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Beneath the Surface Blog


Thursday Salute to Originals: The Red Ball Project

GPI Design - Thursday, July 26, 2012

Say goodbye to a time that required art to be hung on the wall or mounted on a pedestal, and hello to a new age in which art is meant to be playful, engaging, and provocative! Artists around the world have chosen to relocate their canvases from minimalist galleries to dynamic streets, and temporary installations are evolving as one of the most favored forms of art. Kurt Perschke, a New York City artist, proved that a simple red ball mixed with a little creativity can allow the public to unleash their imagination while having a good laugh!

Kurt Perschke conceived the idea for the RedBall Project in 2001, and has been inspiring pedestrians to take a second look at under-appreciated urban areas for over 11 years. It all began when Arts in Transit, a public art agency based in St. Louis, MO, asked Perschke to propose a series of installations for various sites around the city center. After countless weeks of frustration, Perschke drew an oversized red ball under a St. Louis Bridge to humor himself, and the project was born.

RedBall's success in St. Louis inspired Perschke to use his commission to carry the project overseas to Barcelona. The lighthearted nature of the design began to make headlines, and Perschke was asked to replicate the installation in Sydney, Australia. Since then, the project has debuted in major cities around the world, including Chicago, Toronto, Scottsdale, St. Louis, Grand Rapids, Portland, Taipei, Sydney, Perth, Barcelona, Abu Dhabi, and London!

Perschke travels to cities for 2-3 weeks at a time, and places the RedBall in a variety of locations that are not only overlooked by pedestrians, but have a humorous juxtaposition with the installation; expanding 15 feet in diameter and weighing 250 pounds, the enormous red vinyl ball is comical in nearly any location! Perschke relies on cherry pickers and city workers that scale bridges and buildings to inflate RedBall on each site, picking unusual locations that not only draw visitors, but highlight the nooks and crannies of urban life.

Transcending the cities, locations, and cultures of nearly every continent on Earth, the RedBall Project has proven the universal quality of art. Perschke plans to continue his innovative installation for many years to come, believing that “people take it on. They start thinking about where it's going to go, where it could go, cities it's been to. Each city has a story and it's a story around the globe, and I think people connect to that.” We salute Perschke's whimsical approach to turning the standard notions of art upside down!

Credits: The Red Ball Project, Arch Daily

Environmental Art for Interior Spaces: Local Artist Susie Frazier

GPI Design - Tuesday, June 12, 2012

We're thrilled to connect with Susie Frazier, Cleveland artist who engaged in sustainability even before it was cool.  As the interview unfolds, you'll quickly realize that Susie's genuine passion for natural materials as early as childhood has sustained her impressive artistic life.  

gpidesign: Do you have a personal design philosophy that unifies your artistic creations, or does each piece have it's own inspiration and ideology?

Susie Frazier: Anything designed under my brand, whether it’s fine art, home furnishings, or fashion accessories, is born from three guiding principles: The work has to be resourceful, natural and down to earth.

It’s not enough to transform organic or industrial elements into something new. What matters to me is that I’m creating unpretentious objects that ultimately soothe the soul. Through simplified forms, muted earth tones, and organic patterns, my collection of art products evokes a sense of calm despite the chaos of life. And by embracing weathered, distressed textures, I’m defining a mindset that believes real beauty comes from the imperfections.

gpidesign: What inspired you to use nature as your artistic medium?

Frazier: The idea of designing with cast-off materials is something that’s been a family tradition since I was a child growing up in the American Southwest. There were times when my mother didn’t have a lot of means, so she taught us to be creative by salvaging what was readily available. For years, the only shelves in my bedroom were actually orange crates discarded from the local grocery store. Our living room coffee table was actually an old wooden gate mounted on four wood posts. Natural things like tree stumps, dried branches and pine cones were all on decoration rotation for decades.

Then, in 1997, I discovered the work of Andy Goldsworthy. I marveled at the mesmerizing patterns and forms he created in outdoor environments using nothing but raw materials he found on site. I remember thinking to myself how powerful that would be to create portable pieces with similar patterns but intended for interior environments. I thought if people could experience that beauty every day when they came home from work or school, maybe it would help them see the world in a different way. As I launched my career that same year, I realized just how comfortable I felt with the process of transforming discarded earth elements into something meaningful. It was like coming home. Of course, that was before the term “going green” was coined, so I had to do a lot of educating about organic matter as a viable medium.

gpidesign: Do you think the shift towards sustainability will influence other artists to explore the benefits of natural materials?

Frazier: I definitely think our culture’s embrace of a greener lifestyle over the past fifteen years has influenced other artists, particularly those who are younger and don’t know any other way of living. While social concern for the environment made its way into pop culture as early as the late 1960s, it’s encouraging to see today’s artists taking the movement even farther by developing work that’s truly sustainable in its construction vs. creating work that’s just conceptualizes or politicizes sustainability issues. At a certain point though, sustainable measures will stop being considered “special features” and will eventually become the standard by which all things in modern society are created. Until then, I’m glad to know my work has contributed, on some level, to a shift in thinking about the benefits of nature’s beauty.

gpidesign: Are the wood elements for your framed displays and sculptures personally collected, or received from an outside source?

Frazier: Most of the earth fragments found in my fine art are collected by me while I’m wandering the beaches and forests of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Occasionally, I order from an outside supplier if I learn about a new medium with which I’d like to experiment, but I’ve taken great care to prioritize the use of materials and production partners that are right in my back yard.

I’m fortunate enough to have found a master woodworker in Cleveland who still works in the original shop his father established 50 years ago. The beauty of doing business with him is not only the vast knowledge he’s developed around his craft, but his meticulous storage of wood scrap that’s been saved through the years. Whenever I need frames or fixtures built, he scours through his decades-old stash in order to make use of what’s already on hand. It’s totally satisfying to know we aren’t resorting to freshly-milled lumber when there’s so much that can be repurposed.

When it comes to my home decor products, I’ve taken a similar but different approach. Because Cleveland has such a rich history in manufacturing, there’s a fairly strong market here for industrial salvage. Thankfully, I’ve been able to tap into an active supply chain in which weathered wood and steel cutoffs are by-products of other activities, so they’re set aside and sold as scrap. By leveraging the skills of local welders and woodworkers, I’ve been able to produce my designs in higher quantities, so far, without facing the downsides of far-away fabrication.

gpidesign: What statement do you hope to make to other artists and designers about vernacular design using local materials?

Frazier: One point I hope my story conveys to other artists is that meaningful design doesn’t necessarily come from any formal training or a pulse on the latest trends. It comes from the hard work of defining our ideals, immersing ourselves in our environment, learning about materials that are in surplus around us, and adapting local expertise into our processes. Indigenous people have lived by theses principles of vernacular design for centuries with great success. On so many levels, society benefits when manufacturing and consumer choices are made inside the constraints of what’s available vs. what’s possible simply because we can.

gpidesign: Oftentimes, the process behind a design is almost as innovative as the design itself. Do you have an experimental stage in which you try different patterns of wood varieties before settling on a final arrangement?

Frazier: One of the more interesting aspects of my fine art is the use of an ancient medium, called encaustic painting, whose roots date back thousands of years. When natural beeswax, crystalized tree sap, and colored pigments are melted together, the resulting liquid can be applied in heated layers to create colorful, natural works of art. In my case, I position the textural fragments in patterns as the dominant elements and let the encaustic fill in around it. The result is a durable and archival means of adhering and sealing those specific earth patterns together forever.

gpidesign: Are your designs crafted for specific clients?

Frazier: Historically, I focused a lot of time on commission-based work for business-to-business clients like designers and architects. It’s definitely thrilling to see my work in public spaces and know people are positively affected by their exposure to it. But, since I’ve launched several product lines through my online store and retail showroom in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District, I find my attention turning more to consumer transactions and licensing options as a way to grow my brand. Ultimately, the various audiences attracted to my work all share one thing in common: a deep appreciation for the earth and a desire to find ways to connect to it.

You can visit Susie's gallery showroom this Friday, June 15th between 5pm and 9 pm. If you stop by, leave a comment here letting us know which of her works piqued your interest and why!


Susie Frazier Showroom

78th Street Studios Building

1305 W. 80th Street, Suite 111

Cleveland, OH 44102


Image credits: Susie Frazier

Thursday Salute to Originals: Urban Graffiti Culture

GPI Design - Thursday, May 31, 2012

Do you consider street graffiti to be vandalism or art? Despite its negative connotations, this controversial form of self-expression has evolved into a global artistic community with its own techniques, rules, and history. Many artists are choosing to reject the traditional idea that graffiti is a spontaneous act, and are instead creating meaningful pieces that take days of imagination, planning, and effort. By utilizing the power of attention-grabbing designs, bold colors, and optical illusions, street artists are not only gaining worldwide fame, but leaving lasting cultural impressions within their communities. Though you're not likely to find these urban masterpieces in a museum, we're sure you'll be impressed by their richness, complexity, and 3D effects.

Apocalyptic Street Scene

Utilizing an ordinary German street as a blank canvas, Edgar Mueller demonstrates his mastery of optical illusions. By disintegrating the sidewalks into a churning sea, Mueller has captured the attention of the community and instilled a new life into this district of town. Because the street art stretches hundreds of square meters over the pavement, pedestrians actually have the ability to become part of the image.

Idea Festival

Taking 3 consecutive days of drawing to complete, “Idea Festival' by Julian Beever takes traditional graffiti to new heights-literally and figurally. After creating an imaginary bridge on the flat Louisville, Kentucky sidewalk, Beever gives passer-bys the illusion that flower pots and other sidewalk fixtures will fall into the scene below. After spending several decades drawing 3D art, Beever has learned that “people like things they can understand quickly,” and plans to continue transforming walkways around the world.

Dies Irae

After leaving his career at NASA in favor of pursuing his passion for Renaissance art in Rome, Kurt Wenner has become one of the founders of anamorphic street art. This technique requires the viewer to look at the drawing from an unusual angle instead of straight on. One of his greatest works is Dies Irae, which depicts deranged human creatures crawling out of a crater in the Italian pavement.

Cappuccino

Graffiti is not only used as entertainment for pedestrians, but as a marketing technique to create brand awareness. Manfred Stader drew this 3D cappuccino for Costa Coffee in the United Kingdom to advertise that coffee beans will be sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. As the community of talented street artists continues to grow, there is no doubt that graffiti has the ability to become a universal form of communication around the world.

Image credits: Graffiti.org, Graphic Design Blog, Squidoo, Hongkiat

Thursday Salute To Originals: What Light Brings to Life

GPI Design - Thursday, May 03, 2012

They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In the case of artist John V. Muntean’s unique sculptures, beauty may be in the eye of the flashlight holder. Unlike traditional sculptures where "what you see is what you get", these carefully crafted wooden blocks are instead, only a piece of the puzzle. The real picture comes to life when the secret ingredient (light!) is added, taking you beyond the strange and jarring visuals of the surface.

John Muntean Magic Angle Sculpture Shadows Lighting

Upon first glance, Muntean’s sculptures appear as a jumbled and chaotic mix of various shapes. Interesting, yes, but rather difficult to interpret and comprehend. However, when the sculptures are lit from above at a 54.7 degree angle, the crazy shapes and slopes begin to make sense. In the cast shadows, hidden images – the true visual goal of the sculpture- are revealed. As the sculpture turns, new images take form in the cast shadows, piquing thought, curiosity, and interest.

Muntean Art Angle Perspective Shadow

We can’t help but think of our own work when looking at Muntean’s sculptures. Often times we encounter a surface that appears quite flat, non-descript, uninteresting. To be blunt, it’s just boring. But once we use our lighting systems to illuminate the surface from behind, all sorts of hidden characteristics come to life. Subtle veins, color shifts, and pattern depths that were once invisible, instantly highlight and enhance, truly changing the appearance, and more importantly, our minds. It reminds us that the best visual is not necessarily what is on the surface. Latent beauty often lies hidden within, revealed through the precise execution of arrangements and technologies.

Can you think of any other instances similar to Muntean’s sculptures? Has light ever enhanced or revealed something more to you?

Image credits: John V. Muntean

Thursday Salute to Originals: Tangerine Tangos Down the Runway

GPI Design - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you probably already know that Tangerine Tango is the 2012 Pantone Color of the Year.  Popping up all over Pinterest in paint swatches and as demure sundress colors, Tangerine Tango has been on the visual radar.  Yet with interior designers seeming to embrace it only as an accent color, we yearned to see how the world of the avante garde is putting its twist on this year's hue.

As fashion and architecture can be mutually inspirational, we enjoy this compilation of images as reminders to push the boundaries in all aspects of design.

Tangerine Tango Dress by Craig Lawrenc

Above: Craig Lawrenc

Betty Jackson Tangering Tango Fashion Design

Above: Betty Jackson

Red Neckline Curvy

Above: Chikashi Suzuki for Dune Magazine

Narciso Rodriguez Tangerine Tango Dress

Above: Narciso Rodriguez

Alexander McQueen Tangering Tango Spring 2012 Fashion Collection

Above: Alexander McQueen

In these fashion pieces, color, texture, shape and pattern are manipulated in bold moves. Though we continue to see Tangerine Tango being used at a smaller scale as interior accents and in product design, few architectural designers have yet to embrace the full potential of the color without apology.

Is the architectural world too boring? Why haven't we seen any sculptural building facades splattered in Tangerine Tango yet?

Image credits: Elle, DesignerHK, Washington Post, Tumblr, Searching for Style

Painting Landscapes with Light: An Interview with Barry Underwood

GPI Design - Tuesday, April 24, 2012

fern for francesca lighted forest imageFascinating uses of light never cease to capture our attention. Whether light is being used in a cool, new way via budding technology, or simply using its inherent ambient qualities to enhance surroundings in an unexpected way, the possibilities of light are endless. That’s probably why we were so drawn to the work of Barry Underwood. The color and light of his landscape installations are breathtaking. Just one look at these eerie installations and you are immediately entranced by a captivating, dream-like world. Seeing our passion for color and light resonating in his installation, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to speak with Barry on his work. Graciously, he agreed to speak with us and provide further insight into his beautiful creations.

GPI Design: Barry, what inspires you first?

Barry Underwood: Ideas in art inspire me, and working with ideas imbedded in painting, installation, drawing, photography, and cinema. I am also inspired or rather influenced by science and nature and its energy.

GPI Design: Is it a particular landscape that inspires the lighting, or do you get an idea for the lighting itself to which you need to find the perfect landscape that captures your vision?

Barry: The process begins with drawing. I either have an idea first then look for a landscape, or I make artwork in response to a particular landscape. I then sketch out the idea. This gives me time to work through some of the media and logistical issues that may arise during the install. Composing or framing the shot is next. Then the installation process takes place.

GPI Design: On your website, you say that “Light and color alter the perception of space, while defamiliarizing common objects." Why do you think your work integrates so well on landscape and the outdoors? Do you think the same elusive and mystifying effect would translate onto interior environments?

Barry: In the photographs of the installations I am most interested in the ways in which the colored light does not integrate with the landscape. The sculptural light I introduce is very foreign in color palate to the subtle coloration of land, plant, sky and water. The concept is not exclusive to the landscape. I am currently working on a commissioned series of installations within interiors.

GPI Design: Most of your images use vivid colored light that evokes a sense of dreamlike imagination. Why do you think color is so central in creating this dream-like effect? Do you think white light could achieve a similar effect?

Barry: Color is intrinsically tied to our perception and psyche. It has a psychological effect on our bodies. Light (color) is the world in which we move around / through.

GPI Design: How do your techniques enforce the impression of the light as an externally applied, alien-like intervention rather than a revelation of inherent qualities?

Barry: I am not thinking about aliens or Hollywood ideas of aliens. I am thinking about ideas of abstraction, particularly contemporary abstract painting, and the abstract ideas carried out in 60s and 70s land art. Making a mark in the landscape rather than on a canvas. Light is merely a means to record color photographically.

Thank you to Barry Underwood for taking the time to elaborate on his work. Be sure to check out the rest of Barry's portfolio.  If you’re a fellow Clevelander, you can visit his exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Cleveland coming up on October 8, 2012.

Image credits: Barry Underwood

Thursday Salute to Originals: Design That is Music to Your Eyes and Your Ears. Literally.

GPI Design - Thursday, April 12, 2012

We love discovering designs that are not only visually appealing, but also exciting and intriguing to our other critical senses. It makes the entire design more dynamic, interesting, and real when it can be experienced and interpreted from various modes of perception (things you can't experience in a Sketchup or Revit model). So it’s no surprise that when we came across the Aeolus, an installation that combines design, sensory perception, and a little bit of physics, that we simply couldn’t take our eyes (or ears) off of it.

Aeolus Wind Pavilion Luke Jerram Outdoor Park Sculpture

Named for the mythical rulers of the wind in Greek mythology, Aeolus is a giant perforated metal arch with 310 stainless steel tubes of varying proportions affixed to outer portion of the arch. Created by Luke Jerram, multiple senses are impacted as one moves through the Aeolus, making the installation both physically and intellectually stimulating.

View of Cloudy Sky Through Aeolus Wind Pavilion

From an optical point of view, the perforations and metal tubes act as framing elements to the surrounding landscape. As one changes their position in and around the arch, and as time passes through the course of the day, different scenes and light levels are framed through each viewport. Each opening creates a unique focal point that highlights the fleeting surrounding elements (like clouds in the sky), amplifying their beauty and reinforcing their transitory nature.

Acoustic Wind Pavilion Auditory Sounds

From an auditory perspective, the Aeolus seems to give life to the surrounding wind and landscape. As wind moves through the arch and tubes, vibrations resonate creating a singing-effect similar to a finger moving around the rim of a crystal goblet. Depending on the intensity and direction of the wind, different combinations of tones and pitches are emitted, embodying nature itself in its own unique and ever-changing song. And just how the human ear can decipher the direction or general area from which a noise originates, the same can be done with the Aeolus. The acoustic dynamics inherent in the arch make it possible to track the wind’s direction and it’s usually silent shift, just by following the sound.

This installation makes us wonder what other instruments could be adapted to a giant scale that interacts with Mother Nature. Maybe some kind of giant drum that creates noise when branches blown by the wind rap upon the stretched membrane? Or maybe a string instrument where strings are plucked by weather, like raindrops falling from the sky? What ideas do you have?

Image credits: Luke Jerram

Thursday Salute to Originals: Whimsical Winged Lights

GPI Design - Thursday, March 29, 2012

You blink for a moment. As your eyelids lift to reveal the scenery again, you thought you just missed witnessing a flock of huge birds shining with light storm through the hotel lobby. Their tails left traces that were still sparkling in the thin air. But when you close and open your eyes again, they are still there.

That’s the dramatic illusion artist Ayala Serfaty created with her light design, Nana 200. The Nana 200 is part of her Jewel Collection, an arrangement of elegant and lyrical suspended kinetic mobiles intended for public spaces. The mobile structure allows the creation of variable composition of shades. The shades sway as if blown by a breeze and their movement creates a magical environment.

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The lamps are covered in textiles of various hues and illuminated with compact fluorescent light fixtures.

Red Suspended Wing Light Fixture MobilePin It

The shape and free-style arrangement of Nana 200 set it apart from other mundane and motionless pendants.

Suspended Beige Wing Shaped Light Fixture MobilePin It

Nana 200 Suspended Light FixturePin It

Apparently free from the grips of gravity, these lighting creations animate spaces with their fleeting expressions of permanent memories. How would you design an interior lobby space to adequately respond to and create a home for these unique creations?


Image Credit: Aqua Gallery, Planhomedesign

Thursday Salute to Originals: Colorful Backlit Animated Ceilings by Jean Nouvel

GPI Design - Thursday, March 15, 2012

Today we are looking one incredibly unique hotel ceiling. It’s a burst of bright colors, an underwater world over the top of your head, a focal point of the city at night, and even a salute to contemporary art.

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The Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom hotel in Vienna, Austria is designed by French architect Jean Nouvel. He invited Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist to create five backlit ceilings with custom art graphics at five areas of the building, which include the ceilings of the hotel entrance, the ground floor, and the top floor. Nouvel wanted Rist to introduce vivid colors to this minimal architecture remaining predominantly in shades of gray and black. The glazed façades on both the ground floor and the top floor are created as fine and transparent as possible so that the backlit ceilings become beacons from the outside.

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With an education background in Commercial Art and Visual Communications, Pipilotti Rist is a master of visual stimulation. Her exhibitions and video installations usually involve huge amount of bold bright colors and unconventional video shots. When asked the design inspiration for these hotel ceilings in an interview, Rist said she and her team decided on the themes of “gravity” and “the history of perspective” pretty naturally. Inspired by the Trompe-l'œil tradition, the five images for the ceilings show scenes viewed from below: from underwater over the banks of a pond, or up through tree branches away from the world towards the sky.

"Guests should feel welcome and inspired. If they come back to the hotel again, there’s plenty of detail to discover in the artworks. When they look at the ceiling, guests and staff should feel uplifted and grow taller", Rist explained.

The artful backlit ceiling makes the restaurant on the top floor a place where everyone would love to hang out or just to have a unique dining experience. We are absolutely blown away by the pure aesthetics of these artistic ceiling surfaces and their close interface with the architectural design. We feel so strongly drawn to this project because it is a manifestation of what we believe in, that creating a signature backlit piece is more than a lighting source; it can become the expression or icon of an entire building.  


Image Credits: Miss Viki Secrets, Dezeen, Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom

Thursday Salute to Originals: Illuminated Rope by Christian Haas

GPI Design - Thursday, March 08, 2012

One of the best things about window-shopping is that you never know what you’ll run into around the next corner. Would it be a boutique store that has handmade artisan jewelry and abstract paintings, or a mainstream fashion brand with an ultra-modern window display (and sexy models)? I’m sure people who walk by Colette in Paris would all slow their steps, take a closer look inside this window, and be amazed by how lighting can transform an ordinary object into a piece of art.

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This unique lamp collection, “Ropes”, is the brainchild of Paris-based designer Christian Haas. The ropes are designed to create an innovative light source and distinctive design object by combining a tactile material and energy-efficient technology.  Each of the lamps is handmade with a silky textile cord wrapping around LEDs, emitting a warm glow.

Haas describes the design concept as “Unlit, the lamps provide a graphic statement to their environment. Lit, they diffuse a gentle ambient light.”

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This design pays homage to ropes that have been historically associated with lamps and lighting. In the days when people were using gasoline lamps, they would dip a rope in the gasoline and burn the rope in order to illuminate a space. With the development of LED technology, we can now actually put the light inside a rope (and surely the LEDs have a longer lifespan than a burning rope)!

We think rope material is a creative medium or container for lighting. When lit, it's unexpected, sure to stop some in their tracks or at least turn some heads.  If you are designing a signature lighting piece, how will you choose the right medium? What are the factors you need to consider? We'd love to hear your thoughts!


Image Credit: haasdesign, designboom