I’ve written before about my love of Instagram and appreciation for clever visual puns with band logos. I also love serendipity and the random stalking/following that had to happen so I could stumble upon Black/Black, a painting by Steven Vainberg that caught my attention in not one but two totally unrelated Instagram feeds (here and here).
Heavy metal and hardcore fans will immediately recognize (one half of) the typographic logos for Black Sabbath (as it appears on the album cover of 1971’s Master of Reality, credited to the Bloomsbury Group*) and Black Flag (designed by Raymond Pettibon, circa 1977).
I reached out to Steven, an MFA student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and he replied to my email in incredible detail about his inspiration for the piece:
…it came from this place of obsession and this idea of language as nostalgia/being visual. Also false emotions or implanted memory. Logos tend to strip meaning from words and replace with the entity they represent. So I was just really interested in what would happen to the language when I juxtaposed these two logos.
A. The bands Black Flag/Black Sabbath represent a whole culture and genre of music and attitude.
B. The word BLACK itself. Its myriad meanings and manifestations that get stripped down and re-appropriated over and over again especially within the “logo.”
ohh and C. Just something that I thought would look… cool? (stemming from my obsession with both bands.)
Because of the graphic design sensibility of this painting, I wondered if he had any training as a designer. Not quite, he replied:
I used to design and print flyers for shows and bands and things like that. I am interested in the aesthetics of design and I guess am learning about it on my own. Text and typography only interest me on an aesthetic level. I don’t have any drive to really work with it, besides the fact if I feel like a piece needs it or I think of something clever I work with it till something comes out. If nothing comes of it I scrap the idea entirely.
Text in work can be super problematic sometimes and makes the viewer automatically feel something, or the artist is forcing a feeling onto the viewer. I don’t always have a problem with this, but text sometimes can ultimately fall flat and fail for a piece completely if it isn’t totally considered. So I typically steer clear of using it as a visual tool. Lately, though, my practice has been beckoning me towards it, trying to experiment with words and meaning…
Here are some other examples of Steven Vainberg’s artwork, in which he abstracts the colors, mediums, and motifs of nationalistic imagery, removing all prior affiliations — a practice he describes as “flirting with history and the new symbols and signals created.”
Burden Over Triumph, Steven Vainberg
Negative Heaven, Steven Vainberg
No Metal No Medal, Steven Vainberg