcake Brigade,” Times, Feburary 14 2000, accessed May 3, 2014, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,996083,00.html.

{C}[8]{C} “Our Brand,” Abercrombie & Fitch Co., accessed May 3 2014, http://www.anfcareers.com/page/Our-Brands.

{C}[9]{C} Lepore, “Abercrombie.”

{C}[10]{C} Lepore, “Abercrombie.”

{C}[11]{C} Elisa Doucette, “Is Abercrombie & Fitch the Newest Member of the Mean Girls?” Forbes, May 10 2013, accessed May 3 2014, http://www.forbes.com/sites/elisadoucette/2013/05/10/is-abercrombie-fitch-the-newest-member-of-the-mean-girls/.

{C}[12]{C} Emil Guillermo, “Humoring Ethnic America: Abercrombie & Fitch Still Doesn’t Get It,” SF Gate, April 3 2002, accessed May 3 2014, http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Humoring-Ethnic-America-Abercrombie-Fitch-2847869.php

{C}[13]{C} Doucette, “The Newest Member of the Mean Girls?”

{C}[14]{C} Donella Meadows, “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System,” The Sustainability Institute, 1999, 16.

{C}[15]{C} Donella Meadows, “Leverage Points,” 17.

{C}[16]{C} Meadows, “Leverage Points,” 14.

{C}[17]{C} Meadows, “Leverage Points,“ 6.

{C}[18]{C} Fletcher, Sustainable Fashion and Textiles, 9.

[19] Rissanen, Shaping Sustainable Fashion, 135.

[20]{C} Rissanen, Shaping Sustainable Fashion, 128.

[21] Rissanen, Shaping Sustainable Fashion, 135.

[22] Lepore, “Abercrombie.”

{C}[23]{C} Meadows, “Leverage Points,” 16. 

Art Versus Science: The Failings of Gu Wenda’s Utopia

 

The concept of land art in modern art dates back to the 1960s when works like the Spiral Jetty exemplified how we can mold nature into making art.  Even before that, Eastern cultures, especially Japan and China, focused on landscape as a medium of art while the Greeks were more focus as depicting humans as a form of art.[1]  In Gu Wenda’s exhibit Central Park, he tries to break out from just using land as a medium to make art, but using land art to benefit the environment and the global community.  The Central Park exhibit falls under the category of sustainable art, which is a genre of art that takes on the somewhat difficult job of combining two completely different fields: science and art. Gu Wenda’s Central Park exhibit in Chambers Fine Art is definitely making an attempt at fusing sustainable, urban planning and land art, but the attempt falls short mainly due to technical shortcoming.  His project underestimates the expertise and efforts that community planners already currently take when it comes to doing domestic projects like planning parks.  Instead of viewing Wenda’s exhibit as a plan to how a future city could literally be planned out, it should be viewed more as a project that promotes the idea of sustainability.   The vision presented in Wenda’s project is more of an observation how nature and man then a realistic plan on how to implement such a plan.

Despite Wenda’s denial of rejecting items that only serve decorative purposes for this exhibit, there is no doubt that his plan wishes to mold nature solely for decorative purposes. Those who plan parks put thought into the positioning of where the trees, streams and walkways go, because things like run-off and erosion can make parks highly unsustainable.  Wenda’s plan for the park does not show the same level of technical expertise.  For example, one of his ideas that calligraphy gardens should be placed next to streams, but not right next to the water.  There are obvious ecological issues with making such a set-up since healthy waterways need plant-life located next to them.  Beyond the inaccurate science behind his plan, it seems that Wu forces our cultural meanings on nature.  In Concept #1: Spring Wind (Illustration 2), Wu is showing how he envisions the placement of the calligraphy garden next to streams.  The calligraphy character was created by Wu, it is a innovative combination of the Chinese character “” and “”. The calligraphy is obviously the subject of the painting with large black print large enough to draw one’s eye away from the more delicate natural details of the stream towards the bottom of the painting.  If we are to reject all decorative details, what purpose do gardens shaped into calligraphy have?  The calligraphy is hollow of meaning if it does not contribute decoratively or environmentally. Coincidentally the calligraphy just happens to be made up completely by Wenda, so even if you did know how to read calligraphy it wouldn’t mean anything.  Yet by creating the pseudo-calligraphy he does, at least to viewers who can’t read Chinese calligraphy, make an accurate observation that in the absence of meaning we create our own, because even though this calligraphy means nothing linguistically speaking most would define it as Chinese calligraphy.  By forcing human nature on the scenery in his park, he is perfectly demonstrating how man creates park to have a slice of nature, but we control the ultimate “meaning” of nature by taming it to our own liking.

Only when you look closer at the pictures like Concept #1 (Illustration 3), nature is uninhibited by the restraints of landscapers.  Each picture shows the delicate textures he uses to represent nature, but there is definitely no sign that his complete composition is making efforts to tame nature sustainably.  The artist used various techniques to create the background. He combines traditional Chinese painting with modern technique, he applied a layer of ink on the rice paper and then sprinkle some alums on the ink gradually and leave the alums to dissolve in the ink wash, the dissolved alums creates a beautiful effect randomly, in the detail of Concept #1 (Illustration 4), the artist brought out an fascinating illusion of flowing water, rock textures or any other natural elements on the painting, by combining the Chinese landscape ink wash with dissolved alums.

Some of the other pieces it is apparent that the molding of nature has become a more significant theme than nature itself. In one of the planning sketch (illustration 5), the calligraphy completely dominates the picture. There is nothing nature-like even in the background of this picture.  All we see are the black, gray and white ink washes in the background that signifies nothing.  The human message at this point has completely dominated any natural one, because the maintenance of the shaping of the plant is not a sustainable method.   It costs manpower to constantly shape the bushes, and it also isn’t the best way for most plants to grow.  Cutting hedges is certainly not an innovative idea, but it also doesn’t focus on a very important tenet of sustainability: appreciating nature for how it naturally works.  Again, Wenda has more shows us how we want to force our own meaning into nature rather than just appreciating nature’s true form.  

Even the name of exhibit exemplifies Wenda’s apparent lack of knowledge about sustainable planning.  When he showed the project in China, he called the exhibit China Park then shifted the name to Central Park when he exhibited it in New York. Now obviously New York and China have extremely different flora and fauna, but Wenda does nothing to account for this change in hemispheres.  Not to mentions the demands of the Chinese urban centers do differ from those of New York City.  For example, water for aesthetic displays in New York City, an island surrounded by water, is a lot more practical than water in a place like Shangai that is in the desert. Mankind rarely does pay attention to the limitation of their surrounding unless they are absolutely forced to, so by changing the name Wenda is unwittingly highlighting that man will often ignore the limitation of his resources when it comes to nature.

This is not the first time an artist has fallen short in achieving sustainability in art when they are indeed trying to honor it, because the fact remains most artists just do not have the technical knowledge needed to create sustainable systems.  “New technologies play a part in the discourse of ecological modernisation (sic) through the idea that clean technologies and efficiency savings have the potential to solve environmental problems without the need for radical social change.”[2]  In Wenda’s exhibit he does pay lip service to the fact we do need to get down to technological and social changes through urban planning, but at the same time he doesn’t bother to really create a design that adheres to the basic elements needed for a sustainable design.  A glaring design flaw in his park is the lack of trees around the waterways, but even just building the waterways into the exact shapes he desires would take a considerable amount of irreplaceable resources.  When designing a sustainable park it is important to remember to use the resources available rather than just shove the resources where you want them as has been the historic shortsighted attitude of urban planning.  Yet, the exhibit does acknowledge the importance of setting aside green space for human again showing the yin and yang interaction of humans and nature as being a mandatory part of quality life.

Artists as a whole need to be mindful of sustainability, especially if that is the core theme of their artworks; this requires attention to all technical details, including materials. Wenda fails to see the opportunity to use modern art mediums that are enviro-friendly. While ink and rice paper do serve decorative purposes in Wenda’s Eastern theme, he misses an opportunity to use more enviro-friendly materials.  By skipping over the “green” material, Wenda is ignoring an important part of sustainability by not exercising care as to what environmental impact his art project may have. Wenda could have used the exhibit as an opportunity to promote using sustainable art products to countless viewers[3], but apparently the thought did not occur to him for many parts of the exhibit.  Man, even idealist artists, sometimes forget to consider nature in all decisions, so again the misuse of materials shows yet another facet of the relationship between man and nature. There is no doubt that man does forget to account for nature a good portion of the time.  

Wenda mentions that he wants to represent all elements of yin and yang symbolically in his exhibit, but the message of the balance between forces is more apparent in the exhibit. It is worth noting that man is not an element within the yin and yang philosophy, so how could an urban park really be showing the power of all elements interacting with man standing in the way. Instead Wenda shows a more vague yin and yang principle that all opposite forces are related, because modern man and nature definitely seem to go in opposite directions a lot of the time. An urban park shows elements of the complex relationship of man and nature. Man wants nature, he even needs it in his life, especially in cities where nature has been completely removed, but at the same time he wants to harness of the forces of nature for his own purposes. Wenda does just that in his art exhibit by sending his own artistic message in the exhibit, like, for example, how the delirium in society caused by clashing cultures creates something new and interesting, so even if we don’t know how to read calligraphy, we can still embrace it in our shrubberies.

German art critics, Kurt and Wagner, once noted that sustainable art is more about “making us think more about sustainability”[4] than actually implementing plans. Yet Wenda wants his vision to go beyond just being an exhibit to reality, but one can’t help but wonder if this is a little presumptuous of him since he is just an artist without a background in urban planning or sustainability. The working title of his exhibit, Central Park, is a prime example of society’s capability in creating urban parks without necessarily the need for Wenda’s artistic intervention. There are many professionals in this field that know the complicated dynamics. If Wenda’s exhibit had been about a break down with information like what type of plants, waterways and animals can create a sustainable park, it would be more of a science exhibit than an art exhibit. Wenda would certainly not be the first artist ever to get caught up in the ideals of their work without the exact means to implement their ideas. When Eugene Delacroix painted Liberty Leading the People he was not participating in the French Revolution, but his painting became the poster of the French Revolution. In a way we see Wenda’s work of more of an observation of man and nature interacting in an urban setting, and the sustainable potential it could have if the scientifically correct principles were applied. Wenda exhibit ultimately shows us that in the complicated yin and yang interaction of man and nature, man can fight to protect nature.

 

 

[1] Grande, Introduction. xi.

[2] Fowkes.The Principles of Sustainability in Contemporary Art” http://greenmuseum.org/generic_content.php?ct_id=265.

[3] Fowkes.

[4] Kurt. “Kulture – Kunst- Nachhaltigkeit”.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Eds Hildegard Kurt and Bernd Wagner. "Kultur - Kunst - Nachhaltigkeit". Klartext-Verlag, 2002.

John K. Grande and Edward Lucie-Smith. Introduction to Art Nature Dialogues: Interviews with Environmental Artists. New York: State University of New York, 2004.  

Maja and Reuben Fowkes. “The Principles of Sustainability in Contemporary Art.” 7 Contemporary European Art Reviews (2006).

 

Illustration 1

Exhibition View

Gu Wenda

Central Park – Concept #1: Spring Wind, Summer Light, Autumn Rain, Winter Snow  2008

Chinese ink, rice paper mounted on wooden board

113 7/8 x 70 3/4 x 1 1/2 in

Photographed at the Fine Arts Chambers New York on November 15, 2013.

 

 

Illustration 2

Gu Wenda

Central Park – Concept #1: Spring Wind 2008

Chinese ink, rice paper mounted on wooden board

113 7/8 x 70 3/4 x 1 1/2 in

Photographed at the Fine Arts Chambers New York on November 15, 2013.

 

Illustration 3

Gu Wenda

Detail of Central Park – Concept #1: Autumn Rain 2008

Chinese ink, rice paper mounted on wooden board

113 7/8 x 70 3/4 x 1 1/2 in

Photographed at the Fine Arts Chambers New York on November 15, 2013.

 

Illustration 4

Gu Wenda

Detail of Central Park – Concept #1: Summer Light 2008

Chinese ink, rice paper mounted on wooden board

113 7/8 x 70 3/4 x 1 1/2 in

Photographed at the Fine Arts Chambers New York on November 15, 2013.

 

Illustration 5

Gu Wenda

Central Park. Spring Wind Summer Sun Autumn Rain Winter Snow 2009

Watercolor on paper

22 3/4 × 30 1/4 in

Photographed at the Fine Arts Chambers New York on November 15, 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keith Haring and His Performance Art

Portion of Keith Haring's massive Untitled panel from 1982. Snapped at MoMA.

Keith Haring is one of the most inventive and talented artists of the end of the twentieth century as he combined a variety of forms in his works. Thus, his works can be regarded as a combination of comics, graffiti, performance and, of course, classical art. He revealed the world around him and his inner world in his very specific manner. People still try to understand the source of Haring’s inspiration. They want to understand where his ideas came from. One of his friends once said, “He got his themes from the newspaper. Keith’s lifeblood was the newspaper, and his oxygen the clubs”.[1] Notably, his works do tell the story of the major ideas and trends that existed in the end of the twentieth century. The works can even be regarded as a certain kind of articles where the author gives certain news. Some of his works are entitled but some do note bear any titles as they simply need no commentaries. Likewise, human life is not only a number of headlines as there is something bigger than any titles and labels.  

One of such works is now on display in Museum of Modern Art in New York. This work by Haring is displayed on the second floor of the museum where many contemporary artists’ works are presented. This work is untitled.[2] It was created in 1982. It is black ink on two sheets of white paper. This is quite a large work (182.9 x 1705.6 cm). The work reveals a mosaic of a variety of images. Flying saucers, strange animals, human figures and abstractions are depicted. This rather huge work in black and white evokes a lot of ideas and visions. However, to understand the work better, it is essential to pay attention to some facts concerning the artist’s life, death and his legacy.

Keith Haring was born in 1958 and he developed love for drawing in his early childhood.[3] He was the eldest of four children in the family of a cartoonist. The artist reflected upon his childhood and stated that he used to observe his father’s work and he was surrounded by images from cartoons so he started creating his own world, “Since I was little, I had been doing cartoons, creating characters and stories”.[4] It is important to note that the artist was born in the age of the space Odyssey when people were fascinated by the outer space exploration.[5] This fascination is revealed in the artist’s works.

Haring’s attitude towards education is also specific. He entered a commercial-art school as his parents stressed that artists need to be able to sell their art. However, Haring saw that illustrators and graphic designers he saw were really unhappy as they had to draw in accordance with orders and they had no time and then no talent to create real art.[6] This understanding made him quit the school as he wanted to create not simply draw. Haring noted that he learned a lot when he visited Carnegie Museum of Art. He derived his inspiration from works by Pierre Alechinsky, Dubuffet and Christo. Haring claimed that Christo’s works had “the most profound effect” on him and he wanted to respond to Christo’s “belief that art could reach all kinds of people, as opposed to the traditional view, which has art as this elitist thing”.[7] This polemics brought Haring to the open spaces of the streets and subways. He created his works for ‘ordinary’ people.

Moreover, Haring started drawing in public places in daytime when many people could see him working and this was “a whole sort of philosophical and sociological experiment” for him.[8] He learnt reactions of people and he could respond to positive as well as negative feedbacks. He also responded to indifference. This experience led to a brand-new genre for the artist. His works could not be defined as drawings any more as they were certain parts of artistic performances. Notably, Haring often drew on black surfaces using white chalk or white paint, which made him “a graffiti artist with a difference”.[9] The artist once said that he saw black spaces and he simply drew on them.[10] He filled the empty spaces with meaning, with his own universe. What is more, he involved different people into creation of his universes as every viewer or even every passer-by co-created each of his works.

He became a star in the early 1980s. First, his images sold out as anonymous works as people simply copied the images he drew in public places and no one even thought about the artist behind the drawings and graffiti.[11] However, when people got their hero, Haring became a really ‘radiant’ artist for many. His works were full of meaning and they revealed the world around people. Viewers found ideas which were in the air at that time. This was one of the reasons Haring’s works were so popular.

It is important to note that the artist lived a very hectic life as he loved clubs and he had lots of love affairs or even sexual relationships. One New Yorker (an actor involved in the musical based on Haring’s life) even noted, “I was probably the only gay man in New York in the ‘80s who never met or slept with him”.[12] He was open gay and he participated in a variety of events where issues of gay people were touched upon.

He found out about his disease (AIDS) in 1988 and his art became a bit different. His works became more personal and even more meaningful. The death of Andy Warhol also had a great impact on Haring.[13] Apart from general ideas that were in the air, the artist started paying more attention and even focusing on issues concerning homosexuality, AIDS and death. He also tried new forms and new colors. He moved from the worlds in black and white. His universe became colorful. The colors were bright and sometimes really radiant.

The artist passed away in 1990 at the age of 31. Of course, his works are still admired and are still up-to-date. People are still inspired by Haring’s energetic creativity and his specific style. His performance drawings have proved that art is not for elite only as all people can appreciate them and can even co-create. Each work by the artist reveals a whole universe that makes people think of their life and the society they live in.

The work under analysis is also very evoking. It makes viewers think of many quite global issues. It brings back memories of the space craze and makes viewers understand that the issues concerning animals were apparent in the 1980s and still nothing is done. The picture also makes people think about their place in the universe and the meaning of their existence.

Some may say that this untitled work is not as significant as his Radiant Baby, for instance. However, I think the work in question is as significant as Radiant Baby, since it can be regarded as a certain embodiment of one of the most important periods in Haring’s life. This was the period of his work which was a great experiment as well as a great fun. He drew and he went to parties. He listened to people and he accumulated these ideas which were eventually tessellated into a mosaic of Haring’s universe. This mosaic consisted of his childhood memories and new trends, his past and his present. He used a variety of tools to reveal his ideas. Cartoons and graffiti were his primary tools at that period.

The large work represents one of his works created in subways. It is possible to feel the presence of others in this picture. Even though this work was not drawn in public, it is still possible to feel the atmosphere during his artistic drawing performances. The work is really lively. Every object and every image is in motion. Thus, the picture makes viewers picture a subway and Haring creating this work in front of numerous passers-by. It is also necessary to note that the work is in black and white. This work pertains to the black and white period when he created his universes using two colors only.

Furthermore, the picture reveals one of the codes he used in his works.[14] The code is quite multi-layered. However, this code may be traced in many works of that period. Therefore, the significance of the work is obvious. It helps decipher the code which can help understand many other works better. Remarkably, the author used to say that he did not know where those images came from.[15] However, even if he did not think of the origin of his ideas and did not want to talk about the meaning of his works, it is possible to state that the meaning is quite obvious. Even if the artists said he did not want to say anything drawing his pictures, there is a specific message. The artist revealed the world around him, and he also revealed the world as he saw it. Thus, the major significance of the present work (as any other work by Haring) is that he perpetuated the period he lived in. This untitled piece of art makes contemporary viewers understand what kind of the world the artist lived in. Contemporaries of Haring may reflect upon those distant years and compare their lives in 1980s and 2010s.

When considering Haring’s works, it is necessary to mention the atmosphere and the impression the works make. When I saw the work in question, I understood that it is really special. It creates a very unique atmosphere. Viewers find themselves inside the world revealed in the picture. Viewers find themselves inside a very specific cartoon where all ideas are revealed in a grotesque form. The picture shows that life itself can be compared to the cartoon. All know that any cartoon has a specific meaning, idea and a lesson to learn. Sometimes these messages are on the surface, but sometimes it is necessary to look for the meaning. Likewise, people tend to search for the meaning of their existence. Being inside Haring’s world-cartoon one can come across the meaning.

Apart from the didactic component, the work is descriptive in nature. It depicts the western society of the 1980s. It is possible to hear the voices of the 1980s. The picture is a reflection of certain trends that reigned in the end of the twentieth century. For instance, the craze for flying saucers is revealed by the artist. The flying saucers send their rays to the Earth and, maybe, try to seize humans. The artist does not show whether the civilizations are friendly or hostile. The picture reveals humans’ ideas concerning other civilizations. However, it is certain that the flying saucers are a part of people’s picture of the universe.

It is quite difficult to understand the message the artist sends while depicting the animals. Though, it seems that the animals are suffering. They try to find support in the universe, they want to be saved and they want to be heard. These images tell the story of the relationships between people and animals. In other words, the artist depicts some people’s ideas on the matter. Haring tries to make people think of the world they live in. The animals seem to be central to the picture as these concerns were quite widespread in the 1980s. Many people (including the artist) understood that animals need help. Thus, the picture has two major aims in this respect. On the one hand, the artist reveals the ongoing debate on the matter. On the other hand, Haring draws people’s attention to the problem. The work makes people think that something should be done.

Notably, Haring depicts people in a very specific manner. Human figures are literally scattered all over the picture as well as all over the universe. People still do not know what their place in the universe is. Apart from the figures’ location, there is something special about them. There are lines inside the figures. These lines can be a certain way to fill in an empty space. However, these lines may well stand for people’s souls, beliefs, ideas, etc. The artist believes that people are not shallow and there is something special in every human being. It is also possible to note that the artist believes that people have the future and humanity will overcome any issues. It is possible to note that the picture brings hope.

Keith Haring was an extraordinary personality and a very talented artist. He managed to combine really incompatible forms, genres and tools. He made many people understand that art is not for elite only as every passer-by could become a co-creator of an artistic work. The work in question was created in 1982. This was the period when the artist became known and admired. The work is untitled but it is far from being meaningless or insignificant. On the contrary, the work is really significant as it embodies a specific code present in each work by Haring. The work helps decipher the code and adjust it to other works of the same period (and even other periods). Apart from this, the work is really significant as it makes viewers think of a variety of important issues.

 

Bibliography

“About Haring.” The Keith Haring Foundation, accessed October 25, 2012.

http://www.haring.com/!/about-haring/in-his-own-words#.UIjOfm9vgb3.

“Exhibitions.” MOMA, accessed October 24, 2012.

http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1228.

Giltz, Michael. “Radiant Talent.” The Advocate (April 15, 2003): 52-53.

Keith Haring: Journey of the Radiant Baby. Piermont, N.H.: Bunker Hill Publishing, Inc., 2006.

Kolossa, Alexandra. Keith Haring: Life for Art. New York: Taschen, 2004.

Loos, Ted. “In Code: Spaceships, Babies, Evil TVs.” The New York Times, June 2012, accessed October 25, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/17/obituaries/keith-haring-artist-dies-at-31-career-began-in-subway-graffiti.html.

Yarrow, Andrew L. “Keith Haring, Artist, Dies at 31; Career Began in Subway Graffiti.” The New York Times, February 1990, accessed October 25, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/17/obituaries/keith-haring-artist-dies-at-31-career-began-in-subway-graffiti.html.

[1]. quoted in Keith Haring: Journey of the Radiant Baby (Piermont, N.H.: Bunker Hill Publishing, Inc., 2006), 32.

[2]. “Exhibitions,” MOMA, accessed October 24, 2012, http://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1228.

[3]. Alexandra Kolossa, Keith Haring, 1958-1990: Life for Art (New York: Taschen, 2004), 92.

[4]. “About Haring,” The Keith Haring Foundation, accessed October 25, 2012, http://www.haring.com/!/about-haring/in-his-own-words#.UIjOfm9vgb3.

[5]. Alexandra Kolossa, Keith Haring, 1958-1990: Life for Art (New York: Taschen, 2004), 37.

[6]. “About Haring,” The Keith Haring Foundation, accessed October 25, 2012, http://www.haring.com/!/about-haring/in-his-own-words#.UIjOfm9vgb3.

[7]. Ibid.

[8]. “About Haring,” The Keith Haring Foundation, accessed October 25, 2012, http://www.haring.com/!/about-haring/in-his-own-words#.UIjOfm9vgb3.

[9]. Andrew L. Yarrow, “Keith Haring, Artist, Dies at 31; Career Began in Subway Graffiti,” The New York Times, Feb. 17, 1990, accessed October 25, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/17/obituaries/keith-haring-artist-dies-at-31-career-began-in-subway-graffiti.html.

[10]. “About Haring,” The Keith Haring Foundation, accessed October 25, 2012, http://www.haring.com/!/about-haring/in-his-own-words#.UIjOfm9vgb3.

[11]. Ibid.

[12]. Michael Giltz, “Radiant Talent,” The Advocate, April 15, 2003, 52.

[13]. Alexandra Kolossa, Keith Haring, 1958-1990: Life for Art (New York: Taschen, 2004), 85.

[14]. Ted Loos, “In Code: Spaceships, Babies, Evil TVs,” The New York Times, Jun. 14, 2012, accessed October 25, 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/17/obituaries/keith-haring-artist-dies-at-31-career-began-in-subway-graffiti.html.

[15]. “About Haring,” The Keith Haring Foundation, accessed October 25, 2012, http://www.haring.com/!/about-haring/in-his-own-words#.UIjOfm9vgb3.

The Persistence of Memory: Modern Classic by Salvador Dali

The Illustration of the Movement

The history of art consists of several crucial moments which resulted in several stunning epochs. Every epoch can be regarded as a reflection of the development of human society. People have revealed their major aspirations in numerous works of art. Apart from this, in the majority of cases works of art inspired people to develop and long for something better. Thus, Surrealism can be regarded as one of the most individualistic and really inspiring art movements. Admittedly, Dali is one of the most important figures within the movement. Many of his works can be regarded as iconic artworks which reveal the essence of the art movement. Of course, The Persistence of Memory is one of the best known works which is often regarded as one of the most conspicuous illustrations of the movement. The picture can also be regarded as a symbol of the first part of the twentieth century when people were overwhelmed by ideas, movements and theories. Surrealism and Dali’s painting was a kind of liberation from all conventions and haunting ideologies.

Origins of Surrealism and Its Essence

Surrealism dates back to the times when the World War I devastated Europe. Paris has always been one of the main centers of artistic activity. However, due to the devastating war and its horrible aftermaths, artists had to abandon the glorious place.[1] Various thinkers tended to proclaim the importance of self-reflection. Many people understood that there was something wrong with conventions which had led to the World War I. People were confused. They were at a loss.

Thus, Breton, who was one of the most important figures in the development of Surrealism, claimed that artists had to create works “outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupation”.[2] Admittedly, people were disoriented and that made them focus on their selves. Artists also acknowledged the delusions of the beginning of the twentieth century. Such notions as progress and development were seen as something rather wrongful as people saw that strive for progress had led to the horrible war. Some artists managed to understand the reason for such a failure and they managed to come up with a specific solution. They claimed that people had to learn more about themselves. Of course, works by Freud and Jung contributed greatly to the development of such ideas. Some artists believed that it was essential to understand peculiarities of human’s mind, soul and/or consciousness in order to start the quest for the true progress and development. Dali claimed that Surrealism is the only way to develop as any artist should understand that this movement no longer involved the representation of the external world, but that of the intimate and personal world of the artist.[3]

Thus, surrealists were eager to share their dreams and images produces by their consciousness. They saw these images as a way to explore human nature.

Importantly, this movement was highly criticized by many. For instance, some called Surrealism “assassination of painting”.[4] Many critics and artists claimed that surrealists often tended to create works characterized by “morbid sadism, pederasty, persistent filth, the whole stench of drugs and brothels”.[5] Admittedly, some works did have elements of vicious creations. However, many surrealistic works became great inspirations for other artists and many people.

Even Dali had many ‘crazy’ works but some of his works like The Persistence of Memory are inspiring. More so, this work is seen as one of the most meaningful masterpieces of the twentieth century as it helps to open up new horizons and it helps to take a closer look at people’s place in this world.

Salvador Dali

In the first place, it is necessary to focus on some facts from the artist’s biography to understand his famous work better. Salvador Dali was born in 1904 in Figueres.[6] It is possible to state that he was surrounded by love of women (his mother, his grandmother, his aunt). Thus, Salvador “was treated as a little king”.[7] This exclusive attention and treatment influenced greatly the artists and this influence can be traced in his later years. When the boy was sent to school, his life changed drastically. No one treated him as his women used to. Therefore, Salvador was rather a hermit. He spent most of his time dreaming and creating his own worlds.

Salvador Dali painted his first work at the age of ten.[8] This was an impressionistic work. It is also important to note that Salvador was afraid of his father who had a really hard character. Dali also found himself in a school where authority of the teacher was the basic law. These two facts could become preconditions for the development of the artist’s rebellious nature. Salvador often tried to disobey orders and rebel against any authority.   

Of course, the young artist could not but accept new ideas which reigned in the post-World War I world. Surrealistic ideas were accepted and developed by Dali who became one of the most important figures of the movement. The artist accepted the ideas concerning the rotting society of the world after the horrible war. He also believed that wrongful conventions had led the world to the disastrous war. Apart from this, the situation in Spain was also a kind of illustration of the wrongful order.[9] Dali witnessed the rise of fascist movement within his homeland. He understood that this order could only lead to even more disastrous changes in the society. Dali understood that people were led by delusive ideas which could result in self-destruction.

Of course, the artist also paid a lot of attention to Freud’s works which revealed the secrets of human mind. Dali also tried to explore his own self. He devoted a great deal of his works to the world of dreams and hallucinations. Dali worked out his own philosophy and technique which he himself called a “paranoiac and active advance of the mind”[10]. He admitted that there was some craziness in his works and any other surrealistic work. More so, he stated that the only difference between himself and a crazy man was that he was not crazy.[11] The artist once claimed: “I believe that the moment is near when by a procedure of active paranoiac thought it will be possible to systematize confusion and contribute to the total discrediting of the world of reality”.[12] It was in the late 1920s when Dali met his life-time partner Gala. This was the time when he painted one of his most famous works, The Persistence of Memory.

The Persistence of Memory

The Form

The Persistence of Memory was created in 1931. The painting is quite small as its dimensions are 24.1 x 33 cm. It is oil on canvas.[13] As has been mentioned above this piece is one of the most conspicuous surrealistic works. The work depicts several surrealistic objects. There is also a particular landscape in the background. Dali depicted his homeland, Figures, or the cliffs and the sea of Figueres, to be more precise. As for the surrealistic objects, these are several ‘soft’ watches, a surrealistic tree, insects and the artist’s profile (which is also revealed in a surrealistic manner). There is also a table or a box. Finally, there is a flat square blue surface in the background of the painting.

The artist uses quite mild colors to reveal his ideas. Blue and grey colors prevail. It is necessary to note that these colors reveal the atmosphere of a dream or hallucination perfectly well. The cliffs are depicted in bright yellow and grey colors, which make them, stand out. Remarkably, the cliffs are depicted in a very realistic manner. Again, this contributes greatly to the idea of dreaming as people see realistic images when dreaming.

Its Creation and Symbolism

The painting is often regarded as a result or the artist’s interest in psychology and his interest in the “concepts of soft and hard”.[14] Once Gala went to the cinema and Dali was alone at home. He looked at some “gooey cheese and thought of things that were very soft”.[15] The artist then looked at one of his unfinished paintings. The painter “suddenly envisioned two soft watches”.[16] Dali painted the two watches and “was very pleased with the result”.[17]

It is important to note that this painting like no other fulfills major objectives of Surrealism, i.e. it makes people self-reflect. When looking at the painting, one cannot but think of relativity of time and the relativity of the world. People are made to think about the meaning of their existence. Every viewer sees specific messages communicated by the surrealistic world created by Dali. Honour and Fleming provide a very interesting interpretation of the work:

Time stands still within the dreamer’s mind, as in Freud’s timeless unconscious, so that in Dali’s arid, airless landscape the metal watches go limp and stop forever. They even melt and decompose, attracting iridescent insects as they take on organic shapes such as that of the watch drooping like some rotting fruit on the bare branch of a dead tree.[18]

It is necessary to point out that the painting is full of conspicuous as well as covert symbols. Thus, the watches reveal relativity of time and space. The artist depicts his vision of time which is soft and melting. Dali breaks conventions and instead of depicting time in a form of some kind of sandglass, the artist stresses that time is melting.

The profile that is depicted in the center of the painting stands for the human being. Of course, this is Dali’s profile as surrealists have revealed their inner world and their vision. However, Dali depicts himself as one of millions of people who also have to follow universal rules. Thus, the image in the center of the painting reveals Dali’s ideas concerning self. He understands that people’s existence is also relative. Basically, people do not live, they melt in the melting world. The profile is often compared to a snail. Thus, Dali depicts himself in his shell claiming that all people have shells of their faces-masks. The melting shape of the profile also reveals people being amorphous and, at the same time, the image stands for people’s ability to ‘acquire’ any shape.

This idea is especially suggestive in terms of surrealistic perspective. Surrealists of the beginning of the twentieth century believed that people were deceived by the wrongful order and delusive ideas. The surrealists also believed that people were overwhelmed by various ideas and conventions. Dali provides his own vision on the matter. He suggests that people are accustomed to certain abundance of influences and they can acquire any shape when necessary. The melting profile is a kind of illustration of a human who has to live in the ‘soft’ reality.

Dali also reveals the idea of a rotting society as he depicts his watches, which are attacked by insects, which is one of the signs of destruction, decomposition, decay. Dali saw the society as a rotting entity. The artist resorted to the image of insects in many of his works.[19] The Persistence of Memory could be no exception. Of course, the artist reveals his concerns about the rotting society in the painting which can be regarded as certain embodiment of Dali’s outlook.   

Conclusion

Dali is regarded as one of the most influential painters of the twentieth century. His works confirm that symbols could communicate important messages to viewers. Admittedly, The Persistence of Memory can be regarded as an illustration of the manifesto of surrealists. The painting reveals the artist’s vision of the world, his vision of himself in the world. The work also reveals his own world. Besides, Dali’s famous work The Persistence of Memory also reveals people’s disorientation which was a characteristic feature of the society between the two World Wars.

The Persistence of Memory

Bibliography

Fanes, Felix. Salvador Dali. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007.

Greeley, Robin Adele. Surrealism and the Spanish Civil War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006.

Honour, Hugh, and John Fleming. A World History of Art. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2005.

LaFountain, Marc J. Dali and Postmodernism: This Is not an Essence. New York, NY: Sunny Press, 1997.

Ross, Michael Elsohn. Salvador Dal and the Surrealists: Their Lives and Ideas: 21 Activities.Chicago, Il: Chicago Review Press, 2003.

“The Collection.” MoMA. Accessed April 30, 2012. http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79018.

[1]. Marc J. LaFountain, Dali and Postmodernism: This Is not an Essence (New York, NY: Sunny Press, 1997), 84.

[2]. Quoted in Robin Adele Greeley, Surrealism and the Spanish Civil War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), 8.

[3]. Felix Fanes, Salvador Dali (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), 82.

[4]. Quoted in Felix Fanes, Salvador Dali (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007), 82.

[5]. Ibid., 82.

[6]. Michael Elsohn Ross, Salvador Dal and the Surrealists: Their Lives and Ideas: 21 Activities (Chicago, Il: Chicago Review Press, 2003), 5.

[7]. Ibid., 6.

[8]. Ibid., 11.

[9]. Robin Adele Greeley, Surrealism and the Spanish Civil War (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), 51.

[10]. Hugh Honour and John Fleming, A World History of Art (London: Laurence King Publishing, 2005), 810.

[11]. Ibid., 810.

[12]. Ibid., 810.

[13]. “The Collection,” MoMA, accessed April 30, 2012, http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79018.

[14]. Michael Elsohn Ross, Salvador Dal and the Surrealists: Their Lives and Ideas: 21 Activities (Chicago, Il: Chicago Review Press, 2003), 67-68.

[15]. Michael Elsohn Ross, Salvador Dal and the Surrealists: Their Lives and Ideas: 21 Activities (Chicago, Il: Chicago Review Press, 2003), 68.

[16]. Ibid., 68.

[17]. Ibid., 68.

[18]. Hugh Honour and John Fleming, A World History of Art (London: Laurence King Publishing, 2005), 810.

[19]. “The Collection,” MoMA, accessed April 30, 2012, http://www.moma.org/collection/object.php?object_id=79018.

Taoism and Chinese Landscape Painting

Taoism is one of the most important schools of thought in the period of Spring and Autumn and Warring States with representatives including Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi.

The term, Tao was firstly put forwards by Taoism. The original meaning of “Tao” refers to the path. It has been a very long historical process that “Tao” gradually changed into rule or law of natural world and universe. 。

Lao Zi was the founder of Taoism, he regarded Tao as the principle and common rule of universe, the law that governing all movements in universe. Due to the relationship between Tao and all things on the earth, Tao is the final guarantee for mutual existence of all human beings, it is the foundation for the mutual promotion and continuation, transformation, and development. It is suggested by the Taoism that though all things on the earth have various shapes, they have common origin, as the sentence said: “Heaven, Earth and I come into being together, and all things and I are the same.”

"Wu wei” is regarded as an important feature of Tao by Taoism, it means action through inaction. It is pointed out by Lao Zi in that: The strong is on the way to death, and the weak is on the way to life.” Lao Zi observed that all the new born things are fragile but they have abundant vitality, but when they grow up, they become strong, they start to ignore everything else, and then it leads them to failure. Therefore, Lao Zi suggested that we can be strong and live a long life only if we go back to the original pure status, keep a peacefully mood, get rid of all desires to sex, money, power and rights. Sometimes, when you think too much or do things too much, it will leads to a bad result.  An interesting example, a man who start to learn Kong Fu, he has a sword in his hand, he wants to defeat others with his weapon, for a man who’s really good at Kong Fu, he doesn’t need a sword in his hand, he has an invisible sword in his heart, he has the confidence and the skills the win, while for the Kong Fu master, he has neither the real sword in his hand nor an invisible sword in his heart. He doesn’t even want to defeat others. He respects everything in the world. To him, no win, no lose in this world, he knows that enough is enough will always have enough. The idea actions through inaction went through lots of Chinese art works, especially in landscape paintings, many landscapes in the Chinese landscape paintings look so peaceful and quiet, and everything was like going back to the original pure status.

Another important theory of Tao is that when a thing reaches its extreme, it reverses its course. For example, a person will become pride and arrogant when he is too confident in himself; if a person who is overly perceptive, he will have no friends.  All things on the earth have two contradictory opposites, such as high and low, long and short, difficult and easy, light and heavy, strong and weak, big and small, or even dead and live. These opposites rely on each other and make premise for each other.  Things will develop in the opposite direction when they become extreme. There are also many examples in Chinese history. As potential rule of historical development, one dynasty may begin to be in a decline when it has developed into a very prosperous status. Tang Dynasty and Qing Dynasty are two prosperous dynasties in Chinese history. As the most prosperous dynasty in the history, Tang Dynasty declined rapidly after An Lushan Rebellion. With numerous achievements in Qianlong period, Qing Dynasty declined rapidly due to uprising after Qianlong gage up the throne. Therefore, it is suggested by Taoism that it is truth that things will develop in the opposite direction when they become extreme.

Theory that man is an integral part of nature is also an important feature of Tao. Modern human beings are robbing and conquering the nature with the help of highly developed science and technology. However, Taoism in old China suggested that human beings are a part of nature, and human beings and the nature should live relying on each other, so that human beings and the nature will come into an integral and live peacefully without conquer and being conquered.

In the painting by Wei Heling, the trees are growing randomly on the rocks, the river flows near the mountains, the pavilions appear indistinctly in the cloud, partly hidden and partly visible, clear spring is flowing through wandering stone gully quietly and softly. The lofty landscape is like in a heaven. We feel the greatness of the nature from great momentum.

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The landscape is animated with fluttering texture strokes, dots, and color washes. The artist used different brushes to create different qualities, a small wolf-hair brush that is tapered to a fine point was used to create even thin lines of ink for the details, such as the shades of the mountains and river; a large wool brush which can hold a large volume of water and ink, was used to create colors with naturally transition from gray to black, in the parts such as the sky and the mountain in the further place.

The artist used the colors black, dark green and dark brown on Chinese rice paper. All the colors transition to each other gently, which delivers a feeling that we are in a harmony with the rest of the world peacefully. In Tang Dynasty, the Taoist inspired painter aims to present a view of the world that human beings and the nature should live peacefully relying on each other. To achieve this, the artists created a subtle harmony of opposites, a balancing of human and nature, such as the pavilion and the mountain, human architectures and natural world.

In another landscape painting by Chengfu Li, it has the similar composition landscape with last one. This composition of the painting is really common among lots of landscape painting from Tang Dynasty to Qing Dynasty, in the painting, the mountain stands right in the middle, and the river flows under the mountain, this composition appeared a lot during that period, most of the artists were inspired by Taoism.


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“Be still like a mountain and flow like a great river”, said Lao Tse, a great Taoist in ancient China.  It means a man should be as strong as a mountain, don’t let his emotions run wild, don’t keep changing his mind, be strong and still with your decisions; while sometimes he should go with the flow, be flexible, make changes to adapt himself into the world. Both of the painting by Wei heling and Chengfu Li show the theory “We Wei” perfectly, the difference is that the former one shows more on “flow like a great river”, while the later one focus on “be still like a mountain”.

It is something you will find beyond your expectation in the landscape painting. Just like the Top note, middle note and the base note of a perfume, the longer you look at it, the more you will get. Created by strokes of Chinese ink, the traditional Chinese realistic painting started from the stage of Qin Dynasty and Han Dynasty or even earlier stage contains Chinese spirit and belief of 5000 years, which is more than a simple painting art actually. Painters took themselves as part of the natural world, and then created the amazing landscape painting with their enthusiasm and love for the nature. They regarded the mountains and water as their friends, and regard the earth and nature as their home. It is the harmonious relationship between human beings and the

nature.

Due to limitation of our understanding, the Tao we mentioned there is only a part of Tao, which fails to reflect the essence of Tao for we can not know all of Tao. For example, we regard it as a table. However, what is it according to our understanding, a pile of woods, or a pile of atoms? Both reflect a part of it. The first chapter of “Dao De Jing” said at the beginning: “it will not be a true Tao if we can explain it by words, there is no definition that could describe the Tao correctly. But what we know is that Tao, as the principle and common rule of universe, have a great impact on not only Chinese landscape paintings, but also human beings, and the relationship of us and the whole universe.

Typography in Advertising

Typography plays as important a role in advertising as other aspects of advertising like color, shape and location. It is the primary medium through which companies and other entities carry the message they are trying to convey to their target audience and therefore have to be significantly positioned in all adverts that it has used.

A definite relationship exists between typography and advertisement. A brief survey of any billboard, newspaper, poster or any other advertisement demonstrates that the use of typography to pass the advertisement’s information is possibly the most important aspect of advertisements of certain types. The main message that a business entity is looking forward to advertise often appears bold, enlarged, colored and highlighted to ensure readers do not miss it. This becomes so appealing and attractive to the target audience drawn to the visual aspect of the advert (Bohn 2001, 20-22).

There are several elements that come together to make a good advertisement. These include color, location, design and typography (White 2006, 27-28). It is naïve to assume that visual advertisements would not be without the use of text. There are certain worldwide brands that have established themselves so well that the appearance of their logo is all that is needed. Nike’s tick, Adidas’ three bars, Microsoft’s flag and Apple’s apple are excellent examples of this.

This essay takes a look at such a brand, but one that uses typography as its core element: the logo of the Coca Cola Company. This entity has been in existence since the eighteenth century, and still continues to be the best selling beverage in the world (The Coca-Cola Company 2011).  The Coca Cola brand is one of the most recognizable brands in the world today.

Amazingly, Coca Cola has maintained the original taste and chemical formula of their soft drink, and the original design of their first logo, as it was designed by Pemberton. John S. Pemberton, the founder of the Coca Cola Company, and the creator of the original formula of the world’s most famous soft drink, designed the logo himself using the Spencerian script. This paper examines how the use of typography in the creation of the design has helped the company market itself into what it is today.

Before further analysis of the relationship between typography and advertisement is carried out, it is important to know the proper definition of typography. Typography refers to the art of communicating vividly and simply through the use of type (Bergsland 2010, 1-2).

Advertising is a non-personal communication for an organization and the products it offers. It is propagated to a target audience by use of mass media such as magazines, television, public transport, newspapers, direct mail, catalogues and outdoor display (Janoschka 2004, 15-17). Most companies often advertise their products as items that meet a certain need of the customer. Coca cola, for example, has always sold its products as a refreshing beverage, hence the frequent use of ice, water bubbles and snow to suggest freshness in its advertisements.

From the time the company was formed, a monumental effort was put in by the management to ensure marketing of their product was excellent (Keller 2000, 7-8). After a pharmacist called Asa Chandler had bought all the shares of Coca Cola in 1891, he formed the Coca Cola Company and began concentrating on marketing the product in as many states as was possible at that time. Soon, the sales of Coca Cola were rising. The company was selling 50,000 gallons a year by 1893. It soon expanded from Atlanta, Georgia to Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles (Bodden 2008, 8).

The focus on marketing is a business strategy that is still at the heart of Coca Cola’s strategic plans today. The Coca Cola Company now focuses on maintaining the product as the world’s top beverage.

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Coca-Cola company’s products and other drinks. (The Coca-Cola Company, 2011)

It has created a cult-like aura around their product, presenting it as the only beverage able to satisfy a customer and quench thirst.

The success of Coca Cola as a brand is centered on its logo. Coca Cola has been able to make its logo one of the most recognizable logos in the world business. The use of red and white color and the calligraphic text makes the brand instantly recognizable from the business streets of New York to the dusty roads in a Kenyan village. Coca Cola has created a soft drink that remains the top selling soft drink in the world for over half a century by pushing their product to all corners of the world (Loken 2008).

This section analyzes the use of typography as used in Coca Cola’s advertisements. The font used in its adverts as well as the logo’s font shall be analyzed in greater detail. The link between typography and advertising shall be also discussed in greater detail. Finally, a response from viewers of Coca Cola advertisements over the years will be sampled.

Research indicates that Coca-Cola adverts have spread over a period of at least 100 years. The advertisements date back right from late eighteenth century to early nineteenth century. This clearly reveals how people prefer the company’s products (Crookedbrains 2008).


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Model Hilda Clark in a 1890 advertisement                             

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1905-1910 adverts

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Advertisements during the 1960-1970 time

Both advertisements use different skills in typography to pass their message. In the first advertisement, the only written part of the advertisement is the Coca Cola logo highlighted in their usual red color against the blue background. The use of contrast when displaying text attracts the consumer’s eye to the name of the product first.

 In the second advertisement, typography plays the most important role in conveying the advertisement’s message. The main message of the advertisement is placed at the top of the poster to attract maximum attention. The third picture shows an element of romance and enjoyment among young people who seem to be relaxing and also playing. Beside them there is a bottle of Coca-Cola drinks and another bag with the brand’s label. This attracts the viewer’s attention as well. Therefore, these three adverts associate the people in the pictures with Coca-Cola.

The second similarity is the use of color to highlight the product. Coca Cola’s logo is textual in nature, and it is therefore important to draw the client’s attention directly to it. In both adverts, the use of the red color helps the adverts’ creators to lead the customers’ eyes to the product’s name. If the font was not placed against such a contrasting background, it would be easy for a customer to assume that the first advertisement was advertising a beach resort while the second one was the advertisement of a transport company.

The main difference in the advertisements lies in the layout of the pictures. Although they both portray how coke refreshes a person that takes it, the first advertisement concentrates more on visual interpretation than on a written description of the intended message. People were not used to advertise with the use of pictures and therefore depended more on written explanations to get more information about a product in 1937. Therefore, the logo is more conspicuous in the second case than in the other two that seems to emphasize the users of Coca-Cola rather than the written logo.

The font used in the Coca Cola logo is known as Spencerian script (Robinson 2001, 2). This script was named after Platt Rogers Spencer, the man credited for developing the font. By the time the Coca Cola logo was created in 1886, America was in the middle of the ‘golden age’ of ornamental penmanship (Robinson 2001, 2).

Being one of the most successful fonts at the time, it is not surprising that Pemberton chose to use it when creating Coca Cola’s logo.

As mentioned above, the font was extremely popular at the time and was therefore used often by companies and individuals. According to the research, Pemberton’s partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, suggested that the two Cs in ‘Coca Cola’ would look stylish if designed well. This is how the product was named. After this Pemberton went ahead and designed a logo using a popular font. By doing so, Pemberton ensured that customers could easily recognize and continue buying his product (Garrett 2011, 120-122).

Today, the font is associated with Coca Cola so much that it is not conceivable to have a different logo with a different font. The curls in the Cs and the red color that Coca Cola uses are directly associated with the product. This font helps to create a mental link between a product and the advertisement. There are several logos that have been created using Spencerian script against a red background. Every time one sees this, the first thing that comes to mind is not the product being advertised by the text but Coca Cola. The font leaves a mental imprint of the product in consumers’ minds.

The main significance the font has in the advert is creation of the link between the logo and the product or message. Just as in the adverts reviewed above, typography has been used to highlight the important parts of the message while other aspects are left to form the background of the image. The significance of Spencerian script in the Coca Cola logo is the secret to their continued success over the years – they create a link between the advert and the product. Although there are numerous beverages made from cola, the Coca-Cola brand can be easily distinguished from the rest due to its distinct typeface (D’Angelo 2009, 257). 

Based on the case of Coca Cola, there are two main aspects of typography that make it a necessity in advertising. First, typography allows advertisers to pass the message they intend to pass clearly. They do so by highlighting the text, making it bold and placing it in a background where the contrast gives maximum attention to the message. The best advertisements are those that pay close attention to the typography and organize it in a manner that the best passes the message.

Secondly, typography draws the customers’ attention to a product. Using the case of Coca Cola, the unique text in the logo is always placed against a contrasting background. Coca cola is always very careful not to use colors that customers may not be familiar with. Thus, they prefer to use the colors their customers are conversant with which are white, black and red. By doing so, no matter what the subject of the advertisement is, customers can see that the advert is about Coca Cola.

The responses highlighted here are based on responses given by viewers of Coca Cola advertisements between the eighteenth and the twenty first century. The first aspect that stands out in their responses is their love for Coca Cola as a brand and their admiration for good advertisements the company always comes up with. This is an indicator that most of these readers always look for and look forward to seeing the next Coca Cola advertisement.

The general feeling of admiration towards Coca Cola advertisements is a show that Coca Cola Company is able to use the advantages of proper typography correctly. The adverts are presented in such an emotional manner so that the viewers like and connect with them. An event that precedes the ad may create this emotion. When viewers see the ad, they join the actors in the ad into experiencing happiness, enjoyment and love. Experiencing any kind of emotion persuades the viewer into going for the brand (Jones 1999, 212-213).

The other aspect that stands out from their responses is a distinct connection between the advertisements and a season in their lives. This means that Coca Cola has found a way to link seasons like Christmas, Easter and summer to different experiences that the company gives its customers. This is a sign that Coca Cola uses typographical and visual effects together to reach out and touch their customers in a personal way.

There is a distinct link between advertising and typography. If an advert is able to use typographical skills to convey messages correctly, there is a higher chance that customers will notice the product and purchase it. Over the twentieth century, many companies like McDonalds, Marlborough, Ford, Nike and others have perfected the art of using the correct typographical skills to perfect their advertising. It is not a coincidence that they are very successful companies.

References

Bergsland, David. 2010. Practical font design. NY: Radiqx Press.

Bodden, Valerie. 2008. The Story of Coca-Cola. Madison, Wisconsin: The Creative Company.

Bohn, Willard. 2001. Modern Visual Poetry, Cranbury, NJ: University of Delaware Press.

Crookedbrains. 2008“Coca Cola’s advertisements spread over a century.”

            Crookedbrains, February 20,

            http://www.crookedbrains.net/2008/02/coca-colas-ads-spread-over-century.html (accessed 26 November 2011).

D’Angelo, Janet. 2009. Spa Business Strategies- A Plan for Success, NY: Cengage Learning.

 Garrett, Franklin M. 2011. Atlanta and Environs: A Chronicle of Its People and Events, 1880s-1930s. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press.

Jones, John, P. 1999. The advertising business: operations, creativity, media planning, integrated communications. NY: SAGE.

Keller, Kevin Lane. 2000. "The Brand Report Card". Harvard Business Review.

Loken, Peter, Amy Voytilla, Matt Bach, and Sivika Sirisanthana. 2008. “Advertising and the Visual Medium.”

Macalester, January, http://www.macalester.edu/academics/psychology/whathap/ubnrp/aesthetics/advertising.html (accessed 26 November 2011).

Robinson, Martha. "Developing Spencerian Penmanship at Home."

Homeschoolchristian, 2001, http://www.homeschoolchristian.com/allabout/interviews/interviewspencerian.php (accessed 26 November 2011).

The Coca-Cola Company. 2011. “History of bottling.”

            The Coca-Cola Company, 2011,

http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/ourcompany/historybottling.html (accessed 26 November 2011).

The Coca-Cola Company. 2011. “Product information: Products.”

            The Coca-Cola Company, 2011,

http://www.thecoca-colacompany.com/brands/index.html?WT.cl=1&WT.mm=footer3-prodinfo-red_en_US (accessed 26 November 2011).

White, Alex, W. 2006. Advertising design and Typography. New York: Allworth Press.

Bibliography

Beautiful Life. “History of Coca-Cola in Ads.”

Beautiful Life, April 29, 2011,

http://www.beautifullife.info/advertisment/history-of-coca-cola-in-ads/ (accessed October 13, 2011).

Bodden, Valerie. The Story of Coca-Cola. Madison, Wisconsin: The Creative Company, 2008.

Caivano, Jose Luis, and Mabel Amanda Lopez. "Chromatic Identity in Global and Local Markets: Analysis of Colors in Branding." Colour: Design and Creativity (2007): 1-14.

Coca Cola Company. “125 Years of Coca-Cola Logos.”

The Coca-Cola Company, 2011,

http://www.coca-cola.co.uk/125/history-of-coca-cola-logo.html (accessed October 13, 2011).

DesignRoof. “Interesting Coca Cola Advertisements.”

DesignRoof, January 8, 2009,

http://www.designeroof.com/interesting-coca-cola-advertisements/ (accessed October 12, 2011).

Keller, Kevin Lane. "The Brand Report Card." Harvard Business Review (2000): 7-8.

Kemp, Martin. Christ to Coke: How Image becomes Icon. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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