January 1, 2016

Clariana: A custom typeface that mixes Modernism with artisanality

On my first trip to Caracas Venezuela in 1998, I remember being surprised by its modernity. Although the infrastructure and architecture showed significant decay, I felt as though I was experiencing a sort of mid-century lost world. Only later did I come to know that from 1948 to 1958, Venezuela like many other Latin American countries, was ruled by a dictator. Venezuela’s dictator happened to be obsessed with modernism. The military coup d’état that put Marcos Pérez Jiménez into power also coincided with the discovery of oil in Venezuela. With cash in the coffers and no political opposition to impede spending, a record number of state sponsored construction projects were implemented. The country gained the attention of the world as its economy grew by leaps and bounds. Its largest city, Caracas, began to resemble some of the most modern cities in the United States and Europe. Many Bauhaus inspired masters were hired to work on these grand projects. World figures like Gio Ponte, Alexander Calder, Richard Neutra, and many others were hired to collaborate with Venezuelan architects like Carlos Raul Villanueva to create ambitious modernist structures. With the wealth generated by oil, and the city’s shinny new modernist facade, US corporations came to Caracas in large numbers. New homes for the newly wealthy began to pop up in Caracas. The most desirable neighborhoods were situated in the hilly winding streets at the foot of the Avila Mountain.

Due to the ever expanding scourge of crime that has gripped the city since the late 1980’s, many of these homes have been demolished in favor of more secure, low rise, concrete block apartment buildings. However, there are some that still stand. The only indication of their existence, beside the surrounding thick cement walls, barbed wire, and an imposing steel door, is an elegant, cast iron, string of letters that marks the name of the house.

Venezuelans often give names to their homes. The name can be entirely made up, or a combination of names of family members, or any other meaningful association. I noticed that these name plates had a very similar look, and I became fascinated by their unusual typographic quality. They were all similar in style, but each one was totally unique. In each case they appeared to be handmade but distinctly modernist. I began to photograph as many as I could find as I walked the hilly streets by the Avila. Because I was hiden from view behind a giant concrete wall, I did not fear being confronted by angry owners questioning why I was photographing the entrance of their homes. When I got back to the United States, I began to separate and catalog the letterforms that I found. On each successive trip to Venezuela, I found more examples for my collection. The result was the creation of this typeface. I named it after the first home I encountered in Caracas, and its curious cast iron name plate, "Clariana".

Read about Modernism in Caracas

November 06, 2015

Sketches in halftone: facial expressions
in a series of old snapshots

August 12, 2015

My Favorite Moives (Top 4)

Caddy Shack All around excellent film. There are so many great lines; most of them improvised. The director was Harold Ramis (RIP). I like the story, and all of the characters. It reminds me of being a kid and spending the whole summer at the country club up the street from my house. “Ahoy polloi.”

2001: A Space Odyssey This is in my top 4, well.. because I think it should be in everybodys top 4 favorit movies. It is truly a masterwork of film making from every standpoint. Kubrick is the greatest!

Mad Max: Road Warrior I remeber renting this movie at the video store when I was in 7th or 8th grade. All of the voices were dubbed in this kind of weird "John Wayne" cowboy voice. They also changed all of the dialog, so it basically made no sense. But, the cars, and the desert and the intensity of the way it was shoot was still there, and that's why I like this movie. I have since seen it without the dubbing, and I have no idea why somebody thought it was a good idea to put those crazy cowboy voices in for the American audience. I guess they thought that no american would understand Astrailian accents, probably becuse it preceeded Crocile Dundee, and Outback Steakhouse.

This Is Spinal Tap! This is just plain funny! I don't think I need to go into any more discussion about it.

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