Box Vox

packaging as content

June 29, 2010

The Bridget Riley Sound

VintageOpArtRecordsAbove: Vintage Brazilian album covers from Sabadaba (via: Martin Klasch), except for the “phase 4 stereo” album which is from Epiclectic’s Flickr Photostream

If manufacturers of the 1960s were generally “trying to give their packaging the Bridget Riley Look”—it was manufacturers of records that exploited this look to its fullest. Not that there is really any one “Bridget Riley Sound” but the rhythm, repetition and pattern in her paintings obviously struck many people as an appropriate visual analogy to a number of different styles of music. Riley, herself, in an early interview spoke of her work in fairly
musical terms, saying that “repetition acts as a sort of amplifier.”

Riley who was already plenty dismayed at the appropriation of her paintings by 1960s fashion designers, must have been similarly irritated by this trend. Some covers are obvious imitations. Some are actually reproductions of her paintings. (I wonder if she received a licensing fee for use of her paintings in those cases?)

FaustTapes On left: the original LP cover for “The Faust Tapes” was Brigit Riley’s painting “Crest”; on right: the later “Wumme Box” version used a related sonar-typography image

Celt-jerusalemOn left: Jan Celt’s album, “Lookie Tookie” reproduces another Bridget Riley painting; on right an “op art” sleeve for Jerusalem and the Starbaskets “Bengal Traitor Split” (a 7" single)

Aside from functioning as a sort of audio-visual parallel universe, many of Riley’s motifs (and op art in general) evoke additional music-related associations. Sound waves. Intensity. Swinging sixties.

For Stefan Sagmeister, this strong tendency to associate “op art” with a specific point in time might be seen as a negative.

Sagmeister Sagmeister’s 1996 Grammy-nominated packaging for Marshall Crenshaw’s “Miracle of Science” CD

From Steven Heller’s 2004 interview with Sagmeister

Heller: So, what do you think is your most dated looking work, and why?

Sagmeister: Among others, that Marshall Crenshaw CD looks rather old now, because of its holographic printing on the disc (in 1996 this was fresh), its op art patterns as well as the type set in rigid boxes.

If the “Miracle of Science” package looks old, it’s probably not because it reminds us of the 1960s, but because it’s reminiscent of the 1980s. A lot of “new wave” music and fashion was, after all, a reprocessing of sixties styles. (Think: black and white checkerboard, etc.)

But if the “op art” trend did not stop in the 1960s, it also didn’t end with the 1980s.

SmilesandFrownsThe Smiles and Frowns “Mechanical Songs” 7" with die cut sleeve (via: The great Pop Supplement)

(The beat goes on, after the fold…)

RecordSleeves Some “op art” 45 single sleeves from Record Envelope

SoulWaxCovers 3 Soulwax CD covers with subtle, optical typography: “E Talking”, “Nite Versions” & “Any Minute Now”

Cover-Rise-AkroeAkroe, who designed the Vogue cigarette packs from yesterday’s post, also designed these Rise Recordings EPs (2004–2006)

4OpArtCoversUpper left: Stereo MCS “Double Bubble”; on right: The Lemonheads “Varshons” cover with painting by Mark Dagley; lower left: Deerhunter’s “Cryptogram” on right: cover for Animal Collective’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion”

Randy Ludacer
Beach Packaging Design

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