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A Graphic Process

by Elyse Beaudoin on November 8, 2012


On Friday night, the Opalka Gallery spread out its usual crudité which serves as a centerpiece for art receptions ranging from student studies to renowned artists. This time the veggies and dip were surrounded by legendary work.

Milton Glaser lent us a glimpse of his most recent projects, In Search of the Miraculous or One Thing Leads to Another. When saying “a glimpse,” that is meant in both a physical and figurative way. Looking at the actual exhibit, most of the entries are photographs of larger works, such as bars, rugs and businesses fronts. But looking at Glaser’s expansive career, this show is only a glimpse of his accomplishments.

Courtesy Opalka Gallery/Milton Glaser

One of Glaser’s most famous works is his I (heart) New York logo created to promote tourism in the city in the mid-1970s. He has also created logos and promotions for clientele ranging from Trump to Juilliard. Museums around the world display his art. In addition, Glaser founded Push Pin Studios in 1954, co-founded New York Magazine with Clay Felker in 1968 and established Milton Glaser Inc. in 1974. In a brochure that provides a contextual guide to In Search of the Miraculous or One Thing Leads to Another, Glaser thanks his “splendid and admired studio collaborators” from his studio.

The title for Glaser’s latest exhibit is based on two concepts. In Search of the Miraculous is a reference to Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky’s book on the spiritual teachings of George Ivanovich Gurdjieff. Gurdjieff believed in the practice of transcending a higher state of consciousness by working on oneself. Glaser uses this as a metaphor for personal progression.  The second concept in the title, or One Thing Leads to Another, is Glaser’s way of expressing the unplanned natural progress of his work.

“It’s fascinating to discover that something you thought was a brand new idea actually had its root 35 years earlier,” wrote Glaser.

One example of the personal and natural progression of his work is a study that Glaser based off of architect Vladimir Tatlin’s Monument to the Third International. This architectural prototype was a leaning tower that had a bridge-like or roller coaster-like structure that wrapped into a cone. The design created visual vibrations between its lines.

Glaser took Tatlin’s tower and through a series of sketches created a more colorful and more geometric design, which was later used as the centerpiece for the entrance to the School of Visual Arts Theater in New York.

Another progressive project that Glaser displayed in this exhibit started with two simplistic geometric patterns. One is titled Light Tantra and the other is Dark Tantra. These two patterns have a sort of Aztec quality. Light Tantra possesses a warm color scheme consisting of orange, yellow and blue, while Dark Tantra has the qualities of film negative.

Glaser continued this series of geometric patterns, which also included Dutch Dark and Dutch Light. Dutch Dark starts with a basic checkerboard of black and dark gray squares. This checkerboard is accented with short green, blue, red and yellow dashes with varying gradation. Dutch Light is the opposing pattern, which used a white and light gray checkerboard as its background.

Originally, Glaser designed the Tantra and the Dutch patterns as silk screens. Later, Glaser was commissioned to turn the Tantras into full sized Oriental rugs. Dutch Dark was also turned into a carpet and used for the interior design of the SVA Theater.

In Search of the Miraculous or One Thing Leads to Another is not a show of finalized work. It is a visual story. Glaser has laid out the progression of his most recent portfolio to show a retrospective view of personal and natural progression.

The Opalka Gallery at the Sage College of Albany located at 140 New Scotland Avenue in Albany will display In Search of the Miraculous or One Thing Leads to Another until December 14. Rathbone Hall’s Little Gallery at the Sage College of Albany will also be displaying Milton Glaser: The Posters, A Survey until December 14. Also, a biographical film Milton Glaser: To Inform and Delight, directed by Wendy Keys will be screened at the Opalka Gallery on November 14 at 6 PM. For further information, call 292-7742.