missing the klassic kvetching…

by Art Chantry (art@artchantry.com)

A recently departed friend of mine, Nathan Gluck, sent me this latest weird little item. first off, nathan was the front desk person at the AIGA (national office) in nyc for over 30 years. he was basically the guy who answered the phone and tried to help you out when you called. he was also the guy who organized all of the design competitions. basically, he was the only guy there who really knew the joint and knew design and it’s history. he was (so far as i know) the last guy working at aiga who actually had worked as a graphic designer.

AC:nathan was in his 80's when he wrote that. it still reads like a fanboy showing off the cool souvenir he's displaying. nathan was always a kid )in the best way) to the end.

He became close friends with many many people over the years. back in the 1950′s, he was andy warhol’s staff designer (when andy was a commercial artist). he basically took andy’s work and applied it for him. he taught him how to draw in that ‘blotted-line style’ and introduced him to rubber stamp printing and (i think) even showed him how to silk screen. a lot of those little shoes and butterflys and flowers that are credited to andy are actually nathan’s work. a lot of that lettering work credited to andy’s and andy;’s mother (you know the story) is actually nathan’s lettering. remember that andy ran a commercial art studio and acted as art director.

It’s a different system than the fine art world of the time. in fact, his “factory” was just an extension of his old commercial design studio structure applied to the fine art activity – revolutionary at the time, but actually a very very old system (the old master all worked that way). and whoever has his name on the door gets the credit. you’d be amazed how many folks out there with huge art and design ‘names’ don’t do ANY of the creative work, indeed aren’t even artists of designers (but salesmen). but their name is on the door. them’s the rules.

Read More: http://www.printmag.com/Article/Farewell-Nathan-Gluck Steven Heller:Some facts: In 1955, Warhol was tracing photographs borrowed from the New York Public Library's photo collection, all with Nathan's assistance. In 1959, also with Nathan, Warhol designed wrapping paper that was printed with handmade stamps. Nathan taught Warhol how to marbleize paper: "Andy did these strange marbled things, and then he crumpled them up and just left them around on the floor," Nathan once recalled. Later, he helped Warhol produce the Brillo Boxes as part of a group of replicas of commonplace supermarket packaging. Nathan was in charge of selecting the carton prototypes, but Warhol rejected his campier choices in favor of the most banal examples. In an interview with Patrick S. Smith in Warhol: Conversations about the Artist, Nathan recalled that Warhol chose "very nice boxes. You know, for grapefruit with maybe palm trees or crazy flamingos or some kind of oranges--maybe they would be called Blue Orchid Oranges, and the box would have a blue orchid on them." Read more at PrintMag.com: Farewell Nathan Gluck For great design products, visit our online store! MyDesignShop.com

I went with nathan to a show at city college of andy’s early commercial work. it was fun walking around with him and listening to his stories. after a while it was “i did that. i did that. did that one, too.” some of his old “carved eraser” rubber stamps also survived in collections and were displayed (credited to andy.) he just laughed and laughed. he knew that andy couldn’t do that stuff.

Anyway, among his many lifelong friends was the famous designer gene federico. he often spent time hanging with the families of the old guard of amercian graphic design. he’d visit the federicos, often staying for holidays.

A few years back, eugene federico died. a big loss for the history of design. his widow gave some of gene’s old neckties to nathan, figuring he could use them. nathan had them for a while and he never wore neckties, so he didn’t really know what to do with them. eventually, he gifted them out to other friends as a little memorial/keepsake of gene federico. he sent this to me.

I’m honored to have it, but i never have known what to do with it. it sorta sits around my studio – with nathan’s little note in his cool ‘warholian” handwriting – gathering dust. it’s become a little tribute to both gene federico ‘s memory and (especially) nathan’s memory. i really don’t know what else to do with it, except keep it. so, here it sits.

Read More:http://www.aiga.org/interior.aspx?pageid=3080&id=2142 Cover for Fortune. 1954. Heller:Nathan's design was “classic” in the sense that it was European in inspiration—he had spent six months in 1952–'53 traveling around the cont

t and, in Spain, visited the artists Antoni Tapies and Joan Miro—yet it was totally functional to the point of near invisibility. The work he did with Warhol looked like Warhol's—or, perhaps, Warhol's looked like Nathan's. According to Chantry, “Nathan's work followed the mode. His best work spoke the language of the client.”


AC:actually, nathan died almost a year ago. and he never was a part of the factory scene. for a while he ran andy’s design studio while andy and his cohorts started doing “fine art” at the studio. eventually, as the work at the studio made more and more money, handy closed down the design studio and nathan moved on. he went to visit andy at the factory a few times, but he was too “old school” for that scene. he wasn’t ‘out’ yet. he didn’t approve of the drugs. he thought it was a bunch of silly (often nasty) kids playing games. it just wasn’t his taste.

he’d still run into andy around town now and then. but andy always sorta snubbed nathan (which is common behavior for old employers when they run into old employees.) it’s like andy didn’t want the art world to know about nathan and his contributions to his legacy. but, that was andy. it’s the kinda guy he was. ambitious to the end….

…we have an obsession with individual craftsmanship in this culture. it’s as if we didn’t cut that tree ourselves before we carved it out, that perhaps it isn’t authentic. if we grew that tree from a seed, then it’s real. otherwise it’s phony fake art and “theft”.

as a guy who has built a life around scrounging disposed-of imagery and ideas and composing them into new stuff, i get attacked constantly around those very ideas. at this point anybody who considers themselves any sort of “purist” and “elitist PC snob” is a big fool. seattle is FULL of fools.

but, that’s just me.

…the bottom line is that i don’t even do “art”. i do “artifact”. i make cultural detritus for a client using a language form most people don’t even know exists. but everybody can read it just fine, ya know?

what i do ain’t art. srt is a different dialog that i understand, but moved waaaaaay beyond a loooong time ago.

never confuse doctors and dentists. so, where does “originality” come into this picture? did hemingway ‘create’ the words he wrote with? …

…i miss his klassic kvetching. he was so quintessentially cosmopolitan new yorker….

…yeah, nathan’s apartment was very much like a museum of his mind. original warhol coke bottles, various african masks and fetish figures, weirdo antique souvenir novelties, framed autographs of miro, his (wonderful) collages, endless collections from years of his eyes at work. above the door of his apartment was hung a framed issue of Fortune magazine with a cover my nathan. the cool part about that issue was that it was dated april 1954! that was the month and year i was born!. he eventually gave me autographed copy of that issue.

after he moved to san diego, i was offered a speaking gig down there (by josh higgins at the aiga). i tried to arrange sharing the stage with nathan. he would have been nervous, but afterwords cherished the experience. but, he decided that he didn’t really feel al that well and backed out. would have been cool.

by the way, he answered phones because it was his job. everybody needs money. you might be surprised at the stuff i do for money. graphic design has never been a kind mistress to me….

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