Friday, June 20, 2008

School Days

Bob Hubbach c. 1961

Sometimes the most innovative and futuristic ideas come from designers before they’re on a corporate payroll - having their ideas compromised and shaped by budgets and engineering practicalities.

Ben Delphia - 1964

Detroit looked to the handful of transportation design programs across the country to recruit the best and brightest available. Perhaps the most recognized of these specialized programs was at the Art Center School in Los Angeles, CA.

Art Center College c. 1958

Art Center alumni make up a lengthy who’s who of car design history including Gordon Buehrig, Dick Teague, Syd Mead, and Larry Shinoda.

Bob Adomeit c. 1958

Other notable design schools were the Pratt Institute in New York City, Cleveland Institute of Art, Notre Dame University and the Detroit Institute of Automobile Styling correspondence course developed by Harley Earl and Richard Arbib.

John Aiken - 1957

The first successful automobile styling program was adapted from carriage design by my art collection’s namesake, Andrew F. Johnson. Many of Johnson’s students were auto industry pioneers including three of the Fisher Brothers, William Durant, Charles Nash, George Mercer, Herman Brunn and Ray Dietrich.

Otto Wuerful - 1949

John R. Jungwirth - 1951

Here’s a look at more of the student projects in the Andrew F. Johnson Gallery.

Joe Sohn - 1957

Glen Winterscheidt - 1957

Art Gerstenberger - 1967

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Salute to Exner

Virgil Max Exner, Sr. 1909-1973
On September 29th, 2007 fans of design legend Virgil Exner gathered in South Bend, Indiana on the campus of Notre Dame University. Months of planning by Virgil Exner, Jr. resulted in this once in a lifetime opportunity to see show cars, rare production vehicles and original design drawings from Exner, Sr's historic career.

Peter Grist

The day began with a car exhibition and book signing by biographer Peter Grist. Having been published just weeks earlier, this was the first opportunity for many to get a copy of Virgil Exner: Visioneer. Grist spent years gathering the back story to Exner's life and has written an amazing, well rounded account of the designer and the man. As images of Exner's life were projected on a screen, cars representing Virgil Exner's design career took the spotlight.

1957 Chrysler 300C

1964 Mercer Cobra

1965 Bugatti 101 C

1971 Stutz Blackhawk

1954 Plymouth Belmont

1961 Dual Ghia

1955 Dodge LaFemme

1957 Plymouth Belvedere

More examples of Exner's original art and design drawings were on display at the Snite Art Museum where a lecture by Peter Grist and Virgil Exner, Jr capped off the day-long celebration.

While attending the Exner event, I had the opportunity to visit Charlie Hayes' jaw-dropping collection of Exner era studio drawings. Although I saw pieces of his collection on display earlier, some of the drawings were just too big to move.

To complement the art collection, Charlie has gone so far as to furnish his entire business with mid-century era office funishings.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Designing an Icon

Louisville Visual Art Association - Designing an Icon Event

In September, 2007 I travelled to Louisville, KY to see the Designing an Icon exhibit at the Louisville Visual Art Association. I believe this is the first exhibition of automotive concept designs in North America to be shown independent of another automobile event. It was rewarding to see designers' art displayed on its own artistic merit apart from a car show or other automotive presentation.

Retired GM designer, and former LVAA alumni Bill Porter called on many fellow designers to loan some of their artwork for the exhibition. In addition, a designers' roundtable discussion was held one special weekend. A dozen of the exhibition's 24 artists were in attendence for a sold out audience.

Bill Porter - Former Buick Styling Chief

Group portrait of designers in attendance

Keynote speaker Chuck Jordan gave a brief presentation about the automobile design process that was followed by a lively and entertaining discussion. The designers talked about their careers, design philosophies and thoughts about today's new cars.

Chuck Jordan - Vice President GM Design 1986-92

Sold out crowd for design symposium

Executive Director Marcia Boone could not have been more pleased with the standing room only event and commented that she had never seen so many men drawn to a LVAA function. Clearly, Designing an Icon brought new attendence, recogntion and enthusiasm to the organization.

Jordan & David McIntosh review parade phaeton concept

Bill Michalak - Retired GM Designer

Wayne Kady - Former Cadillac Styling Chief

Graham Bell - Retired Ford Designer

Roger Hughet - Retired GM Designer