Thursday, July 30, 2009

Deceased Artiste: "Cosmic Artist" Heinz Edelmann

This week I found out about three deaths that relate to Sixties' musical phenomena. The first is the demise of an artist who oversaw the trippiest animated feature of the latter part of that decade, Yellow Submarine. Edelmann was primarily a dedicated graphic designer of posters and illustrations, who also taught for a good deal of his latter years.

Edelmann has the distinction of having made the film the psychedelic masterwork that it is, by designing the characters and “locations.” The piecemeal construction of the picture meant that many other animators were involved in different segments (nearly every song has its own distinct “look” on a visual level), but Edelmann was the eye in charge of the project. With the film he helped jumpstart the so-called “cosmic art” look at the same time that Peter Max became its foremost and most unabashedly commercial exponent (the reason most folks think Max originated the look and collaborated on the film, which he didn’t). Edelmann was quick to note in interviews that he was happy to move on from “head art” shortly after the film was completed.

Funhouse friend Stephen Kroninger pretty much assembled all the links you need in his Heinz-trib which you can find right here (it might take a short bit to load on certain browsers, but it’s worth the trip). Stephen has also added a wonderful National Lampoon parody written by “Mr. Mike” himself and illustrated by Randall Enos that perfectly spoofs Yellow Submarine.

As for the Edelmann, I will just add on this nice bit from an article you can find here written by one his students, Christoph Niemann (it formed the basis of the New York Times obit’s catchiest passages):

Mainly, his teaching consisted of metaphysical monologues examining the links between the arts, literature, the irreversible dumbing down of youth, Asian mythology and graphic design. In case someone happened to be late for class, arriving in the afternoon, his inquiry about Mr. Edelmann's previous presence could easily be answered via a glance at the center of the floor. A rather large pile of ashes would be found there-a reminder of the numerous cigarettes Mr. Edelmann was bound to consume during his lectures — clearly indicating that one had missed him and would thus have to wait until the next day to discuss one's work with him.

One of the first things he would tell a student when they came fresh into class, was to avoid pursuing a career in illustration. Edelmann had worked in all major areas of graphic design and obviously concluded that illustration is the shortest way to desperation, and to make things worse, illustrators are not even reimbursed adequately for their sufferings (unlike, for instance, their colleagues in advertising). One of the most impressive things was that he was not only extremely well informed (on everything but soccer, which he pretended not to like), but also that he was actually working in all the disciplines he talked about. Therefore his insights did not stem from some slowly grown academic wisdom and bitterness, but from his experience on a job finished just the night before.

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