Thursday, October 14, 2010

Who died and made James Victore boss?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 14, 2010 at 12:47 PM

Atlanta's on a bit of a graphic design kick at the moment — Chromatic held its "tribute to color" at the Goat Farm earlier this month, and tonight two heavy hitters from the graphic design/illustration world visit Atlanta to deliver a few words on the subject: Rolling Stone senior art director Steven Charny lectures at SCAD and self-taught designer James Victore talks and signs books at the Portfolio Center at 6 p.m. Victore's cultivated a reputation throughout his career as a kind of renegade designer, driven to comment via his art on the kinds of things that don't necessarily make for the most polite dinner conversations. His new book, Victore or, Who Died and Made You Boss? catalogs the best of his best in full color on 224 black pages.

On various occasions, you've used the analogy that "Graphic design is a big fucking club with spikes on it" that you want to wield. Could you elaborate on that and explain why in your opinion graphic design has the potential to incite, perhaps more so than other art forms?
In any other art — music, poetry, film — there exists the freedom to comment on love, politics and social conditions. Just because we are designers, working for a client, does not mean that we should feel restricted by the brief given by the client, or that it is not our place to add comment. Here in my studio we feel free to take up the rich opportunity to add our own content, if at all possible, and add ourselves to the form, to give the audience more than what they paid for. And sometimes for fun we just pay the printer directly and become our own client — a tricky position, but fully rewarding.

Is there anything in your body of work that you created with a particularly strong point of view on the subject and now feel differently about? I'm not necessarily talking about having regrets. Rather, I'm wondering how your views of your work have evolved as you've evolved.
As Frank sings, "Regrets? I've had a few, but then again, too few to mention." As a commercial artist I must pay my way by working for others' concerns. Luckily I have never had my morals challenged by my clients' ideals. There are a few lines that I will not cross, lines that designers should never cross, but these come at too great a cost. That is why they pay so well. As I progress through life I am content with my wake.

Does a tension exist (or maybe existed when you first started out) for you taking jobs to pay the bills and accepting jobs based on any kind of social/political statements you or your client might be interested in making?
I am a commercial artist. I am paid to help my clients and focus attention on them. I like getting paid for my work, hell, I deserve it. I am also in a nice position where I feel free to inject my own sense of outrage or humor or sex appeal into my clients message. These little sharp edges are what make life worth living.

Seven years ago you did an interview with Speak Up and said, "There will be a book. And it will be killer." Well, now there's a book: 'Victore, or Who Died and Made you Boss.' So, is it killer?
No, now it is an ass-kicker.

What will you cover in your talk at the Portfolio Center on Thursday?
My talk is simply titled "How to read my book." It is about both the form and design of the book, as well as the reason to make a book in the first place. I go in depth about my influences, the reasons I choose to continue doing this work and the efforts I make to stay inspired and keep my work and my mind fresh, vital, sharp and flexible.

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