Rob Price
Gutbrain Records
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2021 February 12 • Friday

Happy birthday!

One of the most interesting, well written and beautiful books we've ever read is Megan Prelinger's Another Science Fiction: Advertising the Space Race 1957–1962.

As startling and exciting as that cover image is, you'll find numerous examples of inside of artwork that's bolder and more brilliant. While much of it as a mid-century aesthetic, and was created to realize and sell mid-century ideas and goals, specifically American ones, almost all of it seems vivid, fresh and powerful still.

While professional illustrators tend to be overlooked in favor of "fine artists", in much the same way that the work of soundtrack composers is ignored while the (often lesser and later) compositions of "concert composers" are given intensive scrutiny, it's often in illustration (and soundtrack work) that you find genius and innovation before it appears anywhere else.

A book like this is enough to make me feel optimistic about "art" in general, although this entire field is now practically non-existent and Prelinger herself marks its demise by the end of her remarkable and brilliantly constructed volume.

In addition to tracking the evolution of the United States' space program and its reaching out through various periodicals to members of the industry as well as the general public, Prelinger reveals how blended this particular area of advertising was with new schools of art, from Bauhuas to the artists colonies of New Mexico, the latter of course being rather well placed for the production of work that could be fundamentally linked to activities at Los Alamos.

And not only has she done the excavation and the research to assemble all of this work in its varied artistic, commercial and historical contexts, Prelinger is a brilliant art critic whose writing expresses her analyses perfectly, with elegance, precision and power.

Consider this ad from the August 15, 1960 Aviation Week:

And here is Prelinger's caption for it: "In the ad designed by Aldcroftt for Martin the sun is the central, minimal figure. Parallelograms are the gateways to space, and a lavender square representing space hangs behind. The head, neck, and shoulders of a human form are created by the alignment of the three shapes, linking human imagination and the journey to space".

You'll find something like that on every page of this amazing book.