“Beauty, science and art will always triumph.” CHRISTO
Earlier, on my Facebook page, I lamented the death of Milton Glaser, a legendary graphic designer I discovered while studying graphic communication at UTArlington in the early 1970s. I recently learned another art innovator I studied died on May 31, 2020, at the age of 84. Christo was known worldwide for his large, ephemeral environmental installations which often involved large landmarks and landscapes wrapped in fabric, including the Wrapped Reichstag, The Pont Neuf Wrapped, Running Fence in California, and The Gates in Central Park. Until the coronavirus put a halt to it, he was scheduled to wrap the Arc de Triomphe in 269,097 square feet of fabric. He was likewise known for his massive land art, such as The Umbrellas in Japan and The Floating Piers at Lake Iseo in Italy.
In one of my art history classes, I remember watching the documentary Christo’s Valley Curtain, which documented his attempt to hang an orange curtain of fabric across the mountainous Colorado State Highway 325. It lasted 28 hours before it was destroyed by wind. In 1976, I followed his construction of the Running Fence, a 24.5-mile fence of white nylon, supported by steel posts and steel cables, running through the Californian landscape and into the ocean.
In each instance, Christo’s works required years of planning, including technical solutions, political negotiation, permitting and environmental approval, and the assistance and support of the public. Besides marveling at Christo’s wacky-yet-wonderful creations, I’ve learned important principles about art by following his career. Many of these I’ve integrated into my own art – graphic design, in particular.
• Art (design) must engage the mind. It is desirable to make the viewer think, which aids recall.
• Although the planning and execution may be complex, the finished design should be simple.
• The more people who have a stake in its creation, the more valuable and enduring is the design.
• Freely adapt to circumstances and environment but never waver from the objective.
• Learn from failures.
Photos by Wolfgang Volz