Thursday, December 1, 2016

Ed Fella's vernacular (going back to the west in the 1980s)



Ed Fella ( born 1938) is an artist, educator and graphic designer whose work has had an important influence on contemporary typography. His work is in the National Design Museum and MoMA in New York. His recently published book "Edward Fella: Letters on America, Photographs and Lettering" gives insight into his idiosyncratic world by combining and juxtaposing examples of his unique hand lettering with his photographs of found vernacular lettering.


Even before Adobe had figured out how to kern digital fonts, Fella was deconstructing lines of copy, modifying typefaces (turning Bembo into Bimbo by hacking off the serifs, to cite one example) and jumbling them up. Not for another decade would desktop publishing achieve anywhere near the eye-bending effects Fella was getting with copy-camera photostats and X-Acto knives. The burgeoning alternative arts scene in the late 1970s and early 1980s provided an ideal venue for Fella to take his work from the private sphere into the public domain. The posters, catalogs and other collateral he made for various nonprofit arts organizations—especially Detroit Focus Gallery—cemented Fella’s reputation, and to this day form the foundation for his more recent work. Ironically, the presumably more sophisticated art world hasn’t always appreciated Fella’s groundbreaking designs—in fact, many of the artists whose shows he “promoted” have been among his most vociferous critics. Fella may have the last word, since those lesser known artists don’t have their work in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, but he does (Vince Carducci, from AIGA’s BIO presentation).