Bridget Riley’s Rolling Papers

Top: a portion of a 1964 photo by David Newell Smith of Riley posing with a cigarette in front of one of her paintings in 1964; lower photo: a handmade rolling papers pack from OddSock’s Flickr Photostream—(the pattern is a reproduction of Riley’s, “Cataract”)

One of the packages we featured on Monday in “The Bridget Riley Look” was a pack of cigarettes, but it was in David Newell Smith’s photo of Bridget Riley (above right) that I first noticed that she, herself, was a smoker.

We’ve looked at photos of smoking celebrities before—(see: Arents Tobacco Collection)—but it’s funny how the cigarette in this photo nearly disappears into the lines of the painting behind her. With all the other associations one can draw from those wavy lines, here’s one more: smoking. Maybe she’s quit smoking since then. I don’t know.

“I once had dinner with Bridget Riley. I can’t remember much about the occasion—it was at the house of a prominent broadcaster, one firmly rooted in the arts establishment— except that Riley herself was like-ably dynamic and feisty, keen on hand-rolled cigarettes, and professed herself—as she often has in print—to be an anarchist.”

Read between the lines:
Are Bridget Riley’s paintings really fine art?

Will Self, The Independent, November 29, 2008

Of course, “rolling papers,” ostensibly sold for tobacco cigarettes, have a well-known “off-label” use. Similarly, psychedelic sixties culture found a use for Riley’s patterned paintings that she had not intended:

… their dizzying effect and their evocation of movement, coupled with their ultra-modern monochromatic coolness, her black and white paintings somehow articulated a kind of Space-Age psychedelia—concerns that could not, then or now, have been further from Bridget Riley’s thinking, character or approach to art-making. Twenty-five years later…  she said to me that, as regards the attempts to relate her art to the psychedelic experience: “I was surprised to be seen as a sort of representative of an aspect of the psychedelic culture. It was a collision between my intentions as an artist and the cultural context in which I found myself. I remember being told as though it was some sort of compliment that it was the greatest kick to go down and smoke in front of my painting…”

Seeing is Believing” by Michael Bracewell
Frieze, September 23, 2008

(More about Bridget Riley and smoking, after the fold…)

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The Bridget Riley Sound

VintageOpArtRecordsAbove: Vintage Brazilian album covers from Sabadaba (via: Martin Klasch), except for the “phase 4 stereo” album which is from Epiclectic’s Flickr Photostream

If manufacturers of the 1960s were generally “trying to give their packaging the Bridget Riley Look”—it was manufacturers of records that exploited this look to its fullest. Not that there is really any one “Bridget Riley Sound” but the rhythm, repetition and pattern in her paintings obviously struck many people as an appropriate visual analogy to a number of different styles of music. Riley, herself, in an early interview spoke of her work in fairly
musical terms, saying that “repetition acts as a sort of amplifier.”

Riley who was already plenty dismayed at the appropriation of her paintings by 1960s fashion designers, must have been similarly irritated by this trend. Some covers are obvious imitations. Some are actually reproductions of her paintings. (I wonder if she received a licensing fee for use of her paintings in those cases?)

FaustTapes On left: the original LP cover for “The Faust Tapes” was Brigit Riley’s painting “Crest”; on right: the later “Wumme Box” version used a related sonar-typography image

Celt-jerusalemOn left: Jan Celt’s album, “Lookie Tookie” reproduces another Bridget Riley painting; on right an “op art” sleeve for Jerusalem and the Starbaskets “Bengal Traitor Split” (a 7" single)

Aside from functioning as a sort of audio-visual parallel universe, many of Riley’s motifs (and op art in general) evoke additional music-related associations. Sound waves. Intensity. Swinging sixties.

For Stefan Sagmeister, this strong tendency to associate “op art” with a specific point in time might be seen as a negative.

Sagmeister Sagmeister’s 1996 Grammy-nominated packaging for Marshall Crenshaw’s “Miracle of Science” CD

From Steven Heller’s 2004 interview with Sagmeister

Heller: So, what do you think is your most dated looking work, and why?

Sagmeister: Among others, that Marshall Crenshaw CD looks rather old now, because of its holographic printing on the disc (in 1996 this was fresh), its op art patterns as well as the type set in rigid boxes.

If the “Miracle of Science” package looks old, it’s probably not because it reminds us of the 1960s, but because it’s reminiscent of the 1980s. A lot of “new wave” music and fashion was, after all, a reprocessing of sixties styles. (Think: black and white checkerboard, etc.)

But if the “op art” trend did not stop in the 1960s, it also didn’t end with the 1980s.

SmilesandFrownsThe Smiles and Frowns “Mechanical Songs” 7" with die cut sleeve (via: The great Pop Supplement)

(The beat goes on, after the fold…)

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The Bridget Riley Look


Upper left: painter, Bridget Riley (mid-sixties photo by John Goldblatt); on right “Paper Caper” brand “Op Art” paper dress and packaging; lower left: detail of 1966 photo by F.C. Gundlach of Brigitte Bauer, wearing an “Op Art” swimsuit by Sinz Vouliagmeni (via Art Blart); on right: “Antivert” Vertigo drug packaging (via: DJ Misc)

"Manufacturers of all kinds have been trying to give their packaging the Bridget Riley Look, and have harassed the gallery with unwelcome offers. The most ironic proposition to date has come from the manufacturer of a headache remedy.”

John Canaday, “That’s Right It’s Wrong
The New York Times, Mar. 14, 1965

Some more recent examples of Bridget Riley’s continuing influence, below:


Upper left: Siggi Eggertsson’s Coke poster for Armchair Media; on right and below: Dhanyhaploy Nutkasem’s “Optical Illusion Packaging” conflates optical illusions with seasickness and “dizzy headaches”; 2nd and 3rd row left: Meeta Panesar’s “Op Art” wine packaging—note “Op Art” typography—(via: PopSop); lower right: Akroe’s Vogue Cigarette packs (via: PopSop)

(Tomorrow: the product category that has most enthusiastically embraced “the Bridget Riley look”.)

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Untitled Packaging Sculptures


On left: Robert Gober’s “Untitled” sculpture of a Farina box from 1993–1994 (acrylic, vinyl & wood); on right: “Untitled” sculpture of a Benjamin Moore paint can from 2005–2006, cast lead crystal & paint

Two “Untitled” sculptures by Robert Gober.

1. Untitled (Farina box) was recently up for auction at Phillips de Pury. their auction catalog had this to say about the sculpture:

The image of the happy blond-haired boy exudes innocence and the  product itself connotes warmth and wholesomeness. However, the enormous proportions of the piece lionize the symbols and call them into question, gently pointing to the fragility of youth and our mortality.

Phillips de Pury, 2009

Estimated at $2.5–3.5 million, Untitled (Farina box) unfortunately went unsold with a single bid of $1.6 million which fell short of the minimum.

2. Untitled (Benjamin Moore paint can) is in the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Like various paint-related Jasper Johns cans, this sculpture is a painted cast of a can and not a “real” can.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Re: The Splat

Upper left: Phil Harvey’s Nichols Foods sauce packets; on right: Joli Glantz’s Bluefly Ale concept (via: The Dieline); lower left: Januar Rianto’s Amber Ale (via: Lovely Package); on right: Axel Peemoeller’s new YSL fragrance bottles

Another expressionist-painting-related packaging trend: the splat. Similar to the graffiti-related drip trend.

“Packaging splats” can relate to the viscosity of the contents, as in Phil Harvey’s sauce packets—“Nichols wanted impactful packaging…”—or Januar Rianto’s Ale labels, which imply contents “…that splashed out during the toast. The splashes symbolize the energy, spirit and the power of the people.”

Or splats may refer to something else about the brand, as in Joli Glantz’s visual joke about splatted “Blueflies.” (See also: the Nickelodeon splat which was a reference to their brand’s early history with “slime” but not usually about package contents)

Axel Peemoeller’s fragrance bottles rely more on a “fine arts” connotation than any literal reference to the nature their contents. Although one could make the case that these packs are about the synesthetic association of colors and smell.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

The KFC ปลาปี๊ด Tongue-Tab Snack Box

Top left photo: from Krannies’ Blog; on right, from open box showing tongue-tab flap

About the bilingual headline above: “ปลาปี๊ด” (or “pla peedz”) is
KFC’s Thai name for a spicy-lime, fried-fish snack that was apparently
available in 2009, only in Thailand. Part of KFC’s “Snack menu!”, pla peedz was served in this “tongue tab”

Similar to the wide open, mouth-shaped food packaging windows
we surveyed in April, this box has die-cut mouths on all all 4 sides,
but the main attraction is the tongue-shaped tab/flap, sticking out of
the die cut mouth on front.

(More ปลาปี๊ด photos and a TV commercial, after the fold…)

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Studio Kluif’s Art & Fun


BlueBallPointPens3 things I like about the Hema art-supplies packaging (above) designed this year by Studio Kluif:

1. In each case the product contained within was used to illustrate the outside. (Their 2002 ballpoint pen carton, on right, also does this.) An obvious idea, perhaps, but seldom attempted and seldom done with such aplomb. Using the product, itself, to communicate its own use, is a good, ethical move. Like putting your money where your mouth is. So to speak.

2. And speaking of mouths, the two boxes above are another example of the “open mouth” packaging window trend, although in this case, we’re not talking food packaging.

3. Multicolored products naturally lend themselves to rainbow arrays. There something about colors, organized according to spectral order, that appeals to both sides of the brain. I think.

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

Combination Toy Gun Holster and Package


A. F. Langos’s 1952 patent for a “Combination Toy Gun Holster and Package”: An early example of environmentally-friendly, “green” package design. Rather than package a toy gun and its holster in a disposable cardboard carton, the cardboard carton is the holster.

I’m no gun nut… but for more about pistols & packaging, see the bullet points below:


(A couple more cardboard holster packs, after the fold…)

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Memory of My Life: Breaking Bottles

Drawing8Annie Pootoogook, “Memory of My Life: Breaking Bottles” 2002, Ink and pencil crayon on paper

Yesterday in our back yard we were surprised to find part of a broken bottle. (Coincidental, since I’d posted something about broken bottles just that morning.) Assuming it wasn’t thrown from an airplane en route from Newark Airport, it must have come from our rear neighbor. How to interpret? I figure it was either tossed there with the same kind of thoughtless and carefree impulse that led 1950s Don Draper to hurl his picnic beverage can into a field. (Mad Men: Season 2, Episode 7)

Or it’s hostility. Some cite anger as a motivation for littering. “…the angry consumer may be the littering consumer.” And nothing says “I hate you” quite like a broken bottle. Not to discount the container’s contents. One possible scenario? After our neighbor/consumer consumes his alcoholic beverage, his judgment is perhaps impaired and our lawn furniture becomes a convenient focus for some late night alcoholic hostility.

I remember seeing a picture of Annie Pootoogook’s painting, “Memory of My Life: Breaking Bottles” in The New York Times last year. I’ve had in mind to feature it for a while and maybe now (that we’re talking about broken bottles and alcohol) is a good time.

Pootoogook’s work challenges conventional assumptions made about “Inuit’ art. Like her grandmother, Annie is a chronicler… Many of these experiences are taken directly from her life and illustrated in her drawing. About one work, Memory of my Life: Breaking Bottles, 2001/02, she states, “. . . one time I drew when I broke bottles ’cause I got tired of drinking people every day. So I had to broke . . . break their bottles on the rock so they won't drink tomorrow. I think I did a good job.”

©2008 Barnard Center for Research on Women

(More paintings by Annie Pootoogook, after the fold…)

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Johnathan Schipper: Measuring Angst

_DSC4063Johnathan Schipper “Measuring Angst” 2009

Broken bottles (and the act of breaking them) have lately been figuring into art news. There was David Belt’s GLASSPHEMY! project this past May, in which participants were invited to throw bottles at other participants—who were safely protected behind a transparent wall—and the broken glass was then recycled.

But before that, in May of 2009 there was Johnathan Schipper’s “Measuring Angst”—a sort of animatronic pantomime of a Corona beer bottle being endlessly smashed and reassembled.

“There’s this notion in art that you take an idea and you put it into an object, then you try to take that object and control it and protect it, and the idea and that object can go on forever without you.”

–Johnathan Schipper (from an interview on The Chief Magazine blog)

“Art is traditionally seen as a creative discipline but it is and always will be just as much a destructive one.  This sculpture combines both the practice of creation and destruction keeping the center of the piece right on the edge in between the two.”

–Johnathan Schipper (from his website)

We’ve covered the violent content of broken bottles before—and we’ve even featured robots handling bottles before—but this touches on something else. Is Schipper’s initial annihilating impulse somehow erased or redeemed by putting the deliberately smashed bottle back together again? Or is this another metaphor for an action that really cannot be undone. Like Humpty Dumpty. Or spilt milk. (Or spilt oil!)

“Measuring Angst” goes through the motions of “un-ringing the bell” but once that violent, destructive genie is out of its bottle…

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design