Monday, May 18, 2009

In the land of Os, a pursuit of elegance...

Os Gẽmeos, there's one for you. Slipped through the cracks.

I was meandering through my twitter posts when I came across a tweet by Lance Armstrong about a picture he was just texted. It was a graffiti painting by Os Gẽmeos in Havana. High end graffiti art and though they have been around for years, I missed it- totally. Have you ever had that happen, totally seemingly clueless to something that has impacted a culture. Pause, humble moment here.

Brazilian identical twins. Who dream of people with yellow faces, who can finish each other's illustrations. Whimsical, thought provoking with a hint of social commentary. Never trained, but picked up  admiration of the US hip hop scene. They have actually changed the landscape of Sao Paulo as their art is sprinkled through the city. Graffiti artists changing the world, who'd a thunk it. They are as much a part of Brazil as Carnival. But then they are part of Carnival

What I miss most in our new citysscapes is character. Neighborhoods are designed like video games. Click put a house here, click put a house there. HOA's rules removes the character that most people love in their neighborhoods and cities. I'm willing to sacrifice living next to a house with pink shutters if it will give the neighborhood some character. Okay maybe not pink shutters, how about salmon or teal. Once lived next to a house with checkerboard sky blue and white blocks on their garage. Did I say I grew in in the 70's drug era. 

Generica has become the norm, I'm hoping this blip in our economy pushes people to be more creative. Maybe allowing people more freedom in how they live. 

I am always amazed that people love the quaint neighborhoods of yesteryear. Painted ladies of San Francisco, the artist lofts of NYC. Yet when we build, even so called "custom" homes all I see is a sea of brown. 

Which is why I am a big fan of Matthew May. Matt has given us a primer on making good choices.  Simple, elegant wise choices. I do not know his opinions on brown neighborhoods.

He's written a great new book on " In Pursuit of Excellence".  In an interview with Guy Kawasaki, my favorite suggestion of his is that companies should have CTO's in addition to CEO's. Chief Taste Officer. To me what Matt really covers is the pursuit of elegance in design  across many medium. Simple elegance, means making good choices. This is an excellent resource for training your brain. The essence of good design.

 Os Gẽmeos gives art with simplicity even in their details. They choose the right details. That is the essence of design. They don't give a whole cityscape they choose images and make them part of the city.

In design, every element should  look to become part of whole, but bring to it it's own uniqueness.  I usually throw everything on the table and then start taking away. 

In school  a great lesson was learned from my old english prof Webby. 

In college he was given an assignment to write a research paper by one of the most respected professors on campus.  Webby worked weeks on it before the first draft was due. Prof called Webby in for his review, told him he needed to shorten it up.  So he hammered on it over the weekend with all nighters. Turned it in on Monday to the prof.  Friday, he was called in again, asked his prof if it worked this time. He said he made some great strides, but still needed to be condensed-get to the point. He actually repeated the same the next week and again marched into the professor's office with full vigor only to be shot down.

At this point Webby said he had had it. With several  months of work at stake,  he took the paper and slammed it back down on his professor's desk and told him he couldn't cut it down any more, he had shaved it to the bone.  His professor then retorted, " Well- now I'll read it".

Lesson learned.  
If you want to expand on this concept read Matthew E. May's  new book and maybe check out a show or a streetscape by Os Gimeos. Get inspired, pursue elegance, pursue learning from the best.



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