Review: The Art of Video Games

“Everyone who plays a game puts a little of themselves into the experience and takes away something that is wholly unique.” 

– Unattributed quote from placard in the Art of the Video Game Exhibition

Technology Becomes an Art Form

Thirty years ago, my Aesthetics professor at Syracuse University, Larry Bakke, explained that every technology eventually becomes an art form. For instance, one hundred years ago most people thought that motion pictures were a fad, a toy. People who worked in the film industry during that era were looked down upon. The same held true for the days of early television. Now there are museums, archives, books and college courses devoted to film and television history. Thirty years ago when I was an undergraduate art student Space Invaders and Pac Man were just popular video games, not much more. Time spent playing these video games was considered wasted time.

“One of the first major exhibitions to explore the 40-year evolution of video games,”The Art of Video Games is currently running through January 19, 2014 at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York. The video game has evolved into an art form whose time has come.

Color Coded Game System Kiosks

The Art of Video Games exhibit, curated by Chris Melissinos, founder of Past Pixels,2 is one of an exceptionally welll organized show. Video games are organized by gaming systems and a kiosk is dedicated to each system. The video game development is divided into five eras, beginning with the Atari and Coleco systems of the late 1970s up to today’s Wii, xBox and PlayStation systems. Each era is assigned a color; the kiosks are color coded by era and presented chronologically from earliest to most recent.

Each kiosk contains a sample game system controller and short videos that demonstrate and explain four of the most popular games for each system. The games represented in each kiosk are categorized by game type: Action, Target, Adventure or Tactics.

Sonic Adventure

Image: Sonic Adventure, Yuki Naka, Keith Palmer, producers; Takasi Iizuka, director; Kazuyuki Hoshino, art director, SEGA Dreamcast, 1999, © SEGA. All Rights Reserved.

Visitors Get an Opportunity to Play

A few kiosks in the exhibit allow visitors to sample playing several of the most popular games of the past 40 years, including Pac Man, Myst and the Secret of Monkey Island. Unfortunately some kiosks were placed close to screens showing video interviews with game designers, and load sounds emanating from game play made it rather difficult to hear the interviews.

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A Visit to the Exmore Diner
Last September Mod Betty of Retro Roadmap paid a visit to the Exmore Diner in Exmore Virginia. According to Mod Betty’s post, “the Exmore Diner is the only vintage diner on Virginia’s eastern shore. The diner, which opened in 1954, features pink, black and yellow tile work as well as a “swell neon clock.” 
Read Mod Betty’s entire post.
Visit the Exmore Diner’s Web site.

Exmore Diner

Patterson Vehicle Company, Exmore Diner, Exmore, VA (1954). Photo copyright 2013 Retro Roadmap.

Julia Morgan Becomes First Woman Awarded AIA Gold Medal
Our  thanks go out to The Gamble House in Pasadena, CA for sharing this important news item with us.
Julia Morgan has been named the 2014 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Gold Medal Recipient! This makes Morgan the first woman to ever be given the AIA Gold Medal. The AIA Gold Medal is the highest honor the AIA confers on an architect. It acknowledges an individual whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture. Morgan’s legacy will be honored at the AIA 2014 National Convention and Design Exposition in Chicago.


Julia Morgan, Hearst Castle, San Simeon, CA (1922-1939).


For more information visit the AIA Web site.

Read more about architect Julia Morgan.

Frank Lloyd Wright Desk Withdrawn from Sotheby’s Auction

Thank you to our friend Dave @ Daltons American Decorative Arts for sharing this news item from the ArtInfo blog on auction house Sotheby’s decision to remove from last month’s important 20th century design auction a desk and chair form the S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building in Racine, Wisconsin designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The S.C. Johnson Company sued Sotheby’s to remove the items from the sale claiming the desk and chair had been stolen.

Read details on

Johnson wax Administration building desk

Frank Lloyd Wright, S. C. Johnson Wax Administration Building Desk (1938).


Design and Desire’s Look Back at 2013

Design and Desire in the Twentieth Century would like to wish our readers all the best in the coming New Year. Let’s take a moment to remember people and events from 2013.

  1. Fifitieth Anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Marin County Civic Center
  2. Fifitieth Anniversary of Kodak’s Instamatic Camera
  3. Hundreth Anniversary of Cass Clibert’s Woolworth Building
  4. Demolition of Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Women’s Hospital
  5. Demolition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hoffman Auto Showroom
  6. Louis Kahn’s Esherick House Goes on the Market
  7. Flood Waters Threaten Mies Van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House 
  8. George Eastman House establishes Dodge and Burn Blog
  9. Edgar Taffel Archives Open for Research

In Memoriam

Blogs to Follow in 2014 (if you haven’t already)

Santa Claus & Coca-Cola in the Twentieth Century

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on Design and Desire in the Twentieth Century on December 22, 2011. We’d like to wish all our readers an very Happy Holiday season and all the best for the coming year.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, but no, he was not created by the Coca-Cola Company. The origins of Old Saint Nick first appeared in third century Greece; under Roman rule “Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith, was exiled and imprisoned” (1). Many folk legends later surfaced regarding Nicholas’ legendary generosity. The feast day of Saint Nicholas is observed in many countries on December 6 (1).

“It Happened Here: The Invention of Santa Claus,” on exhibit now through January 7, 2011 at the New York Historical Society in New York City, highlights the creation of the American vision of Santa Claus.  “Clement Clarke Moore…penned a whimsical poem about St. Nicholas” (2), which is retold each holiday season as “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Moore described the jolly old soul as “dress’d all in fur, from his head to his foot” (3) and continued: 
          His eyes - how they twinkled! his dimples how merry, 
          His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry; 
          His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, 
          And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow (3).

Thomas Nast “Merry Christmas.” January 4, 1879

Later in the century “Thomas Nast’s Harper’s Weekly cartoons of Santa”(2) would further mold the American image of Saint Nicholas. In the early 1920’s, beloved illustrator, Norman Rockwell’s saintly version of Santa appeared on covers of the Saturday Evening Post.


Haddon Sundblom (circa. 1931). Santa Claus and his Coca-cola. 

So where does the connection between Santa and Coca-Cola come in? According to the Coca-Cola Company Web site, at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, people tended to think of Coca-Cola as a warm weather drink. In order to change the product’s image, a campaign was launched to let everyone know “that Coca-Cola was a great choice in any month” (4). Fred Mizen was the first illustrator to depict jolly old St. Nick for Coca-Cola in 1930, but in 1931 the firm “commissioned Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom to develop advertising images using Santa Claus”(4). Using Moore’s poem as inspiration “For the next 33 years, Sundblom painted portraits of Santa that helped to create the modern image of Santa“ (4).

Who was Haddon Sundblom? 

Illustrator Haddon “Sunny” Sundblom, was over six feet tall and struck an imposing looking figure. Prior to rendering his Coca-Cola Santa advertisments, he specialized in creating images of “wholesome, sexy young women” (5) enjoying Coca-Cola. Sundblom’s work influenced many pin-up artists of the forties and fifties. Another of Sundblom’s iconic advertising images is the Quaker Oats Man, created 1957 (6). The artist’s last magazine cover was published in 1972, a sexy pin-up style Miss Claus for Playboy’s Christmas Issue. Sundblom died in 1976 (7).


Haddon Sundblom. Playboy Cover, December 1972.
Source: Playboy_magazine_ december_1972_cover.jpg/200px-Playboy_magazine_december_1972_cover.jpg

Design & Desire would like to thank all its readers for their support and wish you all a joyous holiday season with best wishes for the coming year.

1. Who is St. Nicholas?

2. It Happened Here: The Invention of Santa Claus. New York Historical Society.

3. Variations 1823-1844, Troy Sentinel, Tuesday, December 23, 1823.

4. Coke Lore: Coca-Cola® and Santa Claus.

5. HaddonSundblom.

6. Quaker Oats: Reference.

7. Haddon Sundblom.

For Further Reading
Haskell, R.B. (2006). The True Story of Saint Nicholas. Alan C. Hood & Co.

Moore, C. C. (1912). Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas. New York: Houghton Mifflin

Santa Claus Picture. (2010). Holiday Decorations.

Sundblom, H.  Fahs Charles, B.  &  Taylor, J. R. (1997).  Dream of Santa: Haddon Sundblom’s Advertising Paintings for Christmas, 1931–1964. Random House.

Weegee’s World

The photographer Authur Fellig, better known as “Weegee,” chronicled life in New York City from the 1930s through the 1960s, and he himself became almost as legendary as his unflinching photos of New York. According the Museum of Modern Art’s website, “In 1945 Weegee published his first book, Naked City, followed in 1946 by Weegee’s People.”

In 2012 The International Center of Photography mounted an exhibition of Weegee’s crime photography, “Weegee: Murder is My Business.” 


Weegee (Authur Fellig), My Studio - A Patrol Wagon, (circa 1938).
Source: http: // 

For more on Weegee and to view more of the photographer’s work:
Museum of Modern Art Web Site
J.Paul Getty Museum
The Gordon Archive

Edgar Tafel Archive Open For Research

Edgar A. Tafel

William Bowen (editor’s husband) receives first-hand accounts of working with Frank Lloyd Wright from Edgar A. Tafel at the Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference, February 1996. Photo credit: Joanne Capella.

Edgar Tafel may not be the first name that comes to mind when one thinks of significant Twentieth Century architects, but Mr. Tafel, as one of Frank Lloyd Wright's earliest apprentices at Talesin, occupies a particular place in Twentieth Century architectural history.

Tafel recounted his experiences working on Wright’s most important private residence, Fallingwater, in his book Years with Frank Lloyd Wright: Apprentice to Genius. Mr. Tafel was a renown architect in his own right. According to Tafel’s obituary in the New York Times,” Mr. Tafel designed 80 houses, 35 religious buildings and 3 college campuses, among other projects.” Edgar Tafel died in January 2011.

The archive of Mr. Tafel’s work and papers at the Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library's Drawings & Archives Department has now been cataloged and is open for research. Thank you goes our to our friends at PrairieMod for passing the news along to us.

All I Want for Christmas….

Thanks to Klappersack’s for sharing this vintage newspaper advertisement for Eshelman Child’s Auto With Motor. What mid-century child wouldn’t burst with joy on finding that Santa Claus had left this car under the Christmas tree?

Hoping all your holiday dreams come true.

Anonymous, Advertisement for Eshelman Child’s Auto with Motor (circa 1955).

Prentice Hospital Chicago, IL Meets Wrecking Ball

Since late last year Design and Desire in the Twentieth Century has been following the fate of Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women’s Hospital (completed 1975) in Chicago, Il. Sadly, we learned of the building’s demolition from an article by The Chicago Tribune’s Architecture critic, Blair Kamin