Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Off to Floraville

A few examples of Flora's hand lettering styles.

I don't recall how I came upon the Jim Flora Blog hosted by Irwin Chusid and Barbara Economon, but I am happy to have arrived there. I was vaguely familiar with Flora's flamboyant work since my childhood, but maybe it was because so many other illustrators and animators were influenced by his work that his style just seemed ubiquitous to me. Reading the Flora blog reminds me I need to get out more. Jim Flora (1914-1998) was extremely prolific in his lifetime. In addition to his many magazine and album cover designs, he was also an author and illustrator of 17 children's books. Gary Marmorstein, author of The Label: The Story of Columbia Records, calls him a post-nuclear Miro. Quite by chance, he was at the vanguard of the beatnik style of hand lettering. (I see a search for beatnik type brings up this which is not so dissimilar). Check out his crazy cubist cartoon drawings and hand lettering on some of the album covers he designed in the 1940s and 50s for RCA and Columbia Records. The great album cover designer Alex Steinweiss actually hired Flora at Columbia in 1942 after he saw some little poetry booklets he and his friend Robert Lowry (1919-1994) created for their Little Man Press imprint. Chusid and Economon have 3 wonderful books on Flora and his work, published by FantagraphicsYou can find them and a lot more available on their blog and the Jim Flora website which they also host. It is chock full of links, books and screenprints for purchase. There is also a very interesting read on Flora I just found over at Accidental Mysteries. It was written by Ben Sisario for the NY Times Art Review in 2004.
Very likely designed by the hand of Flora. This logomark appears in the corner of at least three RCA covers according to Irwin Chusid. I am of the same mind, as this is a perfect example of Flora's flare for playful type experiments.

An exhibit which took place in 2008 at The Walker Art Center of some of the books designed and printed by Jim Flora and Robert Lowry for The Little Man Press. Click to enlarge.
:: All images via the Jim Flora blog and website.

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