Sunday, June 17, 2012

At the bar beyond the edge of the world

Fantastical motifs flourish everywhere in our contemporary field of vision: a steady return to the images we conjured around the first campfires, celebrating the most intimate and original of our minds' companions-- odd, whimsical, frightening, amusing (sometimes all at once)-- a constant counter-point to the Enlightenment's banishing of the hobs and the fairies-- a dancing, shimmering retort to the streamlined functionality and no-nonsense sleekness of industrial design and the various sects of modernism.


To take just one example from modern, urban life: Visiting the craft beer aisle or a wine merchant is now like a tour of Ali Baba's cave, with labels as lovingly created as the liquid within the bottles, labels awash with phantasmagoria, eccentric figures, legendary creatures, and the just plain bizarre.


Surely there is a line from the great book illustrators (Rackham, Dulac, Beardsley) and poster-artists (Mucha) of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, through the original funny papers and then comic books and the pulp covers, meandering around fantasy and science fiction book covers, traipsing through the font foundries and the hills of Dadaism and especially Surrealism, to the concept art and posters for a thousand strange and speculative movies (Terry Gilliam!), and music album covers of the '60s and '70s (think of Hipgnosis, of Roger Dean).

Thumbnail sketches of empires east of the moon and west of the sun, cameos of curious creatures, a slantwise glance at the Old Man of the Mountains and the Old Woman in the Shoe... all in aisle seven of your local Whole Foods or in the racks at your neighborhood wine boutique.

  For many more labels from beyond the fields we know, click: The Daily Meal, "25 Beers: Great Label Art Slideshow" (400 Pound Monkey! Hophenge!); The Oenologist, "The Art of the Wine Label"; Web Urbanist, "61 Exceptionally Creative Wine Label Designs"; The Pour Curator, "The Best Beer Label Art of 2011" And be sure to check out The Art and Design of Contemporary Wine Labels by Tanya Scholes. Click here for more information.

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