Thursday, January 21, 2010

Contest Watch: Week of January 14

We start tonight at Design By Humans, where there's a bit of an oddity for us. We love brilliant, moving, flowing artwork around these parts, or brilliant conceptual pieces. By contrast, RobotTiger's The Sun Is Always Rising Somewhere is rigid, simple, and almost clinical. However, it also has what to me is an undeniable attraction in its limited colors, hard-edged graphics and scientific diagrams. The resulting piece is bold in its simplicity, and looks ready-made for a hip indie label, which makes DBH's eventual print or pass an intriguing decision to look forward to... either way could be an equally bold statement.

We go from indie brands at DBH to DBH-work at Threadless. NiNTHWHEEL's "Reticent" looks like it would fit in perfectly in the annals of DBH designs. It's about pure design more than concept, and this is designed gorgeously. The colors are retrofuturistic (which is to say, this is what the future looked like in the past), and the way they weave in and out of the spacey-looking helmet in the middle really keeps that flavor strong in the piece. It's submitted for the Threadless loves 2k10 contest, in which Threadless seeks out the next big trend. As Threadless goes, more artistic and abstract tees would be an INCREDIBLY welcome trend. Much more so than the numerous designers who seem drawn to a trend of more and more pieces using appropriated public domain images without meaningful alteration. This piece is what it is, but it is all the work of one original artist's hand and creativity. In a climate where art is being shunned even by artists in favor of the quick sell, the pander, the rip-off, that's the sort of trend I want to be behind and seen as supporting. Believing the hype and giving up on what makes creative, original, attractive work for the sake of selling out does not an artist make. Smart design choices like those made here, on the other hand, do make an artist.

I have no real certainty as to what the new trend is in tolagunestro's Off the Air, another 2k10 design, but I'm presuming it is "cybernetic animals and/or not watching TV", and if so, I am for it! The designer is a master with cyber-spacepunk work (or at least, that's the style name I'd dub it), but this brings that skill into our own natural world, with stunning results. The illustration is gorgeous, slick and detailed, with the tangle of wires and robotics linking to a number of broken tv screens, showcasing the old off-air rainbows. It's an interesting juxtaposition with the chameleon built up here... the shade-shifter is a blank canvas of color except for those screens, implying the lizard itself is unplugged from its best defense (though it could also be argued that the chameleon is indeed still well hidden against the shirt). Regardless, the piece is wonderfully done with a graphic that lends itself to discussion and thought, and perhaps getting some good discussion and thought in when it comes to artistry could be its own reward as far as a new trend goes.

Our final potential new trend of the year comes from the ever exciting Opifan64. If I had to make a guess, the trend would be going from t-shirts being canvasses for graphic art to graphics making t-shirts art in and of themselves. Surely this is the case with Interstellar Pimento Theory, which not only sounds like a ridiculous B-movie about space olives, but also is an amazing little tee. The design is all about how said design melts into the shirt. The ink colors are all incredibly weathered, making the design look worn in, like your most comfortable pair of jeans, or a well-washed print fabric. It feels way more like a print piece such as that than a screenprinted graphic tee, and I think that's part of what makes it so impressive. On its own, the design wouldn't be so impressive, but one with its canvas, inhabiting the body instead of exposed by itself, the shirt becomes its own wearable art. The graphic makes the shirt transcent normal graphic tees. It shows a true understanding of just how a tee can be more than just utilitarian. Many designers have long utilized the tee canvas to put forth superior, amazing works of graphic art, but this is one of the rare pieces that exists to be not shirt art, but shirt as art. It feels like a brilliant nose-thumb at the people out there who believe great work doesn't belong on a shirt... there is no other canvas where this will look as stunning.

After so much more abstract work, we're ending at shirt.woot, where abstract certainly doesn't reign. In this case it's a good thing to break up the rest of our discussion today. Not to say Jewelwing's Honeysickle is the most straightforward of pieces out there, which is a good part of why I like it. It marries the cute and the bizarre into one big ursine acid trip, which makes it feel Alice in Wonderland-y... certainly more so than the numerous designs I've seen around hoping to capitalize on Tim Burton's particular brand of mallcore gothic failbranding. But I digress. The design here is pretty disturbing if you think about it. Angry bees, bear-ghosts, honey and death blended at every turn, and what is with that little dude in front of the door? Creepy stuff, dudes! I seem to recall this from a long-ago Shirtfight contest, during which it was on black. I'd argue that's still how it looks best, but the oddness going on here, and the flow up the chest of the tee, makes it one hell of a weird design, and we all know I'm in love with weird.

1 comment:

opifan64 said...

Thanks for the great write up. You pretty much nailed what I was going for but stated it far more eloquently than I could. It looks like it's going to get a punishing score however, lol.

I'm going to give our collab another go soon. been in a bit of a design funk lately and have been distracted by other projects.