1979/1980 The Power of Black and White

by Alden Cole on March 3, 2016 · 0 comments

30.Easter'79:WPEasterMeditationWPInto the Jaws of Hell • pen & ink on paper 23″ x 29″ • collection of the artist.

The arts created between 1973 and 1980 that were either drawn specifically for a flyer advertising one of Harold Stover’s 2nd Presbyterian Church concert series, or were picked up from other drawings done at that time, provide a nutshell overview of my creative development during those seminal years; a period of expanding self-knowledge while transitioning from one career to another. Having come out of a background as an fashion illustrator who drew almost exclusively in black & white, it was apposite that I should explore my new interests using similar monotonal mediums. So although my new-found artistic freedom encouraged me to explore the world of color, which I did frequently, I still enjoyed the challenge of drawing in monotone, using an ordinary #2 pencil, or pen & black ink – specifically a Rapidograph technical pen with a triple 0 nib which created very fine lines, and tiny dots. During the late 70s, I went pretty dotty (and ‘liney’ as well) as evidenced by the artwork above-right, the central portion of which was featured in the Lenten flyer above-left. The original was started in early ’78 as a triptych; however I lost interest in the project once the central panel was finished, leaving the side panels only partially developed. Considering my present tendancies, it’s doubtful those two side panels will ever be finished; a situation unlike working on the central panel which held my interest from start to finish during its genesis; a tribute to all those crucifixion scenes from art history classes plus others seen in books, particularly the Isenheim Altarpiece by Mathias Grunewald, which portrayed a much more tortured Christ than I revealed in my own interpretation; but whose risen Christ is one of the great glories of Western Art, a constant inspiration to my mind’s eye.

31.12-17-79XmasWP1979XmasArtWPWhen I created the 1979 Lenten flyer at the top of this posting, I was living in New York City. By the time I created the 1979 Christmas flyer (above-left) a few months later, I had been living in Maine since early June. For the second time in five years I was trying to ‘go home again.’ Like the earlier attempt during the summer of 1974, this experiment eventually proved futile; but this time it took me longer to ‘get’ it – almost two years instead of four months. I rationalized that this particular life-detour was the right thing to do, and my eccentrically nomadic lifestyle was the right way to do it. I still harbored a desire to move to the commune in the high desert of Nevada where I had spent the month of October 1978; but the commitment to that prospect diminished as the winter of 1980 came on, with its many discontents. I still had bills to pay, despite the fact that I was living rent-free in a drafty old cape-house in Dayton which belonged to my eccentric ‘aunt’ Emily, a mile up the road from my parents. Since the house didn’t have running water or a heating system other than ancient fireplaces, the place was untenable as a year-round residence. As a result I spent much of that winter camping out in Stover’s apartment in NYC trying to make ends meet by continuing to do work for Weiser’s – new book covers, as well as pasting up books for pre-press.

Above: Adoration of the Alpha and Omega • sharpie markers on paper 14″ x 11″ • collection of the artist

32.3-17-80WPAppleofmyEyeWPOne of my 1980 winter projects was creating a flyer for a March concert at Second Church. I picked a piece of art created in 1977 as the featured illustration, once again giving the art pride of place, this time on a legal-sized 8-1/2″ x 14″ sheet which had become the more preferred size for these flyers, over the standard letter size. This art was another in my series of pointillist drawings that were a preoccupation of my mid- to late-thirties.

Above: The Apple of My Eye • pen & ink on paper 14″ x 11″ • collection of the artist

34.MayJune80.LKingWPRosyCrucifixion:72The Rosy Crucifixion • pen & ink on paper 14″ x 11″ • collection of Heinz & Diane Sauk-Schubert

In the spring of 1980 Stover asked me if I would be interested in creating a flyer for friend and fellow organist, Larry King, to advertise a series of concerts that were to take place at historic Trinity Church in southern Manhattan, Broadway at Wall Street, during May and June. I complied by selecting a pointillist drawing created in 1977, then adapting it to the requirements, which included a goodly amount of copy. Since the budget predicated a standard letter-size flyer over legal-size, I chose to superimpose much of the type over the art as I had done in earlier works, creating a less-than-easy-to-read flyer that was a little too artfully designed, making it difficult to digest as information. Sometimes you score a hit, and sometimes you miss!

35.6-7-80LKingWPAnother miss in terms of legibility was this overly-clever design on legal-sized paper done that spring of 1980, also for Larry King, organist of Trinity Church. Whatever happened to the original art is anyone’s guess; I unfortunately never made a photostat of the original art without type – another piece unrecorded for myself or posterity during those intense times of transition.

Speaking of transition, it was during a visit to NYC in the spring of 1980 to do business with Weiser that Betty Lundsted surprised me with the news that the publishing offices of Samuel Weiser Inc were leaving Manhattan and moving to York Beach, Maine, which was only about twenty-five miles south of where I was living in Dayton. I was stunned by the news, and even more so by Betty’s request that they needed my help in the moving process, which would start in earnest in September, happening gradually over a period of several weeks. I was being offered a full-time position (a ‘temporary’ one I thought at the time) which would help to stabilize my precarious financial situation. I returned to Maine knowing that the summer ahead would be less daunting to contemplate, with the prospect of regular and profitable employment that would alleviate my financial distress. The summer flew by in a haze of delightful abandon; before I knew it, September rolled around and I headed to Manhattan to assist in the laborious breaking down of the office and distribution warehouse at Houston and Broadway. For the next six weeks, I worked Monday to Thursday in the office with Don Weiser and Jim Wasserman helping to close down that end of the operation; then on Friday, Don and I packed up his van with books and a miscellany of household goods, followed by driving the six hours to Don’s new home in Cape Neddick, Maine, where we would unpack, after which I headed up to Dayton for the remainder of the weekend. By Sunday afternoon I returned to Cape Neddick; sometimes we headed back to NY that night, other times we didn’t leave until early Monday morning. (to be continued…)

33.12-15-80WP1980PostPartumWPPostpartum • pencil on paper 14″ x 11″ • collection of the artist

In the late fall of 1980 I created what proved to be the last of the Second Church flyers advertising Stover’s concert series – the Christmas concert. Altogether I created thirty-five flyers over a seven year period, an average of five per year. Seen in its totality, it’s an interesting series that reveals the various directions which my art explored during those crucial years of trial and error, laced with hope and despair, all of which helped to make me stronger and more resilient.

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